Going great guns: ‘Manchild’ Thomas Robinson starts fast for KU basketball

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Photo by Nick Krug

Lawrence Journal-World

The first thing many people notice about Kansas University forward Thomas Robinson is his intimidating physique. Now he’s proving he has the game to go with his guns.

Don’t let Thomas Robinson’s boyish grin and smooth look fool you.

“He’s not a nice guy,” Kansas University freshman Josh Selby said. “Sometimes I wish he was a nice guy out there. But he’s definitely very physical, and he uses it to his advantage. And that’s a good thing because he can do some scary things.”

Although there are a million other things to mention about the 6-foot-9, 237-pound power forward from Washington, D.C., his teammates all marvel at Robinson’s mammoth size.

“His jersey barely fits him,” senior Brady Morningstar said between fits of laughter. “And that’s like an XL.”

Added red-shirt sophomore Travis Releford, asked if he had ever collided with the colossal man during practice: “All the time. He’s everywhere. He just can’t help it. You go hard and sometimes you run over people. But it’s not pleasant at all. He’s just a manchild. Some guys are just built like that, and he’s one of ’em.”

Shoulders, biceps and triceps aside, Robinson enters the 2010-11 season determined to make people talk about something other than his physique.

So far, he’s off to a great start. Through five games — all off the bench — Robinson is third on the team in scoring, at 10 points per game, and also is averaging 6.6 rebounds and one block per game while shooting 65 percent from the floor. All of that in just 77 total minutes, or just over 15 per game.

“I think he’s grown up,” KU coach Bill Self said. “I also think he’s bought in to how we want him to play and the way he can be most effective. I’m really excited about him. I think he can be a pro.”

Robinson credits his rapid improvement to a more consistent mental approach.

“After (last) season I just sat down with some of my teammates and asked them what the problem was and what they could do to help me,” Robinson said. “The twins (Marcus and Markieff Morris) helped me a lot. Coach (Danny) Manning, coach Self talked to me a lot. And I just took everything I gathered from everybody, and just worked on whatever I had to do.”

One of the most frequent pieces of advice he heard had to do with harnessing his ocean of energy.

“It took longer than it was supposed to,” Robinson said of last year’s learning curve. “Coach just kept telling me all season to just relax. I was a little anxious, and I didn’t want to mess up. And when you don’t want to mess up, you end up messing up.”

As Self put it, Robinson continually fought to get out of his own way.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” Robinson said in total agreement. “It’s an adjustment. Last year, I didn’t know that I didn’t know. I tried to fight it sometimes, but that happens. It’s all coming through to me now, though.”

Because of his size and physical nature, many have chosen to dub Robinson as “the next Darnell Jackson,” the former Jayhawk known as “D-Block,” who, as a senior in 2008, helped guide Kansas to a national championship.

“He could be that guy,” Morningstar said. “But I think he has to prove himself first. You can’t just call him that.”

Robinson agreed, simply saying: “There’s no ‘Block’ in my nickname yet.”

Though that’s true, the guy they call “T-Rob” should be associated with the words “block out” because, whether he’s on offense or defense, Robinson has become obsessed with rebounding.

“When we play, I want it to be so there’s no doubts that I was the hardest-working player on the floor or the best rebounder in the country. No doubts,” Robinson said.

Whether opponents doubt his ability or not, they are not likely to forget their encounters with Robinson. Just ask his teammates.

“It’s not good. It’s not fair at all,” Selby said. “You ever ran through a brick wall? That’s a brick wall right there.”

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