Following Saturday’s loss to the Oklahoma State Cowboys, the question was posed as to whether the Kansas Jayhawks Head Coach Bill Self should consider starting sophomore Naadir Tharpe instead of senior Elijah Johnson at the starting point guard spot (see HERE).
Johnson had some turnovers issues during the game and Tharpe did a nice job running the team for that particular game. Interestingly enough, Coach Self was asked this question at his weekly press conference earlier today. His responses via the Kansas University Athletics Twitter account were: “We should judge our PG more by our record than by his stats.” Self added, “Elijah is the guy. Period.”
First, Self’s response was the right answer. Johnson has helped Kansas to a 19-2 record and a Final Four last year. Head coaches cannot panic because of one loss no matter what the sentiment from the Jayhawk Nation or the media is.
Second, Self knows that if he makes a move to Tharpe now, he will destroy Johnson’s confidence and also ruin all of his team’s chemistry. Self knows that he will need Johnson’s explosiveness to the rim and playmaking abilities if Kansas is to contend for a national championship.
Third, and maybe most important, Johnson is a senior and if Self shifts the starting duties to Tharpe because of a regular season loss it will show that Self is not loyal to seniors. Not only could the move hurt this year’s team down the home stretch but it could hurt his team in years to come. How? Recruiting. Self knows that not only does sticking with Johnson show that he has confidence and belief in him, but it also reiterates to players that Self will stick it out with them through tough times.
The message is clear, “if you stick with me and let me coach you, I have your back.” Self currently starts four seniors and he has a reputation for making younger players earn their playing time and paying their dues to a certain extent. Obviously when there is a player of Ben McLemore’s caliber Self is going to play them. However, historically most of the freshmen under Self have had to prove themselves in the early stages of their career.
Keeping Johnson in the lineup not only is the right move for the Jayhawks, but it shows the players, fans and prospective student-athletes what the Kansas program and Coach Self are all about.
Follow Bert DeSalvo on Twitter @CoachDeSalvo