Tharpe impressing early
Naadir Tharpe (John Rieger/US PRESSWIRE)
Phog.net
Posted Nov 9, 2011


Okay, so maybe the first 20 minutes of Kansas freshman point guard Naadir Tharpe's college career weren't the most auspicious. He did turn the ball over seven times. Every minute since, however, has been cool, efficient and - dare we say it - sharp, including the 19 points, seven assists and five steals he registered in Tuesday night's exhibition finale.

One exhibition game into his collegiate career at the University of Kansas, and already Naadir Tharpe was being teased by his head coach.

"I tell him that all the time, we recruited a 5-foot-10 two-guard," Self said. "After he had nine turnovers the first game."

Indeed, Tharpe's debut last week versus Pittsburg State wasn't the most auspicious in terms of taking care of the basketball, which just happens to be the most important duty of a point guard – the position which he was, in fact, recruited to play.

Still, there were some serious bright spots from the Wolfeboro (N.H.) Brewster Academy native in the 84-55 victory. In addition to those seven turnovers, he poured in 12 points and tallied eight assists. For every play in which he looked - to use a Bill Self-ism - "sped up," he made one in which he looked cool and in control.

Tuesday, with junior power forward - and former Brewster Academy teammate - Thomas Robinson back in the lineup, Tharpe was even better.

Sure, Robinson stole the show. The athletic big man is expected to be one of the to players in the country this season, a potential All-American and eventual lottery pick in the NBA Draft. He did pretty much everything except serve popcorn at halftime, scoring 22 points, grabbing 12 rebounds, dishing out five assists and blocking four shots.

But Tharpe was brilliant in his own right. In 29 minutes he scored 19 points, going 7-of-9 from the field including 2-of-3 from beyond the arc, doled out a team-high seven assists and snagged five steals - all with just a pair of turnovers.

Having Robinson back in action, Tharpe said, made everyone's job easier - including his own.

"All the focus is on him, so it gave a chance for (Justin Wesley) to score, (Conner) Teahan he knocked down shots, everybody putting in a little bit," he explained. "So Thomas being out there just makes it that much easier for us, and as you can see we played much better than we did the first game."

Tharpe also pointed to intense practice sessions with Elijah Johnson and Tyshawn Taylor is a reason for his improvement from Game One to Game Two.

Some of it probably had to do with the absence of first-game jitters, Self acknowledged, but sometimes it just comes down to young players understanding when they need to keep themselves from trying to do too much.

"I thought Naadir did a much better job tonight at just making the simple play," Self said. "A bunch of simple plays added up and turned out to be great. Maybe we're starting to realize that a little bit."

If so, it's a great sign for the Jayhawks, for whom depth will be a persistent question all season long. It's unlikely Tharpe will be called upon to play the 30 minutes he has logged during the exhibition games - with Johnson and Taylor on the bench due to suspension - but his heady play and slick passing skills will enable Kansas to substitute and not miss a beat at the point, should his strong play persist.

The smooth jump shot he's shown thus far is just icing on the cake.

"He's not going to shoot it like that all the time and that kind of stuff, but that is a bonus," Self said. "That's something that we probably didn't htink we would have going into the season is a guy off the bench, because he won't start, we'll start Tyshawn and Elijah - but a guy off the bench that's capable of knocking it down."

"This is the point guard I had at B.A. right here," Robinson added with a smile, slinging an arm across Tharpe's shoulders. "Shooter, passer, point guard all the way."



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