Jayhawks Ready For Big Showdown

Naadir Tharpe lives for huge games like he'll play Tuesday night in Chicago against Duke in the United Center in the State Farm Champions Classic.

Naadir Tharpe lives for huge games like he'll play Tuesday night in Chicago against Duke in the United Center in the State Farm Champions Classic.

The Kansas junior point guard is counting down the moments until the 8:30 p.m. tipoff.

"It's (Duke) always been a school that as a kid, I looked at," Tharpe said. "It's always been a top school. To be able to play against someone like that, I think it's a blessing for us, it's a blessing for me. We also want to go out there and play as hard as we can and beat them."

Tharpe is extra motivated for this game since he sat out the regular-season opener against Louisiana at Monroe on Nov. 8. He was ineligible to play that contest since he competed in a summer league game in Chicago.

"I'm real excited, especially sitting out that last game and watching the team play," Tharpe said. "It was hard. I made a bad decision, but time goes on so I'm going to be ready to go out and play."

KU coach Bill Self is thrilled to have Tharpe back in the lineup.

"I've said all along, Naadir is not our most talented guy, but he's been our most valuable player since we started practicing," Self said.

Kansas sophomore forward Jamari Traylor has also been a valuable player thus far. He'll need to come up big against Duke playing back in his native Chicago.

"I'm excited," Traylor said. "I get to play in front of my family. It's definitely a big game for us. I'm definitely going to go out there and have a good time and play hard in front of my hometown."

Traylor has never played in the United Center — the former home of Chicago Bulls and NBA legend Michael Jordan — but has been in the arena a few times.

"Growing up, I never went to too many Bulls games," he said. "I was always a Bulls fan, but I never had a lot of money to go to a game. I went to maybe two or three games my whole life. I was always watching them (on TV). I never got a chance to go play there ... so this will be my first time."

And you can bet Traylor, Tharpe, and their Jayhawk teammates will be pretty amped playing in the United Center against No. 4 Duke. Like Kansas, the Blue Devils are one of the most historic programs in college hoops.

Tharpe, for one, is ready to make a statement to the college basketball nation.

"These are the highlight games of the year," he said. "These are the games that are going to be able to put us on the map as a team and get everybody to understand that we are a top-five team."


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