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Bill Self's decision to start Frank Mason at PG not the end of the road for Naadir Tharpe

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Kansas University basketball coach Bill Self said Thursday that freshman guard Frank Mason would start for the Jayhawks in Boulder, Colo., this weekend, when they take on CU.

So, naturally, as president and founder of the #TharpeFanClub, I, once again, caught some flack for KU junior Naadir Tharpe being sent to the bench.

I'm not sure I'll ever understand why fans so much enjoy trashing players on the teams they root for — this happens way more often with KU football than KU hoops — but that's neither here nor there. And, really, to each his own. It's everyone's right as a fan to cheer, criticize and follow the team however they see fit.

As for the move itself, I am a little surprised that Self pulled the trigger so early in the season, but I more than understand why he did it. And I think there are a couple of reasons.

No. 1, I think he's rewarding Mason and I think Mason deserves to be rewarded. He's played beyond his years, been one of the tougher players on the team thus far — if not the toughest — and shown that he brings an extra dynamic to the floor that KU really benefits from at this point in the season.

No. 2, I think Self is making this move now because he believes Tharpe can take it. Remember last year when everyone was saying that Tharpe should be starting ahead of Elijah Johnson later in the season? I think one of the big reasons Self never pulled the trigger was because sending Johnson to the bench might have lost him for the season. In this case, I'm guessing Self believes that Tharpe will be able to keep his head in there and still serve a key role as the team's sixth or seventh man. If that's true, Tharpe deserves credit, not criticism.

When people first began speculating on whether the move would or should be made, my opinion was that it was too soon. My read was this: Mason's a stud. He deserves to play more and he should be out there a ton of minutes. But you don't have to start a guy to make that happen. Remember that old adage... "It's not who starts the game, but who finishes it that matters." Besides, Mason's been great with the role he's been in so why risk changing that by putting the pressure tag of "starter" on him?

That was a couple of weeks ago, though, and things have changed since then. Tharpe's played a couple of poor games, made more than a few bad decisions and not looked like the confident, solid player I've always known him to be.

So, from where I sit, I think the move could benefit KU tremendously. But that's as much because I believe Tharpe can handle it as I believe Mason deserves it. And that's just one of the reasons the #TharpeFanClub exists in the first place.

Turn in your memberships if you want, but don't be surprised if Tharpe delivers plays as the season goes on that make you wish you hadn't.

If Tharpe tanks because of this and becomes a terrible teammate who pouts about playing time and can't be used, I'll eat crow. But I wouldn't bet even a penny that that'll happen. The guy cares, he's all about KU and winning and he'll do whatever is asked of him to help the team succeed.

It should be fun to see how this one plays out.

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Comments

Robert Brock 10 months, 2 weeks ago

Self is still trying to find arrangements that work. It probably makes sense to start the game with Mason since Mason is aggressive and likes to attack, attack, attack.

Note of caution: Sometimes Mason also messes up to offense by not letting the bigs and wings work out their screens and movement. He just seeks to penetrate the lane and make something happen (like a turnover). Also, Mason is not a reliable outside shooter. Expect opponents to load up the low box allowing/encouraging Mason to put up an outside shot.

I think Self is rewarding Mason because Mason seems to be a little tougher on D than Tharpe. He is surprisingly better at staying in front of his opponent than Tharpe (and our defense gets into foul trouble when the opposition PG gets past the defender thereby requiring one of our bigs to stop the penetration and - voila - picking up an unnecessary foul). Message to Tharpe...get better at this and you may get your starting job back.

Brett McCabe 10 months, 2 weeks ago

Tharpe is not exactly a sharpshooter either.

The one thing a point guard must be is tenacious. Look at the point guards on top teams and what you don't find is passivity. I'm not here to say that Mason is the next coming, but he definitely sets a whole different tone, and it's the type of tone that we have not had since the last half of Tyshawn's senior year.

It's not real complicated, actually. Self has said he needs urgency. Which PG brings more urgency?

Titus Canby 10 months, 2 weeks ago

I'm a big fan of Tharpe's. My impression is that he's a smart kid and a smart player. I'll never forget the first time I heard him interviewed, when he was still in high school. He was extremely well-spoken, and actually seemed appreciative of the fact the reporter wanted to talk to him. He sounded so much brighter than I was in high school. I agree with Tait. This may make him work even harder.

John Fitzgerald 10 months, 2 weeks ago

Tharpe will be better because of this and now has to work to get his spot back. And Mason is a fighter so Tharpe will definitely have his hands full. I also think this will open everyone's eyes because it shows that Self isn't afraid to bench someone, even the team leader. I see a different team at Colorado and Florida, and I think this will set us up for a strong conference start. And for those commenting on Embiid over Black, I still see that a ways away. Black is actually improving tremendously, especially on defense, and he is probably our second toughest player thus far behind Mason. Either way, Embiid is a great player and if he does start over Black it won't hurt us because that's what Black has been grooming him to do. I'm excited for Saturday! RCJH!!!

Brian Conrad 10 months, 2 weeks ago

Black looked terrible as usual ... my concern is Seldon , Conner and where is Greene?

Ron Franklin 10 months, 1 week ago

Tarik put up goose eggs in every single category except for minutes played--and that dropped to 3minutes vs Colorado. That is the opposite of improvement.

Frankamp is missing wide open 3's and cannot play defense at this level yet.

Greene has demonstrated a habit of poor decision making, resulting in no PT.

Joe Joseph 10 months, 2 weeks ago

Too many people making a mountain out of a mole hill.

Tharpe is still going to get his minutes, and probably no less than what he has been getting.

I think this is mostly a way of rewarding Mason for his aggressiveness and less an indictment on Tharpe's performance thus far.

Brett McCabe 10 months, 2 weeks ago

Guys don't lose their starting jobs because they are excelling. I don't see anyone making a big deal out of this but here's a news flash, it's news.

Erich Hartmann 10 months, 2 weeks ago

Mason IS Sherron without the 3gun (yet). That can be fixed with a little Farokmanesh-style 600 3pt att/day in practice...

And as I posted on the other article: Being able to throw Masonry at the opponent from the opening tip required Naads...

Mark Lindrud 10 months, 2 weeks ago

As long as Mason learns to set people up. When he drives he doesn't look for the open man very well.

Ron Franklin 10 months, 1 week ago

...at all. He finds them on the fast break, but not at the top of the key in an offensive set.

Aaron Paisley 10 months, 2 weeks ago

I said it on the other article and I'll say it here. Mason is starting because Self us hoping his aggressive personality on the floor rubs off on the rest of the team.

John Randall 10 months, 2 weeks ago

Naadir just seems to be playing too carefully, which deprives the team of energy. Frank certainly provides some extra energy, at the cost of what? ... coach has decided to find out. The team definitely needs both guys on the floor, sometimes together, sometimes not. Both players have good enough attitudes to benefit from the situation. KU should come out of this with better point guard play, and that's why Bill is worth the big bucks.

Rodney Crain 10 months, 2 weeks ago

No issue at all with Frank starting, but my concern is what happened to the progress we were seeing with Tharpe?

PG was the question mark before the season began. Frank's play was encouraging, but it is going to take a while for Frank to start talking more on the floor.

Why is Tharpe not progressing from what we saw at the end of last year? Tharpe's attacking the defense was a welcome change for us last year, this year he seems to be tentative, like he is trying too hard to run the half court, make the perfect pass. I agree with you John, Tharpe seems to be playing way to carefully.

Doug Cramer 10 months, 2 weeks ago

Good for Coach Self ! It's pretty simple. We watched our team lose to Michigan last year because we didn't have a dependable point guard. Coach isn't going to make that same mistake this year. Lets face it...we should have been playing Louisville in the championship game last year...not Michigan. That game still burns...

Fletcher Anderson 10 months, 2 weeks ago

Frank is starting because this team starts slow and Self is looking for a spark. Tharpe will get his minutes and when the game is on the line he will be in the game.

Brian Conrad 10 months, 2 weeks ago

personally I feel starting lineup right now should be Mason , Wiggins , Ellis , Embiid and THARPE. Seldon will be great , but right now these are the best starting 5

Fred Whitehead Jr. 10 months, 2 weeks ago

I just wonder when the University is going to wake up to the futility of attracting these "one year wonders" to the basketball team that have no intent whatsoever in going to class and graduating. It is a waste of precious financial resources to follow this path, there are many other real students who would benefit from the money wasted on these high school standouts.

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