Much has been made of the super-sophomores Harrison Barnes, Perry Jones, Jared Sullinger and Terrence Jones not entering the NBA draft after their freshman season.
They all have their own reasons, even if ultimately they feared the NBA lockout. One thing is clear though—one of them has the potential to be the first pick of the 2012 draft.
Competition is expected from a few freshmen—Anthony Davis of Kentucky and Andre Drummond of UConn.
However, there is competition from an unlikely source. It has been a while since a junior was taken No. 1 in the draft, but Thomas Robinson is making a case for himself.
(Last time a junior was drafted first was Shaquille O’Neal in 1992, but the last upperclassman to be drafted first was Utah’s Andrew Bogut in 2005 by the Milwaukee Bucks)
We know Robinson is just as big as Sullinger but more athletic. His work ethic is far better than Perry Jones has shown so far. This season he needs to show that he can be the man for Kansas to be on par with Harrison Barnes.
As far as Drummond and Davis goes, Robinson has the edge, as we know he is a great rebounder and can score as a bench player, but that’s more than we know of the freshmen.
This cannot be measured, but Thomas has the sympathy of the general public. After he lost three members of his family within four weeks, there are people that will be rooting for Thomas to be all that he can be.
After all, he only wants to take care of his little sister. This has allowed him to focus on his career after Kansas.
After Jimmer Fredette and Kemba Walker, college basketball is in need of a new face. Robinson can be that guy. Everyone likes a humble and hard-working star, right?
The talent level between all these potential lottery picks is very close, and an NBA GM might be willing to take a chance on a guy who can sell more tickets.
ESPN the Magazine recently did a feature on Robinson, and this is what his coach said:
"I would never say he needs to leave for the NBA," Bill Self told ESPN, "but I hope Thomas is able to leave. I hope this is his last year at the University of Kansas. Selfishly I want him to stay. We would win more games. But it needs to be his last year."
If Self, whose livelihood as a college coach depends on players like Robinson staying on campus, can openly admit this, clearly it is the sentiment of the masses. Also, that ESPN story stated that NBA scouts have predicted that he could be the No.1 pick next year.
NBA GMs wont take him first because of his situation, though—they will take him first because he is that talented.
Thomas Robinson being taken first in the next draft is not as much of a slam dunk as Penn State firing Coach Paterno for his handling of some serious allegations that may have occurred under his watch.
It is a long season, and anything can happen, but now Robinson will relish his shot to prove his worth.