My first memories of the Kansas Jayhawks were the Danny Manning led teams of the mid to late 1980’s, so writing pieces for this series gets me better acquainted with players and teams that I had no chance to watch or get to know. And it turns out that- news flash- Kansas has a pretty rich basketball tradition that goes beyond the names we know like Wilt Chamberlain and JoJo White.
Dave Robisch had one of the better careers at KU that no one is talking about. The six-foot-ten center from Springfield, Illinois was a power in his three years at KU and had one of the most fruitful three-year spans in the program’s storied history.
Robisch began his basketball career at Kansas in the fall of 1968. This coincided with the final year of JoJo White’s reign at KU, and the two players combined to be a deadly duo. Robisch averaged an outstanding 18.1 points and 7.4 assists in his first season and the Jayhawks finished second in the Big 8. Because of the second place finish, KU was sent to the NIT where they failed to get past the opening game. Despite a somewhat disappointing finish, Robisch was personally rewarded with a first team All-Big 8 selection.
His second season was even better from a statistical point of view. Robisch led the way again, this time with ridiculous averages of 26.5 points and 12.1 rebounds over 26 games. KU again finished out of the NCAA tournament, but personal accolades were pouring in for Dave. He was again named to the first team All-Big 8, but in addition to that, he secured the big prize- Big 8 Player of the Year.
During his final campaign, Robisch was again personally outstanding with his team following suit. He finished the season with a 19.2 PPG average and a 10.1 RPG average. Plus, that 1970-71 went all the way to the Final Four, dropping to eventual champion UCLA. In that tournament’s opener, Robisch was huge. KU beat Houston 78 to 77, but without Robisch, it wouldn’t even had been close. He poured in 29 points and grabbed 16 rebounds for the victorious Jayhawks. Two days later, he scored 27 and grabbed 10 rebounds in KU’s two-point win over Drake that secured a Final Four appearance.
Obviously, the juggernaut of UCLA was a different story than Houston and Drake, but Robisch still managed 17 and six in the eight-point loss. That loss snapped a 21-game winning streak by KU. Kansas also dropped the third-place game to Texas Western, but Robisch still managed 23 points and nine boards in the defeat.
After that season, he was again an All-Big 8 first teamer and was again named as the Player of the Year in the conference- a feat that took almost 30 years for another Jayhawk to accomplish. Somehow, Robisch was only a second team All-America selection.
After that season, he was drafted into the NBA in the third round (44th overall pick) by the Boston Celtics but decided to ply his trade in the ABA. He played for Denver, the San Diego Sails, and Indiana in the ABA before the league merged with the NBA. He then continued his career with the Pacers before joining the Los Angeles Lakers, Cleveland Cavaliers, rejoining the Nuggets, and finishing out his career with the San Antonio Spurs and Kansas City Kings.
Over those 13 seasons combined in the ABA and NBA, Robisch averaged an impressive 11.4 points and 6.6 rebounds per game. He led the ABA in offensive efficiency in both the 1973-74 and 1974-75 seasons.
Today, Dave works as an elected official in his native Springfield.