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KU’s Robinson contributes to star-studded Final Four

By BLAIR KERKHOFF
The Kansas City Star

Say this for Kansas. When a Bill Self team reaches the Final Four, the Jayhawks are surrounded by stars.

In 2008, KU showed up in San Antonio with a field that included future NBA stars Derrick Rose of Memphis and UCLA’s Kevin Love, along with Tyler Hansborough of North Carolina in the first of his two years as a consensus All-America.

And the Jayhawks brought along six future NBA Draft selections of their own.

This year, the star power once again brightens the Final Four.

The Associated Press All-America team was announced Monday, and three teams that will arrive in New Orleans later this week are represented.

Kansas frontliner Thomas Robinson, who became the first unanimous selection on the AP team since Oklahoma’s Blake Griffin in 2009, joins Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger and Kentucky’s Anthony Davis on the first team.

Robinson and Sullinger will face off in one national semifinal Saturday with Kentucky meeting Louisville in the other game.

As for future stars, check out any NBA Draft projection website. Draftexpress.com lists four players on Final Four teams — the three AP All-Americans plus Kentucky’s Michael Kidd-Gilchrist — among its top six projected selections.

“Everybody is talented,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said. “Yes, we have good players. So does everybody else. You think they just have a system and that’s why they’re winning? They do it because they’ve got good players.”

The teams’ regional championships have proved coaches have exceled at managing that talent. It’s not always easy on rosters loaded with high profile recruits and egos.

“A lot of coaches would agree that, at times, coaching teams with a ton a talent is probably more difficult because you’re constantly trying to get the maximum out of them,” Ohio State coach Thad Matta said.

By comparison, Louisville’s players are absent from the All-America lists.

“We may not have as much talent in certain areas as other teams,” Louisville coach Rick Pitino said.

But as the Cardinals proved by dismantling top-seeded Michigan State and rallying past Florida to win the West Regional, chemistry counts in college basketball.

“In the pros, 90 percent of the time, the best team is going to win a five- or seven-game series,” Pitino said. “In college, it’s a one-game stint. Maybe somebody shoots great, anything can happen.”

Robinson, Sullinger and Kidd-Gilchrist were chosen the most outstanding players of their regionals.

Inclusion on the Associated Press team made Robinson a unanimous All-American. He averages 17.7 points and 11.8 rebounds. His 426 rebounds on the season are the second most in program history behind Wilt Chamberlain.

In the Midwest Regional title game victory against North Carolina, Robinson had 18 points and nine rebounds.

Along with his inclusion on All-America first teams selected by the United States Basketball Writers Association, The Sporting News and the National Association of Basketball Coaches, Robinson becomes the first Kansas player to be selected unanimously since Wayne Simien in 2005.

Sherron Collins was the last Kansas player to be chosen a consensus first-team All-American, making two of the teams in 2010.

Missouri and Kansas City product Marcus Denmon was chosen to the AP second team and KU’s Tyshawn Taylor was on the third team.

Also Monday, Robinson and Denmon were named to the 10-member Wooden All-America team. The award is based on basketball and academic achievement that requites players to be making progress toward graduation and hold at least a 2.0 GPA.

To reach Blair Kerkhoff, call 816-234-4730 or send email to bkerkhoff@kcstar.com. Follow him at twitter.com/BlairKerkhoff.

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