Sunday, December 30, 2012

Lately, Naadir Tharpe incomparable

KU backup guard credits brother for his recent emergence

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.



Kansas guard Naadir Tharpe signals "three" after hitting one against American during the first half on Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Naadir Tharpe, who has been on quite a roll with 22 assists against no turnovers the last four games, grinned Saturday night when asked if he’d compare himself to another height-challenged point guard, Allen Iverson.

“I don’t compare myself to anybody ... Iverson shot the ball 20 times a game,” said Tharpe, Kansas University’s 5-foot-11, 170-pound sophomore backup point guard, who dished 12 assists against no turnovers and hit three three-pointers in Saturday’s 89-57 rout of American.

“If anybody, I’d say more like Chris Paul, maybe ... Steve Nash,” he added.

Tharpe, who has made nine of his last 11 shots and seven of his last nine threes, shattered his previous career-high assist mark of five set against Chattanooga this season and Howard his freshman campaign. The 12 assists were sixth-most in a game in KU history, just six off Tom Kivisto’s record of 18 dimes in 1973.

All in all, it was spectacular play in just 20 minutes.

“I definitely played better than this in high school, but I’m not going to compare a high school game to a college game. I had a game where I had 16 assists, close to 20 (at Brewster Academy). I just have a different mind-set right now when it comes to basketball,” added Tharpe, a Worcester, Mass., native.

The modest Tharpe didn’t list himself when asked who was “responsible” for his emergence as a solid sub to Elijah Johnson.

“I would say mostly my older brother, Tishaun,” Tharpe said. “We’ve been sitting down and talking to each other a lot, as well as coach (Bill Self) and my teammates encouraging me.”

Tharpe, who lost his dad, Ronald Edward Tharpe, to cancer in 2006, has a mentor and role model in 34-year-old brother Tishaun Jenkins, who was a first-team NCAA Div. III All-America point guard at Salem State University in Massachusetts.

Jenkins led Salem State to its first and only Final Four appearance in 2000 and was recently named to the school’s Athletics Hall of Fame.

“I talk to him after every game I play,” Tharpe said. “He always tells me what I need to do better. He tells me I need to take a different mind-set out here. You have to be everywhere on the court. That’s what I’m trying to do.”

Jenkins explained his “be everywhere” philosophy in a phone interview with the Journal-World from his home in Worcester, where the former school teacher now works for Verizon.

“That is my thing,” Jenkins said. “I said, ‘Naadir, you have to have the will to make every play ... to say I want to make the shot, grab the rebound, outlet it. I want to get it going and finish it right. I want to play defense, do everything, whatever it takes, do everything, be everywhere.’

“Right now, I think he’s just figured some things out. He’s more comfortable,” Jenkins added of the main reason for his brother’s success.

The success has come out of nowhere. Naadir was at the nadir after playing poorly in a victory over Saint Louis on Nov. 20. He had three points and two assists, missing four of five shots in 22 minutes.

“He was down, almost to the point, ‘I don’t know if I can do this, Ti,’” Jenkins related. “I was like, ‘You don’t quit. When the going gets tough, you get tougher. When it gets tougher you get tougher and tougher. That’s how it goes. You take that motivation to get better and show what you are about. Meet the challenge.’”

Sensing a need to catch his brother’s attention further, Jenkins after the Saint Louis game told Tharpe of a conversation he had with Self last January.

“Last year, coach said, ‘Tishaun, let’s be honest. Naadir is not going to go and dominate a basketball game,’” Jenkins said. “I am one of those guys … my coach told me as a junior in college that I reached my pinnacle. I put signs everywhere in my dorm room to stay motivated because this guy thought I was as good as I was going to be. I told my brother, ‘Coach Self said you can’t dominate a game.’ I don’t know if that put a little fire under his butt. It seems it has.

“I think coach Self is one of the best coaches in the country. I said to him (Tharpe), ‘If he thinks you can’t dominate, either that’s a lack of effort in practice or you are not showing him what you can do. On the court, you are definitely not showing him what you can do.’”

That was about the time Jenkins asked Self if KU could provide a counselor to help Tharpe work on some issues regarding his dad’s death.

“He spoke to someone the course of the whole year,” Jenkins said, expressing thanks to KU and Self for the forum for Tharpe to speak about his dad. “When you lose your father, you lose your sense of security. You could talk to him. He didn’t make decisions for you but gave you options, methods, ways to go. When you lose that, it’s on you.”

Speaking about reasons for his improvement, Tharpe said ... “I just feel like I’m going out and playing basketball. It’s something I’ve been doing my whole life. I know what I need to do on the court — that’s find people and get them when they are open.”

As far as his scoring 25 points the last three games ... “A lot of coaches that coached me always said I was a good shooter. Growing up, my brother always told me, ‘You’ve got a nice stroke,’” Tharpe said. “Coach Self says the same thing. He gets mad if I don’t shoot open shots so I know I’ve got to shoot the ball when I’m open.”

Self is pleased with Tharpe’s progress. He always has been a fan of Tharpe the person, who showed up for his recruiting visit wearing a tie.

“What a great kid,” Self said, adding of his game, “There’s no dropoff when we go to the bench, not the last three to four weeks with Naadir. He’s getting more comfortable. He’s more aggressive defensively. He’s getting where he can facilitate really well. I’d say ever since our team started playing well, he’s a big reason why. He’s given us a boost every time he comes in the game.”

Tharpe, youngest of five boys in his family, is looking forward to showing his new and improved game to big brother in January, when he’ll make his fourth trip to Lawrence to watch Tharpe play.

At the next game will be another loved one — Tharpe’s baby daughter, Amara Grace Tharpe, who was slated to arrive for a visit Sunday.

“I just love her. It’s hard not to love her,” Tharpe said of Amara, whose first birthday is Jan. 21. “You look at her eyes. They are so bright. It’s hard to explain.”

He enjoyed spending time with his daughter over a short Christmas break spent in Worcester.

“I bought her some stuff online as well as a couple toys, stuff like that,” Naadir said.

Jenkins said Naadir, “is a great father, a great young man. He has manners, morals, values. Honestly, I’ll say this ... you ain’t seen anything yet,” he added, laughing. “I’m excited, proud, right now, but this is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to this little guy right here.”


Scut Farkus 1 year, 3 months ago

He has definitely improved and is playing much smarter. Let's hope it continues. "Tharpe to Ellis for two", is going to be a common phrase next year. They could be better than the Robinson/Taylor combo.


William Blake 1 year, 3 months ago

Naadir has earned a nickname....

How about "Mini-Might!?"


MizzouBest 1 year, 3 months ago

Just checking in with you guys. KU looks great as usual this year. MU? Better than average, I would say......nothing special really.

I still really dislike the SEC......miss KU and Big 12!

Have a good 2013 everyone!!


DDDHawk 1 year, 3 months ago

Congratulations, Naadir! Your hard work is paying off!


Benjamin Piehler 1 year, 3 months ago

Tharpe is the man.

Happy New Years, hawk nation!


Sam Constance 1 year, 3 months ago

Great writeup. I've been impressed with Naadir's growth and development, but it's getting hard to find players who haven't grown and matured under Self's tutelage.

It also sounds like Naadir has an excellent brother in Tishaun. He probably deserves just as much credit as Self for Tharpe's steady improvement.


CostaRicanHawk 1 year, 3 months ago

Rock, at which part that? That he couldn't benefit from a 5th yr, or that I think that he needs to prove his recent awesome play as of the last 4 games to continue on thru conference play to solidify his starting spot for next yr. Or that that next years crop of freshman aren't gonna give him serious competition for a starting spot come conference play. Please be more specific in your concerns, add some content please. Not just " r u serious "complaints, that's not adding any insight to your distaste of my opinionated question!


DI77ON 1 year, 3 months ago

Unrelated to this article, but here is the team celebrating in the locker room:


CostaRicanHawk 1 year, 3 months ago

KuGrad listed 7 players above of which 5 of them had red shirted thus helping them to develope into the players we love to watch game in & game out. I am as ecstatic as any jay hawk fan is at the progress Nadir has made thus far into his sophomore campaign, but as far as being a shoe-in for the starting/leader of this team role for next year is still up in the air. Next years team is gonna be very young which is unconventional for a HCBS team, i have a feeling he's gonna let the young-ins play more minutes then what we r accustomed to seeing. I would love if Nadir can continue this level of performance week in & week out during conference play where we have 2 games every week, which would then prove to coach that he is ready to handle that role. My question is Tharpe seems to me another player that would benefit from having a 5th yr., if so when is that redshirt yr gonna be? With the level talent coming in next year would it be smart for him to take it next yr while providing his experience in practice everyday and teaching from the bench during games. I just don't see him as a 4yr player and waiting to redshirt between his jr & sr year.


iamakufan 1 year, 3 months ago

Naadir is not only a good basketball player, he seems to be the kind of young man I like to see as a representative of the University of Kansas.


KansasComet 1 year, 3 months ago

Sounds like an excellent older brother. I love watching this young man develop as a basketball player. He is only going to get better!!


Rockinhawk 1 year, 3 months ago

I took my kids to bill self basketball camp last summer. Tharpe was far and away the most engaging and fun player with the kids. My boys loved playing hoops with him and he genuinely seemed to enjoy it. I've always had high hopes for him since meeting him in person and seeing his great personality up close.


Suzi Marshall 1 year, 3 months ago

It's great to see Tharpe getting through those screens, instead of going behind them! I hope he keeps pushing his limits this year with all the veteran support because next year, he's our will be Tharpe's team. For now, let's focus on winnig the Big 12 and playing into April.


Thomas Michaud 1 year, 3 months ago

When Doc gets another opportunity to coach again, and the Director for Basketball Operations opens up, I nominate Tishaun Jenkins to take the spot.


fansincewilt 1 year, 3 months ago

Every year I wonder, "What are we going to do next year?" Some years back that was a reasonable worry. I"m starting to think that is not so much a worry now. It seems to appear that Coach really knows what he is doing. Remarkable! But, how do you replace a Jeff Withey? Who is our next year lock down defender that is around 6'6" or so? I really don't think we have a worry. I think I will just enjoy this year's ride. It looks like it could be another long one, maybe even another trip to the final four but it is really much too early to start thinking about that. It is fun, though. I did not begin to guess the emergence of Young or Tharpe. Wow, was I off! I'm not going to worry about these freshmen either. They will be ready next year. Self just may be the best coach in college basketball. It is really interesting to hear those talk of Ohio State after their dismantling by Self. Before, they were one of the top teams in the country. Then, after Self, they are not. Even after Duke edged them out for a victory, they were still considered one of the best. Some now have them the fourth best in the Big 10. We'll see.


Steve Gantz 1 year, 3 months ago

Go home and be a father Nadir. Forget KU basketball.


Steve Kubler 1 year, 3 months ago

Couple of months ago everyone was talking about the big hole behind Elijah and the lack of a suitable person to fill it. Nice job in taking that topic and covering it with dirt Nadiir!

My babies have all flown but I can still remember that look. Once you see that and they curl that tiny hand around your finger you are lost, and happy about it.


HawkKlaw 1 year, 3 months ago

Good to see Naadir finally getting some love around these parts! I suppose that will happen when your backup PG goes out and gets 12 assists, along with 9 pts and 4 rebs in just 20 minutes. What a contribution!

It just goes to show that Naadir has learned and developed immensely every time he's gotten the quick hook from Bill Self, every time he's turned the ball over (which was a LOT last year), and every time he's gotten blown by on defense.

As for comparisons, he is certainly no A.I. or RussRob. Iverson was a slasher/scorer (not Naadir's game) and RussRob was a defensive stopper (also not Naadir's game). I would argue that he's got a similar skill set to Aaron Miles (a true facilitating PG with good shooting form...sans the greatness thus far). I'm not saying Naadir and Aaron are identical players, but the similarities in their style of play are there.

Like it or not Naadir is being prepped to take over as the starting PG at KU. He's got the experience of playing on a team that went to the National Championship game last year and now he's developing the skills to be a big contributor in games like that. I only wish brock and/or midwest_muser were here so I could say "I told you so."


Woody Cragg 1 year, 3 months ago

Good copy Gary. True when you lose a parent you face a vulnerabilty like never before. This is just the type of kid that you want to pull for. At times it seems as Self can be too harsh with critique, but he knows much better where the hot buttons are to motivate & not hammer. Sure hope Nadir can get his degree and be all he can for that little girl. Parenthood is the most widely abused privilege on the planet IMO, & it is a privilege. So he has so much more on his plate than just hoops. But that can be a means to a wonderful future & end also. Good luck Nadir, I've a feeling you'll figure i)t all out. These are absolutely the best years of your life. Stand tall (no pun intended) & ride the wave.


ccarp 1 year, 3 months ago

Hard work and determination are paying off, keep it up Naadir! Talent develops and can shine at Kansas, ask RusRob, Thomas Robinson, Releford, and Withey. keep the focus, we need you; now and the next couple of seasons! I love the dishes of late, as well as watching you create steals in the paint while opposing big men lower the ball trying to figure out when to go up against those 7 foot fan blades. Rock Chalk!


REHawk 1 year, 3 months ago

Has been a joy watching Naadir devlop. I have to admit that I had about lost confidence in his collegiate ability to measure up to recruiting expectation. A few weeks ago I saw him as a merely "serviceable" Jayhawk point guard. Was I ever prematurely dumb!


mae 1 year, 3 months ago

Be sure to get her some earplugs Naa.


TheBoHawk 1 year, 3 months ago

Lost my dad at the same age he did. All I can say about it that It's a miracle in itself he made it to KU.


Scott MacWilliams 1 year, 3 months ago

Mr. Tharpe, I am so glad you decided to prove Coach Self wrong about being able to dominate a game. Maybe you aren't there yet, but it sure likes you are getting there fast!!!

You know he wouldn't have brought you here unless he had reason to believe that you would do great things as a Jayhawk. These things sometimes take more time than a young man would like, but you have stayed the course and man has it paid off!!! If you haven't already, why don't you talk to Anrio and let him know to stay with it, too.

As far as Amara's eyes, you are sunk, my man. You have seen the light that shines from within those little angels!! I have my own theory about what makes little ones so darned irresistible. I think it has to do with their phenomenal growth and learning rate, like a little slow-motion love-bomb!! Good luck with her!

Rock Chalk, TharpeHawk!!


RJ King 1 year, 3 months ago

Thank you Tishaun for looking after Naadir. It's not easy being 18, 19 away from home, a student athlete, baby girl, and at the same time adjusting to the loss of a father. Sounds like you are both motivating him and providing a good perspective.

PS: nice article TK


theboehr 1 year, 3 months ago

"I don't compare myself to anybody"

"If anybody, I'd say more like Chris Paul, maybe ... Steve Nash"


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