The Sunflower State can boast over a bevy of Jayhawk basketball alumni, but a Kansas native has not started at point guard for KU in the Bill Self era, or even in the decade before he arrived in Lawrence.
Wichita North's Conner Frankamp, a Rivals 4-star recruit in the class of 2013, could break that trend as early as next season.
The loss of a second point guard in as many years for Self in Elijah Johnson will likely leave a seemingly always-young Kansas team with the inexperienced Naadir Tharpe as the only returning point guard. Tharpe has proven he can run the offense at times, but decision-making inconsistencies and poor shooting has kept an out-of-position Johnson running the point, paving the way for an offseason competition.
Frankamp utilizes his lightning-quick feet to easily spot up against lazy defenders, routinely keeping them off balance. Furthermore, the 6'0" guard refuses to make the foolish plays and effortlessly finds the small passing lanes, as he is maybe the best transition passer in the class. He could be compared to a more scoring-minded Aaron Craft of Ohio State with quick hands and advantageous defense.
Frankamp will battle Tharpe for the starting nod in 2013-14 along with fellow recruit Frank Mason, although many expect Mason to serve a backup role in the early going. Unfortunately, Frankamp will not have the luxurious 7-footer Jeff Withey to relieve pressure along the perimeter, but another 7-footer could replace the departed Withey.
Joel Embiid, another Rivals 4-star recruit and Cameroon native, was virtually unknown less than two years ago, but a quick arrival on the recruiting scene had NBA scouts gushing over his potential. It's potential that Bill Self hopes to unlock with the help of an athletic backcourt over the next few years.
Embiid, a 7'0" and 230-pound center that ESPN's Dave Telep called the best prospect entering the Big 12 next season, brings similar size that KU will soon be losing in senior Jeff Withey along with a versatile game resembling Darrell Arthur or Julian Wright. The combination of Withey and Arthur, scary isn't it?
With little game experience as he enters his first full high school season in 2012-13, it will certainly take a talented supporting cast to fully tap Embiid's potential, but similar to Cole Aldrich with the playmakers he was given, Embiid could become a dominating force inside both offensively and defensively.
Defensively, his prep shot-blocking skills are reminiscent of recent phenoms and UK recruits Anthony Davis or Nerlens Noel, but he might have an overconfidence in these skills, if possible, and occasionally gets caught in poor position as a result.
His ball-handling skills are impressive for a lanky big man, but he has not learned to maximize that advantage despite a rare ability to fool smaller defenders with nifty sidesteps. He is also never afraid to put the ball on the floor to further abuse defenders in the paint.
In addition to Embiid, the Jayhawks' frontcourt appears to be a group of underclassmen in Jamari Traylor, Perry Ellis, and Landen Lucas, while Self continues to court another big man in Julius Randle. The current Jayhawks, along with additional recruits, will not pose a threat to take minutes from the raw Cameroon native because he is a unique player that is much needed in Self's system.
Joel Embiid needs minutes to develop, and while growing pains might rear their ugly head in the early non-conference schedule, barring foul trouble, Self must force 20-25 minutes upon him in order to develop his basketball IQ. As of now, Embiid's IQ may be his only weakness.
Next year, Frankamp will have a bigger impact, especially if Tharpe does not seize the shrinking opportunities from Elijah Johnson. Tharpe will be given every opportunity to run the high-low offense, but Frankamp could shoot 40 to 45 percent from three-point range, whereas Tharpe may not be able to eclipse that as an overall field goal percentage.
Unless Embiid is enticed by the NBA before his junior season, he and Frankamp will have equally huge impacts in their respective Jayhawk careers.
The incoming group of those two, along with Wayne Selden, Brannen Greene and current Jayhawks in Andrew White III, Traylor and Ellis, could present a unique lineup similar to the 2007-08 national title team.
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