Originally posted on Fox Sports Kansas City  |  Last updated 4/10/12
A rich man is about to become wealthy as well. Thomas Robinson did what was expected of him, as usual. He jumped. "I think he could go anywhere from (pick number) 2 to 5," is what Aran Smith of the web site NBADraft.net says when you ask what's next for Kansas' do-everything power forward, a junior who declared himself a professional Monday. "He's really proven himself of being worthy of the second pick. Nobody helped himself more than he did during the (NCAA) tournament, leading KU to the title game. He basically destroyed Jared Sullinger." T-Rob is a man alone now, a piece of meat who'll be poked and prodded and dissected like a frog in a middle-school science lab. For the next 10 weeks, the Washington, D.C., native is earmarked to be broken down, brick by brick, and built back up again. It's not personal. It's just business. A dance of the absurd. "He's just a little undersized for the power forward position," Smith says of Robinson, who's listed at 6-foot-10, 237 pounds and cut like a marble statue. "If he's 6-8 and not 6-10, you start wondering: Can he really be an all-star, superstar kind of guy?" Officially, Charles Barkley was 6-6 in sneakers. With a golf club in hand, he's closer to 6-4. Heart. Want-to. Measure that. With Thomas Robinson, a team whose first option off the bench was a former walk-on won 32 games and rolled to a Big 12 title. With Thomas Robinson, a team whose second option off the bench was a transfer from Loyola Marymount sashayed all the way to New Orleans. Sheer force of will. Desire. Measure that. "Just going back to his character and the things he's overcome," Smith continues. "You'd rather have an overachiever than an underachiever. I think his story really plays into his hands." You love him for the joy, the power Robinson's 27 double-doubles were a new KU single-season record he brought to the court. You respect him for the heartbreak he's had to endure off of it. The story's been told a slew of times, but it underscores what made Monday special: Last winter, over the course of a month, Robinson lost both his grandparents and his mother, Lisa, the woman who raised him. Lisa was 43, the victim of a heart attack. When coach Bill Self had asked him if there was anyone in the family who would take the lead for his mother's funeral arrangements and baby sister Jayla's future, Robinson reportedly replied: "Coach, you just don't get it. There isn't anybody left." There's somebody now. Jayla turned 9 on Monday, a birthday she won't soon forget. The little girl with the mega-watt smile sat to her brother's right as he explained his decision to reporters. Over the past year, Jayla has lived in D.C. with her father, James Paris; Thomas has expressed interest in the past of becoming her legal guardian. "Whatever she wants, man," T-Rob told reporters Monday. "I'm just happy that I have the option, that I don't have to worry about anything anymore." Accountability. Perspective. Measure that. Still, over the next few months, there will be nagging questions. Is Robinson an NBA 3' or an NBA 4?' Can he develop a back-to-the-basket comfort zone? Will he be able to simply blow past pro big men the way he did this past year? Is he the second coming of Buck Williams? Or David West? "He's a tough guy to get a real good comparison for," Smith says. But he's an easy guy to like. During one of his last official appearances as a Jayhawk last Tuesday, Robinson made a point to thank the thousands who'd piled into one side of Allen Fieldhouse to cheer on the national runners-up. The team had just bussed in from Topeka; It was a spirited, if brief, affair, with tired, weary looks in all corners. The final stop on a long, draining, wonderful ride. T-Rob addressed the fans quickly and passionately. "I wouldn't do it with any other group of guys," he said, and scanned the crowd, as if trying to look each one of them in the eye. "T-Rob, you gotta stay another year!" A man shouted from the gallery. "Let's go!" To that, Robinson said nothing and smiled. He knew. Hell, everybody knew. "I think it's beyond words," Robinson would say Monday, "what this program meant to me." The feeling's mutual. As the players got in a line and exited the Phog to another round of cheers, Robinson reached the edge of the tunnel, a few yards of the Jayhawk locker room, with the arena still in sight. Suddenly he stopped. He stopped, turned around, craned his neck and looked over the landscape one last time. A man alone, and 16,300 friends who will have his back forever. You can follow Sean Keeler on Twitter @seankeeler or email him at seanmkeeler@gmail.com
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