Frankamp’s shooting keeps Kansas close

03/23/2014 4:05 PM

03/23/2014 4:06 PM

It was the type of shot Conner Frankamp dreamed about as a child.

Kansas trailed Stanford by three in the closing seconds of a NCAA Tournament game on Sunday at the Scottrade Center, and the Jayhawks needed someone to send it to overtime. So they put their Sweet 16 hopes on his shoulders.

The freshman guard from Wichita North fought free on the perimeter, did his best to get an open shot on the right side of the key and launched a prayer that didn’t connect, missing to the right. No. 10-seed Stanford held on for a 60-57 victory.

“I knew it was off when I left my hand,” Frankamp said. “It wasn’t a great look. But the next time I get an opportunity like that I will be able to knock it down.”

That confidence is one of the few silver linings that came out of an otherwise depressing loss for the No. 2-seed Jayhawks. Frankamp entered the NCAA Tournament as an afterthought and the round of 32 as an unlikely hero, but he turned into a go-to scorer by the end of the weekend.

He scored 12 points on four three-pointers Sunday, including a buzzer-beater that gave Kansas a halftime lead and two more that kept its comeback hopes alive in the final 25 seconds.

“He played fantastic,” KU sophomore forward Perry Ellis said. “That is just going to be great for him moving forward and for the team. He definitely gained a lot of confidence, and we all gained confidence in him. That is going to be great. He played really well.”

Frankamp said the experience he gained in St. Louis, scoring 22 points in 43 minutes over two games, will likely serve him well when he returns for his sophomore season.

“He gave us a big lift,” KU guard Frank Mason said. “He is only going to get better.”

Still, Frankamp was in no mood to elaborate on his future after the defeat.

“Maybe I will have a little bit more confidence in myself, but this is all about the team,” Frankamp said. “It hurts bad to be a part of the team that just lost.”

Kansas missed 39 of 58 shots and looked lost against Stanford’s zone defense.

That could have been overcome with one more three-pointer. Instead, Kansas failed to advance past the opening weekend of the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2010.

In the aftermath, it was difficult for Frankamp to grade his debut college season.

“Not as good as I wanted it to be, because we got knocked out early,” Frankcamp said. “Hopefully we can prepare and try to get here again next year.”

He will benefit from this weekend if they do.

“I was more confident and my team had confidence in me this week,” Frankamp said. “Coach (Bill) Self did, as well. I just tried to do as much as I could to help the team while I was out there.”

Frankamp figures to be a valuable member of the Jayhawks’ returning core group. Though his overall numbers were low as a freshman – 2.1 points and 0.5 rebounds in eight minutes – he showed promise as the season progressed.

He played in 11 of the Jayhawks’ final 12 games, and served as a valuable bench option in the NCAA Tournament.

Reporters went so far as to question why Self didn’t play Frankamp more on Sunday.

“We had to get inside their defense and they’re big,” Self said. “When you play Conner and play with another guard, that puts him guarding a 6-7 guy and they exploited that a little bit.”

Frankamp has always been one of the best shooters on the roster. If he can improve as a defender next year, his playing time could spike.

He showed his potential in St. Louis.

“That can happen for Conner, definitely,” Ellis said. “He found his game and started playing great late in the season. He can build off this.”

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