Jayhawks Dealing With Greater Loss

Jan. 23, 2011


No. 2 Kansas fell to No. 11 Texas Saturday afternoon, 74-63, ending its school-record home winning streak at 69 games. However, that loss paled in comparison to the loss that Thomas Robinson, and as a result the entire Jayhawk family, suffered the previous night. Around 11 p.m. Friday night, Robinson received a call from his nine-year-old sister, Jayla Paris, who had some tragic news. Their mother, Lisa, had just died of a heart attack at the age of 37. The unexpected loss came at a time when Robinson was already grieving the passing of two other immediate family members.

“He’s a stud. It was amazing to me he was out there.” said Kansas head coach Bill Self when asked about Robinson playing in the game. “If you think about it, he lost his grandmother at the very end of December. He lost his grandfather Sunday. He lost his mother Friday night. For him to even be out there is remarkable.”

When Robinson’s teammates learned of Lisa’s death, they immediately gathered together at the JayhawkTowers to console him and share his pain. Self described the mournful scene as “the saddest thing I’ve ever seen in my life,” but at the same time Self said he was extremely proud to see how much the players and family members rallied around their suffering teammate.

“It just puts everything in perspective,” said Self.” Going over to the dorm last night, the whole team was there. There was a great sense of pride that I felt because I saw how close they were. As a coach, I think you always think your players like each other. That has always been a big quality that all good teams have. Last night I saw a different level than what I even knew existed. It was pretty special. The mothers of some of the players that live here were over there. It was the saddest thing I’ve ever seen in my life, but it was something that was humbling and made you proud because those kids and families do care about each other an awful lot.”

Robinson is now left with only his nine-year old sister, who is currently in Washington, D.C. Senior guard Tyrel Reed expressed how important it is for the men’s basketball team to be there as Robinson’s family.

“We know that Thomas is going through a lot of stuff right now. I think we all hurt and we all feel for him. He’s one of our brothers, so we’re definitely going to be there for him. We have to rally around each other. We’re one big family, all brothers out here. It’s so sad. T-Rob is such a young kid, a great teammate and a great person. I’ve been so proud of him, the way he’s grown up from the time he was a freshman until now. He’s made such strides. To go through what he’s been through in the last three weeks with all of his family, I don’t know anybody that’s ever happened to. I can only imagine the hurt that he’s feeling. We just want to be there for him. He’s a tough kid.”

The decision to play on Saturday was up to Robinson. Self said in this difficult time the best thing to do was let Robinson make his own decisions.

“He wasn’t asked to play. He wasn’t asked not to play,” said Self. “I talked to some people, and they told me the best thing to do for him was to allow him to do what he wants to do. He said he wanted to be out there, so I didn’t fight it. I thought he played good, too.”

Junior forward Marcus Morris said it took “a whole lot” of courage for Robinson to play in Saturday’s game.

“He only had his mom and his sister,” said Morris, pausing between sentences to gather his thoughts. “It’s sad to even say anything because you don’t know what to say. He’s just a tough kid to even want to come and still be with us and to still play. It showed a lot of toughness from him. I just hope that he’ll be okay.”

The loss wasn’t just felt on the Jayhawk sideline. Before the game, a moment of silence was held in Allen Fieldhouse in honor of Lisa Robinson. Following the game, Texas head coach Rick Barnes expressed his sympathy for Robinson and the entire Jayhawk team before he took a single question from the media.

“First of all, I’d really like to offer our condolences to Thomas Robinson and his family,” said Barnes. “I can’t even imagine the burden and the weight that was on his shoulders today. When you have a team and a player loses a mom, it affects everybody. We only have one mom. I can only imagine, so our condolences go out to him and his family.”

Self said moving forward the team will continue to support Robinson and allow him to decide how he wants to handle the team’s next game at Colorado on Tuesday. Self also said he would like to attend the services if possible.

“We don’t know what the arrangements are going to be yet. I’ll be there (at the funeral) if I can. Whatever he needs to do, he needs to do. We’re his family. We’ll get organized this weekend and try to figure what would be the best way for us to help him.”