Don’t blame Conner

Posted on: February 8th, 2012 by jayhawktalk No Comments

Pregame warmup 3s always go in.

Conner has become the new Tyshawn.

No, he’s not point plank’n. But he has become the hot message board target of the week. More and more he is being yelled at in sports bars. He’s drawing the ire of the casual KU basketball fan.

Kind of like Tyshawn a month ago.

Unlike Taylor, this is not Conner’s fault. He is who he is. He’s not underachieving like Tyshawn was. He’s not a knucklehead like Tyshawn was (at times). He’s not really turning the ball over. And unlike Tyshawn, who would occasionally take plays off, Conner plays his ass off on nearly every possession.

I repeat, he plays his ass off on every possession. Which is why I feel badly writing anything negative about him. Or letting others speak so negatively of him.

But let’s face it. He was a walk-on for a reason. And due to some misses on the recruiting front, he is going to be our 6th man this season. For better or worse.

I have heard him compared to Tyrel Reed. I think that comes from the fact that people saw Tyrel hit corner 3 after corner 3. People sometimes see Conner hit the corner 3 too. But Tyrel was so much more than a spot up shooter. He had a flare for the dramatic. He seemed to hit the clutch shot at exactly the time Kansas needed it the most. He had good lateral quickness and kept his man in front of him. He wasn’t Keith Langford, but he could dribble baseline if he needed to and would nearly always make a good decision with the ball.

Conner is not Tyrel Reed. Conner is Conner.

Conner is a fantastic high school basketball player. At Rockhurst, he averaged 25 points and 8 boards a game. He was Mr. Show-Me Basketball his senior season. He was a two-time Gatorade Player of the Year. He had a tremendous high school basketball resume, but couldn’t garner a scholarship offer from any of the Big XII local schools.

To play basketball for Bill Self, you have to defend. If you don’t defend, you don’t play. That’s how he’s always been. Everything starts with the side of the court that doesn’t include shooting or passing or dribbling the basketball. Coming into the season, Self recruited a great wing player named Ben McLemore. Like Conner, he was a standout high school player. He averaged 28 and 12.

He could also defend.

Ben was recruited to come in and play right away at a position the Jayhawks needed. When he didn’t qualify, Conner entered the picture as a guy that was going to have to play, even if he didn’t meet Self’s qualifications for the position.

In theory, Conner is not a bad guy to get minutes on this team. He has traditionally been a decent 3-point threat. This KU team didn’t really have many of those coming into the season. When he came off the bench, defenders would have to respect his shot, leaving more room for Thomas to operate and Tyshawn to drive. It makes some sense.

Except the poor guy just can’t guard.

And this is something the casual (and not so casual) KU fan has started to notice.

Unlike Reed and Morningstar and other white KU dudes that have come before him (because, let’s be honest, nobody…and I mean NObody compares white guards to black guards. It’s silly, really. Happens in football too. Think “Wes Welker-type.” I digress), he lacks lateral quickness. He lacks court vision. He doesn’t have the handles. And when he lacks confidence with his shot, he hurts his team.

Now some will look at the box score and see that he went 2-2 from 3-point range on Saturday. Those watching the game might even say that those two shots were huge at the time. Others, still, might even throw in that he got KU’s biggest steal of the game, one that led to points on the other end. All of these points are 100% accurate. It was his best game in a month.

But he got killed on defense.

Missouri seemed to run most its offense right at him. It didn’t matter who he was guarding. His guy seemed to get the shot, or at the very least, his guy started the possession for the shot. Can’t blame them really. I’ve been saying it all season. Whenever Conner is in the game, the opposition should send its guard right at him for a blocking foul or around him to make T-Rob or Withey slide over and draw those guys into fouls.

Again, I want to remind you, this isn’t Conner’s fault. Don’t get mad at Conner. If anything, get mad at Self for multiple misses on the recruiting front the last two years. Get mad at the NCAA or the Big XII partial qualifier rules for keeping Ben in street clothes for the season. Hell, get mad at Naadir Tharpe for struggling so badly in practice that he can’t make the rotation on a team that desperately needs another competent guard.

But it’s not Conner’s fault. He’s trying his hardest. And we’re going to have to live with it.¬†Here’s hoping his 2-2 performance on Saturday is a jump start for the rest of the season.

And if it isn’t, here’s hoping KU plays a lot of “Conner Teahan types” in its remaining games.

 

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