LAWRENCE — It’s been nearly a week since Kansas junior point guard Naadir Tharpe lost his starting spot to freshman Frank Mason.
But in the wake of two straight losses, KU coach Bill Self still believes that the veteran Tharpe could prove crucial as the Jayhawks try to weather the early struggles and tap into their rich potential.
"For us to have a really good year this year, Naadir's got to step up,” Self said on Thursday. “There's no other way around it. And I believe he will. He’s in a little bit of a funk right now, but he’s going to get out of it.”
Tharpe is averaging 6.0 points and 4.6 assists while playing 28.4 minutes. And after a string of quiet performances at the Battle 4 Atlantis tourney in the Bahamas, Self rode with Mason at the point guard spot.
Mason, who is averaging 9.1 points, can provide a spark on offense, but he’s also still learning how to be a full-time point-guard spot for the first time. With Tharpe struggling and Mason still growing, the offense as a whole has suffered.
“I would hope that, at least in my thinking, the point guard would be the extension of the coaching staff or the head coach,” Self said.” “So no matter what happens, if it breaks down, you can still run stuff and execute stuff, because they’re telling everybody what to do. And we’re not quite there yet.
“Frank is trying his butt off, but he’s just young and never played point before, so it’s all new to him.”
Four freshmen starters again? — Self was noncommittal when asked if he would start four freshmen again when No. 13 Kansas faces New Mexico at 6 p.m. on Saturday at the Sprint Center. The Jayhawks started four freshmen during their 67-61 loss at Florida on Tuesday.
It was believed to be the first time Kansas had started four freshmen in program history, and Self has been clear that the young lineup will likely be Kansas’ best over time.
“We could do switch up,” Self said, “because we’ve had some guys not play the best, but you look at it over time: What’s best for our team? And it’s to get our best players playing their best.”
If there’s a candidate to lose his starting spot, it could be freshman guard Wayne Selden, who played just one minute in the second half against Florida. But Self says he wants to be cautious about being too hasty in making a decision.
“He’s trying too hard,” Self said of Selden. “The thing about it is — that’s what happens a lot when kids care. They try too hard, and sometimes you get in your own way.”
Players hold meeting — After suffering three losses in four games, sophomore forward Perry Ellis said KU’s players held a players-only meeting in the locker room on Wednesday, just one day after the Florida loss.
“We all got together as a team,” Ellis said. “And we all just spoke out to teach other and we just tried to dig deep.”
While Self was happy his team got together to talk, he generally believes the advantages of team meetings are overblown.
"Those things are the most overrated thing ever," Self said
Still, Ellis said it was positive to keep the team together after a rough stretch.
“I feel like everybody’s really going to buy in,” Ellis said, “and everybody’s figuring it out.”