Originally published October 13, 2010 at 12:08p.m., updated October 14, 2010 at 12:00a.m.
Naadir Tharpe became a bit emotional upon committing to play basketball at Kansas University on Wednesday morning.
“It’s one of the happiest days of my life. All I could think about is my father,” said Tharpe, a 6-foot-0 senior point guard from Brewster Academy in Wolfeboro, N.H. He chose KU over Oklahoma, Minnesota, St. John’s, UCLA, North Carolina State and others.
His dad, Ronald Edward Tharpe, died after a yearlong battle with lung cancer in 2006 at the age of 47.
“My father always told me, ‘No mercy. Play 110 percent and do what you can to help your team win,’’’ added Naadir Tharpe, who said a prayer in honor of his dad after informing KU coach Bill Self of his decision.
Tharpe — who averaged 13 points and six assists a game for 35-5 national prep champion Brewster last season, then starred for the New England Playaz summertime AAU team — was quite close to his dad, who chose the Islamic name.
“I don’t remember the meaning. I’d say it means he’s one of the great ones,’’’ Naadir’s mom, Lori, said, with a laugh, in an interview from her Worcester, Mass., home on Wednesday night.
“My husband would not be pretty proud, he’d be all the way proud today,” she added following the commitment of Rivals.com’s No. 91-rated player. “There’s no words I can describe to you how proud he would be today.
“He knew what Naadir could do as far as basketball. His concern was Naadir getting an education. Basketball ... it’s nothing that had to be taught. It came natural to him,” Lori added of her son, who started playing Biddy Basketball at the age of 5.
Tharpe, who has four older brothers, starred at Worcester’s St. Peter-Marian High before transferring to Brewster two years ago.
“I’ve told a few people this ... you can do as much research as you want. Nobody involved in high school or prep basketball has played with more high-level players than Naadir,” Brewster coach Jason Smith said.
KU discovered him while recruiting two of the top players in the Class of 2012 — New England Playaz’ Kaleb Tarczewski, a 7-foot center, and Alex Murphy, a 6-8 forward, who are ranked Nos. 13 and 11 respectively.
“He is a true point guard. A lot of high school point guards feel they have to dominate the ball, wear the leather off it. He understands how to play the game. He is an outstanding passer.
“He is a phenomenal kid,” Smith added. “If you randomly call anybody in our community — administrators, dining hall staff, anybody — they would rave about his character. He led us to a national championship at our prep school. He is a winner. He is a leader.”
He’s a guy KU coach Self made a priority after Josiah Turner committed to Arizona several weeks ago.
“When I told coach Self, he was really excited,” Tharpe said of Wednesday’s phone conversation. “He said he can’t wait for me to come up there. He said he needs a point guard and wants it to be me. Kansas is a school I’ve always liked and have been interested in. I have a friend there in Thomas (Robinson, former Brewster teammate). We are real close and talk a lot. I felt it was the right place for me.
“One of the most important reasons I committed to Kansas is, it is a school that wants to win and team that wants to win. KU fans should expect me to play hard every day and always compete to win. They should be ready for the assists I make. I love making the extra pass.”
Tharpe played with a star-studded Brewster team last year that included Memphis signee Will Barton.
“He is a true point guard. He understands the role of a point guard is to be a leader, run the offense, distribute the ball and not turn it over, ever,” Smith said. “He has a high basketball IQ. He is hard-working, always trying to get better. He’s just a great person and basketball player.”
He’s a mature young man, the coach said.
“He was going to attend Late Night, but he will visit the weekend after. The reason is he understands there will be 15 kids on campus then (on official or unofficial visits). He is more interested in getting to watch a couple days of practice and learn as much as he can while he is there,” Smith said.
And as far as his No. 91 ranking ...
“People that put stock in where he is ranked nationally have to understand the people he’s played with,” Smith said. “When you play basketball at Brewster or in the summer or at Kansas, you want winners. He led us to a national championship last year. We’ll be in the mix with him as our point guard this year. When he came here, he had a reputation as somebody who can’t shoot. Go to YouTube. All our highlights are there. You’ll see he can shoot the ball.”
Tharpe, who turned 19 in June, said he doesn’t concern himself with individual rankings. He stressed winning is the only thing on his mind, and that’s why he gobbled up Self’s scholarship offer 48 hours after receiving it.
“It wasn’t anything like, ‘I better take the offer.’ It was the opportunity,” said Tharpe, who committed to Providence in March but decommitted in June. “It was a school I always liked, and there are certain things in life you really can’t turn down.”
Tharpe’s mom, who believes she has met KU coach Self, but can’t recall the exact time or place, simply has trusted her son to make the right call.
“We can’t pick it for him. All we can do is give him the tools,” Lori said. “He said it’s one of the top schools. From what he’s saying, I have to believe it. If he’s happy, I’m happy and proud as a mother.
“My son is a real humble person, not a selfish player,” she added. “He knows it takes a team to win. He’s never been blown up in the head like, ‘Look at me, I’m Naadir Tharpe.’ I’m proud to watch him become a young man.
“You have to have a problem with yourself to not like Naadir. He’s not phony. What you see is what you get.”
Tharpe’s first name is pronounced Ny-deer. ... Tharpe had visited Minnesota and canceled a trip to Oklahoma for this weekend. “I want to say the hardest (phone calls to make) probably were Minnesota and Oklahoma. I built a good relationship with both coaches and their assistants,” Tharpe said. ... He was to have visited KU for Late Night, but has decided to wait a week. “Actually a lot of other dudes are coming in on unofficials and all that good stuff. Coach Self said, ‘Come up later and we’ll be able to sit down and be all around campus,’” Tharpe said ... He was in Lawrence for last spring’s Jayhawk Invitational. “It’s a huge school, a big campus,” Tharpe said. ... Self visited Tharpe’s school Monday and offered the scholarship Monday night. ... Brewster coach Smith said Self has compared Tharpe to former KU point guard Aaron Miles. ... Tharpe’s mom on her family’s embracing the Islamic faith. “It’s in my heart,” said Lori, who just started attending classes at Quinsigamond Community College in Worcester, Mass., in pursuit of her own college degree. “Everyone strives to be perfect. We all know it’s not a perfect world. We all do the best we can.”