Cole Aldrich, who provided quite an inside-outside combination with 2010 All-America point guard Sherron Collins at Kansas University, teamed with one of the Jayhawks’ lead guards of the future in 5-on-5 pick-up basketball action Sunday.
“We went 6-and-2,” the ultra-competitive Aldrich said, recounting his and freshman Devonté Graham’s record in games contested the night before the start of Aldrich’s fourth-annual basketball camp in Robinson Gymnasium.
“I think he’s going to be a good leader,” Aldrich added of the 6-foot-2 Graham, who worked Day One of Aldrich’s camp with former KU players Collins, Mark Randall and Jeff Gueldner.
“It’s going to take some time for him to feel comfortable with the guys, (saying), ‘Hey, we are setting an offense up. You get there. Come off the screen.’ I think he’s going to have that trait, though. It’s fun to see a good guard with an open mind come in and just have fun. That’s what he did last night,” Aldrich added of his pick-up teammate.
Graham, who averaged 17.2 points and 5.0 assists at Brewster Academy (33-2) in New Hampshire last season, enjoyed running the court with the 6-foot-11 New York Knicks center Sunday.
“I didn’t throw him any lobs. I got him a couple post feeds, though, a couple easy buckets,” Graham said.
The pick-up games the last month or so have been eye-opening, Graham indicated.
“They are real competitive. Everybody’s trying to make each other better during the summer,” he said. “Coming from high school to college is a big jump. I’ve been trying to learn different things about being in the right place on the court and just different strategies we are going to use throughout the season.”
Graham said the biggest difference from high school and college is “just to be tough. Mentally and physically, you’ve got to be tough. When you get fatigued is when you have to be the most (tough), especially mentally, because you’ve got to push yourself through it.”
Graham said he has received a lot of help.
“Everybody. The coaches especially push me,” Graham said. “Elijah (Johnson, former KU guard) is a big push. He’s been teaching me a lot since I’ve been here, like defensive things, where to be on the court — helpside, doubling down on bigs and not getting caught up in between in hesitating on shooters and trapping down low, small things I’ve got to learn.”
Johnson, who played in Poland last season, “is a point guard. He knows the game,” Graham said. “He is just trying to help me out because he knows I kind of look up to him as a guard.”
The 25-year-old Aldrich, a free agent who will join the Knicks’ summer-league team in Las Vegas later this week after playing for New York all last season, said it’s valuable for incoming freshmen to receive pointers from guys like Johnson.
“It’s so hard to evaluate a kid when they’ve been here a whole month-and-a-half, maybe,” Aldrich said. “Coach (Bill) Self can’t do all the teaching he’s going to do during the season. The scenarios in pick-up games are a little different than they are in Big 12 play. He’s going to be good, though.”
Self has said Graham will have every opportunity to compete for the starting point-guard position with Frank Mason and Conner Frankamp.
“Without going into any detail, if you watched him play today, I mean, he’s good. He plays with great pace,” Self said on Monday’s “Jayhawk Sports Weekly” radio show at Legends Lawrence.
Self likes the intangibles in Graham.
“He asked me last week ... he said, ‘Why did we recruit you? Because you are a winner, that’s why,’” Graham said, smiling.
Graham, who rooms with freshman Kelly Oubre, said he has adjusted well to life in his new college town. He hails from Raleigh, N.C.
“I don’t think I’m homesick. It’s summertime, so of course I want to be back home. I like it out here,” he said, smiling. “I’m loving it so far, all the players, coaches … it’s a good environment to be around.”
Summer league results: Former KU forward Tarik Black scored nine points and grabbed three rebounds in the Houston Rockets’ 87-69 summer-league loss to Orlando on Monday in Orlando, Florida. He hit two of four shots and five of seven free throws while playing 19 minutes. ... Former KU guard/forward Mario Little scored 14 points with four assists and three rebounds in Oklahoma City’s 98-84 win over the Brooklyn Nets. Little hit four of 13 shots. He was an impressive 4-for-9 from three in 29 minutes.
This, that: Former KU guard Naadir Tharpe may be finished with college basketball after three seasons at KU. Reporter Mike Hopkins, who covers Providence basketball, wrote on Twitter: “Kansas transfer Naadir Tharpe is leaning closer and closer to turning pro overseas, per @GazetteUMass. UMass out of scholarships and #pcbb (Providence) not willing.”
So far, only Providence and UMass have been mentioned as possible transfer destinations for Tharpe. ... Former KU point guard Sherron Collins, who has been slowed by a hamstring injury, said his goal is to play professionally, perhaps overseas or in the NBA Development League, this upcoming season. He said he was considering a couple early offers ... Aldrich said there were about 65 youngsters enrolled at camp, which runs through Thursday.