Thomas Robinson had to wait for his turn behind some other big men at Kansas.
There was Cole Aldrich and then the Morris twins, Marcus and Markieff. All were NBA lottery picks over the last two years.
Now like Marcus Morris last season, Robinson has become The Associated Press Big 12 men’s basketball Player of the Year. Robinson, a 6-foot-10 junior forward averaging 18 points and a league-high 11.9 rebounds a game, was the unanimous pick in the AP awards announced Monday.
”It shows how hard he’s worked, and how hungry he is,” Jayhawks coach Bill Self said. ”He’s had three lottery picks play in front of him, averaged eight and 15 minutes a game the last two years. But when his number was called and opportunity knocked, he certainly made the most of it.”
The only Big 12 player averaging a double-double, Robinson got all 18 AP votes from a panel of sports writers and sportscasters who cover the league on a regular basis. The coaches also picked Robinson as the league’s top player.
Robinson is joined on the AP All-Big 12 first team by teammate Tyshawn Taylor after the Jayhawks won their eighth consecutive Big 12 regular-season title. The rest of the top five are Texas junior guard and Big 12 scoring leader J’Covan Brown, Missouri senior guard Marcus Denmon and Iowa State sophomore forward Royce White, who was also selected as the league’s Newcomer of the Year.
First-year Missouri coach Frank Haith was selected as the AP Big 12 Coach of the Year after the Tigers set a school record with 27 wins in the regular season.
”It’s about our guys, and about our staff. We’ve had a great year, a great year, a great run,” Haith said. ”I really believe this, we just didn’t mess it up. We’ve got good players, and I’ve got a really good staff. … It’s been a special year for me because I had the opportunity to compete with some of the best (coaches) in the business.”
Haith got nine of 18 votes in the AP voting, while Self got seven and Iowa State’s Fred Hoiberg, two. The Big 12 coaches over the weekend selected Self and Hoiberg as co-coaches of the year.
Oklahoma State guard/forward Le’Bryan Nash, who missed the last three games of the regular season because of a broken left hand, was named the Big 12’s Freshman of the Year.
The 6-7 Nash, who averaged 13.3 points and 5.0 rebounds, got 11 of the 18 votes as the top freshman. Texas guard Myck Kabongo got four votes, and Baylor forward Quincy Miller got three.
There is an expanded AP All-Big 12 second team, with six players because of a voting tie for the last spot.
Ricardo Ratliffe, who last season as a junior college transfer was the league’s top newcomer, is on the second team along with Missouri teammate Phil Pressey. The rest of the second team includes Baylor’s Pierre Jackson and Perry Jones III, along with Oklahoma State senior guard Keiton Page and Kansas State’s Rodney McGruder.
Robinson is the sixth Jayhawk to be named the AP Big 12 Player of the Year.
”He’s obviously had a fabulous year and he’s been so consistent from a production standpoint throughout the season,” Self said. ”Even when he doesn’t have his best game, he still finds a way to get 15 and 10 on a bad night. … He’s had some monster games for us.”
Kansas had back-to-back Player of the Year winners only one other time. Jacque Vaughn won the award in 1997 and Raef LaFrentz in 1998, the league’s first two seasons.
”A guy that kind of size, obviously a lot of his points are point-blank range, but he can step away from the basket. He can make the 15-footer, and he’s just a man on the boards,” Haith said of Robinson, who had 53 points and 25 rebounds in two games against the Tigers this season. ”When that ball goes on the rim, it’s hand-to-hand combat with him”
Brown is averaging 20 points a game for the Longhorns to lead the Big 12, while Denmon is tied with Robinson for second at 18 points a game, followed by teammate Taylor with 17.2 points a game.
White, a 6-foot-8, 270-pound transfer from Minnesota, had an immediate impact for the Cyclones. He has averaged 12.9 points per game and is second behind Robinson in rebounds with 9.2 a game. He also is fifth in assists with 5.2 a game.
”He’s a very unique player,” Hoiberg said. ”There’s not many people like him around the country. … He just poses a lot of problems with the way he plays as far as drawing the other team’s big player away from the basket.”