Friday, January 28, 2011

Thomas Robinson and KU


By now, I'm sure most of you have heard the absolutely heart-breaking story of Kansas Jayhawk forward Thomas Robinson. In three weeks, Robinson has buried his grandmother, his grandfather, and just yesterday the 19-year-old from D.C. had to bury his 43-year-old mother.

His mom, Lisa Robinson, died of an apparent heart attack last Friday. Thomas found out when he received a voicemail from his 7-year-old sister Jayla crying uncontrollably. He was with both the Morris twins at the time, and he knew he had to call his sister back, but he didn't want to. He'd already had enough bad news in the last few weeks, but he called her back. That's when she told him "Mommy" was no longer with them. 

Losing a loved one is an absolutely tragic event regardless of the circumstances, but when a 7-year-old girl is forced to tell her brother that their mother is dead, it's even more tragic. Jayla had to make the call because, sadly, she was the only person left to do so. A 7-year-old having to explain to her older brother what happened to their mother. The whole story is heartbreaking.

The NCAA has, for the first time in my memory, done the right thing. They've granted several waivers to many of their useless rules, and allowed the Kansas athletic department to fly the team to Lisa Robinson's funeral, and allowed them to pay for the funeral itself. They've also allowed KU to start a scholarship in Lisa's name, in which all the money raised will go to help Jayla. For once, common sense prevailed, and the NCAA deserves credit for making a seemingly obvious decision.

Lisa's family is asking that, in lieu of flowers or other gifts, contributions be made to the Lisa Robinson Scholarship Fund, for the benefit of her daughter, Jayla: 
c/o SNR Denton, 1301 K Street NW, Suite 600, East Tower, Washington, DC 20005-3364.

It was reported yesterday that Lisa Robinson's biggest dream was that her son Thomas would go to college. After the outpouring of support that both Thomas and Jayla have received from everyone affiliated with Kansas, I think there's little doubt that Mrs. Robinson is looking down on her son and smiling. Not only is he attending college, but he's at a place that truly sees him as family.

Marcus Morris was overheard on the phone with T-Rob after KU beat Colorado, and he told Robinson "Hey let me call you back cousin, I gotta do this interview quick." Morris than said that he and Robinson call each other cousins, but "we're really brothers." He meant it.

Bill Self, again, has shown what a class-act and great guy he really is. Self has been in constant contact with the NCAA to get the waivers necessary, he sent a member of his staff to help Thomas in any way he needed, and more importantly Self has stayed in the background and just been there for a kid who is grieving in ways most of us will never understand. I don't know how other major coaches would have reacted to the situation, but I do know that the way Bill Self has handled the situation could not have been done any better.

Tomorrow, KU will try to start another streak at Allen Fieldhouse, after losing to Texas last week. Playing rival K-State, Thomas Robinson will be in the building. It still hasn't been determined if he's going to play, but he doesn't need to. There's no doubt the KU faithful will have something special planned to embrace Robinson whether he's watching in street clothes or throwing down a back door lob over Jacob Pullen. There likely won't be any dry eyes in the building when the crowd acknowledges Robinson, and after KU disposes of an overrated K-State team, Lisa Robinson will look down, smiling, knowing her son is in the best hands possible. Kansas truly is a family, and the whole country has seen that over the last week. Tomorrow will be no different.