Monday, January 24, 2011

Kansas players cope with loss of Thomas Robinson’s mother together

Team will attend funeral services, NCAA clears KU to pay for expenses

Kansas' Markieff Morris hugs teammate Thomas Robinson before taking on Texas on Saturday, January 22, 2011 in Allen Fieldhouse. Robinson's mother passed away the night before.

Kansas' Markieff Morris hugs teammate Thomas Robinson before taking on Texas on Saturday, January 22, 2011 in Allen Fieldhouse. Robinson's mother passed away the night before.



KU’s Thomas Robinson (0) and Mario Little watch the end of the Jayhawks’ loss to Texas on Saturday at Allen Fieldhouse. Robinson will not be with the team in Colorado.

— Kansas University’s basketball players didn’t practice Sunday, a day after incurring their first loss of the 2010-11 season.

“We met,” KU coach Bill Self said Monday afternoon. “And I talked to them.

“Pretty interesting.”

The group huddle was not about KU’s play in a 74-63 setback to Texas.

It was not about the challenges the Jayhawks (18-1, 3-1) face in Tuesday's 7 p.m. contest at Colorado (14-6, 3-2).

The talk centered on sophomore forward Thomas Robinson, who after initially telling Self on Sunday he wanted to make the trip to CU, changed his mind Monday and decided to return to Washington, D.C., to be with his sister, Jayla, as they await the late-in-the-week funeral of their mother, Lisa, who died Friday night.

“The first thing they (players) wanted to do was: ‘Coach, tell us about Thomas’ situation. Tell us about the arrangements. Tell us about his sister. What can we legally do? What’s the NCAA going to allow you to do? Is anybody going to go with him (to D.C.)? He doesn’t need to be alone.’ The whole deal was laying out Thomas,” Self said.

Self informed the Jayhawks that director of basketball operations Barry Hinson would return to D.C. with Robinson on Monday — the day of Robinson’s grandfather’s funeral — and that the entire team would fly charter to the funeral. And that the NCAA would allow KU to pay for funeral expenses and even work on the arrangements in Lawrence.

Then, some other things were said.

“I said to the guys, ‘That (Robinson’s situation) is most important, but life doesn’t stop, and we played a game yesterday. Do you guys want to look at it and see what we can learn from the game from a basketball standpoint?" Self related. “Get your mind off some other things. And Markieff (Morris) stepped up and said, ‘Coach, we’ve got to be able to do both.’ So I thought that was a pretty mature deal. So we watched the second half (of Texas loss) yesterday as a group and went over everything.

“The guys left out of there, I think, in a pretty fair frame of mind, but we’re an emotionally spent team right now. And if you know Thomas’ situation and how much his mother meant to him, in large part because that’s all he had. The only set of grandparents he knew died within the last three weeks.

“He gets a call from his sister, who is 9, that his mother — mommy — just died ... from a 9-year-old because there’s nobody else to call. Those are pretty heavy things, and our players totally felt that and respected that and totally respect Thomas. I think our team is spent right now, but I’m not saying it’s something that has to last a long time. I’m just saying we need to kind of get back to a routine of normalcy, and that’s OK.”

The Jayhawks, senior leader Tyrel Reed said, will be able to focus on Tuesday's foe — the Buffs, who are led by two of the best players in the Big 12, Alec Burks (19.6 ppg) and Cory Higgins (16.1 ppg).

“I mean, the world doesn’t stop turning,” Reed said. “Whether there’s things going on in our personal lives or whatever. We’re all men. We have to deal with those things. We have a job to do, and that’s playing Colorado.”

The world has seemed a kinder, gentler place to KU coach Self lately.

He related the story of how so many individuals have stepped up and asked what they can do for Robinson and his sister. The coach has cautioned folks to do nothing to ensure they don’t run afoul of NCAA rules.

“It’s amazing to me how many people that I don’t know, that Thomas doesn’t know, that I do know ... that have offered their assistance in unbelievably unselfish ways. Unbelievable,” Self said.

“I’ve had friends that I’ve known for years that live in Texas (that) want to go to D.C. right now. They want to move up here and just take care of Thomas’ sister. They want to do things, they’re talking about guardianship and all that stuff. It’s amazing to me how connected people get to our guys, because they see them as one of theirs, and that’s one of the great things about playing here.

“I think Thomas sees that now more than ever, so there’s been some positive things to come of this, without question. But certainly, no definite answers will be given on anything until he has a chance to figure out what’s best for him and what’s best for Jayla.”

There are many many things to be settled before it’s assured that Robinson will be back for Saturday’s 6 p.m. game against Kansas State. If services are Friday, the KU team would fly to D.C. and back, while Robinson likely would not be able to return immediately after the funeral, but return on his own, maybe later that night.

“We’ve had some serious discussions about how to move forward from a business standpoint and personal standpoint and with the welfare of his life and all the things he’s got to do, getting lined up with an attorney to educate him about all the things he’s got to do and family possessions, and there’s so many different things that he’s got to do that we’re just going to send a coach out there to assist him with tonight,” Self said of Hinson. “Hopefully, he’ll be able to get a lot of these things done before the services. I’m so proud of Thomas. He’s been a rock.”


boxersdrule 7 years, 4 months ago

Nice to know the NCAA has a bit of common sense.

oldrocker 7 years, 4 months ago

This is unbelievable...I've never seen the NCAA use common sense. Isn't this what we got put on probation for in '89?...Coach Brown paying for a player to go to his grandmother's funeral?

kcglowboy 7 years, 4 months ago

Well, getting permission in advance is one big difference from 88.

jhawk1000 7 years, 4 months ago

Just as Self is proud of Robinson, I am proud of Self and the team for showing what is really important in life and it often involves setting priorities. With the loss to Texas, the Colorado game on tap and KState on Saturday, taking time off to set priorities for caring for a teamate in lieu of practice makes me proud of KU. Much of what has happened this last year with the Mangino fiasco, the Perkins mess and the ticket scandal has muddied KU's appeal but banding together for Thomas and his sister is a bright spot.

honk_for_hawks 7 years, 4 months ago

Glad to hear the NCAA is going to at least let KU help TRob. I can't even imagine if i had no one but my little sister. I don't know how I'd take care of her. I don't know how I'd focus on school, much less basketball. I'm sure TRob's head is spinning thinking about everything and I hope everything works out for him. He is a really nice guy and his energy and enthusiasm are what make people love college basketball. I'm sure everybody's prayers and wishes are with him, including mine.

bradynsdad 7 years, 4 months ago

I think everyone should be proud to be a hawk. It is amazing what the coaches the players and the community are doing to help trob out. Self has solidified his place as a class act in all of sports. Rock chalk proud to be a jayhawk!

KUtattKat 7 years, 4 months ago

Truly amazing! Yet more reasons to be proud to be a Jayhawk! This story speaks to the class of our historic program, and the KU family that will always be.

BleedingCrimsonAndBlue 7 years, 4 months ago

I am so glad that the NCAA is letting the University help Thomas and his family. Nice to see that they have a little common sense. I have never been more proud to be a member of Jayhawk Nation. We're all praying for you Thomas.

kumama 7 years, 4 months ago

May God wrap his arms around Thomas and Jayla and give them strength and hope. May he embrass the Jayhawk nation as we help them morn the loss of their mom and begin the healing process. I am so proud of the way things are being handled and I am so proud to be a JAYHAWK.

FLJHK 7 years, 4 months ago

Blessings and strength to TRob in these obscenely difficult times. No one should have to deal with so many profound losses in such a short time.

Blessings and thanks too to Jayhawk Nation, Coach Self and the posters on this site. There has been a great deal of heartfelt support expressed on these pages in recent days, and it has demonstrated the class of KU fans.

I follow many sports and teams. But there is nothing quite like Jayhawk basketball. There is an inherent intimacy to basketball that distinguishes it from other team sports. The teams are small in numbers, so you are able (through the media) to get to know the players a bit better than most other sports. Also, because the players are not covered in hats and helmets and pads, they become physically familiar. When that is combined with the tradition that is Kansas basketball, a connection occurs between players and fans that I believe (without any basis in actual research) is different and somehow stronger that can be found anywhere else. When a player like TRob (and DJack a few years ago) experiences personal losses and difficulties, we all genuinely hurt. It's not like the pain of loss we experience with our own immediate families, but it is real and painful nonetheless.

I feel very fortunate to be a Jayhawk, and very proud that for those few who earn the opportunity to wear a jersey with the word Kansas on the front, that they know that our support of them is real and life-long. Rock fricking Chalk.

REHawk 7 years, 4 months ago

Kansas supporters and alums are scattered far and wide, many ready to jump at the opportunity to step up in such situations. Would not surprise at all to see a D.C. attorney pop out of the woodwork to help Hinson and Thomas line out a family gameplan. Is great to read that the NCAA has shown early good sense and compassion in this situation. Let's hope they follow thru and allow charitable help for Thomas to care for Jayla, if that is to be decided. What a super responsible position TRob has been placed in at this stage of his young life. Heaviest of stuff to shoulder. The world of amateur sport must show flexibility in assisting him.

Joe Ross 7 years, 4 months ago

hard to read this without choking back tears

gchawk 7 years, 4 months ago

Me too. I hope you know what you mean to the KU Nation, Thomas. We're all pulling for you and your sister. May God bless.

Dean Huggins 7 years, 4 months ago

jross--i'm there too. i avoided the paper all morning sunday before i finally caved in to check the stat box. and it happened. alone in my house, i broke. yes, we care because they are us and we are them. but there's comfort in being a jayhawk, knowing that so many are just like you: strangers helping strangers, parts working individually for the greater good of the whole. our nation is unique & is family just the same. colorado will be an emotional game for a different reason---let's get this one for t rob. apologies for no caps..until now. RCJH!

MikeMac217 7 years, 4 months ago

Every time I read the articles about Thomas I get tears in my eyes. He is an unbelievably strong young man. He and his sister deserve the best. I hope the NCAA can get their head on straight one time and let people assist Thomas and his sister in some regard.


You are someone I truly admire. We are praying for you and your sister. Whatever decisions you need to make for the future, just know everyone in Jayhawk nation will support you 100%.

Kye Clark 7 years, 4 months ago

Wow. Just going to echo much of the sentiments that have already been expressed. Such a tragedy, yet through it all I've never been more proud to be a Jayhawk fan, and in particular to be a fan of this group of guys. I love hearing the far-reaching support of our fan base, and how this team is leaning on each other and being there for Thomas. Glad the team gets to be there at the funeral, and just hope for the best for TRob and Jayla moving forward.

tophawk1983 7 years, 4 months ago

Thank God for common sense. I don't see how anyone in the entire world could take offense to people donating money to a fund that would be administered by a local attorney in Lawrence or D.C. or wherever they decide to settle. There are thousands of people here who want to ensure that these two are taken care of until TRob can take care of the both of them. It's that easy...the NCAA can even add a clause where if he makes it to the NBA he can pay back money they've received. That way the short term is taken care of. Sanity needs to win out on this one...where Thomas can make a decision that isn't based on the economics of right now. Please, please NCAA get this one right...for once.

DevilHawk 7 years, 4 months ago

Among the many other things, it's good to hear that KU is doing its best to do things correctly so that the best interests of TRob and his sister are met.

That said, I can't help but recall a House episode:

John Myers 7 years, 4 months ago

Every new piece I read that mentions this story brings me to tears..

I'm going thru a pretty messed up period myself right now, and reading this stuff makes me feel disgustingly selfish for feeling so down about what I think are really important things - they pale in comparison.

I can't even begin to imagine the pain Thomas is going through.

Thomas, my thoughts and prayers are with you and Jayla every day.

Dirk Medema 7 years, 4 months ago

Does anyone remeber the situation a few years ago, I think it was a UNC FB player who needed to take care of his brother, and the NCAA allowed some special arrangement?

Brendan Connolly 7 years, 4 months ago

I believe it was Clemson and the players name was Ray Ray something. It was national press at time and I think one of the Bowdens was coach. Of course he gladly jumped in and took all the praise for helping the player, but the follow up is sad. Ray Ray senior year, the coach recruited too many players and pulled his scholarship. Oddly didn't make much news and coach somehow is not getting dinger for it.

Glad to see Self appears to really back these kids all the way unlike others who use them as a means to and end.

BewareOfThePhogOnTheWater 7 years, 4 months ago

T-Rob and Jayla, our thoughts and prayers are with you during this extremely difficult time in your young lives. May the Grace of God strengthen you and help you mourn the loss of your grandmother, grandfather, and your mother. It is so hard to lose a loved one. I cannot even imagine the feeling of losing three loved ones in such a short period of time. Just know that the entire Jayhawk Nation is here to support and love you in any way we can. You're not heavy you're our brother (and sister). May God Bless you both.


beerhawk 7 years, 4 months ago

I am very glad to see that the NCAA is going to allow the university to help out thomas, even a little bit... I was worried that they wouldnt allow anything of the sort, given the strictness of their rules. My thoughts are with the Robinson family, and I hope there are people around him that he can truly lean on in these times of need.

Rock Chalk Jayhawk, I am proud to be a part of KU.

minnhawk84 7 years, 4 months ago

OK, so if the Jayhawk family can't help Thomas, why can't we help out Jayla? I mean, in virtually every situation similar to this in Minnesota, a fund is immediately set up at one of the banks in town to help out. If the help is directed at Jayla and her situation, how could the NCAA say anything? I have money ready to send, can someone in Lawrence coordinate? Let's get this done. Anyone?

Martin Rosenblum 7 years, 4 months ago

I'm pretty sure the NCAA would view anything like that a benefit derived from being a family member of a student-athlete, which is probably not allowed. If it were allowed, other situations would be determined to be worthy of assistance, ie job loss for a family member, serious medical needs, etc.

Marcia Parsons 7 years, 4 months ago

I'm afraid helping her would be considered helping him, since it would take an equal amount of financial responsibility off his hands thus giving him a "benefit."

ksyank 7 years, 4 months ago

In all honesty, who really cares what the NCAA deems as legal? KU, alums, and anyone else who wants to help these two people out should do it, regardless of any ridiculous NCAA sanctions. If they want to put the KU basketball team on probation for 5 years because we helped a family that needed it, so be it. Their well being is more important.

Jonathan Allison 7 years, 4 months ago

over the course of his two years at KU many fans have tried to compare Thomas to Darnell Jackson. I've argued that we can compare them based only on what they do on the court, but that what really defined Jackson was the quality of his character.

In this mess, Thomas is already starting to show the quality of his character, the way that he has been composed, and the attitude that he is carrying shows that he is a man who deserves to be respected, and the fact that the players and coaches and fans are all rallying around wanting to help Thomas and his sister through this difficult time is evidence that he is a good young man. I think that this truly unfortunate experience is going to give Thomas a bond to KU that so few former players have, but that we have seen so greatly in Darnell Jackson. Bill Self was a father figure to Darnell. KU was a family to Darnell (all of the players say KU is a family, but Darnell is exhibit A). Thomas and Jayla from here out are going to experience the same love and the same support that Darnell and his mother had. And we will see a strong man, and a great leader rise up out of the ashes of this tragic time.

All of our thoughts and prayers are with Thomas and Jayla. Hopefully they can feel at least just a touch of the warmth that we are extending to them.

coach2878 7 years, 4 months ago

I am a grown man of 37 years and it is incredibly tough to not get choked up when reading about Thomas, KU and the response from the entire Kansas fan is very, very sad, but I am so, so honored to be a part of the KU family.

FSUJHAWK 7 years, 4 months ago

Stay strong and be the man that your mom and grandparents would want you to be TRob. The entire Jayhawk Nation feels your grief but looks forward to you overcoming. Nuff love and respect.


Randy Glenn 7 years, 4 months ago

Keep us posted on the status of a fund to help out. Our crimson and blue hearts are heavy with grief for the TRob family because they are a part of OUR family. They need help and we are there for them.Count on me to help.

cwind 7 years, 4 months ago

I was in a perfectly tranquil status after eating breakfast, and then I too read this article and the posters and I'm ballin my eyes out. God speed to Jayla and T-Rob from ALL the Jayhawk Nation. Some day T-Rob, when you're leading the Jayhawks to the National title and then becoming an NBA All pro, you'll look up to the sky and thank your grandparents and your momma for being there in spirit and making it all happen for you. Deflect praise and give them the credit T-Rob, I know that's what you'll do. Sounds like Jayhawk Nation is ready, willing, and able to support you. RCJHTRob!

GeoHawk15 7 years, 4 months ago

My heart goes out to Thomas and Jayla. I can only imagine how helpless it feels to be so far away when something like this happens and you can't be there. Do what you need to do T-Rob, Jayhawk Nation will be here for you when you return.

TommieSmithElbow 7 years, 4 months ago

kushaw: Thanks for the article link. Hadn't seen it. It was well done with an admirable perspective.

Had to chuckle at the "Who is going to win the Big 12?" poll to the right of the article. Not because of the result, but because of the magnitude of the result.

Rock Chalk!

DevilHawk 7 years, 4 months ago

Our teams play for success in March and April. This tragedy can either end our season or it can be the thing that finally wakes this team up to play hard for all 40 minutes per game, every game.

I'm sure that the team has concluded that winning the title this year is a foregone conclusion, and they will do everything possible to ensure that reality.

PhogAdvisory 7 years, 4 months ago

I keep thinking that at some point I'll read one of these articles and NOT get choked up. Hasn't happened yet.

Sally Presson 7 years, 4 months ago

As is everyone, I'm so worried about Thomas, bless his heart that's way more than a young man should have to endure. I wish I could take his sister and help heal her pain. I'm so proud of our guys and the tremendous men they are. they'll help Thomas get through these tough days ahead as will the coaching staff. KU is a great place for Thomas to be so they can help him heal his pain.

Thomas-Jayhawk fans everywhere love you and would do anything to help you, lean on us!!!

Jake Powell 7 years, 4 months ago

Hope the team has TRob's jersey out on the floor tonight to honor the entire family.

Tim Bingaman 7 years, 4 months ago

From a fund raising perspective, the clock is ticking NCAA. People are primed and ready to pay up NOW!

Tony Bandle 7 years, 4 months ago


Allow the NCAA to set up the framework. Letting them take the credit will go far in increasing the amount of help everyone will be allowed to provide. As base as this sounds, the bettter you make them look, the more cooperative they are.

I'm sure they are viewing this as an opportunity to put forth a sympathetic face and garnish much good will. Let them do that. The primary concern is getting help for TRob and Jayla.

It sucks to have to play this game, but it's worth it for the end result we all want.

jmoore 7 years, 4 months ago

Like so many other KU fans, my heart goes out to Thomas and his little sister Jayla during this time of incredible grief. It is so touching and inspirational to see the love, compassion, and offers to expressed by the KU family across the nation. I'm proud to be a Jayhawk.

Our thoughts and prayers are with you and your little sister, Thomas. Take all the time you need to grieve these devastating losses. May you find strength, comfort, and ultimate peace in knowing that an entire nation of Jayhawk fans are there for you in your time of need.

Chris Bailey 7 years, 4 months ago


Do we have any idea what Thomas' sister is going to do? Who is going to take care of her? I live in Hutchinson but would be more than willing to open my home up to Jayla. I know it's not the best circumstance but I would do whatever I could to help. And if you read this Thomas this is a sincere honest gesture. I will help in any capacity to get your sister closer as a foster parent to her if you want or need that. I think that would be an arrangement that would do no harm as far as the NCAA goes. Just know I'm thinking of you. Matt and Gary if help is needed look no further.


lee3022 7 years, 4 months ago

Thank you all here, as family we gather in our meeting place to extend our arms and our hearts to Thomas and Jayla. This is who we are at KU. This is why Thomas was sent to us to embrace and love. There is no shame in tears my friends. I have a bronze star and still cry over Thomas and Jayla. I feel them deeply and I know each of you do as well.

Thank you to each of the team and their mothers and to Bill Self and each of the staff for being family. Thank you to KU for allowing me entrance 49 years ago to become part of this family. I gained far more than an education in business and accounting here. Now the world sees us draw together, not mourning a loss of a game, but a loss of three family members in such a short time. There will be more games. We stand with you Thomas and Jayla. Bless you.

Justin Diederich 7 years, 4 months ago

Jayhawk nation is Jayla and Thomas's family now. We have to open our arm's anytime they need it. Thomas has to focus on his sister now. Basketball is not important anymore. Jayla is top priority. T-Rob is a Jayhawk for a reason. We are all a big family now we have to prove it.

jalbig88 7 years, 4 months ago

Wow! So does that mean that whenever the relative of anyone at KU (or any other such institution under NCAA's big umbrella) passes, that the whole sports team, entire social club, full membership of any given academic/athletic club/organization, etc... will have their travel, lodging, and all other related expenses cared for to attend the funeral on behalf of the individual who's relative passed?

If done for one, it must be done for all. So this should include the team members who only keep the benches warm. And so on.

But let's face the truth on this. The only real purpose it serves is to make everyone feel all gushy as if having done something commendable and useful. But if that was the case, they would all be covering their own expenses.

John Myers 7 years, 4 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

lee3022 7 years, 3 months ago

jalbig88 - I am sad that these threads are not reaching you, nor, apparently is the situation befalling Thomas and Jayla.

Perhaps there is a solution for you here:

Justin Diederich 7 years, 4 months ago

Jalbig88 are you out of your mind? Can you think of very many people who lose there mother and have no other family. Oh yes there is a 9 year old involved to.

greenonion 7 years, 4 months ago

Thomas, may god bless you and your sister during such a difficult time. I too am so very proud of coach Self and all of the players and fans for coming together for Thomas and his sister. I am so proud to be a Jayhawk and today the reason has nothing to do with basketball.

Kywildcat62 7 years, 3 months ago

totally heartbreaking, may God bless you and your sister.

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