Robinson Has Big Night in 2011-12 Debut

Nov. 8, 2011

110811aad_872_5794516.jpegLAWRENCE, Kan. – Jayhawk fans had to wait an extra game to see their star forward in action, but junior Thomas Robinson made it worth the wait, compiling a double-double in KU’s 101-52 win over Fort Hays State. Robinson’s 22 points and 12 rebounds led all scorers Tuesday night and gave the 16,300 fans packed inside the Fieldhouse their first glimpse of the junior’s 2011-12 campaign.

“He was in a pretty good rhythm tonight,” said KU head coach Bill Self. “I thought he was under control and did some nice things.”

Some of that ball control enabled the unanimous Preseason All-Big 12 selection to tally five assists to go along with his double-digit points and boards.

“I have been waiting six months to play against somebody else,” Robinson said after his exhibition performance. “I was more nervous than I thought I would be before the game, but as soon as I got out there I felt like I was home again.”

If the 6-10 upperclassman did have a bout of pre-game jitters, it did not show, as he had four points and an assist in the first minute and a half of the game.

“He (Thomas) looks like a different player than he did when we were here two years ago,” said Fort Hays State head coach Mark Johnson. “Even physically, his body looks stronger, but he is just so confident as a player. He wants the ball and expects great things, which is what makes great players.”

110811aad_872_4609249.jpegJohnson’s assessment would be spot on. As a freshman in 2009, Robinson scored six points, grabbed seven rebounds and dished out three assists in 13 minutes of play. In 2011, number zero scored 16 more points, grabbed five more rebounds and added two more assists in a starting role.

“Thomas is definitely putting the ball down and driving better than what he was last year,” his coach said. “He is being a little bit more aggressive without question.”

Robinson had to halt some of that aggressiveness after hyper extending his left knee before KU’s first exhibition game against Pittsburg State last week. Fortunately his knee held up throughout the game Tuesday, including a highlight reel dunk with just about eight minutes remaining in the contest to put his team up 42 over its in-state opponents.

“It was sloppy, I wanted it to look better than that,” the Washington D.C. native said. “But it was a cool moment, I just wanted to test the knee out and it felt good.”

Feeling good and looking good are two different things. Even though Robinson was the leading scorer and rebounder in the exhibition victory, his coach does see some room for improvement.

“There are still a lot of things that he (Thomas) needs to do, but he did some nice things tonight and will get some confidence from it,” Self said.

If Robinson finds even more confidence in his game once the start of non-conference play begins next week, then it could spell big trouble for the rest of the Big 12 down the stretch.