Kansas coach Bill Self didn't have to wait until after Friday night's "Late Night at the Phog" to secure his first oral commitment of the 2011 recruiting year.
Brewster (N.H.) Academy point guard Naadir (pronounced Ny-deer) Tharpe gave the Jayhawks his pledge on Wednesday, which should at least take some of the pressure off as KU enters its annual all-important recruiting weekend.
Tharpe is rated a four-star recruit and the No. 91 overall player in his class by Rivals.com.
"He's a true point guard in the truest definition of the term," said Jason Smith, Tharpe's coach at Brewster, which is a private boarding school. "Too often the case with high school-aged point guards is that they dominate the ball and think score-first rather than pass-first. Naadir is definitely a pass-first point guard."
Most of the guards that Self has brought to KU have been considered "combo guards," meaning that they can play on or off the ball. At 5 feet, 11 inches, Tharpe has no identity crisis.
"He understands the role of the point guard is to run an offense," Smith said, "distribute the ball and not turn it over and be a leader."
Smith said that, between Tharpe's time at Brewster and on the AAU circuit with the New England Playaz, he has probably played with more elite-level prospects than any other guard in the country — a list that includes KU sophomore Thomas Robinson, who also played at Brewster.
After Self missed on blue-chip point guard Josiah Turner, who committed to Arizona, the Jayhawks turned their attention to Tharpe. KU's staff had noticed Tharpe while scouting top class of 2012 prospects Kaleb Tarczewski and Alex Murphy, who also suit up for the Playaz. Smith said Self and KU assistant coach Joe Dooley both compared Tharpe's game to that of former Kansas great Aaron Miles.
Tharpe specializes in making good players happy, and maybe Self will use that as a selling point this weekend with the talent he'll welcome to Lawrence. The Jayhawks now have three scholarships available for the 2011 class, which will be represented Friday by Dallas small forward LeBryan Nash (Rivals.com's No. 4 overall player), St. Louis shooting guard Ben McLemore (No. 17) and San Diego center Angelo Chol (No. 76).
KU will also be hosting 10 players combined from the 2012 and 2013 classes on unofficial visits.
"It's big," Self said of the weekend, "probably the biggest one we've had."