🎙 The Jayhawker Podcast | Dave Robisch
Episode 29: Dave Robisch | July 30, 2020
Though younger Jayhawk fans might still be catching on, anyone who witnessed the brilliance of Dave Robisch’s KU career knows just how prolific his three seasons at Kansas were. Arriving in the fall of 1967, Robisch played in an era when freshman still weren’t allowed to compete, but the numbers he posted in the three campaigns he did play, remain some of the greatest ever by a Jayhawk.
This week on The Jayhawker Podcast, we spotlight Robisch’s time at KU, explore his many amazing achievements and learn how he and the 1971 Jayhawks helped unite a campus in turmoil over protests surrounding the Vietnam War.
Robisch is the first to admit there are entire Jayhawk generations that may not know of his contributions to the storied tradition of Kansas Basketball. He hopes the present-day players in particular, learn of those who helped pave the way.
“I would hope that the guys that came after me and guys today especially, will look more at the past and what guys accomplished,” wished Robisch. “I know it’s hard to do because years and years have gone by. The individual accolades are great, but (I’m most proud) of what we were able to do as a team.”
From a team perspective, Robisch’s senior season was truly special – both in terms of Kansas basketball history and in uniting a campus amidst some turmoil in American history. Late in his junior year – in the spring of 1970 – protests broke out around in the country over the Vietnam War. One place hit particularly hard by protests and violent outbreaks was Lawrence, KS.
“There were people out in the streets shooting – there were gunshots,” described Robisch. “They tried to burn the union down. There was a fire in the union so they closed the campus down that spring.”
Final exams were made optional and student were sent home for the summer early as a safety measure.
“Carry that forward to my senior year and we’re all coming back on campus,” continued Robisch. “Coach Owens and I have talked about this a lot. We felt like that team, with the success that we had and the unity… we all came together and the school got behind us. We ran the table (in the Big 8), went 27-1 and the support kept growing and growing as the year went on. It brought everybody together.”
The ’71 squads incredible run culminated in a trip to Houston for the Final Four. While John Wooden’s UCLA squad would, ultimately, dash KU dreams of a national title, a special legacy for that Kansas team and its senior big man had already been carved out.
So how just good was KU’s sensational southpaw? Robisch was a two-time All-American and a two-time Big Eight Player of the Year. His career scoring average ranks fourth in school history and he helped the Jayhawks to the 1971 Final Four. He did it all of that while also performing as an all-conference pitcher for the KU baseball team.
Additionally, his coach Ted Owens called him the finest competitive shooter he’s ever coached and said he mastered the art of the bank shot.
“I just loved different angles on the floor and knew I could rely on the backboard for the bank shot,” described Robisch. “Bill Walton was another guy that used the bank shot when he played in college. It was just another weapon. My other weapon was that I was left-handed. Not that many people play basketball left-handed so you have maybe a bit of an advantage.”
After his star-studded Kansas career, Robisch would go on to enjoy 13 professional seasons in the ABA and NBA, and see his jersey raised to the rafters of Allen Fieldhouse in 2005. It was the crowning achievement for an illustrious career and one that made an indelible mark on the program.
“The first time I set foot in Lawrence, I knew it was a special place,” recalled Robisch. “Then I got into Allen Fieldhouse and I realized the tradition.”
Now Robisch is an integral part of that storied tradition. This week’s edition of The Jayhawker aims to educate young fans of a player whose scoring averages are only topped by Wilt and Clyde. And for those lucky enough to have seen “Robo” play, they might even learn something new as well.