Who is our Leader?

  • Over the last 10 years, Coach Self has had multiple teams loaded with talented underclassmen that played important roles for KU. But on those teams, there were always upperclassmen who were the team leaders. They weren’t always the best players, but they were guys who had been through the ups and downs of KU basketball. Guys who had fought through both self-doubt and Self-doubt to emerge as leaders on the floor.

    Those upperclass players become vital at times like these - when losses mount and players start doubting themselves, the system, and maybe even the coach. Those leaders are vital when 18-19 year olds start to tune out the screaming of a coaching staff that is frustrated with them. They become as important as the assistant coaches. In essence, they are assistant coaches. Coaches on the floor that redirect the game from getting out of hand - keeping a 6-8 point run from becoming a 21 point run.

    I can’t ever recall a Self-coached KU team devoid of those player leaders. Until now. Usually there are several guys who fill this role. Reed. Robinson. Morningstar. Withey. Darnell. Sasha. Chalmers. Rush. You get the idea. But who is that guy this year? Tarik Black? Greg Wesley? No and No. Certainly none of the walk-on coaches’ sons. Perry is just a Sophomore and not vocal enough to be that leader - at least not yet. It was supposed to be Tharpe and Traylor - and maybe it will be. But I’m not seeing it yet.

    So while we look for Andrew to be the athletic leader on the floor - and he appears to be showing growth in that direction - we also look for the heart and soul of this team. That guy that will be an extension of Coach Self on the floor.

    History has shown that a Coach Self team always finds it way. It has stumbled and looked lost at times over the years (see TCU) but then turns the corner and rallies for yet another conference championship and high NCAA tourney seed. So this year will be no different, right? I truly hope so. But I see a concerning difference between this and all previous Self teams… Who is our leader?

  • A+!

  • In the Florida game, during a time out, the camera hung on the KU scrum for a bit. Toward the end, when Coach was finished, Tharpe started emphatically and demonstratively engaging the team (yelling, but not in a negative way).

    Not sure that he is THE leader, but that was a moment.


    The creation of a team is not an instantaneous manifestation. Teams are forged out of journeys and experiences… the more difficult and epic, the better.

    The KU team formation is a work in progress. Coach has to manage these experiences… help the team take the valuable lessons and nurture learning and growth. Likewise, he needs to neutralize the negative parts so they don’t create a lasting imprint on the team.

    He’s got a pretty good track record. I’m still hopeful that the final product (in March) will be sufficiently skilled, resilient, savvy and confident. They certainly are sufficiently talented.

  • That seems to be the $64,000 question doesn’t it? I believe that it will be a running question until conference games begin. I know it will not be Ellis based on his past three games. As much as we had expected Black to bring that quality into the equation, and mentally he may be helping the young ones adjust, but on the floor no way. Each game forward any one of them are able to take the helm and it will be interesting to see who really does emerge.

  • @JayDocMD Great post. I felt that the recruitment of Tarik Black was to provide the “senior” leadership, even though he was new to the program. He has the age and size to command attention. Early on, you could see him in that role. He was clearly coaching on the floor. The problem became the new interpretation of the rules. Now that Black can’t stay in the game for more than 3 minutes, the team has lost the best quality he brought to us. I can see the frustration in his demeanor.

    Wiggins is so talented he will be the “go-to”, but his personality has shown he is not, nor will be, the leader, the extension of CS on the floor.

    I love to watch the players during dead balls for signs of this “leadership” skill. A player must know he has the support of the coaches, and they must cultivate the right personality, and allow this skill to take hold and grow. Watching the team, Mason seems to be the “leader-in-training”. How long this takes is not known.

    It would be great if Traylor or Ellis could pull the load until Mason is ready. Until then, we will see our Jayhawks remain wildly inconsistent despite their awesome talent.

  • @JayDocMD - Great thread and post.

    I have two pretty firm beliefs - 1) that as a player, you can’t be a leader unless you’re playing. Only exception might be the older professional player that is at the tail end of his career. 2) that a player can be a true leader unless he is verbal, meaning will talk, express himself, and direct others.

    I see Black, Tharpe, and Greene as the only two thus far that seem to qualify under the second category.

  • In basketball, the leader has to not only be playing, but playing well. You can’t be a leader if you are not producing, because basketball is such a naked sport when it comes to results. There’s really nowhere to hide. You can’t just be a guy that “does the little things” because everyone will see that you aren’t actually productive and your teammates, more than anyone else, will know that.

    The candidates to be “the leader” on this team are as follows:

    Wiggins - he’s the best player. The best player always has everyone else’s ear. It’s said that he’s a really quiet guy, though. That may keep him from really rallying the other guys, especially as a freshman.

    Ellis - he’s very good and he’s a sophomore. That holds sway. But he’s also quiet and, unlike Wiggins, he doesn’t have the “I’m gonna just put the team on my back for the next 10 minutes” ability that can lead without saying anything.

    Tharpe - I think he’s actually the most likely candidate to emerge as a leader. The key is that he has to understand his role - i.e. facilitate the best players (Wiggins, Ellis, Selden, Embiid) and make sure those guys stay aggressive. So if he sees Wiggins or Selden just hanging out on the perimeter against the zone, he should be imploring them to cut or drive. If he sees Perry or Joel not fighting for deep position in the post, he should be on them. When those guys do those things, they should be rewarded with touches and shots. If Tharpe can do that, not only will he be starting again, but this team can reach its fullest potential.

  • There was an interesting read recently in Sports Illustrated, an excerpt from a book about the 85 Bears. The section they focused on was about the relationship between McMahon and Ditka, and McMahon and his teammates.

    McMahon and Ditka clashed. It was crazy.

    McMahon and his teammates was a different picture. He head butted them, symbolic of his belief in what they were doing. I think it was Singletary who said McMahon came on the field and instantly made everyone out there on his side of the line better. That’s a leader. Right now, JayDoc is right, we have no one seemingly out there to make everyone better.

    I hope he emerges before this promising season is a waste.

  • I have two pretty firm beliefs - 1) that as a player, you can’t be a leader unless you’re playing. Only exception might be the older professional player that is at the tail end of his career. 2) that a player can be a true leader unless he is verbal, meaning will talk, express himself, and direct others.

    I agree @HighEliteMajor. I would add to those criteria the need to have at least 1 if not 2 years already under your belt. To really know Self and his system/methods it take a couple of years of indoctrination. Greene is a freshman and his PT is still in flux. Black may get the PT (although not much due to fouls) but doesn’t have those previous years of indoctrination to be that extension of Self on the floor. That leaves Tharpe. Will he step up?

  • I don’t see Tharpe being a leader because he’s not vocal and doesn’t have a positive attitude. He falls under the quiet EJ type player mentality. I think he’s getting a bit mental with Self right now. I don’t think Tharpe understands how important his role is to the team right now. Mason is young, but he displays all the qualities of a pg. Mason is vocal, tough, skilled, and love his aggressive attitude on the floor. Tharpe should have the experience by now, but Mason should be a solid floor leader by conference. I’m just not sure if Tharpe will turn the corner.

  • I am not of the belief that someone can be turned into a leader. Those abilities are built into individual’s core… might even be innate tendencies. There are some who can gain some leadership skills through time and effort… but the real leaders will want to lead immediately upon arrival to a team. Granted… sometimes players have to wait their turn below upperclassmen.

    I was of the opinion (mostly from reading KUSports) that Tharpe was a natural leader. He is doing many of the things that leaders do. He is verbal with all the guys. From what I understand he is very verbal during practices.

    A leader is judged by his execution in the heat of battle. That is what matters most. Maybe Tharpe is verbal in practice and maybe Black works with the other bigs… great… those guys are then “helpers” and different from “leaders.”

    The best leaders will have more control over their guys than the coach. The best leaders have that much influence. With the best leaders, on a time out, you will see the players listening to the coach, but often looking at the leader… and when they are walking out of the time out they will be talking to the leader… to get some clarity and final instructions. Do we see that going on?

    The best leaders don’t always play perfect basketball, no one does… but the best leaders will always lead by example. They will always dive for loose balls, and even if they don’t get the ball, the other teammates will vibe in on the hustle and mimic their leader. More than getting the ball away, the leader has done his job by “leading by example” and the tone his hustle sets will be what his teammates follow.

    If your floor leader has bad habits, his teammates will pick them up. If your floor leader (Tharpe) is careless with the ball, his teammates will be careless with the ball. It takes quite an effort to have 25 TOs in a game.

    If Tharpe is the leader then he steps up to the microphone right now and he takes it on the chin. Because leaders take responsibility for their troops. If he was a leader he would be apologizing to the world for the effort in Florida and he would take 100% responsibility. That’s what leaders do… whether on a team or in a company.

    The best leaders can’t stand to lose. A real leader, coming off our recent play, would spend every breathing moment in the gym after returning from Florida, and would recruit teammates to join him. A real leader will realize that the coaching staff can only do so much… mostly because they have to follow NCAA rules. But there is nothing stopping any of these guys from putting in extra reps. And to be honest, the best play always comes from teammates who put in extra time of their own and develop their own chemistry… chemistry that isn’t forced on by coaching… chemistry that is developed naturally from those players meeting on their own and working together.

    I’m looking for someone on this team to grow a pair. I’m looking for someone who is ready to step up. I’m looking for someone to take responsibility. Talk the talk to teammates and go out and walk the walk.

    That’s what it takes to lead. And you need a good leader if you hope to do well in March. If we don’t resolve this… March will be a huge disappointment!

  • slayr- I really thought when Tharpe arrived, he came in with skills. I really thought his pg skills were complimentary to the team. He came in with one of the best abilities to read screens. But, he’s just a bit too quiet when it counts. He doesn’t seem to have the qualities you wrote about. Mason could take this team over if he steps up and matures. I just think his freshman mentality is limiting him. He thinks his youth prevents him from being “The” leader. It’s time for Tharpe to put up or shut up and if he shuts up, then Mason needs to take control and put away his underoos, and be the leader this team so desparately needs. He thrives on these moments of criticism and says he’s faced adversity his entire bball career. Well, he’s being critiqued again. It’s time to step and respectfully take the reigns from Tharpe, if he doesn’t want the responsibility.

  • I’ve been a huge Mason fan ever since I watched him in that open practice at AFH.

    I’ve heard he doesn’t talk much though. Gosh… if you could meld the qualities of Tharpe and Mason…

    I’m just not sure if Mason is ready to verbalize to his teammates and take over the entire role needed. He is (by far) my pick for “leading by example.” That is where Tharpe is weakest.

    Mechanically speaking, how does this team change now, from Tharpe to Mason? How do they turn off Tharpe’s talking and turn on Mason’s? And the team has to be on board with the change. They have to want to follow Mason.

    I just don’t get it why Tharpe hasn’t completed the evolution to being team leader? Self has told him to penetrate, and he has the skills to do it… but he doesn’t do it. And he is quite capable of being a disciplined passer. He’s already experienced two seasons of away games. Why did he freak in Florida? Doesn’t he realize that how it goes with the leader is how it goes with the team? Doesn’t he realize that he has to control the tempo? Does he even realize that he has to take control, period?

    If he would have taken control of that game we would have spanked Florida big time. To play as bad as we did and only lose by a handful is amazing in itself.

    I would have like to hear that something went down in the locker room after the Florida loss. Like last year… the team having it’s own meeting and coming together off that meeting with a better outlook and energy. I was hoping we would have heard that at least one of these guys broke down in frustration and went wild after the game… bursting out about hating to lose and not wanting to ever lose again.

    I wish someone would post the story about Manning again. When Manning came unglued and couldn’t handle losing anymore. And they didn’t. And they stepped up as underdogs and thumped Oklahoma. That’s the kind of attitude we need on this team… if not from everyone, at least one guy. One can be enough to win it all.

  • slayr- I don’t know what happened in or before that game. But they all looked pitiful to say the least. Selden had a “rough” game. Ellis “struggled.” Mason was “overwhelmed,” “outmatched,” and Tharpe does not play like a junior pg. I don’t get it. Tharpe is a junior and played with some of KU’s best for the last two years and comes into this season playing passively, and with little to no confidence. I just don’t think Tharpe wants it. Selden and Mason aren’t quite prepared. But I think Self hit the nail on the head when he said it was “confidence.” The only way to give confidence is let them play through. He’s still yanking at the smallest mistake. I’m baffled at why Self doesn’t let them play through their mistakes. He used to keep Sherron on the court simply to make a statement when Sherron made mistakes. He wanted to let Sherron work through humiliation after making bone headed mistakes. It worked too. Now Self just pulls players at the slightest mistake.
    It’s interesting what he’s doing with Greene. If Tharpe, Mason, or Selden fail, why not give Greene a shot at pg? Greene is much better than what we’ve seen. He can handle the ball and is smart. He made that one bobble at the end of the Florida game, but that wasn’t the game losing play. Greene could be a big pg, he’s got the skills. He needs reps and confidence and he could be huge at the pg. Oh and btw, Greene will talk and can be vocal on the court. He brings energy too.

  • Traditionally point guards tend to be the leaders since they direct the flow of the offense; in essence they are like a general directing the action even if they are not directly involved in the final play. I seem to recall that Coach Self once upon a time refereed to Tharpe just that way.

    Also, if I remember correctly, Mason played SG and not PG in High School and he may still be learning to do what PG does, vocally direct the offense traffic. Hopefully he will grow into the position since it is his natural position and more fitted to his natural ability and size.

  • @truehawk93 - I wouldn’t read anything into Greene bringing the ball up; it was situational, no pressure, two guard leading into the chop play, that’s all. Greene doesn’t have the ball skills to play that spot, but he sure seems like he has the skill to play the 2.

    @drgnslayr - really enjoyed your commentary on leadership above. Great stuff.

    @JayDocMD - Are you saying we are leaderless? Maybe. I think if Greene gets regular PT, you might see him emerge. But that’s a big “if.”

    Everyone – the posts yesterday following the game were tremendous. Made me just want to be quiet for the day and take it in.

  • I don’t always understand why CS yanks guys out. If they are just making a mistake, yanking them every time is not going to fix the problems… more likely to make things worse.

    I do understand yanking a player for not hustling. When they aren’t hustling it is doubtful they are paying attention, too. Yanking them out is a wake up call… and CS should tell the player why he has been yanked… right at that moment.

    I do understand yanking a player for making a mistake related to being lazy or not following another order that lead to the mistake.

    I do not understand yanking a player just because they rushed a shot, or created a TO, or panicked. Young guys are going to do that and they need to play through some mistakes. Young players need continuous play to develop their game. Heck, even old players make all these mistakes, but they get the benefit of the doubt and get to continue.

    All the coaches have been complaining about all the ticky-tack fouls because they break the continuity of the game… what about the continuity of each player?

    I don’t understand a lot of CS’s moves… but I do understand that he is one of the best in the business! Maybe that’s why I’m blogging for free, and he is coaching for millions! Still… I’m going to question some of his stuff, if for no better reason than to maybe resolve the question within myself.

  • I think that Tharpe can be our leader and I don’t think he should be coming off of the bench. It is possible to lead when coming off the bench, but I think it is better to be a starter. Mason can still get all of the minutes that Self thinks he deserves coming off of the bench. Mason has done some things that Tharpe hasn’t, but he has also made his share of mistakes…like just about everyone else. Drgn, I agree with your sentiment about yanking guys out. I don’t think there is any question that Freshmen play more tentative under Self than most other coaches. Look at Perry all of last year until the Big 12 tournament (about then). The quick hook has to be a contributor here. I did not understand why Perry played very little toward the end of the game. I know we were coming back and Self leaves the 5 that are making things happen in. But, he is one of our best players (2nd right now?) and he deserves the opportunity (and we need him) to play through a tentative spell (or whatever the problem is). I know, Traylor brought energy. All of that said, I have complete confidence that Self will have this team playing great ball later in the season…it is just a matter of when.

  • Sam Mellinger of the KC Star with a column written from the future. I found it interesting he touched on several of the leadership questions that I brought up on this thread:


  • This is so un-Selfian, but may definitely a year that would be best described as trial by fire. Some will get the fast a$$ hank yank, but some will be allowed to play through the their faux pas. Since we’re not the fly on the wall at practice, we may only assume from example that the quick hook on AWIII vs UF was determined by the previous days events. Also possibly that Greene was deserving more of the PT under the same circumstances. Brannen is the guy I feel can change our submissive 1st halves into confidence buiilding events. Maybe I’m off base here, but IMO Selden should take a spell coming off the bench for a couple weeks & see how much more it motivates him to improve.

  • I misunderstood the question -

    I was gonna say our leader is


  • Mason needs to go back to coming off the bench and Tharpe needs to lead this team.

    When do we think about starting someone else instead of Selden?

    It seems as though Greene has won the battle for the other minutes…?

    Tharpe may be the vocal leader but Perry needs to take on the rest of the leadership responsibilities.

    Wiggins is coming along and needs to keep it up.

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