Kansas University junior Naadir Tharpe knows why he was stripped of his starting point guard duties during recent nonconference basketball losses at Colorado and Florida.
“I wasn’t doing anything to really help out the team, help out the guys,” Tharpe said after dishing nine assists and scoring eight points while regaining his starting spot and playing 37 minutes in Saturday’s 80-63 victory over New Mexico in Sprint Center.
“The team we have ... the guys stuck with me, coach stuck with me. Like I’ve said before, it’s all about confidence,” added Tharpe, who followed a 10-assist, one turnover outing against Iona on Nov. 19 with 15 assists against eight TOs the next four contests.
His so-so effort in those games, which included 8-for-26 shooting, led to coach Bill Self starting freshman Frank Mason on the two-game road trip.
“That’s how it’s supposed to be,” Tharpe said of his being disciplined by his coach. “He’s not around the dudes as much besides at practice. I have to make sure I’m the second voice out there. The games we were losing ... I put a lot of that on me.”
Self, who after the UNM game expressed how much he’d been “disappointed in him, not in his play as much, but his ownership and how he’s helping the other guys,” indicated Tharpe took a major step in the right direction Saturday.
“Naa had a really good game,” Self said. “He had a couple bonehead plays the second half, but for the most part played really well. We didn’t try to hit home runs. We were hitting a bunch of singles, making easy plays. We played through our bigs. It was kind of how we want to play.”
The Jayhawk players, who have nothing against backup point guard Mason (one assist, no turnovers, six minutes against UNM), nonetheless seem to relish having an experienced player like Tharpe around.
“Naadir is a good leader,” said freshman big man Joel Embiid, who had 17 points the second half against New Mexico as KU expanded on a narrow one-point halftime lead. “He’s always talking, telling us what to do. He gave us great energy for the second half and we were playing better.”
“He distributed the ball well and led us,” said sophomore forward Perry Ellis, who had 21 points, 13 the final half. “That’s what a point guard is supposed to do. He led us to the win.”
Tharpe knows how to break opponents’ zone defenses.
“We’ve got to get the ball to the middle,” Tharpe said, “to get it to Jo Jo and Perry because they are some of our best big passers and Jamari (Traylor) as well. (In) the last couple of games we lost, the teams played the majority (of game) zone. We had to make sure in practice we worked on the zone and were able to be aggressive.”
Tharpe believes he and his teammates are back on track heading into Saturday’s 11 a.m. home game against Georgetown.
“It boosts our morale, gives us energy, gives us confidence,” Tharpe said of the victory, which busted a slump that included three losses in four tries. “Basketball is a game of confidence. Basketball is a game of runs. We were able to come back in Kansas City, our fans helping us out and playing like we did, it was a great win.”
KU on Saturday will be playing at home for the first time since a 88-58 win over Towson on Nov. 22.
“It’s been awhile,” Tharpe said. “It’s good we had those (road) games. Everybody keeps saying we have a young team. We are a young team, but to go on the road and play those games will only help us get better. It doesn’t get any easier from here. We have to make sure each and every game and practice we come out with the same mindset and be ready to attack and do the game plan.”
Things figure to go a lot smoother if Tharpe builds on his last game.
“He played well. He’s a good player. He was one of our most improved players over the summer,” Self said on his Hawk Talk radio show. “We’ve got to get a lot better before we start talking about guys playing well. Everybody has a big step we could take to get to the point where we could play like a team that hopefully has a chance to compete for another league championship.”
Hinson rant: Former KU director of basketball operations Barry Hinson, the head coach at Southern Illinois, tore into his team during a post-game rant to reporters after a loss to Murray State on Tuesday.
Hinson referred to his players as “mama’s boys” after the 73-65 loss. He ripped guard Marcus Fillyaw for having a bad game.
“I’m not going to fake who I am. I’m an emotional guy and I love my players, but I was frustrated with their overall lack of effort. I felt bad about mentioning one of my player’s names. That was a mistake,” Hinson told ESPN.com.
Hinson also tweeted: “It was wrong of me to single out a specific player. I apologized to Marcus and team. I stand by the rest of my comments. Go Dawgs!”
Mario Moccia, the school’s athletic director supported Hinson.
“Barry cares about his players,” Moccia said. “I know this is not the season he wanted to have after 10 games (2-8). The losses have mounted, and he’s frustrated. I just wish he didn’t call out the players specifically and would have used more generalities.
“I know he’s a good man,’’ Moccia added. “But he can have these Yosemite Sam bombastic outbursts.’’
SIU senior forward Davante Drinkard responded to Hinson on Twitter: “I can’t believe the little man had the nerve to call us mama’s boys. Smh. I guess this is where Our team learns to point the finger.”
“He has the right to do that. If I have the right as a coach to go into a press conference and talk about our team, I can’t get upset at a player that wants to fire back on a tweet either,” Hinson told the “Dan Patrick Show” on DirecTV as reported by ESPN. “Freedom of speech, I’m all about that and I understand it.”
To watch Hinson’s response at his Wednesday news conference, click here.
Big game for Cliff: KU signee Cliff Alexander scored 35 points with 15 rebounds, six blocks and four steals in Chicago Curie High’s 82-56 victory over Chicago King on Tuesday. KU assistant Jerrance Howard was in the stands for the game. The 6-foot-9 center, who is ranked No. 4 nationally by Rivals.com, refused to talk to reporters after the game, according to the Chicago Sun Times. He reportedly is upset about media reports detailing his two technical fouls against St. Rita. Alexander had 19 points for Curie (5-0) in the first half.
White questionable: KU sophomore Andrew White III is questionable for Saturday’s game against Georgetown, coach Bill Self told the Journal-World on Wednesday. White has practiced on a limited basis this week after suffering a hip pointer at practice a week ago today.
Scheduling: Self, who has said repeatedly he has no plans to play Wichita State, won’t change his position with WSU coach Gregg Marshall continuing to speak publicly about wanting to play the Jayhawks.
“Hey, there’s a lot of people who would like to play us. We’ve not had a hard time getting a schedule. I’ll play people for what we feel is best for our program,” Self said. “It’s not a knock on anybody else. I’m more interested in our team. I’m not spending any energy thinking about scheduling right now.”