Tuesday, February 12, 2013


Opinion: Naadir Tharpe big reason nightmare stretch is over

Kansas guard Naadir Tharpe steals the ball from Kansas State guard Rodney McGruder during the second half on Monday, Feb. 11, 2013.

Kansas guard Naadir Tharpe steals the ball from Kansas State guard Rodney McGruder during the second half on Monday, Feb. 11, 2013.


Podcast episode

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

KU coach Bill Self talks after win over Kansas State

KU coach Bill Self talks after his team's 83-62 victory over Kansas State on Feb. 11, 2013.

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Podcast episode

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

Jeff Withey, Ben McLemore and Naadir Tharpe

Kansas players Jeff Withey, Ben McLemore and Naadir Tharpe talk to reporters following the Jayhawks' 83-62 victory over Kansas State on Feb. 11, 2013.

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Podcast episode

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

KSU coach Bruce Weber, Rodney McGruder, Will Spradling

Kansas State coach Bruce Weber, Rodney McGruder and Will Spradling talk after KSU's 83-62 loss to Kansas on Feb. 11, 2013.

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Box score


Ben McLemore deflected credit about his great Monday night in Allen Fieldhouse the way the teammate seated to his right, Jeff Withey, rejected shots all night. And when he shared the credit, McLemore sent the praise in the direction of the man seated to his left, sophomore point guard Naadir Tharpe.

McLemore torched Kansas State for 30 points, making nine of 13 shots and six of 10 three-pointers in helping Kansas to an 83-62 blowout victory.

“Naadir, he helped me out with a lot of passes,” McLemore said.

Later, when asked if he felt as if he were “in a zone,” McLemore repeated the praise.

“I feel like my teammates definitely got me in a zone, especially Naadir finding me on the wing, just creating offense and getting me open,” McLemore said.

Senior Elijah Johnson was limited to 12 first-half minutes because he picked up two fouls, and Tharpe responded by playing the half of his life at both ends of the court. In 14 first-half minutes, Tharpe had six of his eight assists, didn’t turn it over and scored all seven of his points.

Tharpe put extraordinary pressure on the defense, sending passes in all directions. He whipped one-handed bounce passes to Kevin Young in the post. He also collapsed the defense with drives to the paint punctuated by his passes to an open McLemore on the wing or corner.

Despite surrendering about a half-foot to him, Tharpe played exceptional first-half defense on K-State’s leading scorer, Rodney McGruder, who scored 18 of his 20 points in the second half.

The second half didn’t go as well for Tharpe, but by then, the game was well in hand after KU took a 47-29 lead into the break.

“I just tried to create for my teammates,” Tharpe said. “Coach has been on me, nagging me about getting in the lane and finding people and Kevin was available a lot of times, so that was someone I was finding as well as Ben, who was knocking down shots.”

Kansas still didn’t get accurate shooting from the two players who share point-guard duties — Tharpe and Elijah Johnson combined to make four of 15 shots and one of eight three-pointers. Tharpe tends to shoot too often, but on this night, especially in the first half, he did a brilliant job of doing what point guards are supposed to do, which is to bring out the best in the other four players on the floor.

With the ball in Tharpe’s hands, McLemore dropping his beautiful jumper in the net and Young and Withey combining for 30 points, 19 rebounds and six blocked shots, Kansas looked more like the No. 5 team it was a week ago and less like the No. 14 team it became after losing three in a row to Oklahoma State, TCU in horrid fashion, and Oklahoma.

Kansas wore cement shoes in the TCU game and strapped on jet packs against K-State.

“Coach has been getting on us about playing fast a lot,” Tharpe said. “He’s been telling us to just go out there and play. I felt like a lot of times we really weren’t running sets, we were just out there playing together and it was flowing. With Ben making shots and everybody else making shots it made us look really good and it helped us out.”

Sometimes a low-scoring, grind-it-out victory does as much or more for a team as a pretty blowout. But in this case, after an eight-day month, no tonic could do as much for this team’s psyche as a high-scoring blowout that put the crowd in a frenzy.

The world did not end for Kansas when it lost three in a row for the first time in eight seasons. The nightmare did end Monday night, and Tharpe had more than a subtle hand in its passing.


HawkKlaw 1 year, 2 months ago

I've been waiting for a breakout game from Naadir all year! There were a ton of doubters here on this site early this season but it's good to see everyone starting to come around. Tharpe's been a better facilitator than Elijah all along, his defense just wasn't up to par to start the season. But after watching him keep MacGruder down in the first half on Monday, it's clear that his "D" is no longer an issue. Naadir deserves any minutes he gets! He's going to be a fantastic PG at KU. I still highly doubt that Self will start Naadir over Elijah this season, but I wouldn't argue with the move if he did.


AsadZ 1 year, 2 months ago

Nice higlights from yesterday's game including locker room celebration/dancing


hammerhawk 1 year, 2 months ago

Tharpe?!!??!! This is the player that everyone is hanging his hat on!??!! One half of play?!?!?! Couple of savy dribbles and passes!!?? Oh my...

Well, I hope you're all right on this.


coolhand357 1 year, 2 months ago

When it comes down to it, on both sides of the ball, the whole tream played twice as fast when Tharpe was making the plays. It was a wake-up call for the entire team. Guys were getting quick passes like they hadn't seen in recent games. Do you remember the pass-back to Withey after Tharpe drove the lane early in the game? It hit Withey square in the chest and bounced off! From that point on, Withey was quick and ready. The whole team played in fast-forward mode because of the Tharpe "spark plug". All McLemore needed was separation to make shots, and the pace of the game afforded him the opportunity to score 30. As in all successful Kansas teams, the point sets the pace... and that is exactly what is needed the rest of the way.


knappy78 1 year, 2 months ago

The biggest problem with this year's team is that its most talented defensive players are not the most talented offensive players. You can't count on Withey and Releford going off for 30 points each night, nor can you expect McLemore to play lock-down defense of the other team's best player for 40 minutes.

During the winning streak, I believe player development suffered since most of the games were close wire-to-wire. Self didn't have the opportunity to work the younger players into the games, like he normally would with a comfortable lead, so players like Tharpe, Ellis, and Traylor haven't been able to make the kinds of strides we expect to see at this time of the season from the bench.

What was most encouraging last night was Tharpe's presence on the defensive end. As we know, Self values defense first, so if Tharpe can continue to be solid on that end, he can continue to run the dynamic offense we saw last night. Hopefully, that will lead to bigger score differentials, which will lead to more PT for the rest of the young guys. For this team to be deadly in March, it needs players like Ellis and Traylor to become weapons off the bench, like Aldrich in '08.


Tony Bandle 1 year, 2 months ago

Please remember the leap in ability, strength, confidence and basketball savvy that the Morrii made between their freshman and sophomore years. You really don't know what you have in a freshman until you see him play a season.

Perry will need to be Hudy-ized to build up his strength, increase his focus, cultivate a mental toughness and fight to become an impact player, just like Markieff and Marcus did.

Next year will be fascinating to watch with the 9-10 man rotation a battle between one senior, one junior, five sophomores and as many as six freshman. they might as well call us the University of Kansas BabyJays!!

If a genie gave me a bunch of wishes, the line-up would be , Tharpe, Selden, Frankamp, Randle and Jo Jo, with Ellis, Greene, AWII, Lucas and Traylor off the bench.

We're gonna be young and wild but it sure will be fun but I still better hide the remote once the game starts!!!


midwest_muser 1 year, 2 months ago

Three of my buddies from around the country texted me during the game to comment on how good our cheerleaders were...


William Blake 1 year, 2 months ago

"Kansas wore cement shoes in the TCU game and strapped on jet packs against K-State."

Tom... this sentence put you to the top of my list for this year! Job well done!

Naadir brings energy, optimism and penetration to this team. Something desperately needed (and totally lacking the past 3 games).

Eventually Naadir will offer other gifts to this team... primarily... leadership! He is beginning to turn the corner on defense and is going from being a liability to asset on d. Naadir just has to focus on what he brings to the game, and maximize his potential with what he has.

His lack of length can be compensated for with speed and headiness. There are times he can even accentuate his lack of length by playing even smaller and hiding behind and beside bigger players. Throw in a bit of anticipation and speed and he will be rewarded with several steals every game.

Naadir should pay close attention to Saturday's game. Especially the part where we hang Mario's jersey. He has what it takes to earn a spot in the rafters some day. What he has (most of all) is the burning fire inside to win games. Here is a guy who wants control of the ball at the end. His first choice is to be the facilitator for someone else scoring. If that isn't there he certainly doesn't mind shooting the ball down the stretch.

Without Tharpe last night I still think we would have won. We would have won another one of those "ugly wins." We played with determination (as a team) and won almost every 50/50 ball. But we would have had to win it down the wire if we didn't have Tharpe. He made the game go easy for us... like it should. He penetrated with ease and he broke down KSU's quality team defense. From that point on we had an easy game that was fun to watch.

Nothing ugly about this win!


REHawk 1 year, 2 months ago

Our point guard of the future certainly went a long way toward establishing his taproot last night. A sigh of relief for those of us who have voiced serious concern about guard play for 2013-14. Naadir has silenced a great deal of criticism, reassured everyone concerned. Now if Self can just find more playing opportunities for Rio, a kid who possesses the speed, body and enthusiasm of a young Tyshawn Taylor, and perhaps without the developmental baggage. Even tho Rio earned two turnovers last night, the first was a split second hesitation to pass, accompanied by starting players not racing to openings to help save him. The hesitation on everyone's part is a matter of experience among a lineup of players not in complete sync. The second turnover was a hodge-podge situation which could have happened to any of our starters. Rio has the reach, quickness and urgency of desire to do well. If he can remain patient I envision his playing a key role in successful Jayhawk hoops by this date next season. I really hope that he can see more game time this year, so as to seal his decision to return, also to clock the experience which will be so valuable once EJ and Ben are gone. This kid is bound to explode someday somewhere, literally setting fire to a stat sheet. I can't imagine how difficult it is for him now, trying to throttle the urgency to race to the rim, knowing that he does not yet possess the collegiate knowhow or green light to do it.


Blake Brown 1 year, 2 months ago

Great article.

One slight correction to the comment "Kansas looked more like the No. 5 team it was a week ago and less like the No. 14 team it became after losing three in a row to Oklahoma State, TCU in horrid fashion, and Oklahoma."

We were #2 in the AP before losing to OSU and dropped to #5 before the next 2 losses.

One slight addition. I`m in favor of Tharpe starting at point and EJ coming off the bench.

EJ is still turning it over carelessly, missing wide open shots and making poor decisions on both ends.
How many times does it take before he realizes he cant dribble through 2 defenders? How many times does it take for him to keep from putting the ball in front of the defender? How many times does it take to stop driving to the baseline, getting cornered and jumping in the air to make a pass to anyone to get out of the jam? How many end of the game, end of the court to end of the court drives with a resulting TO or missed lay in does it take before we put the ball in someone elses hands?

Bring EJ in as a 2 guard. Leave Rio out of the equation. Adams, like White, Ellis and Traylor have not contributed positively on a consistent basis other that providing a few minutes rest for our regulars. At least Traylor is not costing us on the defensive end and recently has improved with his passing offensively.

Great win against the Cats. Let`s bring it like that every night.


KMathis 1 year, 2 months ago

Elijah Johnson. Very clear he is not a point guard. Yes, he's a shooting guard, even though he's been shooting mostly blanks recently. Naadir Tharpe needs to start and play more minutes because he is the only one who has proven capable of beating opposing guards off the dribble. I think much of what is wrong with Johnson is now between the ears. He hasn't just lost his mojo... he's beyond a "slump". In his KU career, Johnson has shot 55.3% FG as a frosh... 50.0% FG as a soph... 43.0% as a junior ... and a lowly 36.5% FG as a senior. No one is more accountable for KU's slide in 2013 than the subpar play of EJ... love him or not... those are the facts. KU's struggles began on Jan 19th with Texas.. squeaking out a come-from-behind win in Austin. Guess who shot 1-11 in that game with more turnovers than assists? Johnson. We then squeaked by at K-State by 4 as we held on. Johnson was 3-10 shooting with 5 turnovers and 4 assists in that game. Next up was OU, who we handled at home... and Johnson was 3-8 with 4 turnovers and 2 assists. Next was West Virginia. Johnson was 2-4 in that one with 3 turnovers and 5 assists... his best game in KU's last 8 games. We then lost to OSU, courtesy of 3-14 shooting (1-7 from three) and 4 turnovers... we then lost at TCU.. courtesy of Johnson's 3-12 shooting ... 0-2 free throws... and 3 turnovers to one assist. Lost at OU with Johnson 3-11, 2-4 from line, 3 turnovers to 4 assists... and yesterday against K-State... all KU starters shot 50% from field or better and scored double digits... EXCEPT Johnson... who was 1-6 shooting with 4 turnovers to 3 assists.

In his last 8 games... Johnson is 19-76 shooting... that's 25% folks. He has 25 assists to 29 turnovers. That's a horrendous ratio. I'm not BLAMING Elijah Johnson. Just pointing out that as much as he wants it and is trying... he's clearly trying to do too much. He is not a point guard and his taking 37 shots in our 3 losses certainly didn't help our cause. His shot attempts in those 3 losses.. were his 2nd, 3rd and 4th most shot attempts in any games this season. Naadir Tharpe will struggle.. but his struggles are better than what we can expect out of Johnson. All the post-game interviews and articles are commentary from guys like McLemore commenting on how many open looks he got courtesy of Tharpe. I didn't see EJ mentioned one time... other than to reference his 2 fouls in first half.. mandating Tharpe had the opportunity. Very obvious KU has issues with their personnel creating their own shot or creating dribble penetration looks for teammates. Tharpe clearly best equipped for that. We can't handle 25% shooting from a guy who takes the 2nd most shots on the team and who also leads the team handily in turnovers. Making an average of 1-5 three point attempts doesn't cut it. Johnson had 71 turnovers in all of last year... 35 games. He already has 77 turnovers this year... with about a dozen games to go.


cajayfan 1 year, 2 months ago

Self is staying with Elijah because he knows most of his woes are mental. He knows putting him on the bench would really only make his head game worse and he knows his only chance of getting him out of this is to support him. We all remember his fight in the NCAA tourney last year. Elijah ia a four year guy and he deserves his coach's support. I see him working his butt off. I also think some of the younger guys look up to him and having him there at the start gives them confidence also.


archercc 1 year, 2 months ago

I blame Tharpe's down second half on Self. Tharpe couldnt lose in the first and he only left the game for a quick blow or two. In the second, despite being the VAAAAAAAAASSSSSSSSTTTTTTTTTLLLLLLLLLYYYYY superior player Self started EJ over him for a long time.

That screws his rhythm and doesnt help the confidence either. I just dont get the logic in it. It took continued medocre play and then a couple of back to back boneheaded plays for Self to finally switch back and by then Tharpe was cold.

I just don't get it, why would you swap out a guy who cant make a mistake for a guy who has been in a funk for a long time that early in the game?


monkeehawkSL8 1 year, 2 months ago

I'm not trying to start a fight with anyone, no major disagreement, I would ask all to consider the following.

1) How many players have come to KU with huge expectations, not met them and left way to early for a "career" in the NBA? 2) How many players have KU played against over the years that were 2, 3, 4 star players without huge expectations that played sound fundamental ball, went on to have successful NBA careers? And torched us in their college careers.

My point is and feel free to roast me, (like I need to give permission) we, I have no idea how any young player is going to react to D1 ball. I don't think we do any helpful service to any future Jayhawk deciding ahead of time that a player won't contribute, or that they are the next year's savior. Watching them develop is pure joy if your a "real" fan. Frank, Conner, Joel etc. who knows? I don't, but I'm looking forward to it. Admittedly the "real" fan statement was sarcastic. I still have not seen the official KU Real Fan Guidelines, thanks, monk. (where can I get a copy?)


Steve Yeakel 1 year, 2 months ago

Bill is the best coach in the country, I would never trade him for anyone, but he needs to put in Naadir as his point guard. Harbaugh put in Colin over Smith and made the Super Bowl. Bill has a similar opportunity if he gives Dir the point and time to work out the kinks, and keeps giving Perry all the minutes he can to develop a strong post presence, before we reach the big tourney.


Dale Stringer 1 year, 2 months ago

Disagree - although Tharpe helped. The biggest difference maker I saw was Young - making 66% of his shots vs his usually 25%. He has been lucky to make 5 points most night. Last night he went 6 of 9 and 1 of 2 FTs for 13 points. He also had a block and a steal. The last couple of games, the stuff he tosses up has been a defensive rebound, fast break and two points for the other teams. Last night he made sure he scored by jamming in most his shots instead of trying to finesse them in. He still threw up a couple prayer shots, but this time some of them went in


Scut Farkus 1 year, 2 months ago

Tharpe will not be starter this year but he will be on the floor for at least 25 min. per game. KU's biggest problem right now is Ellis. The game is way to fast for him. Realistically, KU has a 6 man team.


hawkdiek 1 year, 2 months ago

Tharpe had a great game, (first half) no doubt. Let's not forget about his shooting woes and freshman like play at times. This will be his show to run next year, but I feel he is going to cause me more "bang head here" times in the future. That being said, I do think he should be allowed to run point, but where do you take the minutes from, Young and Relly? Not sure I want to sit EJ, I think he will come out of his funk and be crucial come March. CS has some hard decisions to make to get ready for a run.


Jonathan Allison 1 year, 2 months ago

This is Tharpe's team next year. Coach Self almost never will let a sophomore guard out of the toughening box. Tharpe is getting more freedom than most sophomore guards get at KU, but that's only because Coach is depending on him more than he would prefer.

Self will leave Tharpe in the pressure cooker this year, but next year Self will be Tharpe's best bud. Remember the tough love Self gave to Sherron in Sherron's Jr year? Self stopped just short of giving Sherron a free pass to do whatever he wanted in the game because he knew that Sherron was the horse he had to ride, but Self still found ways to prod and motivate Sherron, especially early on when Sherron reported to campus overweight.

I expect that next year Self will give Tharpe a lot of tough love, but unlike this year it will clearly be more love than just tough.

And also, I don't expect Frank Mason to contribute any more than Tharpe did last year. So any of the Frank Mason can't get here fast enough talk just sounds foolish to me. Frank will be buried next year behind Tharpe, Adams, and Frankamp. He may turn out to be a star in his career if he toughs it out and follows the example set by other guys who have waited their turn, and made themselves ready for when they got their chance, but next year he should make his name as a tough practice player and an enthusiastic teammate on the bench.


Kent Noble 1 year, 2 months ago

Self definitely needs to give Tharpe more credit. He rides that kid all the time, but really that's all we have right now because EJ is not getting the job done. With Tharpes performance last night coach Self should feel somewhat relieved that he has at least one point willing to run the team. Bill needs to realize that EJ just doesn't have what it takes to be a true point gaurd. I understand Bill will start EJ because he is a Senior and really there is no where else for EJ in the starting line up. Hopefully Tharpe will keep coming off the bench and playing well that's all we can ask of him. Maybe it's better he dosen't start Naadir that way he won't feel so much pressure! Great game Naadir keep up the good work.


KMathis 1 year, 2 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.


Scott Smetana 1 year, 2 months ago

Tharpe should be starting and playing 35 minutes a game. Seems like everyone feels this way but Self.


jackv444 1 year, 2 months ago

Self had nothing positive to say about Tharpe to Holly Rowe going to half time - why is he so negatvie to Tharpe's positive contributions? Alos, did Self make any good comments about Tharpe's play after the game - ESPN took note numerous times during the game. EVRYONE knows EJ can't do what Tharpe is doing at this time.


jhox 1 year, 2 months ago

Good things happen when the point guard gets in the paint. I think part of Tharpe's problem is that he's been so afraid to make a mistake and get pulled, that he'd forgotten how to just play basketball and have fun. Last night he quit thinking so much and started having fun and being creative. There is no question he deserves the starting job. We're a much better team with him running the offense.


thmdmph 1 year, 2 months ago

Being a fellow D1 state school. I'm glad KSU was part of KU's Big Ben's birthday party


BucknellJayhawk3 1 year, 2 months ago

Loved watching the hawks play when Naadir and EJ don't shoot as much! It just looked like smarter basketball. If they can just get Ben or somebody else open we're doing better than if they shoot it. If Ben and EJ both take 15 shots in a game the only difference is that Ben scores 25 and EJ might score 12. Come on Self, pull in the reigns a little tighter!


Janet Scott 1 year, 2 months ago

Tom, is it true KSU recently invested their entire endowment in North Korea's economy, with millions of KSU dollars poured into North Korea's manure futures, which turned "sour" yesterday?


Charles Logan 1 year, 2 months ago

Thape does need to stop dribbling behind his back all the time tho... it's unneccesary, and could lead to unforced TURNOVERS! Use it when you need it Naadir, NOT to show off...


mojayhawk 1 year, 2 months ago

Naa drives me crazy sometimes, but he DOES drive the ball. This team desperately needs Naa to be the one to break down defenses, kick out, and even score when open. He is the key to EJ returning to a starring role as a 2. He is the key to the rest of the season. Naa needs to learn to protect the ball consistently, and maybe not dribble as much, but his quickness is unmatched on the court. Great job, Naa. We need you.


nostradavid 1 year, 2 months ago

Naa nailed it tonight!

I'm glad the 'Cats could spend the night last night.


Phoggy_Notion 1 year, 2 months ago

sigh....Naadir penetrates and scores. Naadir penetrates and creates. Naadir shoots without hesitation. Naadir is comfortable with the ball when the clock(both shot and game) is running down. Naadir plays with poise. Naadir is quickness. Naadir is(currently) the only PG we have on this team.

-Give Tharpe the start saturday, and the opportunity to build off of a quality performance. Let him be in the game when its 0-0, rather than have to come in off the bench and play salvation mins.

There is no way EJ's play will be any worse coming off the bench, than it has been as a starter. Give him the nod to provide minutes for any of our 1-3 spots, and see what type of production results. At a certain point this type of struggle has to be experimented with.


Hank Cross 1 year, 2 months ago

This is a tough situation. The eyeballs say that Tharpe deserves the starting PG position, but Self has always stuck with the upperclassmen see Robinson over Collins. My guess is that Tharpe becomes the de facto point guard and EJ become the Point Guard In Name Only and he and Rele will have to split minutes.


dumbarton 1 year, 2 months ago

Great article, Tom. Now Self has a blueprint that he can refer Naadir to. What is really exciting is the thought that Naadir and BMac appear to have some co-mojo going down.


up4par2000 1 year, 2 months ago

Rio - start making the most of your minutes, so we can start running 3 point guards.


Steve Zimmerman 1 year, 2 months ago

Tom, why do you start calling your column 'opinion'? This is pretty good writing. Not so much of opinion, in my opinion. It's a good article to read.


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