LAWRENCE — The request for a meeting came on Wednesday morning, five days before Kansas’ exhibition opener. In the hours before an afternoon basketball practice, sophomore guard Conner Frankamp and his father, Marty, met with KU coach Bill Self.
The Frankamps wanted to discuss Conner’s future at Kansas — and they wanted to do it quickly. The meeting took place on Wednesday afternoon, and the specific nature of the conversation is still unknown. But the end result was an early-season shock to the Kansas basketball program.
On Thursday morning, Frankamp, a Wichita native and the City League’s career scoring leader from North, was contacting Self again: He was leaving the KU program, and he was doing so immediately.
“It wasn’t anything that we wanted to have happen,” Self said on Friday, after announcing Frankamp’s departure earlier in the day. “He was part of our future plans, and certainly we anticipated him playing a much, much larger role this year.”
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In a statement released by KU officials, Frankamp was clear and honest about his reasons for leaving. A 6-foot guard who played sparingly as a freshman, Frankamp was looking for assurances of ample playing time. When it became clear that might not be possible this season at Kansas, he decided to move on.
“I’ve been thinking about this for a while now,” Frankamp said in the statement. “I love KU and I love the Jayhawks. I feel like I’ve improved quite a bit since I’ve been here. I love my teammates, but I just don’t feel like it’s the right fit for me. We have many good guards and so many big-time players. I want to be at a place where I could play a bigger role.”
Frankamp, a consensus top-40 recruit in the class of 2013, will remain at Kansas through the fall semester but will leave the basketball program immediately. According to Self, he will have 2 ½ years of eligibility remaining after sitting out one full academic year.
The news produced shock throughout the Kansas program. Sophomore guard Wayne Selden and junior forward Perry Ellis, a fellow Wichita native, did not hear about Frankamp’s impending transfer until Friday morning, just as it became public.
“I didn’t actually see it coming,” Ellis said. “He was doing really well, you know.”
Following a news conference Friday, Self confirmed that Frankamp was slated to start on Monday in the Jayhawks’ exhibition opener against Washburn. But Self was also honest about Frankamp’s place in a crowded rotation, which was uncertain.
“You know what, somebody was going to be left out,” Self said. “We’ve got seven good perimeter players, and really to be quite candid with you, there hasn’t been a lot of separation. Sometimes you hope there’s separation.”
A highly touted high school shooter, Frankamp averaged 2.5 points in 8.3 minutes as a freshman. But he played his best basketball in the NCAA Tournament, nearly saving Kansas’ season with four three-pointers against Stanford in a loss in the round of 32.
Still, Frankamp was poised to get caught in a numbers crunch. Sophomore guards Wayne Selden Jr. and Frank Mason both returned after playing more minutes last season, and Frankamp was now fending off a charge from freshman point guard Devonte’ Graham.
Self also recruited swingman Kelly Oubre Jr., a McDonald’s All-American, and 6-foot-8 guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, a highly touted prospect from the Ukraine. Both players figure to be in the mix for playing time. And there’s also sophomore wing Brannen Greene.
Frankamp faced the prospect of another season on the bench.
“We’ve lost obviously a very good shooter, but we may have also gained (on) some chemistry issues,” Self said. “Now I think guys will be more locked in and more able to probably figure out what their role will be.”
In the short term, Frankamp’s departure puts more strain on Graham, a freshman who will have to play substantial minutes right away. All offseason, Self referenced a desire to play multiple ballhandlers in the backcourt — a plan that seemed to favor Frankamp’s combo-guard style. Now Self will have to rely on Mason and Graham in the rotation, with Selden being used as a third ballhandler in the rotation.
“Devonte’ is going to be a guy that’s going to challenge for a starting spot,” Self said. “I’ve said that all along. I don’t know that Devonte’ is quite ready for that yet, but I think that he could be a guy to challenge for a starting spot.”
For the moment, Frankamp’s next destination is unknown. But after one of the most decorated high school careers in Kansas, his time at the in-state blue blood is no longer.
“This was disappointing news to us,” Self said. “Conner is a fine young man, a very good basketball player and certainly part of what we had envisioned — not only our future but also as an impact guy for this upcoming season.”