Sunday, January 19, 2014


Column: Past is prologue for KU, Naadir Tharpe

Kansas guard Naadir Tharpe (1) drives past Michigan forward Mitch McGary during the Jayhawks game against the University of Michigan, Friday, March 29, 2013, at Cowboys Stadium, in Arlington, Texas.

Kansas guard Naadir Tharpe (1) drives past Michigan forward Mitch McGary during the Jayhawks game against the University of Michigan, Friday, March 29, 2013, at Cowboys Stadium, in Arlington, Texas.


Marvin “Bad News” Barnes, a great basketball talent but back in the day not always a great decision-maker, once allegedly beat a teammate with a tire iron.

When playing for the St. Louis Spirits of the ABA, Barnes, per former Spirits play-by-play man Bob Costas, once looked at the itinerary for a road trip, saw that a flight from Louisville departed at 8 a.m. (Eastern) and arrived in St. Louis at 7:59 (Central) and famously said, “I ain’t getting on no (bleeping) time machine.”

Tire iron, bad idea. Time machine? Better idea.

I’d like to take it back to March 29, 2013, to the Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Before stepping on the machine, I would sew two referees’ shirts together, tie one of the refs to a chair with any leftover material and take control of the three-man crew for the first 105 seconds of the Kansas-Michigan game. I would then do the right thing and eject Elijah Johnson from the game for delivering a shot to Michigan’s Mitch McGary, way south of the border of good sportsmanship.

I’ve often wondered how that game would have turned out had Johnson been ejected with 18:15 left in the first half. We’ll never know that or how far Kansas would have advanced had it not blown a 14-point lead in regulation with less than seven minutes left.

We do know that with Johnson limited to three first-half minutes because of three fouls, Naadir Tharpe took over and led Kansas to a 40-34 halftime lead and helped to keep Trey Burke scoreless to that point. Kansas built a big lead in the second half and then let it slip away.

After Johnson hit two free throws to give KU a five-point lead with 21 seconds left in regulation, he played as poorly as he played well in leading Kansas to an overtime victory in Ames with 39 points against Iowa State. Beyond just his final decision — veering away from the hoop when he had a clear path to the basket and firing a pass to the perimeter, leaving Tharpe with a desperation running three — it wasn’t Johnson’s night. He took questionable shots and turned it over in OT and during most of the second half and didn’t do a good job of getting the ball into the hands of the hot shooter, Ben McLemore, enabling the freshman to disappear late.

Johnson did score 13 points in 24 minutes but didn’t have an assist and had five turnovers, compared to seven assists and one turnover for Tharpe, who made just one of eight shots in 32 minutes.

Tharpe is shooting better these days — 14 of 17 overall, six of eight from three in the past two games.

The way Tharpe played that first half against Michigan, when he knew it was his show because of Johnson’s foul trouble, and the way he made clutch plays late in KU’s two most recent games at Iowa State and at home versus Oklahoma State, it makes me think what I suspected all along, that Tharpe could have steered KU to victory against Michigan had Johnson been tossed in the second minute of the game.

We won’t know until someone perfects a time machine. (We can only hope Bad News Barnes is hard at work trying to do just that, right this minute).

Oh, well, it’s always better to look ahead anyway, as in all the way ahead to the Baylor game tonight in Allen Fieldhouse, where Tharpe will have an opportunity to show again how much progress since the beginning of the season he has made in attacking a zone defense. Baylor plays more man-to-man than 2-3 zone against most teams these days, but tends to play more zone than man versus Kansas.


Bruce Beckum 8 years, 8 months ago

Naadir is playing really well. Hope his mom gets to see him have another great game tomorrow night.

Watched the OSU game again and was stumped (again) by the double foul when the refs called the charge/block on Traylor. Is that even possible? If one guy charges how can the other guy block and vice versa?

Was struck by Smart. He has an NBA body and what a competitor! As Greg Anthony said, he's always around the ball. And dude's a great flopper. Also, Selden did NOT make contact with his elbows.

That is all.

Brad Farha 8 years, 8 months ago

I know I'm biased, but I agree with the comment about Selden and Smart. I watched that play on super slow-mo (slow mo on broadcast, while in slow-mo mode on the DVR), and I didn't see the elbow connect with Smart. It looks like daylight between between the elbow and the nose. But, Smart is a great player with great instincts. He sold the hit to the refs and got the call. Glad it didn't cost us the game.

Jonathan Allison 8 years, 8 months ago

I love the credit that you guys are giving to Selden on that play, but the referees made the right call. The reason why you saw daylight between the elbow and the nose is because Selden's elbow connected with the tip of Smart's chin.

The contact was minimal, but anytime I see someone's elbow coming at my face I am going to throw my head back in attempt to get our of harm's way. It may have looked like a flop, and Smart is good at flopping, but in this case was a legit flagrant 1. Just like a call that went against Releford last year.

Starting last year the players have been coached to NOT bring the ball over the top in trying to rip through the defense, but to swing the ball low instead, which is in contrast to what had been coached to players prior to the Flagrant 1 foul rule which was instituted last season.

Walter Bridges 8 years, 8 months ago

I think the reason so many people claim that there was no contact is due to the space between Selden's elbow and Smart's jaw on the second swing. If there was contact, it was on the first swing where there isn't a decent camera angle to be definitive.

Of course Smart flopped even if little or no contact was made. Your natural reaction is to snap your head back quickly and given the chance, you try to sell the play. I am old enough to remember when this behavior (and I'm speaking in general) was frowned upon but now it's even coached. You try to sell catching the ball in football even though it hit the ground first, you constantly claim interference, holding or any other penalty to gain an advantage.

Times change, even good sportsmanship has a different meaning.

Steve Zimmerman 8 years, 8 months ago

Good reminder, Mr. Keegan.

Tharpe is a super sharp shooter, indeed. He's a great leader and it shows how bad he wants his team to come together. His eyes are not as fiery as those of Mason's, but he's got tons of confidence when it comes to lead the team. He's very calm but yet very deadly. It's amazing to look at his contribution the past few games, especially on shots made. He should keep shooting when he's open. I look to more his 3s from this point on. This guy is a real deal. Frankie needs to learn from Tharpe on confidence building.

Walter Bridges 8 years, 8 months ago much as I enjoy your articles, I wish all of us could just leave the ending of the Kansas Michigan game in the past. I know many of us will remember that collapse and EJ's role.. maybe even more then his performance at Iowa State.

EJ gave us his best for four years. Although never quite living up to the hype of a top 25 player, I believe he gave everything he had. That's what I hope people remember.

Jack Jones 8 years, 8 months ago

What a weird story. In order to do a positive story on Naadir Tharpe, you had to trash talk Elijah Johnson. "I've often wondered how the game would have turn out had Johnson been ejected.....". Holy s__t! This has to be one of the most bizarre, as well as lame pieces of writing I've seen on this site.

Erich Hartmann 8 years, 8 months ago

Yep. Who cares about the Michigan game today? Water. Under. The. Bridge. Totally new team now, headed for the Final Four, we hope.

Kit Duncan 8 years, 8 months ago

Tom, I have had the question since that game why neither you, nor any other journalist, has ever sought to find the reasoning in EJ's mind for choosing to deliver a low-blow in such a crucial setting. Have you by any chance taken your "time machine" (dvr) and played the game a Michigan possession or two before EJ's infraction? If you had you would have seen the screen McGarry set on EJ in which the big man's fists (both) were turned knuckles out and also below the belt in EJ's crotch.

You could tell EJ was hurt on the play but he didn't flop like McGarry. He got even. And now you know the rest of the story.

I suggest you take the time machine back and either have the refs check their monitors for McGarry"s infraction or better yet, tell EJ to avoid the screen.

Brian Mellor 8 years, 8 months ago

A good rule of thumb: "never retaliate".

I didn't see the play you're referring to, but I know that in general when somebody does something like EJ did, out of character, it was retaliation against something on the other end. But it's Still stupid, and it still deserves fouls and a benching.

Guessing we'd find the same with Embiid's flagrant against KSU, but it doesn't really matter. It's bad form. If you're not going to do something to get it called when it happens, then you should let it pass.

Kit Duncan 8 years, 8 months ago

You didn't read my post. My request to Keegan is to use his time travel angle to help EJ avoid fouling McGarry or to have McGarry punished for HIS flagrant foul before EJ has his moment of misjudgment. I'm not exonerating nor making excuses for EJ's foul, only giving insight into why he might have committed it.

As others have posted here, EJ's career should not be reduced to his final game. He gave his heart to KU and deserves to be remembered as a great Jayhawk!

Rodney Crain 8 years, 8 months ago

Great points Tom on EJ, so many posters here refuse to acknowledge his responsibility for that MI loss. I agree we would have won that game without him playing after his foul on McGary. As you say, it just was not his night. Tharpe was the PG that night that could have gotten us to the next game.

Watching EJ solely throw that game away was gut wrenching. It was refreshing to read this.

I also appreciate the creative writing, it was interesting and so different than a typical story on here. Nice challenge to the status quo.

Great job TK!

Kent Richardson 8 years, 8 months ago

I wonder how "Bad News" would handle a flop artist next time down the floor? The loss against Michigan still stings, not so much about EJ but the insane three that won it. I hope Brady Halfslip doesn't go off like Forte did.

Allen Shepard 8 years, 8 months ago

For the last time Keegs, it was an inadvertant blow. The Prophet was and is a good man. He wasn't a cheap shot player. Why on earth would you think he would do something like that as a senior in an elimination game? You're a blind hack, and i registered to comment on this now dead site just to tell you that.

Sure, EJ blew the last play of the game, but that flagrant was complete garbage. It shouldn't have been a foul -of any kind-.

Rodney Crain 8 years, 8 months ago

Sooooo, you won't be coming back? Promise?

Erich Hartmann 8 years, 8 months ago

Rodney, I cant speak for Allen, but I guarantee you there are legions of us KU fans (& alumni like myself) that share Allen's viewpoint. First, I will always stand by EJ, period! Besides, he never showed any such pattern in 4 yrs. Also, Mitch did something identical to him on a screen right prior...maybe EJ forgot the "2nd guy" retaliating is the one who gets whistled. Bygone game, man. KU has a legit shot in every March madness, so lets focus on 2013-14 team in front of us now? Lets watch Self craft another winner! RCJH

Allen Shepard 8 years, 8 months ago

First you lost the community and then you lost Newell. What have you got left? A dead paper.

Requiem for a Jaybate.

Mick Allen 8 years, 8 months ago

So how soon can we hope to lose you? Your version of an "inadvertent blow" is much different than mine and is not the majority opinion as to whether the foul was intentional or accidental. Keegan has forgotten more basketball than you know.

John Randall 8 years, 8 months ago

Mick, let it go. You have to understand this site isn't here for KU sports – it's just to display Allen's ignorance of his own ignorance. He doesn't even know that he doesn't know $#it.

Bruce Beckum 8 years, 8 months ago

I cannot understand all the anger towards kusports. Is it just because of the registration policy?

Ryan Michael 8 years, 8 months ago

That, and the fact that most posters feel that Keegans opinion pieces are garbage... That was the consensus long before the policy change and before Jesse jumped ship.

I try not to be quick to judge, and i enjoy a lot of Keegans stuff... That being said, when he starts throwing EJ under a bus, I start to think "hack" myself. EJ gave his heart and soul to the program. He played hurt time and time again. He gave his all and wore his heart on his sleeve, sometimes to a fault... But that's who he was. I loved having EJ for 4 years and so should everyone else who is a KU fan.

Why people choose to bash EJ over a single lapse in judgement when other players have done far worse, I'll never understand. T-Rob used to have fits and get into squabbles all the time... He'd tea bag guys on the ground repeatadly while staring them down. McMorris intentionally almost knocked someone out with an elbow strike that wasn't even questionable (Jaybate claimed Self told him to do it, how laughable is that?)

Regardless, I love all these players, they simply made poor decisions a couple times in the heat of the moment. The point is that there is no justification or reason to single out EJ. He gave his heart to the program and the fans, and we should return the favor... Keegan should be embarrassed for dogging on EJ.

John Randall 8 years, 8 months ago

Nobody's perfect, and most of us are biased in judging our own capability.

Rodney Crain 8 years, 8 months ago

Ryan do you like punishment, lack of focus, frustration, stupidity, lack of judgement? EJ was all of these things his last year and his last game. There are many justifications on why EJ cost us that MI game. Many! If you can honestly say when you watch those last few minutes that he was not the reason we blew that lead I am not sure how I am going to reason with you. Let me ask you this, if EJ does not play the last few minutes of that game, do we win it, what would you say?

Ryan Michael 8 years, 8 months ago

I think we still lose because we didn't have leadership and nobody else would step up for the team... Which is why Self chose to put EJ in that position.

Furthermore you aren't reasoning with anyone... You continue to bag on a kid who gave all he had to the program. It's just weak.

Rodney Crain 8 years, 8 months ago

also if Jaybate says something, well then it must be true LOL

Walter Bridges 8 years, 8 months ago

The registration policy was a mistake. There was absolutely no need for it. If anyone had made threatening remarks or anything completely out of bounds, law enforcement could easily track their IP address and LJW could ban the poster/IP address for life.

As for Keegans' opinion pieces, I usually find myself enjoying them. His job is not hard news, it's editorial pieces and over the years the good has vastly over whelmed the bad. In this case, I tend to agree with Kit and Ryan. HCBS was right there on the sideline and could have/should have made a substitution.

And of course.. that's my opinion which anyone can freely dissect, chastise or agree with. I'm fine either way.

Erich Hartmann 8 years, 8 months ago

Recall the camera shot right after EJ-Mitch screen happenned: EJ was talking directly with Self. We do not know to this day their conversation. But Self kept EJ in. We may not know what Self thought, but we saw what he did (kept EJ in there). So wishing/hoping/lamenting that EJ should have sat the rest of the game is absolutely a total waste of mental time. Focus on the '13-14 Jayhawks!

Besides, what's it to Tom Keegan what happened with EJ in the Michigan game? Keegan went to Marquette, anyway. This op-ed piece is forced to use EJ's bad-game stats to make Tharpe's stats look good. Newsflash: Tharpe is fully capable of putting up awesome stats on his own! He doesnt need someone to "handicap" him or to qualify his stats.

Brianna Zaleski 8 years, 8 months ago

While I, personally, don't mind the new regist policy (and think that the posters who threw a huge fit about it were being childish), it has taken away from this site. I just can't believe every time I get on here after a KU game and there are, like, 20-25 posts. There used to be 200+. And I think ljw should take notice and attempt to bring some of the ppl back. A compromise of sorts. Let ppl post as guests but don't keep record of their posts, or something like that. While I believe you should not have a problem putting a name to ur post, I do miss seeing the insight of some posters who are gone, as well as some of the back and forth between posters who didn't care for each other (a guilty pleasure I'll admit).
And just to clarify, I do, still, find many of the current (or remaining;)) posters to be very insightful and enjoyable. Obviously HEM is a first class poster who I've always enjoyed as well as newer ones like Suzi and Benz. Keep up the good work and Rock Chalk JHawk

Tony Bandle 8 years, 8 months ago

As OakvilleJHawk, I protested the policy change and stopped posting but then I thought, who am I turned out it was myself so I said the hell with it, re-upped and my life has not been diminished on iota.

Please come back all you wayward sons and daughters, this site needs you more than ever.

Brianna Zaleski 8 years, 8 months ago

Oak, Please allow me to apologize to you, personally, for leaving you off the short list of first class posters. A total oversight as I was posting from my phone quickly. You are one of the most consistent posters on here. You constantly provide good analysis with a dash (okay more like a heaping spoonful) of humor. You never get ruffled by other posters and always treat others with respect.

Jack Wilson 8 years, 8 months ago

Brianna .. thank you for kind comment. I enjoy reading your opinions, as well.

Brianna Zaleski 8 years, 8 months ago

Thanks too. I'm Tony, though, I just use my wife's fb so I can post. And even tho I've sullied her name on this board ( haha. not really.)it's worth it to interact w knowledgable, passionate fans such as yourself. Keep up the good word.

Ron Franklin 8 years, 8 months ago

If I wanted to write a piece with this title, I would have avoided the Michigan game and avoided trashing a player who spent 4 years dedicating himself to the program. I wouldn't have forgotten the big shots EJ hit his senior year, or the even bigger shots that EJ hit in the 2012 tournament. Sure, it sucks. It stings, but EJ is a good guy. I saw him again this weekend, and I saw him go out of his way multiple times to spend time with fans who wanted his attention. EJ was great for this university and still is.

If I felt the need to tie something from the past to project Naadirs future, I would have used the Oklahoma State game at Gallagher-Iba where Naa hit two clutch shots in the final minutes to overcome Ok St and exact revenge on the AFH loss. Just as he hit clutch shots on Saturday.

Tony Bandle 8 years, 8 months ago

Ron, totally agree except for one point....make that seven years. Did not EJ commit early and proudly wear KU gear into an enemy gym with pride and pose as a high schooler??

Ethan Berger 8 years, 8 months ago

This is the double edge sword of college sports. Always felt wrong trashing a player who spent 4 years for us. The below the belt shot was cheap, but most players have done something cheap that haven't got caught. Not justifying him, feel low blows should be a auto ejection. Let's move on, EJ had a terrible last game but you know who knows this? Ej, what's the point of me pointing it out 9 months later? I blame Tre Burke for the loss. He made some extremely tough and clutch shots. Let's point out how EJ has helped Tharpe along the way, instead of piling it on. Now pro sports have completely different rules.

Jeffrey Nelson 8 years, 8 months ago

My biggest problem with this article was the irrelevant way it opened with an anecdote about someone who has nothing to do with this program and nothing to do with the main subject of the article. Lazy writing.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.