After the departure of senior point guard Naadir Tharpe in May, head coach Bill Self has a huge hole to fill come November. KU did not necessarily lose a ton of skill due to Tharpe’s move into the NBA D-League, but what they did lose is experience. Experience is highly valued across the college basketball landscape.
Over the years, we have seen point guards such as Peyton Siva of Louisville, Shabazz Napier of UCONN, and even Russell Robinson at Kansas find insurmountable success in their senior season, leading their teams to national titles. Tharpe had a strong enough resumè to pull off the same thing this upcoming year in Lawrence.
In his freshman year, he had the honor to play significant minutes on Kansas’ National Runner-Up team behind senior point guard Tyshawn Taylor. As a matter of fact, he played almost 10 minutes in the title game vs. Kentucky, against arguably the best point guard in the nation at that time in Marquis Teague.
In his sophomore year, he split time with senior Elijah Johnson because Johnson had issues making the transition from shooting guard to point guard. As we all know, Tharpe took the final shot of the season that year, a prayer that almost sent KU to another Elite 8 under coach Self.
Tharpe for sure struggled a bit in his junior year, but it is safe to say he was more than ready to lead KU to potentially another national title in his final season in Lawrence. The big question now is who will start at point guard for the Jayhawks in 2014-2015?
The starting job seems to currently be a two-man race between sophomore Frank Mason and in-coming freshman Devonte Graham. Graham was originally committed to Appalachian State after he had signed his letter of intent to play there in 2013-2014. He then de-committed in the fall and decided to play a post-grad year of high school ball at Brewster Academy.
He brings a ton of upside to the table with his ability to cut to the basket and score, making himself very comparable to ex-Jayhawk Tyshawn Taylor as a score-first guard. On the other hand, we all know what Frank Mason can do. He is very explosive and he has the ability to push the ball down court in seconds to convert a transition basket.
Mason is also not a bad defender when you factor-in his small size and all of the ground he has to cover as a point guard in man-to-man defense. Many Jayhawks fans like to compare him to Sherron Collins, and if that’s the case, KU should be in for a treat over these next 3 years. The dark horse to win the starting job is sophomore combo-guard Conner Frankamp.
Frankamp was in the 2013 ESPN100 and he hit 2 big shots to keep Kansas alive until the very end vs. Stanford this past season in the round of 32 of the NCAA Tournament. Not to mention, he played for the U17 USA team not too long ago and led that team in scoring and to a world tournament gold medal.
Some of the players on that team whom he out-scored were #2 overall 2014 NBA Draft pick Jabari Parker, 2014 ESPN100 #1 overall ranked Jahill Okafor, and stud 2014 UNC commit Joel Berry.
So obviously, Frankamp should be just as much of a contender for the starting job as Mason and Graham are. But then again, he is more of a shooting guard than a point guard.
Overall, Mason is the favorite and the guy whom I believe should start for the Jayhawks this upcoming season. He has the most experience under his belt after watching Tharpe for a full season, and he is clearly the better athlete of the 3 candidates.
Hopefully we find out soon what the plan is at the point guard position. It’s only a matter of time before the season and the quest for 11-straight begins.