Decked out in a tan suit and purple bow tie, Thomas Robinson discovered on Wednesday that he probably wouldn’t begin his NBA career in New Orleans. He had a comfortable seat at Disney/ABC Times Square studios in New York and watched the NBA draft lottery unfold in person.
The Hornets are expected to take Kentucky’s Anthony Davis with the first overall pick, but Robinson – a consensus first-team All-American out of Kansas – also knows that there is a possibility that he could wind up in Charlotte at No. 2 or even his hometown Wizards at No. 3.
Unlike Oklahoma City Thunder superstar Kevin Durant, who has repeatedly said he has no interest in playing so close to where he grew up, Robinson said after the lottery that he would actually welcome getting drafted by Washington.
“That’s where I started my dream at, in D.C.,” Robinson said, “and to be able to come back home would mean a lot to me, because that’s something that you fantasize in your mind about when you’re little, bringing the city back to where it belongs. That’s something that I definitely wouldn’t mind doing.”
The Wizards certainly like Robinson as a person and a player, with his incredible triumphs over personal loss — his mother, grandmother and grandfather all died within a one-month span from December 2010 to January 2011 — serving as a great example of his character and mental toughness.
The 6-foot-9 Robinson also isn’t the typical high draft pick who arrived heralded out of high school and dashed to the NBA while still in his green developmental stage. He backed up Marcus and Markieff Morris at Kansas for two years before getting his break, then dominated Big 12 play with his physical style and brought the Jayhawks to the national title game.
“I felt I did what the typical college player is supposed to do,” Robinson, 21, said. “I waited my turn. I grew as a person, as a player and when my name was called, I produced. Now, I’m happy with my career. I gave it my all and I can be happy with that.”
Robinson averaged 17.7 points and 11.9 rebounds last season and decided to leave so that he could provide a better life for him and his sister, Jayla, who was raised by her father, James Paris, in Washington after their mother, Lisa, died of a heart attack at age 43. Robinson
He signed with agent Tony Dutt, who represents Rashard Lewis, but said he still plans to eventually complete his degree with about nine credit hours remaining.
“A lot of it is because of my family,” Robinson said, explaining his decision to skip his final year of eligibility. “Two, I feel when I came back this year I accomplished more than I thought I was going to accomplish. And I pretty much felt there was nothing more I could do on a college level, besides winning a national championship but I felt I came pretty close.”
The Wizards’ decision to take him would say a lot about their current opinion of the young forwards they already have on the roster. In the past two drafts, the Wizards have taken three forwards — Kevin Seraphin, Trevor Booker and Jan Vesely — but they still have a glaring need for help on the perimeter.
Kentucky swingman Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Florida guard Bradley Beal and North Carolina swingman Harrison Barnes are also in play for the third pick, but Wizards owner Ted Leonsis had high praise for Robinson when asked about him after the lottery.
“He’s a great player and everyone certainly knows who Thomas Robinson is, his back story. Everyone is proud of what he’s accomplished,” Leonsis said. “And of all the players, he’s the most physically developed. So no one will go wrong picking Thomas Robinson.”
Davis, the consensus national player of the year, has been the expected choice to go No. 1 since he arrived in Lexington, Ky., but Robinson believes that he should at least be considered.
“Of course I feel that way,” Robinson said. “I’m a competitor. Anthony is a great player, so I don’t want to take nothing away from his game. At the same time, I realize it don’t matter where you go, so long as you produce come next November. That’s what I’m going to do.”
It’s not usually the norm for NBA draft prospects to attend the lottery ceremony, but it has started to become popular ever since last year, when Kyrie Irving made a short drive from his home to Secaucus, N.J. and came face-to-face with the team that eventually picked him first overall, the Cleveland Cavaliers. This year, Robinson, Barnes and Connecticut freshman Andre Drummond — three players expected to go high in the draft — were in attendance.
“I just wanted to show my face,” said Robinson, the District native who interrupted in his pre-draft training in Los Angeles and flew cross-country to see the NBA unveil its draft order in person. “Let these GMs, owners know that I am interested in where I might end up going.”
While he wouldn’t mind taking passes inside from John Wall or lining up with Nene, Robinson is prepared to contribute wherever he goes. When asked for his preference, Robinson replied, “Whoever takes me. That’s how I feel.”
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