A season and a career ended for North senior basketball player Conner Frankamp on Wednesday night. His Redskins lost to Blue Valley West in a Class 6A state tournament first-round
game at Koch Arena. It was an uninspired performance by everyone associated with North, and I have some thoughts in the aftermath of the game.
* Relief. I think with a night to sleep on it, Frankamp is relieved his high school basketball career is over. Imagine the stress he went through while trying to do what he could to keep harmony. Frankamp never got to play with another really good player at North. He never had the luxury of being teamed with strong interior player. I don’t mean this to be disrespectful, but Frankamp was too much of a one-man show at North. The Redskins were unable to put anything substantive around him outside of a couple of pretty good guards in Zach Beard and Tarrius Williams. Sean Bernard is a physical presence inside, but lacks basketball skills.
* I also think North coach Gary Squires feels some relief today. What a tough grind this has been for Squires. He’s been coaching one of the greatest players in City League history while trying to make others on the team feel as if their contributions have been significant. It’s been a jumble. Frankamp and Squires badly needed one other really good player to take some of the pressure off. But that player never materialized during Frankamp’s final three seasons, when he was forced to do so much.
* Finally, I believe the rest of the North players – and the Redskins are a junior-laden group – are somewhat relieved this is over. After hearing about Frankamp-this and Frankamp-that for a couple of years, how can some jealousy be avoided? I think North will be a focused and tough group next season, provided Squires can add a quality big man to the mix. The Redskins need size, pronto. Somebody who can be relied on to score 10 points per game and grab six or seven rebounds. And, just as importantly, defend the post. North could contend in the City League next season with that scenario.
* How will Frankamp do at Kansas? Now that his North career is finished, that’s the most-asked question of the day. Some think he’ll ultimately be a role player in the Tyrel Reed mold. Others think he’ll be an All-American. It’s tough to predict, but I think Frankamp will be an outstanding KU player. I know this: Bill Self is excited to have him. I’ve talked to Self three or four times about Frankamp and every time he finds another part of Frankamp’s game to anticipate. We never saw everything Frankamp can do while he played at North. We saw it in bits and pieces, but he was so counted upon to score a massive amount of points that his passing ability rarely came to the forefront. This kid can pass. He can handle the basketball. He is an offensive force of nature who will flourish under Self, a brilliant coach who will find ways to utilize Frankamp that no one has even thought about yet.
* I think Frankamp will be an All-Big 12-caliber player at KU by his junior year. There will be an adjustment period. He has to get bigger, stronger, faster. But because of a thin group of returnees next season, Frankamp will get significant time as a freshman. I assume the improving Naadir Tharpe will start in the Jayhawks’ backcourt next season. It’s conceivable to me that Frankamp could start, too, although he’ll have to compete with returning players Rio Adams and Andrew White III, who can play shooting guard and small forward. Also, incoming freshman point guard Frank Mason could be in the mix. This all discounts the possibility that 6-foot-5 Ben McLemore, another swing guy, will be in the mix. I expect him to leave for the NBA.
* It’s been a great thrill watching Frankamp’s career unfold at North. He brought me and my wife to a bunch of City League games over the past couple of seasons. We’ve enjoyed watching him play. It’s too bad it had to end the way it ended, but Frankamp will move on nicely. Like I sad, I believe there’s some relief in all of this. If not today, maybe tomorrow.
Thanks for reading. Talk to you all from St. Louis, site of the Missouri Valley Conference tournament coming up tomorrow.