Robinson's decision a no-brainer

It's rare a program can lose a conference player of the year, a consensus first-team all-american and one of the best players in the entire country - all the same person - and call it a good day. But Thomas Robinson is a rare individual, and his decision to enter the 2012 NBA Draft is one all of Jayhawk Nation should celebrate.

It's rare a program can lose a conference player of the year, a consensus first-team all-american and one of the best players in the entire country - all the same person - and call it a good day.

But Thomas Robinson is a rare individual.

By now, there isn't a college basketball fan on the planet who remains unaware of Robinson's story - how he lost his mother and grandparents within weeks of each other last year, smack in the middle of his sophomore campaign at the University of Kansas. His style of play had already endeared him to Jayhawk Nation, but his heartache sealed a special bond between fan and player,unique even in the tradition-rich annals of Kansas basketball.

Monday, to the surprise of precisely nobody and with his sister, Jayla, by his side, Robinson announced his intention to forego his senior season on Mount Oread and enter the NBA draft.

And nobody should be happier for him than the fans who watched him grow into a man seemingly overnight, and blossom into one of the most dominant big men in the entire country, taking the Jayhawks to the very doorstep of a national championship this season.

"This is a glorious day," Head Coach Bill Self said. "It is beautiful outside, but also because of a young man's commitment, effort and hard work, he has a chance to make an announcement today. The thought of any player coming in here where we can put them in a position to make a decision, and Thomas has certainly earned that right."

The decision wasn't an easy one for Robinson, but it was a necessary one. Not only is he physically ready - and likely a top five selection in the upcoming draft - but he has Jayla to think about now. He's in a position to secure her future financially for life, which is an exceedingly rare opportunity.

Even so, Lawrence, Kan. has become his second home, and within it he has found a second family. If he could find a way, he said, he would stay. Because who wouldn't want to stay?

"I have been up all night trying to come up with a thank you note or something to show my appreciation, but I couldn't get anything out because I think it is beyond words what this program meant to me and how much support I felt coming from my situation," Robinson said. "Even when I arrived on campus, somehow, some way, everybody makes each player feel special here."

That's the power of Kansas basketball. And yes, it works both ways. Here the microscope is more intense, the scrutiny more profound. Just ask Robinson's teammate and likely fellow first-round draft pick Tyshawn Taylor, whose own relationship with the fans has been a well-publicized roller coaster.

But nobody loves like Jayhawks fans do, either. Nobody appreciates the effort, successes and new chapters to Kansas history more.

So, what will Robinson miss the most about playing at Kansas?

"I think probably just being able to walk around campus and getting that feeling that everybody loves you," he said. "That and probably the pre-game talks with Coach saying the same thing he says before every game, but saying it 100 miles per hour and I can't hear it. Running through the tunnel. Just certain things like that, which I won't be able to get back."

Speaking practically, replacing Robinson will be no small task. His 17.7 points and 11.9 rebounds per game represent a significant percentage of the overall team totals this season. His departure leaves a massive void.

But then, so did the departure of the Morris Twins. So did that of Cole Aldrich, Sherron Collins, Julian Wright…the list goes on. And still, under Self's tutelage, the Jayhawks find a way to not just persevere, but keep on winning championships.

The production will work itself out. Whether that means Jeff Withey taking the same steps forward Robinson did this season, Kevin Young shouldering more of the load or one of the freshmen making a surprise impact, someone will step up.

That comes later. The present is a time for celebration. Kansas fans got to watch a young men enter their program and grow up right before their eyes - as a man, a student and a player - and both sides are leaving better for the experience.

As usual, Self put it best.

"Sometimes, when guys leave, it creates as happy of a moment as there is," he said. "When you really think about everything that this man has been through, going back about 15 months, and think about the sacrifices that he has made, you think about the long nights, the sleepless nights, and all the things that are going on. To remain focused, to do well in school and to represent our University in a way that almost brought a national championship home. To see him live out his dream, to me, what is happening now with him is just as cool as what happened last Monday night in the game."

"This is as good as it gets for an individual and also a program and a fan base that has supported him so much." Top Stories