Toughness Is The Name Of The Game For Robinson

by Doug Ammon

Bouncy. Aggressive. Bull-like mentality. A Man. 

These were the words Sixers head coach Brett Brown used to describe newly acquired big man Thomas Robinson after he logged 13 minutes in his first game with the team on Wednesday.

A native of Washington, D.C., Robinson, or T-Rob as he often goes by, made his name at the collegiate ranks under head coach Bill Self at Kansas. He arrived on campus as a 6’8”, 222-pound raw product, but by his junior year he had bulked up, polished his game, and was on the radar of every college and NBA team in the nation. He finished his third season at Kansas averaging 17.7 points and 11.9 rebounds, numbers that made him one of just four Jayhawks ever to average a double-double. His 25 double-doubles were the most in Division I basketball that year.

After taking home every major award the Big 12 had to offer, including Player of the Year and First-team All-Big 12 honors, Robinson was selected to the prestigious class of NCAA First-team All-Americans in 2012. The other four players who joined Robinson on that list: Draymond Green, Jared Sullinger, Doug McDermott, and budding NBA superstar Anthony Davis.

He declared for the 2012 Draft and was selected fifth-overall by the Sacramento Kings. But despite his talents, things didn’t immediately pan out for Robinson at the pro level.

Over his first three seasons, the 23-year-old has made stops in Sacramento, Houston, and most recently Portland before being claimed of waivers by the Sixers on Tuesday. In what has become a common theme of Philadelphia’s season this year, just hours after joining the squad he suited up for his first game with the team.

In just under 13 minutes of action, Robinson recorded seven points and six rebounds. Despite playing the third-fewest minutes on the squad that night, he pulled down the second-most rebounds behind Nerlens Noel (8), who played more than double the number of minutes than did Robinson.

For his career, he has averaged 4.6 points, and 4.4 rebound per game. These are numbers that don’t jump off the stat sheet but don’t tell a complete story.

Before arriving in Philadelphia, Robinson was playing some of the basketball of his career this season with the Portland Trailblazers. He was shooting a career-high 51.6% from the field while also grabbing 4.2 rebounds in just 12.2 minutes of action per game. A polished rebounder, he had averaged 12.5 rebounds per 36 minutes over his last two seasons. But playing for a veteran playoff team in Portland, minutes were hard to come by, and the team parted ways with him in a deal with the Denver Nuggets last week. Denver waived him in conjunction with the deal.

“I’m an energetic player, rebounder, defensive stopper, I lead by example and will get vocal if I have to,” said Robinson, who was visibly excited about joining a team where minutes are expected to be plentiful. “I want to win and get this team on the path towards winning.”

His presence is felt, though, as it always has been, in effort not reflected in the box score. Robinson is a tireless worker with a motor that is constantly running full throttle. He may only be 23 years old, but don’t let his age fool you. On team that values upside and character, Robinson undeniably fits the mold.

“He fits all the things we like when we identify keepers. It’s a look that we couldn’t pass up,” said Brett Brown. “He’s not going to have a better environment to have a legitimate chance to be a legitimate NBA player.”

In a frontcourt that leans heavily on the slender shoulders of Nerlens Noel, Robinson’s 240-pound frame will help take some of the pressure off the rookie center. He may still be acquiring the necessary tools to make him a polished NBA player, but Robinson’s willingness to battle night in and night out will make him a valuable piece for the Sixers for the rest of the season and possibly beyond. 

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