Missouri win was, as usual, “personal” for Thomas Robinson
When Kansas men’s basketball great Thomas Robinson spoke to the current team prior to its rivalry game against Missouri Saturday, he told them “that it’s personal.”
“You have to respect that it’s a tradition that you got to keep with this school,” Robinson told reporters Saturday. “I don’t care if you’re a player that’s supposed to be here one year, if you’re the best high school player in the world. Come in here, you have that responsibility to carry on such things as, if you play Missouri, you have to take it personal. Because it is.”
It was personal for Robinson back in February 2012 when he closed out the Big 12 Conference era of the Border Showdown with a triumphant 28-point, 12-rebound performance and an iconic block on the Tigers’ Phil Pressey that forced overtime in an 87-86 comeback win.
It was also personal for him in a different respect Saturday, 12 seasons later, as the former All-American had returned to Lawrence to see his jersey unveiled in the rafters of Allen Fieldhouse.
In the end, the current Jayhawks paid tribute to Robinson on the floor with a minor comeback of their own, a ferocious chase down block by KJ Adams and, ultimately, a 73-64 victory.
The most thorough celebration of Robinson, though, came at halftime. He got to come out onto the James Naismith Court before the lively, packed crowd and put into words what the KU program meant to him during his three-year tenure, including when he experienced tragedy as three of his closest relatives died during the 2010-11 season.
He thanked his teammates; Sherron Collins taught him, “when it was showtime, show out”; Cole Aldrich taught him about reliability; and Mario Little taught him to stay in the moment, among many others.
“They recruit players that teach other players how to become professional,” Robinson said of the KU coaching staff, for whom he also expressed great gratitude.
“Coach (Bill) Self, he knew I had a lot of growing up to do before I left,” he added, “so that last year (2011-12) he cared more about preparing me mentally than he did to be my friend.”
Robinson entered the NBA Draft following his junior year and went No. 5 overall to the Sacramento Kings, kicking off a lengthy and wide-ranging professional career that continues to this day. He most recently played in the Philippines.
Robinson saved his most effusive remarks for the KU fans, to whom he addressed the following message: “I love you guys to death, and what you did for me during that time, and my tragedies, and my losses, can never be forgotten.”
“To this day, from the bottom of my heart, I want to tell you all thank you,” he said.
KU placed his No. 0 jersey in “the highest of heights here in Allen Fieldhouse,” as KU broadcaster Brian Hanni put it in the lead-up to Robinson’s speech, just to the right of Robinson’s former teammate Marcus Morris’ No. 22.
Phog Allen-era Jayhawk Bill “Skinny” Johnson will be the next to have his jersey retired during the Cincinnati game on Jan. 22.