Mizzou fan antics don’t rile Robinson

Friday, February 3, 2012

So, did the Antlers, the maniacal Missouri students famous for unearthing the guarded phone numbers of Kansas University basketball players, get their hands on Thomas Robinson’s digits?

“No,” Robinson said. “I gave ‘em Merv’s number, so I’m pretty good.”

That would be Merv Lindsay, the seldom-used freshman forward. Presumably, Robinson was joking.

Efforts to rattle Robinson won’t stop at students trying to wake him up. The Mizzou Arena crowd will send a relentless stream of verbal bullets his way to see if they can throw him off his game. He plans to let them bounce off his chest.

“I know going to Mizzou is going to be the most testing situation I’ll have, probably in my career,” Robinson said. “Those fans are pretty rough on us. I mean, we’re the opposing team. All the odds are against us, but I want to get this ‘W,’ so I’m not letting anybody in that gym, stadium state, anything, start me. It is what it is. They can say what they want. We’ve got to get this ‘W.’”

Robinson has dealt with more than verbal darts from opponents looking to derail his focus. He repeatedly takes karate chops to the arm, shoves in the back, endless searches to spark the fuse that lights his temper. It used to work. He’s done a terrific job of not letting foes see him sweat from all the shots. Robinson did get tagged with a technical against Ohio State and another at Texas, but his composure definitely has come a long way.

How has he accomplished that?

“I mean, I’ll just say that I know I can’t afford to get a technical,” Robinson said. “That’s going to hurt my team, me sitting down, for one. Two, when I was younger, it was easier to get riled up and in a pushing contest with somebody and you forget about the game. But now that I’m older, I know it’s probably in some other player’s game plan to try to get in my head. But at the same time, I’m too important to my team to let that be a reason I’m not playing.”

Added responsibility can make a person crumble, or it can inflate the confidence of the individual. Clearly, Robinson has responded well.

“It’s definitely a good feeling,” he said. “It’s like taking on responsibility that you ask for. I got exactly what I asked for. I’ve been waiting for it, and I got it. So now when you ask for it, you’ve got to take on responsibility.”

Forever facing defenses designed to stop him, Robinson is averaging 17.6 points, 12 rebounds, 1.2 blocks and 1.2 steals. He dominated Oklahoma in an 84-62 victory Wednesday night with 20 points, 17 rebounds, four assists, two blocks and two steals.

Robinson had the crowd backing him with roars in that one. He’s not naive about what awaits him in Columbia.

“I’m on Twitter, so I see it all,” Robinson said.

And hears nothing.

“In the gym, as crazy as it sounds, you really don’t hear it because you’re in the game, man,” he said. “You’re not listening to the crowd, listening to what they’re saying. If you do, you won’t be any good, trust me. The only person I saw who did that was Sherron (Collins).”

Robinson doesn’t need to hear that garbage. He just needs the ball delivered on target, on time.