Published January 22, 2011
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Thomas Robinson stood tall and tightlipped when Allen Fieldhouse fell so quiet that a cough could be heard in the upper deck.
Standing next to him, teammate Marcus Morris wept.
The second-ranked Jayhawks asked for a moment of silence before their game against No. 10 Texas on Saturday in memory of Robinson's mother, who died unexpectedly Friday night in Washington, D.C.
Robinson, a promising 6-foot-9 sophomore, had asked to stay with the team and take part in the game.
"It says a lot that Thomas came out and played," Morris said. "It is just a sad situation because you do not know what to say to him. He is just a tough kid to even want to come and play after losing his mother. That really showed some toughness."
Robinson played 8 minutes and had two points, five rebounds and four fouls for the Jayhawks, who had their 69-game home winning streak stopped when Texas staged a second-half rally and won 74-63.
A single mom, Lisa Robinson was 37 when she died of an apparent heart attack around 11 p.m. Friday, coach Bill Self said. She had lost her own mother and father in the past few weeks.
"Thomas lost his grandmother at the very end of December," Self said. "He lost his grandfather on Sunday and lost his mother on Friday night. For him to even be out there is remarkable."
Self said Robinson learned of his mother's death when his 9-year-old sister called. A few minutes later, other players called Self and within the hour, players, coaches and mothers of players who live in the area were gathering around the grieving young man.
"When you stop and think about it, he's got a 9-year-old sister left in his family. And she's half the country away," Self said.
He asked Robinson whether he wanted to play on Saturday and he said he did. Kansas officials asked him if he would like for there to be a moment of silence and he gave his OK for that. Several signs appeared in the sellout crowd expressing their support.
"How his life has changed so much just overnight, it's a pretty sad thing. People deal with it all the time. He'll deal with it like a man. But still your heart certainly hurts for him and his family," Self said.
"As a coach, you always think your players like each other," he added. "That's always been a quality all teams have — good teams like each other. It's very important. And last night I saw a different level than I even knew existed. It was pretty special. The mothers of some of the players that live here were over there. The whole team was there. It was the saddest thing I'd ever seen in my life. It was something that was humbling but also made you proud. They do care about each other an awful lot."
Kansas plays again on Tuesday at Colorado. Self said he did not know what arrangements would be made.