Thomas Robinson, the Kansas University forward and, native Washingtonian who overcame tragedy to lead his team to a national runner-up finish this season, is foregoing his senior year for the NBA.
Robinson made the announcement on Monday, April 9th, with Head Coach Bill Self and 9-year-old sister Jayla by his side.
Robinson, the first unanimous first-team All-American since Blake Griffin, led the Kansas Jayhawks to the NCAA basketball national championship game against Kentucky, where they lost 67-59. He averaged 17.9 points and 11.8 rebounds per game in 31.8 minutes in his junior season and led the country with 27 double-doubles.
Even had Robinson wanted to come back for his senior year, Coach Self would have encouraged him not to because he feels Robinson is fully prepared to turn pro. The 6-foot-9 power forward could very well be selected in the first five picks of the June draft, which would mean a minimum rookie salary of more than $2.8 million.
It would be great news for Robinson and Jayla after what they've been through.
In January 2011, Robinson received a phone call from Jayla, who told him that their mother had died of a heart attack in his hometown of Washington, D.C. The two had been raised by their single mother, Lisa Robinson. In a span of three weeks, they had also lost their grandfather and grandmother, and Robinson's father had never really been involved in his life.
The Kansas basketball program has served as surrogate family. They helped raise money to pay for some of the funeral expenses, and to set up a scholarship fund to cover Jayla's college education.
Robinson admitted it will be difficult leaving Kansas – his teammates, the coaching staff, the fans and the town. Obtaining his degree is important to him, and he plans to come back to Lawrence, Kansas to do so. Robinson doesn't have many credit hours remaining, and completing his degree is something that his mother would want him to do.
Kansas will have a hard time replacing Robinson's output. He raised his scoring average by more than 10 points, his rebounding average by more than five rebounds while playing twice as many minutes as he did in his sophomore season.
Robinson said he has not yet hired an agent but plans to do so in the next couple of weeks. Most NBA experts are projecting that Robinson will have a very successful pro career.