There will always be focus on the tragedy Thomas Robinson endured thrice times in the winter of 2011. Faced to deal with the deaths of his grandfather, grandmother and mother in just under a month's time, Robinson, once a reserve forward for the Kansas Jayhawks, has let his play do the talking for him when the right words simply could not be uttered. The evolution of Robinson from role player into a sure-fire top 5 pick in the upcoming draft speaks volumes of the young man's resiliency.
Robinson hit the gym and court hard during the summer of 2011. Showing up to workout even before Kansas head coach Bill Self arrived at his office many mornings, Robinson's work ethic told the story of a man with a reignited fervor to recreate himself as a basketball player in every facet of the term. The stakes were higher now and anything besides pure unadulterated dedication to what had once been merely a pastime for Robinson meant more than just letting himself down.
A look at the numbers from Robinson's first two seasons at Kansas does little to help predict the success he came to enjoy as a junior. As a freshman, Robinson saw limited minutes due to the raw nature of his play along with the plethora of talent on the Jayhawks roster. A year later and Robinson's minutes increased as well as his production, which solidified a future where he was assured he would able to earn a paycheck for his basketball ability.
Fast forward the clock to November 11, 2011 and Robinson is about to embark on a journey in which he will rewrite the script for his basketball life and shock a nation with a dominant style of play that belies his limitations exhibited during the previous two seasons. Towson's basketball team became the first to bear witness to what a man can achieve in the face of tragedy when redirecting pain and heartache for the greater good of self. In merely 25 minutes of play, Robinson scored 18 points, grabbed 11 boards and had four assists to set the tone for a season that would go down in the annals of Jayhawk lore.
Robinson's tour-de-force campaign across college campuses saw a Kansas team go from a top-13 team in the country to the national title game by the season's end. The forward from Washington D.C. didn't merely make a name for himself feasting on the likes of the game's lesser programs, but rather showed up when the spotlight was greatest. Having developed a workman-like mentality toward the game rather than merely something to pass the time, Robinson's performances in victories against top teams like Ohio State, Baylor and Missouri could only be described as nothing short of dominant.
Scour the box scores and you'll come to find stat lines riddled with double-doubles. Try 30 points and 21 rebounds in a resounding victory over North Dakota or 20 points and 17 rebounds in a rout of Oklahoma. It would be foolish to gauge Robinson as a player sans tragedy but there is no doubt that in the face of so much heartbreak came so much joy.
As a runner-up for the Wooden Award for the nation's most outstanding player and a member of a Jayhawks squad that danced all the way to basketball's final evening, Robinson's name will be called early in late June at the Prudential Center. The 6-foot-10 forward boasts a lean body sculpted with Lebron-like muscle mixed with an energetic style of play that allows him to thrive on both ends of the court. Blessed with the rare combination of outstanding size (a 7-foot-1 wingspan) without sacrificing speed, Robinson's rebounding ability should seamlessly translate to success on the next level where he projects to be a top-5 pick by most top draft experts.
Merely 21 years of age, Robinson should be defined as more than just a basketball player. He's a brother, a role model and an inspiration. Truly a rare breed, Thomas Robinson has channeled the pain and suffering of personal loss on the deepest of levels to become the best version of himself, both as a basketball player and even more so as a human being.