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Commentary Bob Lutz: Conner Frankamp is a shooter in any situation, and will be for Kansas

  • Published Friday, Jan. 31, 2014, at 6:15 p.m.
  • Updated Friday, Jan. 31, 2014, at 11:15 p.m.

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Conner Frankamp could sit on his driveway in the middle of a blizzard in pitch dark and make 6 of 21 three-point shots with one hand tied behind his back.

He could close his eyes, hop on one leg and spin plates on a toothpick and make 6 of 21.

He could dance with his girlfriend while reading a Tolstoy novel while eating a Pop Tart and make 6 of 21.

But at Kansas, where Frankamp is a freshman trying to find his way on the sixth-ranked college basketball team in America, Frankamp is 6 of 21.

His stroke is out there somewhere. He’s looking for it. And ultimately, he’ll find it.

But the distractions are immense. College basketball doesn’t come as easily for Frankamp as high school basketball did at North, where he set the City League scoring record with four great seasons.

Frankamp currently is nursing a sore knee that he injured during a knee-to-knee collision in practice earlier this week. He missed KU’s win over Iowa State, but hopes to play Saturday when the Jayhawks play at Texas.

“It’s coming along pretty good,” Frankamp said of his knee. “I’m not sure about being in uniform (against Texas) but I hope to be.”

Lately, Frankamp has showed signs of being himself. He’s making a few more shots, but more importantly he’s adapting to the defensive doctrine that KU coach Bill Self set forth many years ago, when he started coaching.

It goes something like this: “You don’t play defense, you don’t play.”

Frankamp was never known for his defense at North. Not that he was bad, mind you. But show me any high school player with 2,295 points who is known for his defense.

“It’s something I’ve focused on a lot here at KU,” Frankamp said. “Playing better on the defensive end will get me more minutes on the court. I feel like I’m doing a pretty good job.”

Frankamp isn’t getting a lot of minutes after playing almost every minute of every game at North.

The moral to that story is that KU isn’t North. And the adjustment takes time.

I asked Frankamp if he was happy at Kansas, because there have been rumblings that he wasn’t.

He quickly replied: “Yes, I am happy at KU. I am very happy at KU.”

So that’s cleared up.

Frankamp said the speed of the game at the big-time college level has been the most difficult thing for him to grasp.

“That and the strength required to play,” he said. “It took maybe a little bit to get used to all of that. But I’m not used to missing shots.”

The stories about Frankamp’s shooting prowess are legendary. Everybody who has seen him working out at YMCAs around Wichita tell stories of how effortlessly he drains three-pointers, one after another. He has refined his most valuable basketball skill to the point where Self, before the season, said he’s never coached a better shooter.

Frankamp is the last guy I thought would ever succumb to a lack of confidence. But when a shooter isn’t making shots, the culprit is almost always just that.

Confidence.

“It’s been tough finding a rhythm,” Frankamp said. “But I’ve shot better the past few games. I’m starting to get my rhythm back.”

It’s not easy to get Frankamp to acknowledge disappointment. Or frustration. He’s an unbelievable competitor, the kind of guy who badly wants to win a game of Chutes and Ladders.

If he ever started to have doubts, he wouldn’t admit it. And after so many years of practicing and refining, he has come to trust his shot unconditionally.

Remember, he’s only been on the floor this season for a few minutes at a time. He hasn’t taken many shots, so when he does shoot there’s added pressure to knock it down.

Frankamp had a breakthrough game at Oklahoma last month, when he scored six points and played well in other aspects. Since then, he’s been better.

But on a deep and talented team, it’s been tough for Frankamp to expand his playing time.

“I maybe underestimated how big of a change this would be from high school, but not too much,” Frankamp said. “I knew I’d probably come here and try to help the team as much as I can, even when minutes are limited. There is such a great recruiting class here that I knew it would be tough to get a lot of minutes. But it’s been sweet playing with these guys. Some of them have a chance to go really high in the (NBA) draft.”

I still think Frankamp will be a major contributor at KU and maybe even before this season is over. He was born to be a basketball player. Even more, he was born to shoot the basketball.

Six of 21 doesn’t translate for Frankamp. He could make 6 of 21 while having a root canal on a cruise ship in rough waters.

Things will settle down for him at Kansas. And when they do, bombs away.

Reach Bob Lutz at 316-268-6597 or blutz@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @blutz.

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