Wearing a beige suit and crimson and blue tie, Naadir Tharpe sat at a table with four of his Brewster Academy basketball teammates on Wednesday in Wolfeboro, N.H.
After posing for pictures with Markus Kennedy (Villanova), Durand Johnson (Pitt), Jakarr Sampson (St. John’s) and Max Hooper (Harvard) — as well as four other Div. I commitments in other sports — Tharpe picked up a pen and signed his official scholarship letter of intent with Kansas University.
“This is a day I’ve been waiting to come a long time. I’m blessed and excited with my decision to attend Kansas,” said the 6-foot, 170-pound Tharpe, who on Oct. 13 orally committed to KU over Oklahoma, Minnesota, St. John’s, UCLA, UNLV, Indiana, Marquette, North Carolina State and Boston College.
“This is just the beginning of a long future for me. It was really exciting, but I also was kind of nervous. I experienced a little bit of everything today.”
There was no better way for him to cap signing day than to start at point guard for his prep powerhouse team.
Tharpe — he averaged 13.0 points and 6.0 assists last season for the 35-5 national prep champs — almost matched his former teammate Thomas Robinson’s Tuesday double-double against Emporia State by scoring 12 points and dishing nine assists against zero turnovers in an 85-68 home victory over Queen City Prep.
“I’ve been dreaming of this ever since I stepped onto the court, just to play at the highest level,” said the 19-year-old Tharpe, who according to the Worcester (Mass.) Telegram & Gazette “burst onto the Central Massachusetts basketball scene as an eighth-grader at St. Peter-Marian High. In 2008, as a sophomore, he was named to the Telegram & Gazette Super Team after averaging 26.5 points per game and surpassing the 1,000-point plateau.”
He headed to Brewster the following year and repeated his sophomore year to gain another year of experience.
It culminated in last year’s national prep title and a standout spring and summer for the New England Playaz AAU team, with a chance at another national title in 2010-11.
“Kansas is a school I always have liked and was interested in. I have a friend there in Thomas Robinson. He texted me and said, ‘Welcome to the Jayhawks,’’’ Tharpe said.
“We are real close and talk a lot. I felt it was the right place for me.”
He said it has been a dream to compete for a college that has a chance to win it all.
“I always thought of going big-time. I didn’t know it’d be Kansas. It’s a huge campus, I know that for sure,” said Tharpe, who made his official campus visit after committing. He also was here last spring for the Jayhawk Invitational.
“They have a type of love there for their sports and their basketball. The students love ’em,” he added of the KU players. “There’s nothing like being at a school where fans love you.”
He has high goals for a career that figures to span a full four years.
“One of the most important reasons I chose Kansas is it a school that wants to win and team that wants to win,” Tharpe said. “Of course, I want to get playing time and show my talent. But if that team is winning and I don’t get as much time as I want, there’s nothing wrong with that as long as we are winning.
“I definitely want to play,” added Tharpe, who at one point was orally committed to Providence College, but reopened his recruiting when Friars’ assistant Pat Skerry moved on to Pitt.
As to how he wound up in New Hampshire ...
“I met coach Smith (Jason, Brewster) my freshman year, and we built a relationship,” Tharpe said. “We spoke a lot. I felt he produced a lot of players that went to the next level and graduated. We already have somebody in the league in Brackins (Craig, New Orleans Hornets) and Thomas Robinson, Reggie Moore (Washington State). We produce. We produce,” he said.
Brewster coach Smith believes Tharpe, Rivals.com’s No. 91-rated player, will be a huge success at KU.
“He understands the role of a point guard is to be a leader, run the offense, distribute the ball and not turn it over ever,” Smith said.
“He came here with a reputation as somebody who can’t shoot. Go to YouTube. All our highlights are there. You’ll see he can definitely shoot the ball. He’s a hard worker. (One day) I was walking to our athletic facility. I saw he’d already gotten up 1,000 shots on the machine.”
Tharpe — he says he’s a winner more than anything else — after his official visit showed an outgoing personality in an interview with the Journal-World.
“My final statement to the fans is: ‘Automatic for the people,’” Tharpe said. “That means everything I do is for the crowd, the team and us to win.”
He now has that saying on his Twitter page.
Among his Tweets on Wednesday: “Today is the day!!! Finally signing!!! To Kansas!!”
“For fun I listen to music. I love dancing, clowning with friends and being with family (mom, Lori, and four older brothers),” said Tharpe, who lost his dad to cancer in 2006.
KU to announce signing soon: KU coach Bill Self will comment on Tharpe today once all the paperwork is approved by KU’s compliance office. The weeklong early signing period runs until Nov. 17.
KU and Missouri are still awaiting word from Ben McLemore, 6-5 from Oak Hill Academy in Mouth of Wilson, Va. Most recruiting analysts believe KU is the heavy leader for the St. Louis native, who is ranked No. 17 by Rivals.com.
Friday’s opener: KU will open the regular season against Longwood University at 7 p.m. Friday in Allen Fieldhouse. The game on Wednesday was officially declared a sellout.
Longwood, which is in search of a conference affiliation, has an enrollment of 4,098. The school is located in Farmville, Va.
The Lancers return one starter off last year’s 12-19 team — senior guard Aaron Mitchell, who averaged 9.0 points, 3.5 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game. Junior center Antwan Carter came off the bench to the tune of 14.6 points and 8.5 boards.