Saturday, December 29, 2012


Opinion: Confident Naadir Tharpe no longer questioning his ability

Kansas guard Naadir Tharpe pushes the ball up the court past American center Tony Wroblicky during the second half on Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Naadir Tharpe pushes the ball up the court past American center Tony Wroblicky during the second half on Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012 at Allen Fieldhouse.


Podcast episode

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

KU coach Bill Self talks after win over American

Kansas coach Bill Self talks to reporters following the Jayhawks' 89-57 victory over American on Dec. 29, 2012.

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Podcast episode

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

Naadir Tharpe, Travis Releford and Jeff Withey

Kansas players Naadir Tharpe, Travis Releford and Jeff Withey talk to reporters following the Jayhawks' 89-57 victory over American.

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Box score


For the longest time, Naadir Tharpe played like an athlete who didn’t seem sure he was good enough to hang with the guys surrounding him. They attacked. He retreated. They made plays. He tried to avoid making bad plays.

Remember that guy? You can forget him now. Tharpe certainly has shoved him into the past.

Tharpe is sure he belongs now, so sure he played with as much confidence as anyone Saturday in Allen Fieldhouse, where he sparked Kansas to an 89-57 blowout of American, or for that matter anyone on your television all day long.

Tharpe always had one quality that gave him potential to fit in eventually. He’s fast, really, really fast and plays on a team at its best when flying up and down the court. But when a player looks as if he’s not quite sure he’s good enough, it’s difficult for anyone else to hop on board.

Suddenly, Tharpe’s bandwagon’s getting mighty crowded by the game and he’s at the wheel. For the fourth game in a row, Tharpe played inspired basketball and had a big hand in Kansas playing at such a rapid pace.

The most impressive individual game statistic of this getting-better-all-the-time season now belongs to Tharpe. He had 12 assists without a single turnover. He consistently attacked, penetrating into the paint and zipping passes to open shooters behind the arc and underneath. He mixed in nine points on three of four three-point shooting and picked up four defensive rebounds in 20 minutes off the bench.

By halftime, Tharpe had eight assists, driving, shooting and passing Kansas to a 53-26 advantage. This was more a case of a sophomore fueled by soaring confidence than a superior athlete exploiting inferior competition.

Kansas won’t again play a team as talent-challenged as American, but Tharpe's rapid improvement predated Saturday.

In the past four games, one against then-No. 7 Ohio State, Tharpe has 22 assists and has not turned it over once. Streaks like that are rare at any level of basketball. This assists-without-a-turnover streak grows much bigger and #TharpeFanClub will be trending on Twitter.

Tharpe also has made seven of eight three-pointers in the past three games, heading into that stretch with a 6-for-21 accuracy rate. But it’s what he’s doing as a distributor and what he’s not doing — turning it over — that has raised the ceiling on a basketball team that already had a high one.

He’s making such great decisions on the run, threading passes into tiny openings for sure-handed teammates who know how to finish. Tharpe’s greatest wow moments came when was in the air seemingly with no play and found Withey for a dunk and when he turned his back to the basket in the lane and dished to Andrew White III for a slam.

Not long ago, it looked as if the one soft spot for Kansas was that Elijah Johnson was the only reliable point guard and Tharpe better fit the description of undersized shooting guard.

Since Tharpe’s emergence, Johnson’s play has picked up as well.

It took Tharpe longer than some to adjust to a demanding coach who isn’t interested in athletes comfortable with becoming known as good basketball players. He wants them all to strive to achieve great things.

“It’s been a process from the start,” said Tharpe, a friendly sort not burdened by conceit. “No one just comes to Kansas and automatically is a superstar. So I’ve been trying to work hard in practice so I can be out on the floor to help my team win.”

Few things put a charge into a team as richly as watching a young athlete shed his cloak of insecurity to reveal his true talent.

“It’s awesome because ‘Naa’ gets into the paint a lot and he knows how to find people,” senior center Jeff Withey said. “He did it today. He showed it. He does it all the time in practice. We’re just getting more comfortable with him and he’s doing a great job coming off the bench and doing really well. For bigs, we love playing with guards like that, anybody who can drive and kick it.”

Tharpe’s play has improved in all areas.

“He’s getting more comfortable and he’s more aggressive defensively,” KU coach Bill Self said. “We’ve always said he could shoot the basketball and he can, he can really shoot, but he’s getting where he can really facilitate very, very well.”

Self, who hasn’t been shy about criticizing Tharpe in the past, marveled at the box score.

“His line tonight, you go 3-for-4 from three and you have 12 dimes and no turnovers, you don’t see that very often,” Self said.

American coach Jeff Jones, in the aftermath of the blowout, became the latest to express the opinion that Kansas is as good as any team in the country. Nobody was saying that when Tharpe was in retreat mode.

“Ever since our team started playing well you could probably look back and say he’s a big reason why,” Self said of Tharpe. “When we were laboring, basically up until the Colorado game, I don’t think Naadir had played very well, but when he plays well it seems like to me he’s giving a boost every time he comes into the game.”

Tharpe’s recent play has made a deep team deeper and the two-man depth chart at point guard no longer is too shallow.


Ferd Magellan 7 years, 5 months ago

If anything before his hot streak Tharpe was too confident. He's playing like a teammate now instead of an individual.

hawk316 7 years, 5 months ago

trojan, I have to respectfully disagree. To me, it was obvious that Naadir was struggling with a lack of confidence. He displayed poor decision-making and uncertain play and wasn't shooting the ball particularly well.

But the light has come on! As I said elsewhere, he finally has his "sea legs" under him and now "gets it." This kid can play! And I'm really happy for him. His unveiling makes us so much better.

jhox 7 years, 5 months ago

I havet to admit that I thought Tharpe would probably be transferring at years end. The jury is still out on his ability to defend elite guards, but offensively he's answering his critics, including me. Let's hope he keeps this up against stronger opponents.

Thomas Michaud 7 years, 5 months ago

Since I criticize, I'll also give props ... Tom, this is a really nice "op-ed" piece (can there be op-ed pieces on websites?) on a kid who is also improving nicely this year.

I'm one, who last year, cringed every time Naadir got into the game and wondered (early on this year) if things would change. However, since the Colorado game, his transformation has been outstanding. I feel much better about the remaining schedule now that he's much more consistent and confident.

I hope Rio -- another guard, I believe, who will be an amazing player -- shows the same patience with his transformation.

REHawk 7 years, 5 months ago

I will offer up three +1s on your post, ColdCoffee. Keegan, Tharpe, Rio.

Dirk Medema 7 years, 5 months ago

Tharpe is the latest example, but this is full of examples of players staying patient and WORKING thru the process to achieve great results; Withey, Releford, heck even EJ. Perry is next in line, maybe starting with last night's DD.

Thomas Michaud 7 years, 5 months ago

It's unfortunate that others didn't go the route of past players —who worked thru the process—but chose to transfer. I think Ellis is already a patient cat, I'm more concerned with a player like Rio. Let me also mention that I liked the fact that coach got Rio and AWIII playing time against American last night, to help them get their game legs.

kranny 7 years, 5 months ago

Interesting take but given his deer in the headlights look, his bad decisions, and how he was unable to keep up with the speed of the game, I'd have to agree to the lack of confidence opinions.

TheBoHawk 7 years, 5 months ago

Bad Decisions = Turnovers... dude hasn't had one in 4 games and has had 22 assists between.. Speed of the Game??? He's the fastest guy on the court. Dears in headlights don't make the kind of assists he did with Jeff and Andrews dunks...

actorman 7 years, 5 months ago

Kranny was obviously referring to what he was doing BEFORE the recent stretch -- hence his reference to the lack of confidence. Kranny wasn't talking about what he's doing now.

David Leathers 7 years, 5 months ago

Opinion: Tharpe is suddenly playing so well because he knows Frankamp is on the way.

jayhawkboogeyman 7 years, 5 months ago

No way. Frankamp will be lucky to see as many minutes next year as Tharpe had last. Self doesn't give freshman guards noteworthy minutes, and both Rio and Naadir will be well ahead of him.

dylans 7 years, 5 months ago

I hope you are wrong. All signs point to Frankamp being a stud and while I want 'Rio to be a great player, it looks like Frankamp is more skilled and polished. What will be interesting will be how fast next years freshmen adjust to the speed of the game.

Andy Godwin 7 years, 5 months ago

Very rarely do freshman play meaningfully minutes for Self until they learn defense, especially on the ball defense. Tharpe sat most of last year and learned what it takes to get onto the court. McLemore had a year to learn what is expected. If Adams keeps working hard and does not let the fact that his minutes will decline as the conference starts (Self's bench gets shorter and shorter) get him down, he will be ahead of the freshman coming in next season. You have to earn your minutes at KU and very few true freshman have the defensive abilities coming out of high school to play at the level Self demands.

Steve Reigle 7 years, 5 months ago

Actually, I think Self plays those he feels give the team the best chance to win. Often, freshmen are not yet ready for that role, McLemore being an exception. If Frankamp is ready and is the best option, he'll be on the floor. Otherwise he'll do his pine time while learning.

Benz Junque 7 years, 5 months ago

I completely agree with iamakufan. Self gives minutes to the player that shows in practice that they are the best prepared to play at both ends of the floor. He wants guys that play defense, then offense. He'll play a better defeder over a better scorer because his system creates scoring.

If Frankamp is better than the options, then he will play right away. It has nothing to do with being a freshman. frankamp would be wise to be working OT on his defensive technique and effort level to prepare himself for what will be expected of him at KU.

David Leathers 7 years, 5 months ago

Im sorry boogeyman, I have to disagree. Tharpe is beginning to explode onto the scene. He's a becoming a great player with the confidence to lead this team. His decision making has been A+ as of late. However, to say that Frankamp won't see as many minutes as Tharpe did his fresman year is absurd. Here's why:

Coming out of high school ranks Conner Frankamp as the 7th best PG in the country and 31st best player overall. Naadir was the 19th PG and 92nd overall. Now, Rivals isn't the end-all-be-all, but my comparison doesn't stop there. This summer, Conner played for the USA U17 team that won a world championship with high-scoring players such as Jabari Parker, Jahlil Okafor, and Tyus Jones, and was the highest scorer on the team. He averaged 14.1 pts. a game while dishing 19 dimes and only 6 TO. Last but not least, go check out that video posted somewhere of Conner working out with his dad. The kid is lights out from 3-point land (so is Naadir lately), but some people predict that he could shoot anywhere from 35-45% from trey-land (

Now don't get me wrong, Naadir will be the starting PG for next years squad, but to say that Conner has no chance to beat out Anrio for the backup spot is ludicrous. The kid will come in being one of the smarted basketball players on the team as a freshman. He'll get his minutes.

jaybate 7 years, 5 months ago


I agree and disagree with you.

Mostly Self doesn't give freshman guards big minutes, but he did Josh Selby.

I think Frankamp will have a very tough time starting ahead of returnees Naa, Rio and AW3, unless his defense is really sparkling from the get go.

But it seems quite reasonable that Conner, given his gun, as soon as he can master minimum standard Self Defense (i.e., few blow bys, few concentration lapses) could join the rotation.

Remember Self tried to play Naadir last year many times, but he just wasn't up to the D1 game yet, physically, or mentally. And a player has to be ready on both counts, not just one or the other.

A lot of it depends on what Self thinks Rio's best spot is: point or 2. And how good Greene and Seldon can guard out of the box. Someone here told me that Greene's defense coming in will be at least as weak as Andrew White's has been so far. If Greene has as much trouble with defense as AW3 has had, then Seldon's going to be at starting at the 3, and Greene will be backing him up. Then I suspect that Naa and Conner will man the point, and Rio and AW3 will man the two with Rio soaking up minutes at the point, if Conner cannot adapt to D1 defense rapidly.

But if Greene can defend well enough at the 3, then I suspect we might see AW3 starting at the 3, and splitting time with Greene, and we might see Seldon move to the 2.

Seldon's future depends heavily on how good his defense is out of the box and how good his trey is. He appears to have a weak trey. So: that means he has to be a great defender to start at either the 2, or the 3.

The odds are that all these incomers are going to be back ups, except maybe Seldon.

But you never know.

Boouk 7 years, 5 months ago

I hope Anrio drastically improves his 3 point shooting like Releford has and quits tweeting that he's getting overlooked. I can't recall him making a single shot outside of 15 feet this season. I hope he transfers if he doesn't improve his shooting and most of all, his attitude.

As for Frankamp, I think he'll be ready to back up Tharpe by Big 12 play next season. Him starting at PG and playing well for the US 17 and under team that won gold makes me think that he'll be better than Tharpe was his Fr. year.

Michael Sillman 7 years, 5 months ago

Hopefully the posters that have been ragging on Tharpe will keep their mouths shut from now on and also give future new Jayhawks the benefit of the doubt as they are adjusting to the college game.

The action has clearly "slowed down" for Tharpe to borrow Coach Self's terminology. He is seeing the angles, making the passes, and anticipating the other guard's moves when he is on defense.

As I said to some derision in a prior posting, Tharpe has the best handle on the team. No turnovers in the last three games. You may be looking at next year's starting point guard.

KULA 7 years, 5 months ago

Totally agree. I hate seeing dumb posts about young players looking like "deer in the headlights" or "looking lost out there." Usually by posters who don't watch the game too closely or don't really understand the game in the first place. Read the same dumb posts about the Morris twins, Tyshawn, EJ and Jeff.

You could see even in Naadir's limited minutes last year (if you knew what to look for) that he had great speed, quickness and shooting ability, and confidence, and could definitely be an impact player for the Jayhawks.

jaybate 7 years, 5 months ago


Its more than a little ironic that all your posts says is that you "...hate seeing dumb posts about young players looking like 'deer in the headlights,'" after which you then don't add a whit of insight, or substance. :-)

Yeee hawwwww, there's nothing better than having fun with KULA. :-)

jaybate 7 years, 5 months ago

Well, there are a few things. Like getting an oil change. Or even a root canal. :-)

Brandon Pope 7 years, 5 months ago

Naa Naa Naa Naa.... Naa Naa Naa Naa.... Hey hey hey... -dir Tharpe

Michael Auchard 7 years, 5 months ago

Sadly, a few good games (or articles) do not a career make, Keegan.

I'm hoping Naadir and Ellis (also had a solid game) step it up toward the latter end of conference. With those guys playing at even 80 percent, and the rest of our regular ballers improving or playing static ball, we're one of the deepest teams in the country. Twelve assistsin a game is impressive, though this night should be taken with a grain of salt. I hope Tharpe can keep it up against a team not ranked near 300 in Ken Pomeroy's rankings.

Jack Wilson 7 years, 5 months ago

"I hope Tharpe can keep it up against a team not ranked near 300 in Ken Pomeroy's rankings."

I'm wondering if you watched the Ohio St. game .. Tharpe was terrific.

jaybate 7 years, 5 months ago

I'm so conciliatory today, I can't believe it.

You're both right.

Naadir's performance against American doesn't mean much.

On the other hand, he did look pretty good against Thad Nad's Black Eyes.

Can we agree that there is now room for some optimism about Naadir and that Temple, plus a few conference games should make things conclusive.

David Leathers 7 years, 5 months ago

Actually, wouldn't someone be more lazy if they Googled something? It took more typing and patience to ask the question here, only to get a POS answer.

bradynsdad 7 years, 5 months ago

Rich people use to give dimes to the poor, hence "slinging dimes". Rockefeller was the most famous for it.

monkeehawkSL8 7 years, 5 months ago

Could be way off the road but I think it may have to do with giving a person a dime to make a phone call. Hence the related term "drop a dime" on someone turning them in for a crime. monk

monkeehawkSL8 7 years, 5 months ago

Jaydogger, I have had some poster "children" give me a hard time for asking questions. I enjoy it. My favorite so far "I don't play chess". There seems to be a class system on this site. Upper class, lower class and no class.

I'm not to lazy to goggle, that's how I got here in the 1st place. I do like talking with other fans. All of them. Are there rules for posting? Lil help? Whoops, sorry, did it again.

jaybate 7 years, 5 months ago

Super research there JayDogger.


Either way, there is so much unindexed inflation that we ought to be calling them silver dollars.

Ken Sedgwick 7 years, 5 months ago

monkeehawkSL8 why do you ask questions?

leonard 7 years, 5 months ago

Tharpe's improved offensive numbers speak for themselves. But just as impressive has been his on-ball defensive intensity...and in Coach Self's world that is the solution for removing splinters.

Alohahawk 7 years, 5 months ago

I think that's the same dunk which made ESPN's top 10 Plays of the Day - #7. BTW, Withey's dunk down the middle of the lane was # 2 for the day.

KansasComet 7 years, 5 months ago

Tharpe belongs, and that is all that matters. I look forward to two more seasons watching Naadir Tharpe in a Kansas Jayhawks uniform. If he plays this well in conference and tournament play, he deserves the right to play for pay in the NBA.

Jack Wilson 7 years, 5 months ago

Just over a month ago, Self was proclaiming that if Tharpe didn't pick it up, he was going to have to go "in a different direction." Part psychological motivation, part dead serious -- mostly dead serious.

Self criticized his defense effort, his decision making, shot selection. Tharpe was close to losing his spot. There was a fork in the road. The fork in the road was so distinct, in my opinion, that Tharpe was playing for his scholarship. If Adams had overtaken him as the back up point guard, with the talent we have coming in, it would be reasonable to think he could transfer. Adams now sits on the perch. With Adams, the talent is there. You can see it. Will he be patient and continue to work?

Make no mistake though .. despite the posts of Jaylark and KULA above .. the criticisms of Tharpe here were by and large completely legitimate. It's easy to say once a guy is playing well .. "see, you were wrong." Again, most criticisms of Tharpe were legitimate. Really, Self's comments reinforced what we all saw and commented on. And during those stretches, we didn't see significant Tharpe defenses here by either KULA or Jaylark, though KULA did make a note after a good game by Tharpe. But my point is not to criticize them. My point is that Tharpe really was walking the tightrope and that the criticisms were valid. Self was trying to bring in Barber, or Jackson, right? Guys that legitimately would have started as freshmen .. over Tharpe. Tharpe was no sure thing.

It appears that Tharpe has won. Why has Tharpe won? Why has he gotten over the hump?

First, playing time. A point KULA and I have agreed on for a long time. Tharpe has had the opportunity to play, to mature, to get better -- in games. We have seen it right before our eyes in the first 12 games. To get in the flow of the game. To adjust to game situations. Experience. It is valuable. You don't get "experience", by and large, from sitting on the bench. It's now showing with Tharpe.

Second, confidence .. his confidence and ability to make plays comes from not worrying about is role on the team. My belief is that early he felt his role was in doubt (because it was). Even when the criticism came from Self's mouth, I mentioned that the most telling moment would be the first guard in off the bench that next game .. Tharpe or Adams. It was Tharpe. From that moment, once it was clear that he had beaten out Adams, his game has taken off. No coincidence in my book.

Third, coaching .. we can pontificate about what is best, how things should be done, etc. But behind the scenes, in practice, on the bus, in meetings -- mentally and physically -- we have the best coach in the country. He's made the kid better. He's inspired the kid. He's inspired defensive intensity as leonard mentioned above.


Michael Sillman 7 years, 5 months ago

Wrong, HEM. I posted several defenses of Tharpe and as I mentioned was subject to derision each time, perhaps even by you.

jaybate 7 years, 5 months ago


I will give you kudos for defending Naadir.

He has exceeded my expectations for this season already. And mine were pretty low. I thought he would get to where he is defensively right now, but I did not expect him to become near the trigger man from outside that he is. And I did not expect Self to restring the offensive bow as he has to capitalize so fully on EJ's and Naadir's passing talents. I thought we were in for an extended stretch of trying to make them go to iron.

All in all, I believe Naadir has proven Self's intuitions about who can play D1 and who cannot true again. Self doesn't ask everyone to be able to do everything. And Self seems to have a sixth sense about mental development in basketball players. He seems to be able to judge when a guy has come far enough to really put the spurs to him and he seems to know when to say, "Nope, not this season."

One of several bottom lines with Self is that if thinks he's got a guy that can drain treys, and who will be able to play minimum standard defense, then that guy has a role regardless of what other limitations he may have.

Naadir is joining a long line of guys like Jeff Gray (not sure of my recall of his last name, but he was a KC Sumner guy on some of Self's early KU teams), Brady Morningstar, Tyrel Reed, Conner Teahan, and others that are kept around, because they can drain the trey, and eventually play 20 mpg or more, because of it.

jaybate 7 years, 5 months ago

But also I don't really think HEM is out to disrespect you here.

He overlooked my early support of Tyshawn Taylor, but it was nothing personal, or negative. Hell, there are so many posters posting so many things that all generalizations have to be made conditional on someone else recalling it differently.

FWIW, I didn't go back and check the actual timing of my early posting about Tyshawn either. As I have learned here time and again, memory is iffy at times.

Anyway, not to worry.

HawkKlaw 7 years, 5 months ago

Me too. Not that I need any kind of shout-out, but I've been a really big fan of Naadir's ever since he came to KU. To me, the debate of "who should get the most minutes at backup PG this season?" has been settled for a while now (basically, ever since Bill Self said he "may have to go in a different direction" and continued to stick with Naadir over the other options).

Jack Wilson 7 years, 5 months ago

Jaylark -- I saw your suggestion that I was shorting you on your defenses of Tharpe. Of course, my memory can be faulty.

I went back and looked .. on 12/5/12 you agreed with my suggestion that Self's quick hook might be a detriment to guys like Tharpe; on 11/27/12 you noted Tharpe's ballhandling and quickness. Then, way back on 10/16/11, in the preseason, you were hopeful Tharpe would contribute; and on 11/13/11, after the Kentucky game, you noted Tharpe, as a "plan B" in recruiting, might be better than we thought.

Really, I didn't see any "significant defenses" of Tharpe, as I had said. Nothing other than the limited comments I noted. No real responses to folks that may have derided Tharpe's abilities. If I'm wrong, please feel free to point those out and I will gladly acknowledge my error(s).

In looking back, I did note your suggestion though last spring that Merv Lindsay would be in the rotation this season, that he was your "sleeper", and that he reminded you of Tayshaun Prince ... but we won't hold that against you.

Michael Sillman 7 years, 5 months ago

No way to know if I was wrong about Merv Lindsay until at least next year. He left KU of his own accord and I still think that he will be a good ball player for his new school. I'm not sure how you can interpret my posts about Tharpe as anything other than defending him from criticism. You'll also note that one poster's response to my defense was 'You've got to be kidding." Tharpe has proven that I was not.

HawkKlaw 7 years, 5 months ago

Naadir's criticism's have been somewhat valid, but I feel like a lot of people here think that the grass is greener with Rio and just look for ways to nitpick Naadir's game (that includes you, HEM). There have been plenty of games where fans here claim that Naadir "keeps getting blown by on defense," while failing to admit that in the same games, Elijah, Ben, and AW3 were all blown by as many times as Naadir was. I feel like that criticism alone has been the least valid of of Naadir this season. He's not nearly as much of a liability on defense as fans here claim. Honestly, I've been debating with you all season that Naadir is the best option at backup PG (you've been arguing in favor of Rio) and I don't think Naadir's job was ever in as much jeopardy as you make it out.

Yes, Bill Self tried out Releford and KY at the point guard spot.

Yes, Bill Self mentioned to the media that he "may have to go in a different direction" at PG.

Yes, Naadir got pulled out of games quickly when he made bad decisions.

But I would argue that these were all just part of Naadir's development as a contributing player at KU. Like you said, nobody is better at developing players than Bill Self and this is exactly how he does it. Think about it this way:

No, Releford and KY were never actually going to play backup PG. That was just Bill Self implying to Naadir (and Elijah, if you'll remember), "if you continue to refuse to drive and dish, we're going to start looking elsewhere for players that will." This was Bill Self's way of getting Naadir and Elijah to penetrate more. Looks like that strategy worked.

No, Bill Self was probably never going to "go in a different direction," as he told the media. Again, that was just a statement made to the public to get a reaction from Naadir (and Elijah, as Elijah was not playing very well when Self made that statement). Competition makes the team better and this was just Self trying to get the best out of his top two PG's. Looks like this strategy worked too.

And lastly, the reason Naadir got the quick hook from Self so many times as a freshman (and early this season) was because Self realized early on that Tharpe is probably going to be the best option at PG next year. He understands that at the end of this season, Naadir needs to be capable of running the team. It appears that his coaching strategy is paying off big time (I know Self's "quick hook" strategy has been hotly debated here in the past).

Jack Wilson 7 years, 5 months ago

If you can't see the difference between Tharpe's defense and those you mentioned, then I can't help you. Further, coach Self was very clear about his opinion on Tharpe's defense. If you won't listen to that, I can't help you.

My opinion .. just opinion .. is that Self was serious about going in a different direction. I think Tharpe's comments about where his head was, in today's column, support that even further. But the "psychological" part about it, is undeniable.

I would suggest that Tharpe's successes have little to do with that. I would argue it impedes the progress of players. Many coaches don't handle things that way and succeed, all to varying degrees. And I point to events (at least coincidences) that support my position there with Tharpe, the timing, etc. But results are what matters. And we can't look at only the successful results .. we have to look at the failures, too.

HawkKlaw 7 years, 5 months ago

Honestly, Tharpe's development on defense has been slower than some, but he definitely plays as well on defense as AW3 does. Travis, Elijah and Ben are all ahead of him in that department, but I'm confident Naadir can become as good a defender as Elijah one day. He's still learning and growing as a defender, so time will tell.

Tharpe's successes have everything to do with Bill Self and his "toughening box", as jaybate would call it. When a recruit chooses to play at KU, he knows that it's not going to be a cake walk. Bill Self always makes comments to the media to get better production out of players. I think the comments about "going in a different direction" and trying out different players at the point were both attempts to get better production out of Elijah and Naadir. It makes sense, especially when you consider that both players have started playing a lot better since Bill Self made those statements.

It's the same reason why Bill Self always talks to the media about Perry Ellis like he's a "deer in the headlights." That he needs to think less and let the game come to him. He says those things to the media to plant the seed and help a player realize what he's trying to get out of them. I think it's part of Bill Self's strategy as a coach. He does it a lot.

Jack Wilson 7 years, 5 months ago

Finally, and this is at the core of Tharpe's value .. ballhandling. I remember KULA posting a reply to a suggestion back in the spring that Releford could be a backup point guard, mocking the suggestion. I agreed. I have made significant mention of the value of ballhandling (as has KULA). A point guard, or combo guard, that can handle the ball is a "must have" on the court. Period. It's why we have not played one minute of contested game situations this season without either EJ or Tharpe on the court. It's why the suggestions of KY at the point, or Releford, were just ridiculous. Look at the Ohio St. game. Non-ballhandlers can't handle that big time pressure. It's why Self said he was targeting a "point guard" in recruiting. Ballhandling is a priority one skill. You have to have depth at ballhandling. Tharpe is the best ballhandler on this team (no disrespect to EJ).

It now appears that we have ourselves a point guard. This is a great thing for this team. Now, and in the future.

In a point guard discussion, I have to bring this up about KULA .. We go back a ways on Tyshawn Taylor debates. He was ultimately correct on Taylor .. kind of. I like to point out that I was right for 3 1/2 seasons, and KULA for 1/2 of a season. But who's counting? I actually did concede to KULA in November or December of 2010, TT's junior year, just before Selby got on the court. When TT played that awesome 10 game stretch. KULA gladly accepted. But, unfortunately, I rescinded my concession shortly after that.

Taylor led us to a final four. Debate over. KULA wins. But the best KULA quote ever .. "He (Tyshawn) brings the offense like no other player." This was late in his freshman season or early sophomore season, I think. And my recollection is a bit foggy, but I recall this being after a multiple turnover, 2-9 shooting day (or something like that). At least it sounds better like that. With Tharpe, KULA might have an easier job .. 12 assists, no turnovers. Not a TT line, for sure. KULA was the ultimate TT defender.

Now, Brady? That's a different story ....

jaybate 7 years, 5 months ago


Rarely have to disagree with you anymore, HEM.

I was the first, ultimate and definitive TT defender.

I nicknamed him Quantum T after his second or third game.

slayr would have been ahead of me, but he was probably busy the day I posted.

I had him pegged from the first game of his freshman year.

I knew exactly what rate he would progress once the magnitude of his focus problems became manifest during his sophomore season.

I said he was going to have a ton of trouble making the transition to the point, but that he would be a fabulous point guard once he conquered the focus and attention span issues.


Does the word caboose mean anything to you? :-)

jaybate 7 years, 5 months ago

My narcisistic quest to claim bragging rights on Tyshawn, aside, your post is rational and persuasive.

Jack Wilson 7 years, 5 months ago

jb: And yes, I do recall your passionate defenses of TT .. even in the face of all those turnovers. You held your position without wavering too much.

As a coach, I would have wanted to change TT into a pass first point guard. Personally, I can't stand point guards that play like TT. Just not my style.

However, I was more than willing to ride his wild play to the title game with a big smile on my face .. he put it all together that second half of last season. It was worth the wait, to be sure.

And I'll be honest here, I didn't see it coming.

KULA 7 years, 5 months ago

HEM--thanks for the props! It's appreciated, especially coming from as good a poster as you. It's even more satisfying seeing how much it galls jaybate, lol.

Now, you're not going to argue with me about Brady, are you? Let me throw another quote at you. "He brought NO offense like no other player, lol"

I'll throw this out to you also, with all due respect. In the 3 1/2 seasons that you were right about Tyshawn, what was KU's won/loss record?

Jack Wilson 7 years, 5 months ago

KULA .. No disagreement on Brady .. I was in your camp on Brady. I wasted a lot of keystrokes on that debate.

And, yes, I am aware of the won/loss record. I'm also aware of how much time off the end of my life Mr. Taylor has cost me. But I am also aware of how leading a team to a final four, and playing as well as he did in the 2nd half of last season, kind of ends the debate.

KULA 7 years, 5 months ago

Haha, I watched the same mistakes as everyone, but rather than taking time off the end of my life, I feel they enriched my life. Thats what sports are all about--to watch superior physical humans STRIVE to do great things. That's what makes a player a gamer--the courage to take the big risk. To seek, to strive, to find, and not to yield...

Woody Cragg 7 years, 5 months ago

The flashes of brilliance we saw with Nadir last year reminded me of a freshman Russ Rb & I personally think he's budding up as an elite player. He played at Brewster with TRob & is tough as nails for a small guy. With EJ's shoulder & knees always a concern, this could not happen soon enough. And 100% agreed HEM, balllhandling is priority #1. 22 assists & no TO's in 4 games is no cupcake stat, Throw in 6-7 from behind the arc & wow, he'd be starting for a hundred other D-1 schools. Way to go young man...we can dig it!

Alohahawk 7 years, 5 months ago

Nice you brought up the Brewster angle. When he played there Tharpe was noted for his ball handling, and for the team's overall record during his time playing. (Can't remember, but I think he only had 1 or 2 losses overall.) And it was specifically pointed out that his best asset was finding teammates for assists. Something he's now bringing to the table.

Is he a second coming of RussRob? Questionable his Frosh year, and now fitting into the mold Self has been hoping he'd fit into? Last season I put him on a razor's edge, saying he could easily fall, but hoped he could keep his balance. I've always liked Nadir's attitude, and remember his dance in the locker room after a Jayhawk win last season. May have been the Final Four win over OSU?

Looking ahead to next year, when Self will only have non-walkons - Ellis, Tharpe, Adams, AWIII, and Wesley back (and maybe BenMc.), Self is going to need good point guard skills to hold the reins and control what will be a very young team with plenty of potential - for scoring and for making mistakes. And perhaps, knowing Tharpe has an eye for assists, that will impress Randle in his final school selection.

Alohahawk 7 years, 5 months ago

Oops, forgot Traylor and Lucas. My foot in my mouth. My apologies to both.

ku1otaku 7 years, 5 months ago

Ha! Yes, the little jig that Tharpe did was great! I think BMac is actually doing it in the new "Pay Heed" video (Episode 9). The "dance" starts at about the 3:03 mark.

jaybate 7 years, 5 months ago

I hate to rain on a parade, but Naa still has acute depth perception problems with on-ball defense.

He's guarding better, but you're all going to be very, very glad that EJ's knee continues mending, once the good opposing guards resume showing up.

He made several defensive errors against American that American's players were not good enough to cash in on.

Naa has turned a big corner. Self has adapted the offense to both Naa's and EJ's strengths and that is the biggest reason both players are looking much better on offense. On defense, Naa is now to a level of consistently mediocre.

The key is that Naa has reached a point of cortical development where he can actually learn what he is doing wrong and how to compensate.

But if EJ goes down again and Naa has to carry the defensive load at point, Self is going to have to go back to masking in a very big way again.

Naa's defensive development is on a track to be starting grade next season, not this one.

The great thing for Naa is that he has finally reached a level of development that Self can justify continuing with him as a guy he can expect to develop sufficiently for certain as a starter, or first backup at the point, depending on what the recruiting cat drags in.

Jack Wilson 7 years, 5 months ago

I'm not sure, simply from a physical standpoint, if Tharpe will ever be a good defender. For example, he will always have problems against a team with big guards like we had last season .. who would he guard? Taylor, EJ, Releford?

I think your conclusion is right on point there .. his role now rests on recruiting.

We land Jones, Mudiay or Vaughn, yes, he's the back up.

Michael Sillman 7 years, 5 months ago

I have to disagree with HEM again. Playing good defense is not primarily a physical skill. It's a mental one. Tharpe has had a year and half of college level practice and D-I games to develop those mental skills. They will keep him ahead of any of the incoming freshman.

jaybate 7 years, 5 months ago


There are some guys that can do it out of the box.

There are many that cannot.

Josh Selby and Xavier could.

There's not much doubt looking back that Ben could have been either a starter or a sixth man on last year's team.

HEM is talking about top tier talent.

If Self signs an OAD at the point, there is a significant likelihood that the guy would start and Naadir would backup.

What Self seems to like to do is to bring the OADs in and start them, but then only play them about 20mpg and back them up with a low error veteran. This creates a sitiuation where if the OAD begins to blow up, but doesn't want to be restringed downward, Self can afford to go ahead and sit him. And if the OAD is super, playing the veteran significant minutes ensures the vet develops for the year following the jump.

It could go either way.

One thing you are right about, however, is this: Naa can drain the trey and distribute and guard at least adequately; this means he is money in the bank for Self no matter what the recruiting cat drags in.

Jack Wilson 7 years, 5 months ago

Jaylark .. see what jaybate said.

Also, I never said whether defense was more mental or physical.

What I said was that Tharpe has physical limitations. You first have to have the physical ability. That's a prerequisite. Do you think coach Self could guard McLemore better than, say, Andrew White? Mentally, of course, Self has the advantage. But at age 50, Self physically can't hang. Probably couldn't have at age 22.

Playing defense is very mental. Very much something that can be learned. But physical limitations can limit one's peak. That's all I meant.

HawkKlaw 7 years, 5 months ago

Ah, the "too small to play good defense" argument. I'm looking forward to Naadir proving you wrong for the next couple of years.

Naadir gets better on defense every game. He's got quick hands and as many have mentioned, he's one of the fastest players on the court every game. What most people don't realize is that short players neutralize opposing height with speed and quickness. You can't teach height, that's for sure. But you can't teach speed either. Naadir is learning how to play faster on defense. He progresses all the time. As Bill Self said, there's no drop off when Naadir comes into the game now.

I agree with Jaylark that Naadir will have a leg-up on incoming recruits next season for the same reason he has a leg-up on Rio right now: Naadir has experience, immense offensive talent and his defense is now developing to the point where he's no longer a liability on that end of the court. Naadir will be the starting PG next season (with Selden probably sharing some ball-handling duties), Rio will be the backup PG and Frankamp/Mason will be the third option. As someone who is familiar with Bill Self's coaching methods, I can see the writing on the wall there.

Jack Wilson 7 years, 5 months ago

HawkKlaw: My question was whether Tharpe will ever be a "good defender." Again, as with many topics, you paint your response to the statement you wish was made, not the statement that was made. Small players can be good defenders -- again emphasis on "good" -- but not against overwhelming size. Tharpe is short, he's small, he has short legs, he doesn't have much of wingspan. He is quick, but not significantly quick side to side (that can improve). I have no doubt he can be an acceptable or adequate defender. Much the same way EJ is an acceptable defender.

I too think Tharpe is the starting point guard next season. You make such a statement as if it is some sort of revelation. It's not. Heck, that was the obvious assumption even before Tharpe was playing better. I, like many, have noted him as a likely starter for 2013 for a number of months. Understand that we .. others .. also understand a bit how coach Self operates.

HawkKlaw 7 years, 5 months ago

You question how good of a defender Tharpe can be because of his "physical limitations." You think he will always have problems with "big" guards. I responded directly to that statement by saying that I'll be happy to watch him prove you wrong. So actually, I did respond to the statement that was made.

To further my point, Naadir guards Elijah Johnson everyday in practice and never backs down from him. Elijah is a 6'4" senior starting PG at one of the best basketball schools in the country. According to your philosophy, Naadir should have problems guarding Elijah because of his size, but he doesn't (as reported in an article on this very site last week). Therefore, I must respectfully disagree with you on Tharpe's so-called "physical limitations."

Steve Reigle 7 years, 5 months ago

So, how is ‘Naa’ pronounced? Nah or Nay?

milehighhawk 7 years, 5 months ago

Omg use google!!!


"Nah" since it's "Nah-deer"

Tony Bandle 7 years, 5 months ago

It's the same as when my ex-wife would respond to me about having some wild sex.....NAH, I've got a headache!!

vd 7 years, 5 months ago

My wife just says "Is the mailman here?"

jaybate 7 years, 5 months ago

Mine says: "Not tonight, honey, I'm fantasizing about Big from Sex and the City." :-)

Steve Reigle 7 years, 5 months ago

That one I can understand! Thanks. As for same as his name is pronounced, I guess I had that wrong, too. I thought I heard coach Self pronounce it "nay' deer" but apparently I got that wrong, too. Thanks for the replies/help.

Phil Leister 7 years, 5 months ago

The content of Keegan's writing is good, most days. However, the way he puts words on paper makes him sound like a high school freshman. I always wonder how he is the sports editor at LJW.

Jeff Coffman 7 years, 5 months ago

A few notes:

1) A Backup Point Guard with 22 assists and 0 Turnovers and known for his shooting ability is exciting to have.

2) Self really understands how to develop role players and by the time they are seniors it seems like they are leaders. Some are starters and some are the first or second person off the bench, but they all when they stick it out, are all Jayhawks and we love to see them play.

3) For instance, TRob, Markieff, Releford, Cole, Brady, etc.

4) I also think that a lot of players wouldn't have had as big of an NBA hope without the coaching of Self. I think Markieff and TRob are the prime examples.

Jim Dickerson 7 years, 5 months ago

I believe Tharpes incentive to improve came from football coach Weis. After watching how efficient Tharpe was at dribbling the ball off his foot, Weis offered Tharpe a schoolie to join the football team as a kicker. ( all fiction and just kidding)

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