Knee surgery the latest hurdle for Kansas's Thomas Robinson

In the couple of weeks since the passing of his mother, basketball had served as a welcomed distraction for Kansas forward Thomas Robinson.

Now, an emotionally trying sophomore year is being dealt a physical hurdle to clear.

Robinson was complaining of pain in his right knee since Monday's 103-86 romp over Missouri, stemming from the landing on a vicious dunk he threw down in the second half.

An MRI on Friday morning revealed a slight tear of the meniscus in his right knee. Hours later, Robinson was on the operating table, and now is out for about the next two weeks.

"He's definitely been playing great," KU coach Bill Self told the Lawrence Journal-World on Friday. "Basketball has been a great release for him. He's very disappointed, but has been strong throughout this. He had a great attitude today.

"We're disappointed for him for a lot of reasons. One is he is playing so well. But we would rather have him healthy and in rhythm going into the postseason than waiting and doing surgery later on."

If there's a silver lining for Robinson and Kansas, it's that the injury is at least coming at a fortunate time.

Over the next two weeks, the second-ranked Jayhawks host Iowa State (Saturday), play at Kansas State (Monday), welcome in Colorado (Feb. 19) and then Oklahoma State (Feb. 21). Those are all games they're capable of winning without him, as are the three regular season games left after that stretch — at Oklahoma, vs. Texas A&M and at Missouri.

Still, it's hard not to feel for Robinson, who on the year is averaging 8.9 points and 6.4 rebounds, is providing momentum-swinging dunks on a nightly basis and, in the process, attracting the attention of several NBA scouts.

His mother, Lisa, at only 37 years old suffered a fatal heart attack on Jan. 21. The shocking news came a month after the death of Robinson's grandmother, and only a week following the passing of his grandfather.

He missed Kansas's Jan. 25 win at Colorado while attending the funeral in Washington, D.C., and in four games since returning is averaging 12.8 points and 7.8 rebounds a contest.

It's been tough for Big 12 foes to slow Kansas, who has arguably the deepest roster in the league. Now, the one thing that might catch up with Self's club a tad might be the team's health.

On top of Robinson's knee, freshman guard Josh Selby is still on the mend from a stress reaction in his right foot.

The two most important Kansas reserves in the next few weeks will likely be 6-foot-6 senior swingman Mario Little and 6-foot-6 sophomore guard Travis Releford. Both can play on the perimeter and post up, and they each had monster performances against Mizzou.

A dark horse for extra burn is 7-foot- sophomore Arizona transfer Jeff Withey, who in his first full season at KU is struggling to find the floor. He's averaging just 2.3 points and two boards a game, has registered three DNPs and scored only four points in conference play.

Either way, there's enough on the bench to help Jayhawks to absorb the blow. As for Robinson, if he could make it through a month that would have de-railed and maybe even wrecked most people, battling the physical woes should be a cinch.

Ryan Greene covers UNLV and the Mountain West Conference for the Las Vegas Sun. Read his Rebels coverage and follow him on Twitter.

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