LAWRENCE — Will Thomas Robinson succumb to peer pressure? Kansas coach Bill Self better hope Robinson doesn't listen to his teammates, who are telling the freshman forward to conserve that motor of his.
"I do tell him that, all the time," KU forward Marcus Morris said. "Sometimes, he'll want to dunk, and I'll be like, 'Man, you should just lay it up.' We've been at practice for three-and-a-half hours, and he's still going after the rebound hard. Everyone's looking at him like 'Man, what is wrong with this guy? Take a chill pill.' "
Morris was joking — kind of. Self has been hoping all along that the opposite thing would happen, that Robinson's unlimited supply of energy and hustle would rub off on the Morris twins. A month into the season, it looks like a push. The twins still maintain their chill demeanor for the most part, and Robinson has not cooled off at all.
If anything, he looks at his surroundings — on Thursday, he stood in front of a mural outside the KU locker room that portrays images from three NCAA championships — and becomes even more motivated.
"Ten years from now, I want to come in here and be on this wall," Robinson said. "I want to be a part of this history. Leaving my mark is very important. You want people to respect you always when you're playing this game. I feel like I have something to prove every game, every time I play."
Robinson backs up his words. That much is clear after two exhibition games in which he averaged 11.5 points and seven rebounds. On Thursday, Self identified the rare quality that sets Robinson apart from most 18-year-olds.
"I love his smile," Self said. "I recruited Darnell (Jackson) because I liked his smile, and he had a nice butt, to be honest with you. We knew it would be hard to get around him in the post. Thomas, I feel the same way about him."
Minus the butt; that quality was unique to Jackson, whom Robinson has been compared to the most since he arrived on campus. The Jackson comparison may not be fair to Robinson, who appears more ready to compete on day one than any Self big man recruit other than Darrell Arthur. Self recalled Arthur scoring 19 points against Florida in November of his freshman year in 2006 and indicated that Robinson isn't there yet.
"He's a baby colt out there," Self said. "He's not built like a baby colt, but he's going to make some mistakes. We're going to give him a chance to play through some of those mistakes."
In high school, as Robinson soared up the recruiting rankings to become a five-star recruit, he was compared often to Dennis Rodman because he was a prolific rebounder. Robinson is OK with that, but he has worked hard on his offensive skills with KU assistant coach Danny Manning.
With a baseline spin move and a double-head-fake move for baskets against Pittsburg State, Robinson showed that he is soaking up the teaching. Still, he has surprised himself with how quickly he has improved his footwork in the post.
"I thought I'd trip up the first time (Manning) tried to tell me," Robinson said.
Robinson may be further along than Self predicted at this point, but Self isn't going overboard with his expectations.
"When you're young and green, you're going to make vast improvements early," Self said. "It's like a baby, I guess, when they first learn to walk. You're gonna see so much change. It'll level out with him, but he's in that uptick mode right now where he's learning so much every day."
Now if Robinson can just block out the advice from teammates. So far, so good.
"No matter where I'm at," Robinson said, "I want people to say I played hard."