In the final moments leading up to Tuesday night's exhibition finale with Fort Hays State, Thomas Robinson found himself...nervous.
Nervous? Really? A 6-foot-8, 237-pound wrecking ball of a power forward, projected by many as a first-team All-American and future lottery pick in the NBA draft, nervous about an exhibition game?
Robinson didn't get it either, but the butterflies dwelled within him nonetheless.
But then his name was called in the starting lineup. He scored the game's first basket on a layup just 14 seconds in, and splashed a 15-foot jumper barely a minute later.
And just like that, the butterflies evaporated.
"I don't think it's ever going to go away, just being anxious and after waiting six months - a long time - to play against some other faces," Robinson said. "We've been beating up against each other all summer, so I was just anxious get out there and play against somebody else."
After sitting out the exhibition opener versus Pittsburg State last week, resting a hyperextended knee suffered in practice, the Jayhawks' star big man returned with a vengeance Tuesday, scoring 22 points and 12 rebounds - both team highs. He also dished out five assists and blocked four shots, as Kansas pounded Fort Hays State 101-52.
In short, he was exactly what Head Coach Bill Self and his staff expect him to be this season.
"He was in a pretty good rhythm," Self said. "I thought he did good, I thought he was under control and did some nice things."
As well as Robinson played in his 2011 debut, freshman point guard Naadir Tharpe's star shone almost as brightly.
Rebounding from a collegiate debut in which he turned the ball over nine times, Tharpe pumped in 19 points of his own, dished out seven assists and recorded five steals, all with just two turnovers in 29 minutes of play.
The two were teammates for a season at Brewster Academy in Wolfeboro, N.H. during their prep days, and Robinson said the performance was indicative of the ability he remembered from his high-school days.
"This is the point guard I had at BA right here," he said with a smile, putting his arm around Tharpe's shoulders. "Shooter, passer, point guard all the way."
"I thought it had to do a lot with practice," the freshman guard said, of his improved performance. "We really got after it in practice. Plus playing against Tyshawn (Taylor) and Elijah (Johnson) in practice, they really went after me. We were going at it."
A pleasant surprise for Self and the Kansas coaching staff's has been Tharpe's shooting touch. While he may not have been known for his jumper as a prep star, he was 2-of-3 from beyond the arc on Tuesday night and hit shots in the mid-range as well.
"He's not going to shoot it like that all the time and that kind of stuff, but that is a bonus," Self said. "That's something that we probably didn't think we would have going into the season is a guy off the bench - because he won't start, we'll start Tyshawn and Elijah - but a guy off the bench that's capable of knocking it down."
Justin Wesley also had a big night for Kansas, scoring 12 points and grabbing four rebounds, hitting all six of his free throw attempts. Conner Teahan added 14 points and Travis Releford scored 11.
Lance Russell led the Tigers in scoring with 11 points on 3-of-6 shooting.
The Jayhawks officially open the regular season Friday night, as Towson University comes to Lawrence, Kan. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m.