Editor's note: Thomas Robinson was selected with the No. 5 pick of Thursday's NBA Draft by the Sacramento Kings.“Robinson surprised scouts this year with his ball handling ability and a solid midrange jump shot. He's not afraid to get the ball at the top of the key and create his shot there.”
—Chad Ford of ESPN on Kansas power forward Thomas Robinson
Riverdale Baptist boys basketball coach Lou Wilson still can recall the pleas of the three players living under his roof during the 2007-08 season. After practice and dinner and homework, they'd want Wilson to bring them back to the gym.
“C'mon, dad,” his son, Bryan Wilson, would say.
“C'mon, coach,” Javorn Farrell would say. “Let me go back over there and get some shots up.”
“C'mon, Coach Louuu,” Thomas Robinson would say, slightly drawing out that last vowel. “C'mon, Coach Louuu.”
For a good chunk of the hour-and-a-half sessions — with Wilson, a guard, and Farrell, a wing — Robinson practiced his ball handling and outside shooting. Though Robinson was a power forward and at times they practiced pick-and-rolls and post-ups, he often had to follow the perimeter-oriented lead of his two workout partners.
Robinson, after three years at Kansas, is a likely top-five pick in Thursday's NBA Draft mostly because of his strength, athleticism and motor. But his polished all-around skills — developed during his lone season at Riverdale Baptist — are especially convincing that Robinson will successfully transition to the NBA.
“It's always great when you have a couple other guys with you, pushing you, going through the same repetitions that you're going through,” Wilson said. “It can only help you get better. That little competition makes you better. Because those guys could handle the basketball. Those guys could shoot the ball. And of course, he wanted to be a good ball handler and a good shooter, too.”
Wilson and Farrell met Robinson when their Team Maryland went against the Fort Washington Bullets, the AAU team of a tall and lanky 10-year-old Robinson.
“He wasn't good at all,” Farrell said chuckling.
But he had potential, right?
“He didn't even show that,” Farrell said.
After spending his first two high school seasons in Washington, D.C., Robinson began working out with Riverdale Baptist before his junior year, and ultimately transferred to the Upper Marlboro school.
“We introduced him to the weight room,” Wilson said.
A stronger Robinson blew up, averaging 16 points, 13 rebounds, five blocks, two assists and two steals per game.
Before transferring to Brewster Academy (N.H.) for his senior year, Robinson led Riverdale Baptist to the National Association of Christian Athletes tournament in Tennessee. As Farrell tells the story to his Massachusetts teammates — beginning, of course, with Robinson being a no-good 10-year-old — Robinson had 32 points, 28 rebounds and seven blocks in a game, and Kentucky offered him a scholarship on the spot.
“I knew something good was going to happen,” Farrell said. “There was a lot of coaches in the gym. I didn't know he was going to get an offer right on the spot, but I knew his phone was going to be ringing a lot after that tournament. It was exciting, because he wasn't really on the radar like that yet. That was like his coming-out party.”
Wilson texted Robinson when Robinson worked out with the Wizards a couple weeks ago, asking if Robinson had a chance to visit Riverdale Baptist's basketball camp.
“He had to fly back out to California as soon as he worked out with the Wizards,” Wilson said.
“He's big time now. Big time.”