Thomas Robinson (Kansas), right, is introduced as the number five overall pick to the Sacramento Kings by NBA commissioner David Stern during the 2012 NBA Draft at the Prudential Center. (PHOTO: US PRESSWIRE)
Thomas Robinson (right) of the Kansas Jayhawks greets NBA Commissioner David Stern (left) after he was selected number five overall by the Sacramento Kings during the first round of the 2012 NBA Draft at Prudential Center. (PHOTO: Getty Images)
NEWARK, NJ - The Sacramento Kings selected Thomas Robinson from Kansas, a 6-foot 9-inch, 244-pound power forward with the No. 5 pick in the NBA Draft Thursday afternoon.
Robinson was considered perhaps the most NBA-ready player in the draft and the Kings need plenty of immediate help after missing the playoffs for a sixth straight season.
Robinson left Kansas after leading the Jayhawks to the national title game his junior season. He was the first unanimous AP All-American since 2009 and won the Big 12 player of the year award as well.
Robinson averaged 17.7 points and was second in the nation with 11.9 rebounds per game and is a strong defensive presence at power forward.
With the Kings only other pick, the 36th overall, they selected Orlando Johnson, but he was then shipped to the Indiana Pacers for cash considerations. Johnson is a guard from U.C. Santa Barbara.
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USA Today did a story on the now former Jayhawk before the NCAA Tournament in March. Read the story by USA Today reporter Steve Wieberg below:
LAWRENCE, KS - Word got to Kansas and Thomas Robinson on Tuesday. The Jayhawks' junior forward - the best player in the Big 12 Conference by acclamation and no worse than a co-favorite for national player of the year honors - had been called out.
"Robinson? I can handle Robinson," Detroit Mercy's big, brash Eli Holman spouted to the Detroit Free Press, pointing to their approaching meeting in the NCAA tournament. "He has to handle me."
Leaning against a wall outside the locker room, Robinson simply smiled. "He's confident. That's good," he said, barely above a whisper. "We'll see."
He understands a challenge. That hardly qualifies.
This time a year ago, Robinson was playing out a season wrought by personal tragedy. In late December, he wept after the death of his beloved grandmother. In the middle of January, he lost his grandfather. Five days after that, his mother, Lisa, died of a heart attack at age 43.
She left, besides her son, his 7-year-old sister, Jayla. Two nights after the funeral in Washington, D.C., Robinson was back in uniform, scoring 17 points and pulling down nine rebounds in an emotionally charged victory at home against Kansas State.
He was coming off the Jayhawks' bench then. Robinson had joined a Kansas program in 2009 that was flush with NBA-bound big men -Cole Aldrich and the Morris twins, Marcus and Markieff - and in little immediate need of another. He played just a little more than seven minutes a game as a freshman and served as KU's sixth man in all but a couple of games as a sophomore.
Now, he's the cornerstone of a 27-6 team that won the Big 12 Conference's regular-season championship by two games and earned a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament's Midwest Regional. Robinson and Kansas open Friday night against Detroit.
Robinson's statistical contribution: 17.9 points and 11.7 rebounds a game, the only Big 12 player averaging a double-double. He's shooting 53% from the field despite double teams and other ratcheted-up attention from opposing teams.
"It's not official yet. But if he's a first-team All-American, he's going to get his number hung in the rafters. And he's going to be a lottery pick," KU coach Bill Self said. ... Those are pretty proud moments considering where he came from as a recruited athlete, all the stuff he's endured as a man and how far he's he progressed in both (respects)."
In nine years, Self has ushered a parade of stars through his program. Wayne Simien. Brandon Rush. Aldrich. Sherron Collins. The Morrises.
"Place in the heart," he said of Robinson, "he's going to be right at the very top. There's no question."
Danny Manning merits a fair share of credit for Robinson's explosion from 7.5-point, 6.5-rebound performer to impact player. The former Kansas All-American and current assistant coach works with the Jayhawks' big men and has helped Robinson refine his footwork, find and use angles, create ways to score.
It didn't hurt that, while Robinson was sitting behind the 6-11 Aldrich and the Morris brothers, he was going against them daily in practice.
"There are not a lot of guys," Manning said, "who put themselves in that situation in terms of coming to a school that has three players who end up being first-round picks. He met it head on. (He) obviously didn't play as much as he would like his freshman year, or his sophomore year, but he stayed after it. And last summer, he worked extremely hard.
"It's his time, it's his opportunity, and he's making the most of it."
The national player of the year race has boiled down to Robinson and Kentucky freshman Anthony Davis, the expected overall first pick in June in the NBA draft. Davis' array of skills is breathtaking, but the Wildcats surround him with a fistful of other first-rounders-in-waiting.
Robinson and senior point guard Tyshawn Taylor are carrying one of the more modestly talented teams in Self's tenure.
Underscoring his value, the Jayhawks struggled as Robinson struggled against Baylor last week in the Big 12 tournament semifinals. He hit just six of 14 shots from the field, and finished with a subpar 15 points, nine rebounds and four turnovers. Kansas lost 81-72.
"Sometimes, I feel the energy I show against certain players is different," he said. "That's something I have to work on, but it's nothing I can't fix."
Motivation tends not to be an issue.
Fourteen months after Robinson's family heartbreak - his younger sister is living in Washington with her father, James Paris - Manning says he sees a much more focused player. Robinson affirmed that: "I feel like I have a deeper purpose to play for."
Beyond that, he declined to speak to his personal life.
There are times, Self said, when it's obvious he still carries sorrow. "I don't know that he's through it," he said.
It only deepens the coach's admiration.
"Life's full of twists and turns and, to me, the key is somehow taking negatives and spinning them into positives," Self said. "I don't see how you can spin a tragedy like he's had into positives. But he's done it if it's possible."
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The Associated Press and USA Today - Video: News10/KXTV