One of Naadir Tharpe’s tiniest, yet most vocal, fans resides in his hometown of Worcester, Mass.
That person is Naadir’s 9-month-old daughter, Amara Grace Tharpe, who voices her pleasure for her papa in an enthusiastic way.
“She gets to screaming ... I wouldn’t say crying, but screaming like she wants to be talking to somebody,” Tharpe, Kansas University’s 5-foot-11, 170-pound sophomore basketball point guard, said with a smile. “I enjoy that. She looks right up in my face like she wants to say my name.
“It’s crazy. A lot of times when I’m with her, I get real soft. I guess that’s what happens when you have your first little girl.”
Tharpe admits he’s head over heels for his first-born child, who came to Lawrence for a visit this past summer and will be back to watch her dad come off the bench for KU at times this season.
“I just love her. It’s hard not to love her,” Tharpe said. “You look at her eyes. They are so bright. It’s hard to explain.”
Tharpe, who played sparingly his first year out of Brewster Academy, went to work in the offseason to earn meaningful minutes behind starting point guard Elijah Johnson. He admits long sessions on the court and in the weight room have been easier to conquer because of added motivation in life.
“Everything I do is no longer for myself now. It’s everything for her,” Tharpe said, acknowledging there’s even more desire someday to play basketball for pay with a child in his life.
“Last year, coming in as a freshman, I found out I was having a little girl. At first I was nervous. Being a freshman and being a young dude, you don’t know what to expect from that as well as being in college away from her. I wasn’t able to see her born or anything like that. Things have definitely changed a lot.”
Tharpe’s daughter entered his life just a few years after he lost his dad, Ronald Edward Tharpe, to a battle with cancer in 2006.
“It’s weird when someone you love that’s so close passes away, you get somebody else,” Tharpe said. “I was able to receive my daughter. I feel she’s the up and coming of life.”
Tharpe has taken to the role of being a dad, said his roommate, KU freshman Rio Adams.
“He puts his daughter first, 24-7,” said Adams. “He talks to her all the time and talks about her all the time. She’s visited a couple times. She’s playful and sweet and doesn’t really cry much, which is abnormal for children her age. He’s definitely a natural.”
KU’s players and coaches say a new and improved Tharpe will take the court this season.
“I think Naadir has gotten a lot better,” KU coach Bill Self said, noting Tharpe “is a good shooter. If he and Rio play at a level they are capable of playing, I think we’ll be in pretty good shape (at backup point).”
Noted red-shirt freshman forward Jamari Traylor: “He’s going to lead the team in the future. I’ve got a lot of confidence in him. He’s made great progress. I know when he gets his chance to shine, it’ll be a good opportunity for him, and he’ll make a name for himself.”
Tharpe played sparingly in 32 games a year ago, totaling 29 points and 21 assists against 22 turnovers.
“I’m definitely going to make sure I do as much as I can to help out this year,” Tharpe said. “I felt I lacked in that last year.
“I felt I didn’t do what was needed to do to help my team, even though we made it to where we were at (national title game). It was because we had a senior point guard and other great players around him like Thomas (Robinson) and Travis (Releford) and Jeff (Withey). The team needed help from me. I didn’t feel I did what I needed to do. It opened my eyes to come out focused this year and play basketball. I’m going to come out and defend. That’s what I’m planning to do.”