University of Kansas

Thomas Robinson returns to KU with eyes on business, graduation in May of 2020

Thomas Robinson returns to Lawrence, speaks with media Monday

Former KU forward Thomas Robinson, 28, is hoping to return to the NBA this season after a year in China.
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Former KU forward Thomas Robinson, 28, is hoping to return to the NBA this season after a year in China.

Former University of Kansas power forward Thomas Robinson felt a bit nostalgic Sunday night after returning to campus for the first time in three summers.

“I actually walked through here last night,” Robinson, a 6-foot-10, 240-pound, 28-year-old native of Washington, D.C., said Monday afternoon during a brief interview with media members outside the northwest tunnel of Allen Fieldhouse.

He ran through that tunnel onto KU’s James Naismith court for three seasons — from 2010 to 2012.

“I walked around the Naismith statue, drove around campus, had my own walk down memory lane. It’s cool even though nobody’s here now,” Robinson added. KU’s players have been released to their hometowns or towns of friends until the start of 2019-20 first-semester classes on Aug. 26.

Robinson — he averaged 21.9 points and 13.6 rebounds a game for a team in China in 2018-19 after playing five years in the NBA and one in Russia — was last in Lawrence during June of 2016. At the time, he helped launch his and the Morris twins’ line of FOE (Family over Everything) apparel.

“Honestly when I rode through (Lawrence on Sunday),” Robinson said Monday, “I thought about times walking through campus with my teammates, funny moments we had in certain spots. The (Jayhawker) Towers parking lot … I got all emotional looking at that. I don’t know why. There are things to me that are more important than games — to come back, see everybody in the (basketball) office, walk the same hallways. Those things stand out more for me,” added Robinson.

Robinson, who averaged 8.3 points and 6.8 rebounds a game in four games for San Antonio’s summer league team in Las Vegas, says he’s hoping to net some kind of guarantee from the Spurs or another NBA team for the upcoming season.

While letting his agent work on details regarding his hoops future, Robinson was focusing on business Monday. He was to meet with Lawrence City Commission members about an electric scooter company he’d like to open in town as soon as this fall.

Also, Robinson met with his academic advisors at KU about completing work on a liberal arts degree.

“I’m trying to walk (down Campanile Hill in graduation ceremonies) next May. I came to check on that,” said Robinson, who said he just has a handful of hours of coursework to complete.

“Thinking about basketball, thinking about things afterwards ... I’m still young but I’m right there at that peak. In a couple years I won’t be so young. I’m trying to get a head start on some things I may need in order to continue what I want to do after playing basketball,” said Robinson.

The fifth overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft has earned about $14 million so far in the NBA portion of his career according to hoopshype.com.

“Ten years is a long time,” he said, asked if he wants to play hoops, say, another full 10 seasons. “I have two kids now, so 10 is a long time. I plan to go until the wheels go off, though. I have a lot of basketball left in me especially at the NBA level, any level in this world. I have a high level in me. How long that will go, I don’t know. As of now I’m at my best.”

Robinson said he relished the opportunity to play summer league ball for the NBA’s Spurs even though that league is normally dominated by recent draft picks and younger players.

“I played summer league first and foremost because I wanted to show I don’t have a pride issue,” Robinson said. “I don’t think I’m bigger than whatever I seem as a player. I wanted to show I still am a player at a high level. That’s the reason for playing summer league at this age.”

Robinson said he’s enjoyed visiting with KU coach Bill Self on this trip back to Lawrence.

“It’s always good, refreshing to see him,” Robinson said. “He reminds me of what I need to do to continue to stay on the right path, whether NBA or anywhere else. He keeps me on track.”

Robinson, whose home base is now Los Angeles where he’s been working out with former KU guard Mario Chalmers, gave an update on his sister, Jayla, who was 7 when Jayla and Thomas’ mom, Lisa, died in 2011. Robinson while at KU gained permission from the NCAA to set up the Lisa Robinson Foundation, a trust fund set up in his sister’s name in order to collect donations that could provide for her future.

“She lives with me,” Thomas said of Jayla, now in high school. “She wants to go here … or UCLA. She likes UCLA too,” Robinson added, smiling.

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