LAWRENCE, Kan. – A big game in Allen Fieldhouse against an archrival is just what Kansas needs.
After a week in which the sixth-ranked Jayhawks played two tough games, traveled through three time zones and supported two grieving teammates, getting back on the court will help restore a semblance of normalcy.
Thomas Robinson will be in uniform for Kansas (19-1, 4-1 Big 12) and probably play against Kansas State on Saturday, two days after his teammates and coaches attended a funeral service for his mother.
Going to the service for Lisa Robinson in Washington, D.C., also put the Jayhawks in the middle of the snowstorm that brought the city to a crawl. They were 5 hours late reaching their hotel Wednesday and then delayed again Thursday on the way back to Kansas after the ceremony, arriving home late and going through what turned into a tough practice.
"I was really tired," guard Tyshawn Taylor said. "I didn't sleep too much. It was a long day, a real long day."
The entire week was a long and sad ordeal for the Jayhawks, beginning with the startling news about 11 p.m. last Friday that Lisa Robinson, a single mother, had died unexpectedly of an apparent heart attack at 43. In a three-week span, Thomas and his 7-year-old sister, Jayla, had lost their grandfather, grandmother and mother.
Most the team and the coaches stayed with their grief-stricken teammate until the wee hours Saturday morning. Then a few hours later, physically and mentally weary, they lost to No. 8 Texas. The defeat ended a 69-game home winning streak that had lasted almost four years.
On Tuesday they played at Colorado. Then on Wednesday they flew into the snowstorm in Washington for an emotionally draining service Thursday.
"We just all wanted to be there for him," shooting guard Tyrel Reed said. "It was nice. It was a tough thing to see and really saddening. But it was the right thing for us to be there."
Many things remain to be sorted out, including whether Thomas or another family member will get custody of Jayla. In the meantime, money is pouring into a scholarship fund the school has set up for her. Some Kansas families have even offered to adopt her.
Robinson, a promising 6-foot-9 power forward who has started several games for the defending Big 12 champions, played eight minutes against Texas but did not make the trip to Colorado. Coach Bill Self was in his office studying film of Kansas State Friday afternoon when Robinson walked in.
"He got in today and we visited," Self said. "We were sitting there talking about the next move and he was asking me how he can thank people for being so nice with their thoughts and concerns. We talked about that a bit and then he said, 'Now, how do we beat these guys?'
"He'll be in the best shape he possibly can be in and I think that will allow the other players to focus better."
Freshman guard Josh Selby also will be available. One of his close friends, his mother's godson, was killed Saturday in Baltimore. Only the weather prevented Selby from attending the funeral.
"It's been a long week," senior guard Brady Morningstar said. "The week has been kind of screwy. But it was good to get everything taken care of."
Self said what his team needs more than anything is to get back to on a regular schedule.
"We need to have a routine that we follow," he said. "I think we're all creatures of habit, so to speak, especially athletes and athletic teams and we haven't had any routine here of late. It will help us to get back to work."