His role wasn't one of great importance during the 2009-2010 season, but as a sophomore Thomas Robinson is being considered one of the main figures in what looks to be a promising year for the Kansas Jayhawks. Over the past 12 months, Robinson has matured as a player and relishes the chance to shine.
The post-summer report on most, if not all of the Kansas players is extremely positive. They have all dedicated and committed themselves to working hard over the summer in preparation for the new season.
One of those players, Thomas Robinson, has added even more muscle to an already rock-solid frame and outside of the weight room, has added more confidence and desire to step up and become a mainstay in the rotation.
"My summer has been great; I've been working hard," he said. "I got invited to Adidas Nations, and that went good for me, so the offseason has been good. I feel like I'm in the best shape I've been in and I'm ready for the season to start.
"I've matured as a player more than anything. Learning the offense and getting to the point where it's second nature to me. Everything is just normal to me, it's not a surprise anymore, it's all normal."
Robinson was seldom used last season, not because he wasn't able to contribute, but because he has an All American in Cole Aldrich ahead of him, as well as forward Marcus Morris and Markieff Morris. As the season moves along, Bill Self typically tries to tighten up his rotation to eight players, five perimeter players and three big men.
A guard can be replaced with the use of another big man, but Kansas needed Aldrich in the game as much as possible, meaning the Morris twins played the majority of the minutes at the power forward spot.
This season, Robinson expects to see plenty of action, possibly even in a starting role, and his preparation this summer has been for that exact scenario. After attending several camps, he feels as though his time is now.
"I feel like I'm ready to bang with anybody in the country," Robinson said. "It's was never hard to understand what they wanted me to do [last year] because all coaches asked of me was to play hard, but I would say my problem was I would try and be two steps ahead of them to do what I knew how to do but at the same time, it's a shell-shock when you hit a different level. You don't realize the things you think you could do you can't quite do anymore. That was pretty much the biggest adjustment for me."
Aside from playing more minutes and producing from a statistical standpoint, becoming a leader is something Robinson has begun to focus on. Kansas is still a young team and with the departures of Aldrich, Sherron Collins, and Xavier Henry, Self and his staff are looking for players to step up and take the reigns.
The obvious choice at this point would be Marcus Morris, as he has become the more publicized player and his work ethic since last season is remarkable. Along with brother Markieff and seniors Tyrel Reed and Brady Morningstar, the Jayhawks are still without a proven leader. Robinson, although in just his second year on campus, feels as though he has something to offer everyone, not just the freshman.
"It's a little of both," he responded when asked if he is following the lead or showing his leadership. "I still don't know some things that they know so from that standpoint I follow them, but stepping up and being a leader; of course. I feel right now that it's a time for me to start throwing it out there that I know a little bit too and I've been here. There's a lot of stuff I still don't know but I still try and be a leader when I can."
When talking about his team and how they will play compared to last season, he added, "We're going to get a lot of stops and we're going to play fast."
KU is more athletic and has more speed than the previous two seasons, much of that is because their big guys are all incredible athletes, but the addition of Josh Selby, pending eligibility clearance, and the emergence of players such as Elijah Johnson, Travis Releford and senior Mario Little, the Jayhawks will be high-flyers much like the 2008 championship team.
Bill Self is hesitant to compare the two teams, despite the resemblance in athleticism and speed, but the players are confident and ready to show what they can do.
Still, the guidance and coaching of Self is something that the player obviously adhere to, and when talking about his coach, Robinson said he respects and listens to everything Self tells him because of the amount of knowledge he possesses.
"I respect his knowledge of the game. During the recruiting, you don't see every little thing from him that you see in practice. He knows so much about basketball it seems like he knows stuff is going to happen three months before it happens," Robinson explained. "A prime example is last year he was preaching to us that our season was going to come down to one play. He was preaching that since this time last year and in March it came down to one play so I respect his knowledge of the game and I don't doubt anything he tells me."
Whether or not their season comes down to a single play or not, Kansas has a talented group, and assuming Selby is cleared, the Jayhawks are a national title contender. How far they go in March will be based largely on the group effort, but with a player like Thomas Robinson, with so much strength, athleticism, and desire to compete at the highest level, Kansas fans will know they are getting the absolute best effort from their team.