LAWRENCE — It’s become a recurring question for Kansas players during the first official week of practice.
By RUSTIN DODD
The Kansas City Star
Has freshman Andrew Wiggins, the Jayhawks’ heralded top recruit, done anything in practice that matches the stratospheric hype that followed him to campus?
In other words, have they witnessed any Wiggins moments, where the freshman’s physics-defying athleticism flows out onto the KU practice floor. According to junior point guard Naadir Tharpe, one of those moments occurred during a practice earlier this week — the Jayhawks’ fourth workout of the season.
“Last practice we had, he actually had this dunk on the baseline,” Tharpe said. “Me and Coach (Self) looked at each other and said: ‘That’s not normal.’ But he does good. He plays hard, so that’s just what we’ve been looking for.”
If there is video of this dunk in question, it’s being held tightly in the KU vault. Maybe we’ll see it someday. Still, Wiggins’ leaping ability will be on public display at 6:30 p.m. Friday night, when the Jayhawks play host to the 29 th annual Late Night in the Phog at Allen Fieldhouse.
As of Thursday evening, KU fans were already lining up in front of the building.
And as of Friday afternoon, the line was swelling outside Allen Fieldhouse. KU officials announced early Friday that plans to show “Late Night” on the video board at Hoglund Ballpark were scrapped because of expected inclement weather. So if you’re attempting to get inside Allen Fieldhouse, KU officials encourage you to show up early.
Tharpe and Mason battling in practice
KU coach Bill Self points out that it’s not simply junior Naadir Tharpe versus freshman Frank Mason in the battle to secure minutes at point guard.
“It’s not Naadir versus Frank,” Self cautioned on Thursday. “It’s whoever makes our team better.”
But as you might expect, the veteran Tharpe is a little ahead of the freshman Mason after four practices.
“Naadir’s ahead, if it was a contest, in large part because he knows what he’s doing and he’s been around,” Self said. “But Frank is one of those kids that tries real hard, and when he gets it, he’ll get it. But it’s still a situation where he’s thinking a lot.”
After a week, Tharpe says he’s welcomed the challenge of facing off against Mason daily in practice. After averaging 5.5 points in 19.4 minutes per game last season in a reserve role, Tharpe projects to be the Jayhawks starting point guard. But Self has said that Mason has the skills to push Tharpe for playing time.
“It’s been intense, of course,” Tharpe said. “It’s only going to help us both out. But it should be like that. Nothing should be easy. It wasn’t easy for me my first two years. It shouldn’t be easy for him; it shouldn’t be easy for me this year at all. So I just try to tell him: ‘Make sure we go after one and the other.’ It should help us out.”
KU freshmen still adjusting
Self plans to keep the practice schedule light and short during the first couple of weeks of October. A new NCAA rule allowed teams to begin practice on Sept. 27, two weeks earlier than usual, and Kansas will get 30 practices before its season opener against Louisiana-Monroe on Nov. 8.
The Jayhawks plan to practice four days a week before ramping up the schedule later this month. According to senior transfer Tarik Black, Self has made a point of saying that freshman center Joel Embiid has been among the most improved in practice so far. And the extra practice sessions should benefit a program introducing eight newcomers. But for now, Self says, the Jayhawks’ “pieces don’t quite fit” just yet.
“I probably thought that we were going to be a little further along going in than what we are, in large part because we haven’t talked about thinking,” Self said. “We’ve talked about toughness and being in shape, and trying hard and listening.”
“That stuff is good, but when you start thinking you get paralyzed, and I think we’re going through a phase right now where we’re throwing a lot at them and we’re kind of paralyzed right now.”
To reach Rustin Dodd, call 816-234-4937 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/rustindodd.