Thomas Robinson’s return uplifting for KU basketball

If Thomas Robinson played every game against Missouri the way he played Saturday in Columbia, Mo., basketball fans here in Lawrence might commission local sculptor Jim Brothers to build a life-size statue of the power forward, in which case there would be two Thomas Robinson statues in town: one that runs, jumps, dunks, talks and smiles, one that doesn’t.

Of all the encouraging signs in Saturday’s victory, seeing the Adonis of the Big 12 back at full strength for the first time since undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus ranks right near the top.

Robinson’s name didn’t make it onto either the first or second All-Big 12 teams, as voted by coaches, released Sunday, but he gave a glimpse Saturday of why it surely will next season.

In just 17 minutes of action, Robinson hustled and muscled his way to 15 points and 13 rebounds. He’s averaging 17.6 rebounds per 40 minutes and is the perfect person to spell one Morris twin while playing alongside the other. Whereas the twins outfox front-court foes with their brilliant basketball minds that enable them to read the situation and make the right move, the correct shot, the smart pass, Robinson beats them with brute strength, explosive athleticism and improving footwork.

By the time Robinson checks into the game, fatigue has set in on the big men who have tried keeping up with the twins.

He’s not perfect. Some of the shots Robinson takes from the outside will be wise ones a year from now, but as a sophomore, he’s wise to do most of his work near the basket, and on most nights that’s what he does.

“Run the floor, rebound, seal, get easy shots,” Robinson said of his responsibilities. “It’s much easier. I don’t have that much to do. If someone tells you you can make a living off rebounding and getting easy buckets, why not do it?”

Paul Silas, Bill Bridges, Buck Williams and Dennis Rodman, to name a few, made nice livings doing so. Plenty of pros have set themselves up nicely by hitting the boards with the sort of commitment Robinson brings.

“Hopefully, I can be one of them,” Robinson said, flashing his smile.

Despite all the tragedy that has hit him this year at such a young age, Robinson never seems to go long between smiles. He’s an upbeat, personable guy. Seeing all he’s been through should give any teammate who would allow a lack of playing time, a slump, girlfriend problems, whatever, bring him down a reality check that brings him back into good spirits.

Robinson wants to become a polished, complete basketball player before he thinks about playing for pay. He wants to develop the sort of inside-outside game Marcus and Markieff Morris bring to the game. He said he enjoys watching Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony more than any other NBA players. He’s not there yet, but he’s back to full strength, which gives Kansas one of the nation’s most intimidating sixth men.