Archive for Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Column: Tharpe’s time as KU’s starting point guard may be over

Kansas guard Naadir Tharpe misses going for a steal from Texas forward Jonathan Holmes during the first half on Saturday, Feb. 1, 2014 at Erwin Center in Austin, Texas. Also pictured is Texas guard Isaiah Taylor.

Kansas guard Naadir Tharpe misses going for a steal from Texas forward Jonathan Holmes during the first half on Saturday, Feb. 1, 2014 at Erwin Center in Austin, Texas. Also pictured is Texas guard Isaiah Taylor.

March 26, 2014


Point guard is basketball’s version of football’s quarterback in ways that extend beyond job duties. Things go wrong and it’s almost always the quarterback’s fault. Nobody in sports has a bigger, shallower fan base than the backup quarterback.

The past two years, the Kansas University point-guard position has had something in common with the school’s quarterback spot. No matter the starter, the chorus crying for somebody else showed up ready to sing every game, just in case.

And it does, in fact, feel like it’s time for somebody else to take his turn sweating under the interrogation lamp. Naadir Tharpe had his moments, but never consistently brought the type of production at either end of the floor that established him as the guy to lead the team. His confidence took a serious hit and the best way for it to come back just might be using him as a sixth man, a combination guard capable of getting hot from the outside.

Naming his replacement represents a far greater challenge than figuring out how to use Tharpe.

If there is a next DeAndre Kane — a graduated point guard with one more year of eligibility who can transfer without sitting out a year — that’s certainly an option worth pursuing. But no point in trying to talk yourself into one being available if that player doesn’t exist.

The answer very well could come from within the program.

If how brilliantly Conner Frankamp performed in the most pressure-packed games of his life with so little college experience doesn’t put him in position to gain serious consideration for the job, why recruit him in the first place? He played with remarkable poise in St. Louis. Sure, he was exposed at the defensive end, failing to communicate well and getting overpowered and beaten by quicker players, but more playing time and work on his body can camouflage those issues to an extent.

Wayne Selden, Brannen Greene and incoming recruit Kelly Oubre supply size on the wings, so KU can afford to play a small point guard, whether it be Frankamp or fellow freshman Frank Mason.

Frankamp (zero turnovers in his final 140 minutes) offers better ball security than Mason. He’s also a purer shooter, and with regular playing time would increase significantly his .313 three-point percentage.

Mason plays at a faster pace, defends with greater strength, quickness and confidence and gets to the paint more consistently than Frankamp. If two of his lobs off drives had been converted, he would have had four assists, not two, in the loss to Stanford.

Kansas won’t be able to improve significantly on a 10-loss season without major strides at the point-guard position, so maybe the guy who displays the most consistency in practices wins the job. Maybe the answer to a complicated question is that simple.


Brian Wilson 3 years, 10 months ago

First I want to thank Tom for writing this article. it's difficult to point fingers especially during the season and so now is the time. I have posted on this subject before and I am in agreement except about our future guards,

Frankamp and Mason, their height, and who should handle the point. First, I think height doesn't mean squat for point guards! Just ask Spud Webb! If it does then KU needs to stop recruiting short guards (No one under 6'4"). Even though a shorter player can get overpowered a time or two 99 percent of the time the end results are moot. I can't think of one example where a taller point guard exploded for thirty points and destroyed the other team just because he was taller. The only difference in a game is usually a bucket or two. A few buckets are nothing compared to the end results of having several less turnovers per game, more assists, more points, and better decisions that result in many more baskets for KU. In addition, there can be advantages to being short. Shorter players can be faster and harder to defend as well as being able to weave in and out of traffic and quicker to reach loose balls.

About our potential guards: My observation says Frankamp is the fastest player we have when handling the ball. Simply put, that is why he will continue to have so few turnovers. When he was out front with the ball the defenders never had an opportunity to reach in as Frankamp could easily dribble away. Frankamp is fast, smart, protects the ball, creative in penetration and passes and "Oh boy" can he shoot. Over Tharpe, Frankamp gives you more points, less turnovers, a few more assists, and better defense as Frankamp is unafraid to defend up close. Frankamp is more likely to penetrate and pull-up for the short shot or pass. He will bust zone defenses with three's and cause defenses to stretch. Mason is more athletic and faster without the ball, maybe a better defender, more likely to penetrate and drive to the basket and to dish it off inside. but, KU would have more turnovers (than Frankamp), less points, more assists, and a little better defense but he won't be busting any zone defenses. Teams will tighten up on him and protect against penetration. I also think Frankamp is a winner and just refuses to lose as evident in the tournament this year. But, for some dumb reason coaches choose the best athlete and not necessarily the player with the most skill and heart. My choice is Frankamp, but who knows what Bill will do. I just hope that Tharpe is coming off the bench. Otherwise if Tharpe gets the most minutes at point I think we are in for another frustrating season.

John Graham 3 years, 10 months ago

So glad to hear who should be playing point guard because Coach Self clearly doesn't know what he is doing as evidenced by his 82.5% win percentage while at KU, his 10 straight conference titles, multiple big 12 tournament titles, national championship and national runner up and multiple players drafted into the NBA. I am sure Bill will look you up for more input about next years team. Maybe you have some recruiting input for him as well. By the way where exactly do you coach major college basketball?

Brian Wilson 3 years, 10 months ago

I am happy you are so glad to hear it. Apparently you feel the same way about Tom Keegan, author of the article, as he apparently is questioning whether or not Tharpe should be the starter next year as well.

But no, Bill will not be looking me up or listening to my comments. He is busy with his job and formulating his own opinion. But since you point out that he loses 17.5% of the time, does not win the NCAA championship every year, (although 10 Big 12's is unbelievably amazing!) and that most KU players never play in the NBA, you should agree that even though he may very well be the best coach in college basketball, as I think he is, like all of us, he is not perfect and he makes mistakes.

But from your sarcasm, you apparently do think he is perfect, and that no one outside of major college basketball coaching has a right to express their opinion and it is your job to censure dissent. Except you forgot to call out Mr Keegan. Next time, could you please just intelligently respond and disagree with my specific comments and opinions.

John Graham 3 years, 10 months ago

No Bill is not perfect but he has demonstrated over the past ten years that he is one of the best if not the best college basketball coach in the US based on his accomplishments. I will bet he is much better qualified than you and every other arm chair coach that thinks watching basketball makes them experts at evaluating his players and second guessing his decisions. If you are such the expert you would be coaching a "perfect team" instead of pontificating. Keegan's opinions carry no more weight but at least he has shown some skill in his writing to keep a job in journalism. So l will let you go now to watch more TV and then you can post your thoughts about how the TV chef could have prepared a better meal or how the home remodelers could have done a better job.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.