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Friday, January 17, 2014

Tharpe’s team: Junior guard embraces leadership role after benching

Kansas point guard Naadir Tharpe huddles his teammates in the first half against Iowa State on Monday, Jan. 13, 2014 at Hilton Coliseum in Ames, Iowa.

Kansas point guard Naadir Tharpe huddles his teammates in the first half against Iowa State on Monday, Jan. 13, 2014 at Hilton Coliseum in Ames, Iowa.

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Mired in a slump that cost him his starting job, Kansas University junior point guard Naadir Tharpe decided it was time for a one-on-one sit-down session with coach Bill Self.

The date was Dec. 11 — a day after the Jayhawks suffered their second straight loss, a 67-61 stinker at Florida that dropped the team’s record to 6-3.

“It was good for us to talk. It showed us a lot about one another and how much we really care about each other,” said Tharpe, who coincidentally regained his starting spot after the meeting. He has led the Jayhawks to six wins in the last seven games, including a 3-0 mark in conference play, heading into Saturday’s 3 p.m. home game against Oklahoma State (15-2, 3-1).

“I didn’t go in there and talk anything about starting. It was more about the team and how things were going with us, what I needed to do more to help him (Self) out and how he could help me out,” added the 5-11, 170-pounder from Worcester, Mass. “Me as a player and him as head coach ... we look at each other the whole time throughout the game, so we had to get a much better understanding for each other.

“(Since then) it’s been great being the guy everybody looks up to — the coach having your back and you having the coach’s back. That’s the most important thing.”

Self, who said he removed Tharpe as starter for the simple reason “Frank (Mason) was playing better,” nonetheless was pleased Tharpe asked for the confab in Self’s office.

Self said Tharpe “probably needed to know I liked him.

“I love the kid. He knows he’s my kind of guy, but I think for a period of time early in the season he wasn’t giving us everything he could. I let him know it. I expect a lot out of him,” Self added. “He was not doing everything he potentially could do. He knows how important he is to this group. I wanted him to make sure he understood that. He didn’t do anything bad. We needed to make sure we were on the same page and he knew what this team needed.”

Tharpe, who did not start a game his freshman and sophomore seasons, watching Tyshawn Taylor and Elijah Johnson run the show, admitted it was a blow to be relegated to key-reserve status for the Colorado and Florida losses.

“You definitely take it personally,” he said. “You always want to start and be that leader, but I didn’t take it out on anybody on the team or look at anybody different. I didn’t have anything against Frank except telling him, ‘Make sure you go out there and are ready from what we talked about at practice. Be focused.’ I tried to help him out as much as I can. It’s good coach chose Frank because Frank is one of the players coming off the bench and really contributing to the team a lot.”

Tharpe — who scored a career-high 23 points in Monday’s win at Iowa State, had nine assists against no turnovers in a Jan. 11 win over Kansas State and has 42 assists against 15 turnovers since the Florida game — has been a vocal leader since regaining his starting spot.

“He gets everybody ready. Not a lot of people know that,” said sophomore forward Perry Ellis. “He’s getting us pumped up and ready before every game pretty much.”

It is by design.

“After the Florida game when the whole locker room (was quiet) I was kind of sitting back and not voicing my opinion,” Tharpe said. “I was thinking about what I could do to make myself (better). Being here three years and having all these young guys ... there’s no time to be thinking about you. You have to worry more about how everything is affecting them because they’ve not been through this. I’ve been through this. That’s something else coach and I sat down and talked about. I’m trying to encourage guys as much as I can.”

He’s succeeding in that regard.

“We go as he goes,” freshman off-guard Wayne Selden said, simply.

Tharpe — he averages 9.0 points per game with 79 assists to 30 turnovers — has taken ownership of this 2013-14 group.

“I definitely feel like it’s my team. Coach says it to me all the time more than anything. That kind of gives it away that it is,” Tharpe said. “I want to go out and help the guys as much as I can. Having responsibility as point guard here makes the game fun, brings back the happiness. It’s what I always wanted to do. I’ve always been a leader on the team I’ve played on. To do that at a school like Kansas, it’s nothing but smiles. It doesn’t make it harder. It makes it exciting to know I’m second voice.”

His actions recently have spoken even more loudly than his words. Tharpe suffered a nasty ankle sprain the week of the San Diego State game. The injury received no publicity before the game because the media didn’t know about it. Tharpe didn’t play particularly well in the loss, missing eight of 10 shots on a day he did have five assists to no turnovers, but he did play — 34 minutes.

“I had to do an extreme amount of rehab,” he said. “I was going and seeing ‘Cheddar’ (trainer Bill Cowgill) four times a day up to the point I was playing in the San Diego State game. I wasn’t 100 percent but I had to show up. I’m still doing treatment and working on it. I rolled it pretty bad. I’m getting better with that (ankle) as well.”

While Self wishes great health for Tharpe the rest of the season, he remains demanding.

Here’s what he expects:

“From here on out,” Self said, “I want him to be a guy who plays to win and will do anything within his power to give us the best chance to win, and so much of that is intangibles. The guys (now) are looking at him as kind of a rock out there. He’s getting his point across.”

Comments

Jim Stauffer 6 months, 2 weeks ago

This is the evolution of a player we have come to expect under Coach. Looking forward to the rest of the season.

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Mick Allen 6 months, 2 weeks ago

Nadiir has definitely stepped up and his play has stabilized the team.

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Benz Junque 6 months, 2 weeks ago

“After the Florida game when the whole locker room (was quiet) I was kind of sitting back and not voicing my opinion,” Tharpe said. “I was thinking about what I could do to make myself (better). Being here three years and having all these young guys ... there’s no time to be thinking about you. You have to worry more about how everything is affecting them because they’ve not been through this. I’ve been through this. That’s something else coach and I sat down and talked about. I’m trying to encourage guys as much as I can.”

FINALLY.

Play not to reach your personal goals but so that all of your teammates can reach theirs. When each member of the team plays with that same attitude then the team is ten times stronger and more motivated.

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Ian Legler 6 months, 2 weeks ago

I keep thinking back to Tyshawn his senior year. Was an absolute enigma in non-con play then took it to a whole other level once we got in to the conference grind.

Here's to hoping we see another

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Aaron Paisley 6 months, 2 weeks ago

This team will go as deep as Tharpe carries them. He's the one that initiates the offense and creates the opportunities for Wiggins, Embiid, Ellis, and the others and he's not afraid to take over a game scoring wise when appropriate like against ISU. He's also been KU's most consistent 3 point shooter this year when most people believed he would be the 3rd or 4th option at best this year. Naadir won't play in the NBA, but he will be the single biggest influence on KU winning a national title in the next 2 seasons.

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Erich Hartmann 6 months, 2 weeks ago

Notice the 2.6-to-1 assist/turnover ratio for the season so far...That is better than senior Russell Robinson's just slightly. So far I have used R.Robinson as the benchmark as KU's best Self-era lead guard (A/T ratio). For example, RussRob's A/T ratio surpassed Sherron's, Tyshawn's, and Elijah's. Let's see if Tharpe can stay above 2.5:1. If he can push his season avg to over 3:1, that is considered stellar.

Notice that Tharpe provides more offense than RussRob, but not as good defense. So far, Tharpe's 3pt shooting is the most consistent on the team, and is red hot from 3 right now.

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Erich Hartmann 6 months, 2 weeks ago

One other thought, as we all seem to split hairs regarding definitions of "pure PG" vs. "combo guard". Tharpe is Self's lead guard. But he is also a scorer. Look at him. Even last year, he has always considered himself a shooter, and obviously he took notes from Tyshawn about slashing. My point is Self recruited Tharpe as he obviously liked what Tharpe had to offer--> and Self always seems to like the same type of do-it-all guards, that are tough, and carry some swagger. Naa is nothing more than a 5'11 Bill Self combo guard, who is now in the lead guard role. Notice when Mason comes in, sometimes Naa is still in the game at the 2 position...because he can shoot it too. Sherron was a 5'10 combo guard. Selden is a 6'5 combo guard. We can bicker about what the term is, but why not continue to use the all-inclusive "combo" term? Because that is the type of guard that Self keeps recruiting, and they show it in their abilities, roles, and the way Self uses them. Note: the height of the combo guard can vary between 5'9 to 6'5, doesnt matter. Its about the skillset and most importantly about the dual role responsibility of distribution + scoring.

And they ALL have got to be able to play D, or they wont play much...(see EJ's first 2 years, couldnt keep his man in front of him, and had shaky handles).

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Mick Allen 6 months, 2 weeks ago

Getting the team into the offense, taking care of the ball, distributing the ball and scoring, when needed, are higher priorities to HCBS than being a good defender at the point position. As I think most would agree that Tharpe is an average defender at best.

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Suzi Marshall 6 months, 2 weeks ago

Defense if known as Tharpe's break time. OSU can load up the perimeter with Brown and Forte, which means Tharpe will have to guard Forte.

Tharpe does a good job running our offense and is very much needed in that role.

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Eric TheCapn 6 months, 2 weeks ago

Did someone SAY he regained his starting spot "coincidentally" after the meeting or did you just infer that, Gary? Did you ask Self if that "confab" influenced his decision to start Tharpe?

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Rich Hetherington 6 months, 2 weeks ago

Tharpe has been great! I don't think he was even playing that poorly early in the season, but over the last 7 games, his Assist to Turn-Over numbers have been great, and to top it off, he's been a great scoring threat. If I'm not mistaken, he's set two career marks in scoring in the past 3 games, all while dishing out decent numbers of assists. I think Tharpe is a much better scorer and passer than many people give him credit for!

All that being said, sometimes he does seem to be a liability on the defensive side. After reading a few of Suzi's remarks about 4-5 games ago, I started really watching for it, and multiple times a game he just freezes there, looking stiff, while a player blows right by him towards or into the paint. That is bothersome and something I hope he continues to try to work on for his final 1 1/2 yrs here. I do believe that if he puts enough effort into it, he can still improve defensively, and if his offensive game and leadership and passing skills continue to mature as well, he is going to have a very strong finish to his career here at Kansas!

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Yonatan Negash 6 months, 2 weeks ago

It's very difficult to win in Allen Field House, all agree?

It's unthinkable to lose to the same team two years in a row.

Especially when one of their players (Markel Brown) played out of his mind to beat us.

Point is a lot of things have to go right for Oklahoma State and a lot of things have to go horribly wrong for Kansas to lose Saturday.

With those odds, Kansas can't lose and they won't.

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Robert Robinson 6 months, 2 weeks ago

This is my favorite part of Kansas basketball. Nothings against the Wiggins, Embiids and other OAD's but I love w atching players earn time and get better. Don't get me wrong, I've cussed him a few times this year, but he's getting better and will continue to do so.

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Talena Bauck 6 months, 1 week ago

This is coaching thatdoesn't just pile up championships, it develops boys into men, turns ego into character, makes college players into career men and SEPARATES KANSAS basketball from the rest. Rock Chalk!

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