With the first exhibition game for the Kansas Jayhawks basketball team less than 4 weeks away, it is time to start taking a look at the players who will make up the 203-2014 men’s squad. Over the next 4 weeks, KC Kingdom will feature a series of player profiles, taking a look at each player on the team and where they may fit in.
As the most experienced of the returning players, Naadir Tharpe will probably take more of a leadership role on a team filled with freshman. Tharpe will need to pick up his production and play under control if he is to takeover the starting point guard position.
Tharpe averaged just over 5 minutes a game a freshman, scoring just 29 points. He tallied 21 assists in that season but turned the ball over 22 times. He made a drastic improvement his sophomore season, averaging over 19 minutes, and 5.5 points a game. He really turned around his assist-to-turnover ratio in his second season, dishing out 113 assists and coughing it up to the other team just 51 times.
His shooting skills have been a disappointment thus far, though there was a slight improvement between his freshman and sophomore campaigns. He connected on just 28.9% of his shots his first year (27.3% from 3-point range), and he made 34.3% of his attempts last season (33.0% on 3′s). Last year, he went 31-35 from the free throw line for 88.6%.
Point guards usually seem to improve as time goes on under Head Coach Bill Self. This youthful, inexperienced team will need a steady hand to lead on the court. Tharpe will have to be Self’s leader on the floor, getting the team into its offense.
There is a chance Kansas will try to utilize their wealth of athleticism by picking up the pace offensively, looking to run even more than usual. Tharpe will need to take care of the basketball and distribute it into the the right hands around the basket.
Tharpe should not feel forced to carry much of the weight on this team as far as scoring goes. He needs to shoot more effectively than he has in the past. Last season, it seemed as if he forced some of his shots throughout the year. He needs to be more of a pure point guard this season than a shooter.
It will be important for him to be able to take defenders off the dribble and get to the rim. This will help break down the defenses and hopefully open up opportunities for more skilled scorers.
There is a chance Tharpe could develop into a special point guard and team leader. There have been brief flashes of this in the past, but he sometimes seems to be out of control. For him to be the most effective with the youth around him, he must be more in control, more often.
The jury is still out on how good Tharpe can be defensively. He must improve his on-the-ball defense, and keep ball handlers in front of him. He is more likely to lose minutes due to poor defense and turnovers than any other reason. He must get better.
Tharpe could very well be the key for this team. If he develops as we have seen other point guards do over the course of their time at Kansas, and he improves in the areas he needs to the most, Tharpe could emerge as a strong leader for the team. The Jayhawks will need him to be a calming factor, especially in early games against Duke, Florida, and Georgetown.
This will be an interesting year for Tharpe. Will he develop into the point guard Kansas needs, or will get passed by by some of the youngsters on the roster? My guess is that we will be pleasantly surprised by his growth as a player and becomes another terrific Kansas point guard.