- Myron Medcalf, ESPN Staff Writer
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Naadir Tharpe figured he’d compete for a slot in Kansas’ rotation last season.
But the national runner-up didn’t need the freshman point guard the way he’d anticipated it would prior to the start of the season. Tharpe, the 17th-ranked point guard in the 2011 class, per RecruitingNation, averaged just 0.9 ppg per game for a Jayhawks squad that lost to Kentucky in the national title game.
It was a humbling period, Tharpe told the Wichita Eagle’s Rustin Dodd. The most difficult part of his first year at the collegiate level? Missing the last four games of the season, a foreign experience for Tharpe.
“That was probably the toughest part I had to do,” Tharpe said, “because I was never sitting on the bench (before). That’s something I had to get used to.”
The 5-foot-11 guard scored a season high of nine points last season.
But Tharpe told Dodd last season’s trials will prepare him for next season. Not that next year’s backcourt rotation will be any easier to crack.
And, as usual, the Jayhawks signed a nationally ranked recruiting class (13th per RecruitingNation).
The latter doesn’t feature a true point guard. But Johnson will likely inherit that title from Taylor next season.
Johnson played point guard in extensive stretches throughout the NCAA tournament and he excelled. The Jayhawks, however, would have more offensive options if coach Bill Self could use Johnson on the wing, too.
Multiple players will compete for minutes in Kansas’ guard rotation.
Ben McLemore is eligible. Freshmen Rio Adams has joined the program, too. But they might play a combo role in Self’s offense.
Tharpe has a year under his belt and he’s a pure point guard.
So his development could prove critical for Kansas’ 2012-13 season.
The sophomore said Self has emphasized his significance throughout the offseason.
“Coach told me that this year, he’s going to need more out of me,” Tharpe said. “I know myself; I need more out of myself.”
Even without a new and improved Tharpe, Kansas will have the weapons to go after its ninth consecutive Big 12 title. Jeff Withey is one of the top interior defenders in America. Johnson proved his worth in the NCAA tournament.
Perry Ellis and Landen Lucas will give Kansas a pair of 6-8 freshmen who should be ready to contribute on Day 1.
The question about the Jayhawks right now is their point guard situation. Sure, Johnson can play that role. And Self will probably use multiple players in the position next season.
Tharpe, however, could change the makeup of next year’s program if he meets the expectations established when he first arrived a year ago. He told the Wichita Eagle that he’s working hard to become a contributor for the 2012-13 season. And he’s accepted the pressure that comes with those expectations.
“I really didn’t do anything spectacular last year at all for anybody to see what I can do or not,” Tharpe said.