SACRAMENTO (AP) — Thomas Robinson embraced his 9-year-old sister and broke down as soon as Commissioner David Stern announced the Sacramento Kings had taken him fifth overall in the NBA draft.
It had been quite an emotional ride for Robinson to get to Thursday night.
"I worked hard to get here and to see it all right in front of me, I got emotional," he said. "It was everything. Everything that I had been holding in came out."
In January 2011, Robinson received a phone call from his younger sister, Jayla, who told him that their mother had died of a heart attack in his hometown of Washington, D.C. The two had been raised by their single mother, Lisa Robinson. In a span of three weeks, they had also lost their grandfather and grandmother, and Robinson's father had never really been involved in his life.
Robinson endured through the hardship on the court as a valuable sixth man at Kansas in 2010-11 and then one of the best players in the country this past season.
Robinson, the first unanimous first-team All-American since Blake Griffin, led the Jayhawks to the national championship game against Kentucky, where Kanas lost 67-59. He averaged 17.9 points and 11.8 rebounds per game in 31.8 minutes in his junior season and led the nation with 27 double-doubles.
"He was one of the top couple of talents in the draft overall, particularly at his position," Kings president of basketball operations Geoff Petrie said. "I thought even as of this morning we were fairly sure he would not be at five. That's why the draft is the draft. We certainly have a need there as far as our depth up front. He's going to bring a lot of competitive spirit, he's a ferocious rebounder. He has a lot of speed. He'll be a great addition to the team."
He was considered perhaps the most NBA-ready player in the draft and the Kings need plenty of immediate help after missing the playoffs for a sixth straight season.
The Kings had Robinson rated as the second best player in the draft and were surprised he was still available when they picked. But when Charlotte chose Michael Kidd-Gilchrist second and Dion Waiters went fourth to Minnesota, the Kings got their man.
"It kind of went based on team needs," Robinson said. "The teams that skipped me didn't need me at that position. The Kings took a chance on me and took me at five. I'm going to make the best of it."
The Kings are coming off another disappointing season, finishing the shortened campaign 22-44 to miss the postseason once again. Coach Paul Westphal was fired after just seven games and replaced by Keith Smart, who will be back for his first full season next year.
Smart said the one thing that stood out most about Robinson was his work ethic and humility.
"It's easier to turn a live body down than to raise a dead man," Smart said. "This guy has a live body that can create things offensively and defensively that you don't have to say, 'Go do this.' He has a motor already. He has unique skills where he can play out on the floor. He can move real well defensively with schemes like the pick and roll. He has that motor and you know he has that toughness."
With a run of high draft picks, the Kings have some pieces already in place, most notably center DeMarcus Cousins, who averaged 18.1 points and 11 rebounds per game in his second season.
Tyreke Evans, the 2010 Rookie of the Year, had career lows with 16.5 points, 4.6 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game, and ended the season as a small forward after playing point guard for his first two seasons.
Isaiah Thomas, the final pick of last year's draft, took over the starting point guard role and averaged 11.5 points per game. He was much more effective than first-round pick Jimmer Fredette, who averaged 7.6 points per game and shot 39 percent from the field.
Robinson will provide a big boost defensively to the team that allowed the most points per game in the NBA last season. The Kings are also hoping to retain restricted free agent power forward Jason Thompson and Petrie said he believes Cousins, Robinson and Thompson will mesh well together up front.
"They're a talented team with Tyreke at the guard spot and DeMarcus down low," Robinson said. "I'll try to build them up with rebounding and energy."
Sacramento later sold its second-round pick to Indiana. The Pacers used the pick to take UC Santa Barbara guard Orlando Johnson 36th overall.
The Kings also announced that one of last year's second-round picks, forward Tyler Honeycutt, has a stress fracture in his right foot and will be in a walking boot for three weeks. Honeycutt will miss summer league and will be out for six weeks. Honeycutt averaged 1.3 points in 15 games as a rookie.