Friday, November 4, 2011

KU’s Robinson honors mom by planting memorial tree

Kansas forward Thomas Robinson planted a tree for his mother, Lisa, in front of Wagnon Student Athlete Center, near Allen Fieldhouse. Lisa Robinson died Jan. 21 of apparent heart failure at the age of 42.

Kansas forward Thomas Robinson planted a tree for his mother, Lisa, in front of Wagnon Student Athlete Center, near Allen Fieldhouse. Lisa Robinson died Jan. 21 of apparent heart failure at the age of 42.


A loving, lasting tribute to Lisa Robinson, the mother of Kansas University junior basketball power forward Thomas Robinson, stands about 15-feet tall outside Wagnon Student Athlete Center, to the West of Allen Fieldhouse.

It’s a baby Auburn Blaze Maple tree — currently carrying about 10 orange and red leaves with many more sure to sprout next spring — planted by Thomas, KU director of basketball operations Barry Hinson and two KU facility workers on a gorgeous Oct. 5 afternoon.

The tree will stand forever in honor of Lisa, who died Jan. 21 of apparent heart failure at the age of 42.

“Coach (Bill) Self thought it would be a good idea I do something in memory of my mom, something like a plant or a tree. He came up with a couple ideas a few months ago,” Robinson said Thursday. “I told him a tree would be the best thing. It’d be there forever. One day coach said he’d picked a spot. We went and looked at it and the rest is history.”

Right before the tree was planted, the 6-foot-10 Robinson asked the groundskeepers if he could place something special in the soil.

“I wrote a letter to my mom, put it in the tree and planted it,” Robinson said.

He’s thrilled that the tree is located just outside the main entrance to Wagnon, which houses KU’s basketball offices.

“The tree reminds me every day before I come to the gym that I have to work hard,” Robinson said. “My mom would want me to work hard, so every time I look at that, I remember what I’ve got to do.”

Robinson made a point of sharing the tree-planting experience with Hinson, who accompanied him to Washington, D.C., to help with the arrangements for Lisa’s funeral last January. Several of Robinson’s relatives consider Hinson as close as immediate family.

“When they were planting the tree, not a word was said, no words needed to be said,” Hinson recalled. “Everybody understood what was going on. We all stepped back and, in Thomas’ fashion, he was gracious in thanking them (groundskeepers).

“I don’t mind telling you every time I walk by that corner, I see the tree,” Hinson added. “I’m a tree guy. It’s a Maple and will be beautiful. People will see it and know it honors Lisa’s life and her roots will always be planted in the history of KU athletics, right here in front of our building.”

Hinson said it’s no coincidence the first leaves were “gorgeous.”

“Bright red and orange. It’s a great tree in honor of a great person,” Hinson said. “Her memory will last for generations to come. I think Thomas someday will put a plaque there that will signify the tree is for his mother, maybe put a favorite saying there as well.”

Self continues to speak in glowing terms of Robinson, who was named first-team preseason All-America by

“From a basketball standpoint he is still immature. He hasn’t played that much, hasn’t had a situation where everything is designed (by opposing team) to slow him down,” Self said. “From a personal standpoint, he is way beyond his years. He was forced to go from being a young man to a man in a span of 30 days (last winter when two grandparents and his mother died). You’d never wish that on anybody, let alone somebody you care about. One reason he’ll play better basketball-wise is because he’s playing for others.

“He wakes up every day thinking he has to do that. He is doing it for himself and his sister (Jayla, 9, who lives in D.C. with her father). He doesn’t have a lot of other family. He has something inside him that few people possess,” Self added. “He has been a pillar for everybody to look up to. I really hope he has a great year about as much as I hope that for any player. I think he deserves it.”


KU_Alumn_2000 10 years, 6 months ago

God bless you and your sister T-Rob.

Also...glad we have Barry Hinson. I live in Springfield Mo...and there are a lot of folks around here that were upset when Mo State let him go. He is known as a man of high integrity...always willing to help someone in matter who you were.

Funhawk 10 years, 6 months ago


I think that I shall never see A poem lovely as a tree. A tree whose hungry mouth is prest Against the earth's sweet flowing breast; A tree that looks at God all day, And lifts her leafy arms to pray; A tree that may in Summer wear A nest of robins in her hair; Upon whose bosom snow has lain; Who intimately lives with rain. Poems are made by fools like me, But only God can make a tree.

Author: Alfred Joyce Kilmer

The poet Kilmer wrote "Trees" on February 2, 1913. The poem was dedicated to his mother-in-law. Later, as a World War I soldier, Kilmer led a scouting party to find the position of a German machine gun. He was shot through the brain and died in France on July 30, 1918 at the age of 31.

Alohahawk 10 years, 6 months ago

+1 The Jayhawk Nation is proud of you, Thomas, both on the court and off. Especially for the way you have handled your misfortunes. I can't imagine a better way to honor your mother's memory.

We all hope your current injury is minor. Not just because the team needs you, but because you deserve the best, TRob, and a great year on the courts will help you achieve your goals as you go forward in life.

Much as we all would love to have you play at KU for four years, I hope your season is so successful that you will have the option to jump to the NBA next year.

HawksWin 10 years, 6 months ago

Beautiful! Apropos. Thanks for sharing Funhawk.

May God be with you always, Thomas. Have a great & fun season!

thelonius 10 years, 6 months ago

Thomas and Funhawk: A tree is truly a fitting tribute to a loving mother because they both provide sustenance throughout their existance. Read below to see how a famous woodworker describes how a tree, and Lisa, lived and will live on for Thomas, Jayla and all who take the time to think deeply about them. Blessings to Thomas and Jayla...

A tree’s worth

“We are left in awe by the nobility of a tree, its eternal patience, its suffering caused by man and sometimes nature, its witness to thousands of years of earth’s history, its creations of fabulous beauty.

It does nothing but good, with its prodigious ability to serve, it gives off its bounty of oxygen while absorbing gases harmful to other living things.  The tree and its pith live on.

Its fruit feeds us.  Its branches shade and protect us.  And finally, when time and weather brings it down, its body offers timber for our houses and boards for our furniture.  The tree lives on.”

George Nakashima (renowned woodworker)

RokChlk 10 years, 6 months ago

The college basketball issue of ESPN has a great story on Thomas and what he went through last year, I follow Kansas basketball extremely closely and there were things in the article that I hadn't heard regarding T-Rob and the situation last year. One of the reasons that I bring it up is because the tree he planted for his mother was brought up in the story. I hope that everyone gets a chance to read it.

actorman 10 years, 6 months ago

Beautiful story, and a great tribute to his mom.

RokChlk, is that ESPN article available online? If so, could you post the link? I'm sure many of us would love to read that one as well.

Gary Wirsig 10 years, 6 months ago

Wow, terrific youtube video. Short, sweet, powerful.

RokChlk 10 years, 6 months ago

Unfortunately I don't think it is, I have a digital subscription so that is how I read it.

blackhawkjayhawk 10 years, 6 months ago

Touching story.....a great poem.....and a very nice way to start the day. Thanks to all of you.

MorganR 10 years, 6 months ago

Mr. Robinson, that is a very touching gesture in honor of your mother. I hope the tree will flourish and I wish you and your sister long and happy lives. Thank you for being a wonderful inspiration.

Michael Bratisax 10 years, 6 months ago

And a great choice...Auburn Blaze Maple tree.

MorganR 10 years, 6 months ago

It is a gorgeous tree with brilliant colors. It was a great choice to honor his mother.

Steve Reigle 10 years, 6 months ago

Thomas Robinson is the epitome of Kansas Basketball. A truly class act.

IgnorantYokel 10 years, 6 months ago


Stay strong, young man. Your courage and perseverance is an inspiration to us all. We're so proud to have you represent us as Jayhawks. Have a wonderful season.

REHawk 10 years, 6 months ago

A terrific loving gesture, one more emotional moment in the life of one of KU's dearest players. Bill Self and staff are topnotch people. I am a Missouri Ozark resident who also was disheartened to see Barry Hinson get the axe at Mo. State. He landed in a much better program where his personal value is recognized and given merit. If he ever chooses to get back into the head coaching ratrace, I wish him the very best. If not, I imagine that he will continue to serve Bill Self and Kansas in the dignified manner which we have witnessed in the TRob saga. As for that tree, it is bound to glean as much attention in the near future as the statue of Phog. Roots of a growing legend. RCJH!

Tony Bandle 10 years, 6 months ago

Thomas, a tree is one of the most benevolent living things on the face of the earth.

-It gives shade to the heated brow. -It gives rest to those moving in the air. -It provides a home within it's boughs. -It produces food to feed the hungry. -It provides clean air to replace the bad. -It provides beauty to soothe the mind. -it provides shelter from the harsh winds. -It provides safety for the weak and innocent.

Just like Mom.

dylans 10 years, 6 months ago

I wish all future Jayhawks could have the character of Thomas Robinson. Heart and humility in such quantities make a truly special person.

Benjamin Piehler 10 years, 6 months ago

What a great idea! It sure is tough to lose a parent.... Stories like this are what Kansas University are all about.

RockCaCO3 10 years, 6 months ago

Great story. T-Rob is an incredible young man.

MGJayhawk 10 years, 6 months ago

Coach Self is right. He will have less success when a team focuses on him because it's a brand new experience for him.


When you are a "figher" (as T Rob is) you find a way to succeed. Don't be surprised to see him come through big in games that are important down the stretch.


Alex Wishart 10 years, 6 months ago

Not afraid to say this article got me teary-eyed.

LAJayhawk 10 years, 6 months ago

With the full weight and force of everything the phrase encapsulates...

Rock Chalk, TRob. Rock Chalk.

Tuskin 10 years, 6 months ago

"The tree will stand forever..."

Gotta get me one of those trees. Might help during our windstorms...

Steve Brown 10 years, 6 months ago

Somehow this reminded me a bit of DBlock that hit his heart 3X at the line for his mom and grandmother and for the legends game he forgot and is out of the habit and missed at the c harity stripe.

TRob, thanks for wearing the Crimson and Blue, we got your back, live long and strong. Sad for the loss of your mom, yet happy she got you as her son.

This year will be a test, collapsing defenses, hacking at you, your domination will free up some others for the trey, so enjoy it all, the glory and the heartbreaks, as it flashes by so very quickly.


REHawk 10 years, 6 months ago

Mr. Calipari, how do you plan to attack and defend in that upcoming Jayhawk contest?

jayhawktalk 10 years, 6 months ago

Can't help but think, Lisa Robinson, too, planted a tree. It grew tall and strong, and, it too spread its roots and branches in Lawrence, bringing joy to her and to so many others. Fitting now that the tree she brought to the world now honors her with the same. Thomas, you make us all proud as you reach for the sky on pursuit of your dreams, but, most importantly, you honor your mother's memory and I have no doubt she walks beside you, beaming with pride.

KEITHMILES05 10 years, 6 months ago

Thomas is truly a great person. He shows he cares more about life than just basketball. The pain he has had to endure along with his siblings is astounding. I appluad his devotion and integrity to his mother.

Vince Brown 10 years, 6 months ago

An outstanding young man! That tree is a great symbol of love and repect. Also, as a meaningful symbol of Kansas basketball, it should have a guard posted when mu comes to town. These are the folks who yelled questions/comments about his recently deceased father to an opposing basketball player. Some of them are not above vandalizing such a symbol.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.