Tharpe transitioning smoothly

For most freshmen, the first few days or weeks - heck, months - of college life can be, well, a little overwhelming. New home, new school, piles of homework. It adds up. But in this regard, at least, Naadir Tharpe was somewhat ahead of the curve when he hit campus at the University of Kansas in early June.

"It hasn't been a huge transition at all, because I went to a prep school," the freshman point guard for the Jayhawks said. "That prep school, Brewster Academy, has prepped me for college. It's helped me work on my classes, my basketball time, and then we have our tutors."

Tharpe, a Top 100 prospect, is expected to figure immediately into the backcourt rotation in the season ahead, backing up veteran point guards Elijah Johnson and Tyshawn Taylor.

Throughout the summer, he had the chance to test his mettle against the athletic upper-classmen in daily pick-up games. The competition helped Tharpe build a connection with his new teammates, and taught him a thing or two as well.

"I'm fast," he said, a smile evident in his voice. "But Tyshawn Taylor is really fast."

Individually, the focus for Tharpe during the summer was getting bigger, stronger, more physically prepared for the rigors of life in the Big 12. That meant lots of quality time with renowned strength and conditioning coach Andrea Hudy.

Following that, he said, defending Johnson and Taylor helped show him where his game needs to be defensively.

"I was in the gym a lot working on my jump shot," Tharpe explained. "But the most important thing is my defense. Coach (Bill) Self says once the season starts, he's going to be able to make me a great defender."

The Kansas basketball team enters the 2011-2012 season with more questions than perhaps any other during Bill Self's tenure on Naismith Drive. Gone are seniors Mario Little, Brady Morningstar and Tyrel Reed, as well as juniors Marcus and Markieff Morris.

That's a whole lot of firepower the Jayhawks are looking to replace - not just with returning stars such as Johnson, Taylor and junior power forward Thomas Robinson, but with the large freshman class of which Tharpe is a part.

While that class of newcomers might now feature many marquee names, he cautioned against underestimating them. Junior transfer Kevin Young, who played his first two seasons at Loyola Marymount, and freshman power forward Jamari Traylor - who is still awaiting academic clearance from the NCAA - were two in particular Tharpe mentioned as exciting talents.

"Everyone is going to find out soon," he said. "And the class we have is going to be exciting, and definitely stand out." Top Stories