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Thursday, March 21, 2013

Naadir Tharpe making most of opportunity

Kansas guard Naadir Tharpe laughs with assistant Joe Dooley prior to tipoff against West Virginia on Saturday, March 2, 2013 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Naadir Tharpe laughs with assistant Joe Dooley prior to tipoff against West Virginia on Saturday, March 2, 2013 at Allen Fieldhouse.

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Kansas guard Naadir Tharpe smiles after some words from head coach Bill Self following the Jayhawks' 91-65 win over West Virginia on Saturday, March 2, 2013 at Allen Fieldhouse.

During Kansas University’s six games in the 2012 NCAA Tournament, then-freshman point guard Naadir Tharpe did not play during the final four games of KU’s run to the national title game and logged just 17 minutes of combined court time against KU’s first two opponents.

He still thinks about it often.

“Definitely,” said Tharpe, following KU’s victory against Iowa State in the semifinals of the Big 12 tournament last week. “I was sitting on the bench, and I felt like I was useless to my team. At the end of the day, I tried to keep a good attitude, but I definitely think about that all the time, being on that bench. I don’t want that to ever happen again.”

Fortunately for Tharpe, that has not been the case this season, as the sophomore from Worcester, Mass., has become top-seeded KU’s top guard off the bench and logged six points and three assists per game while averaging 19 minutes per contest. The 5-foot-11 guard who ranks second on the team in assists (101) and fourth in three-point shooting (32-for-97, 33 percent) has appeared in all 34 games and filled a crucial role throughout the season.

“It’s definitely fun,” he said. “It’s what I wanted to do and why I came to this school. Just getting the chance to come out on the court and play, I’m just excited about that and try to produce as much as I can.”

As he prepares for his second NCAA experience, Tharpe admits to being excited about what lies ahead and understands he never would have reached this point had he not learned from the past.

“It’s all about timing,” Tharpe said. “When it’s time for you and (KU coach Bill Self) calls your name, you gotta be ready to step up and take on the challenge. Seeing the dudes from last year who didn’t play as much (before that), that was their year that they stepped up. Jeff (Withey), Elijah (Johnson), even (former KU guard Conner) Teahan. That’s what I learned the most. Your name’s gonna get called, it’s all a matter of what you do when it’s called.”

Asked what he thought helped Tharpe bridge the gap between bench warmer and first guard off the bench, Johnson answered with words that sounded as if they came from Tharpe himself.

“Opportunity, really,” Johnson said. “He got his opportunity, and he’s taking advantage of it.”

Johnson said he remembered Tharpe’s struggles as a true freshman.

“He was confused, and I think that most freshmen who come through here are confused. That would be Anrio Adams this year,” Johnson said. “Either you let that make you, or you let it break you. I let it make me, and right now, Naadir’s letting it make him. I’m proud of him, honestly.”

Asked where his confidence is heading into Friday’s 8:50 p.m. tipoff against No. 16 seed Western Kentucky, Tharpe did not hold back.

“Extremely high,” he said with a smile. “I feel like I can go out there and play with anybody. With coach giving me that confidence and my teammates, it’s hard not to be confident when I step out there now.”

Comments

Alex Wishart 1 year, 8 months ago

Damn! EJ put Rio on blast. Hopefully young Rio is just the next player in a long line of frustrated freshman turned beloved KU star. Or he could follow the what could have been transfer route. I guess we'll find out in the next month or so.

texashawk10 1 year, 8 months ago

That's not putting Rio on blast, that's just confirming that Rio is going through the same challenges many before Rio have gone through including EJ and Naadir. It is up to Rio to decide if he'll man up and become the player he is capable of being or if it's too much and tranfers elsewhere less stressful.

Phoggy_Notion 1 year, 8 months ago

wrong. EJ is simply acknowledging that what Rio is going through is something that is routine for most guards in the program.

mejayhawk 1 year, 8 months ago

Nevertheless, if you're Rio, you gotta stay now.

Steve Reigle 1 year, 8 months ago

It's known as a challenge and as support from someone who has been there, done that. Rio is going to be good. I think he's starting to "get it." I look forward to watching him play in the future.

Rock Chalk 1 year, 8 months ago

Go for it, Naadir! This is your time. We are behind you 100%.

I've read his nickname is Big Naads! Love it. He plays with such confidence and courage, I believe he lives up to the name. Rock Chalk, Baby!

Cameron Cederlind 1 year, 8 months ago

Tharpe and Ellis off the bench are going to be huge.

Aligned 1 year, 8 months ago

"Your name’s gonna get called, it’s all a matter of what you do when it’s called.”

Great line, NT. Good luck in the tournament.

Danny Hernandez 1 year, 8 months ago

IMHO, it's more than what you do when your name is called because, there is still the preparation from practice, and allowing the game to come to you. Even for the 5 star players, it doesn't come right away because the game is so much faster in college plus the players are just as big or bigger and as fast.

I really believe the freshman just need to slow down and realize it takes time. Absorbing the games in year one, summer practice improving one's game and year two, "breakout"

clevelandjayhawker 1 year, 8 months ago

There is a big list of players who wanted to transfer, but then gave it their all and they became men.

This is a reminder for us fans, if you come to KU you have to work, sometimes you have to wait for playing time, there are no off days, you have to work every day. For some that is not what they want, they would rather pickup a hat that says kentucky and not work or give it their all for a year then declare for the NBA.....these boys are not Jayhawks and will never become men they could be.

Congrats NT you deserve this, but keep working. Rio, Landen, Jamari and Andrew- This year is just getting your feet wet, playing time will be there if you work hard for it and give it your all. We as fans can all see the potential, next year will be your time to shine.

Rock Chalk

RJ King 1 year, 8 months ago

Actually, most of our players were never offered a scholarship by Kentucky, so we really have no idea what they would've done with an opportunity to pickup a UK hat.

For most of our guys, it was a choice between Kansas, maybe another high major or two, and/or several other less elite programs, where perhaps they could've played sooner and more minutes.

What we know is what they did with the opportunity that presented itself.

In choosing Kansas (whether they realized it at the time or not), they chose a chance to walk down the road of patience and perseverance that more closely resembles real life for most. And in staying the course, they certainly grow on us.

Phoggy_Notion 1 year, 8 months ago

This team has the ability to win a couple games without any production from the bench, but for the team to go 'all the way', WE MUST have production from Naadir and Perry/Jamari. If we can continue to get 20 ppg from our bench, this group is virtually unbeatable. Please, Guards, continue to attack the basket! RCJ

REHawk 1 year, 8 months ago

Andrew, stay ready. Somewhere in these next six games there just might become a super need for your brand of offense. These bigtime games seem always to provide extraordinary opportunities for spectacular action. Even if you and Rio see very little gametime, this tournament experience will pay huge dividends in oncoming years.

Kevin Jenkins 1 year, 8 months ago

Naadir has the ability to help us win it all. I heard Bill one time say he would love to get these players more involved earlier, but they have to watch and learn.Once they do, their minutes will increase. If you watch KU and the players that are playing, and those players are winning games for you. You have to learn how can you help this team, no matter how. I hope all the freshmen stay until next year. Some freshmen get to play all the time and don't learn how to win. Look at Kentucky and where are they now. Naadir has improved so much from last year and seems to understand what is expected of him. Rio should have a great next year. Also some freshmen should stay to work on their game. Look at so many 1 year players who left for the NBA and are nothing no-more. Rush, Shelby, etc.. Wow if they just waited and learned, they might be NBA stars or champions.. And one more that Randle left for UK. We will be okay, look at the players we have And UK will be stuck with too many players at the same position, and those players wondering and fighting each other over their time to play.

Mike Metoyer 1 year, 8 months ago

I hope Rio Adams becomes a stud here, but please never stop doing this....

Ryan Michael 1 year, 8 months ago

This kid has so much emotion and character... I really hope he learns how to harness it and use it completely to his advantage.

I think he has amazing potential, not just offensively but defensively. Just stick with it Rio! Jayhawk nation is behind you, just be patient bud!

Kevin Huffman 1 year, 8 months ago

Yeah, he put a foot in his mouth....Lord knows Tyshawn did it a multitude of times.

But you and us fans grow into a lovefest appreciation over the years and development. There's more to it than just patience....there's work & learning, but YOU ARE CAPABLE Anrio.

WETSUhawk 1 year, 8 months ago

Love this photo, "We Eat This Stuff Up".

chicagoeddie 1 year, 8 months ago

Does anyone know if Naadir has a boston accent? If so if would be fun to hear him say Hopper!

jhawk613 1 year, 8 months ago

h1>KUSports.com Staff

Fix the byline on the KUsports.com homepage..."tait" not "taint"

Eliott Reeder 1 year, 8 months ago

Indeed. Unless it's a cruel joke. Then leave it.

Eliott Reeder 1 year, 8 months ago

Um... Naadir is actually 8th on the team in 3%, BTW...

100 Withey, 66.7 Ellis, 43.7 Mclemore, 41.3 TRel, 40.0 Rio, 33.3 Evan, 33.1 EJ, 33.0 Naads

Tony Bandle 1 year, 8 months ago

It's time to unveil the "THARP WARP"!! Bring the ball up fast and penetrate faster. keep the D off balance and open up multiple options...JAM by Jeff, BOMB by Ben, PUT BACK by Perry, JUMPER by Jamari, KICK IN by Kevin, POPPER by the Prophet...and bingo....the coaches sons are in before you know it!!!!

Harlan Hobbs 1 year, 8 months ago

The Hawks are blessed to have players with good attitudes. Elijah and Nadir have made, and are making, their mark. I am really looking forward to watching Nadir grow even more over the next two years. He seems to be a natural leader who can make things happen. Hopefully, Anrio will do the same. He has considerable raw talent, so if he continues to mature emotionally as the others have, he will be a star before he is through.

Go Hawks!

kennethst 1 year, 8 months ago

Tharp has been great. Such a spark off the bench. Still a few turnovers......but I will accept that if he can keep drilling 3's and hand out assists.

jaybate 1 year, 8 months ago

Naa is in a great position right now.

First guard off the bench.

Green light to trigger and a coach wanting him to penetrate.

What I like most about Naadir is his defense. He has come as far as Teahan came in defense; that's how bad Naadir's defense was last season and the beginning of this one.

And unlike Teahan, it didn't take him 4 years to do it, and one to show it, just 1 3/4 to do it and that leaves 2 and a quarter seasons to show it.

Naadir has convinced me that short leg syndrome can be overcome by a combination of neural net grow together and incredibly hard work.

Naadir Tharp has gotten up an under a few big guards the way Sherron Collins and Brady Morningstar used to do. And I think that is one of the best indicators of saavy guards with a lot of somewhat unconventional athleticism.

Naadir's trey shooting, however, has a long way to go. I know people are excited about it, but at the end of a long season he is only shooting 33%. Naadir has nice mechanics, but he's got to have a few more hot spots wired, before we are going to know what he can really shoot for a season.

An off season of work should enable him to add a least two more hot spots in his cold zones that could easily bring his 3pt% up to 37-38% If he does that, combined with his already marvelous fluidity moving inside, we've got a real head ache for the opposition coming next season.

I am increasingly optimistic that Naadir can do for the point what Brady did for the 3. He can be a lesser ranked guy that exceeds his recruiting ranking and beats the eye test too.

And if Naadir were to raise his 3pt% up to 40-42 his senior year, by adding two more hot spots and avoiding injury, whew! Mr. Short legs could become a living nightmare for opposing guards. We don't often see his kind of distribution and fluidity of motion with a 40-42% trey. And this is definitely within his grasp. He seems to be the kind of stable, persevering personality that Tyrell Reed that enabled him to be such a great and steadily improving shooter before his senior heel injury.

Naadir also has a quality that many, many of KU's best players have not even possessed.

He has been able to stand up under Self's most withering criticism and maintain an even strain this season. I'm not sure board rats appreciate how brutal Self has been on Naadir for 3/4s of the season. But Naadir never cracked, never really batted an eye. Naadir has true inner toughness combined with a certain sensitivity and insight. He is very special in this regard.

jaybate 1 year, 8 months ago

But Naadir's greatest challenge will come next season, when Self says, "Go out and guard like a man, like you're the main course, not the supporting character." What that means is that Naadir can't expect to be bailed out of a bad match up. It means Naadir's got to bite and claw and scratch to stay alive, no matter how injured, no matter how much shorter his legs are than anyone he comes up against.

Self will help Naadir out some, as he has help EJ this season, but over time, just as Self continually kept throwing EJ to the dogs, even with only one really good knee, Self will, if he committs fully to Dir next year, have to enjoy being ass deep in dogs. He will have to love it. To triumph over it. Because a point guard just does over the course of the season run up against other point guards that have the advantage on him. And its what you do when you are at a disadvantage that really determines what kind of player you are.

After starting out doubting that he could overcome those short legs, and find a defensive style that could end the blow bys, I now think that this guy has the right stuff. He's got the get better gene. And he's got some things you can't teach.

Its very likely that he will get the call to lead the team next year. Very likely.

And I think he will succeed, but its going to be a crucible.

All of Self's point guards seem to go through it.

nostradavid 1 year, 8 months ago

Watching Naa improve this year has been great fun. Keep on kickin' ass !

Rock Chalk Jayhawk !

Let's go bowling.

Let's go bowling. by nostradavid

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