Can ex-KU guard Frankamp play angry enough to earn serious minutes in Wichita?
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Here’s the thing, though: Gregg Marshall doesn’t play shooters.
Actually, let’s clarify that. He doesn’t play shoot-first, defense-maybe types. Wichita State has built its re-emergence on stops first, on physical, bruising play, on floor burns and poked passes and elbows and box-outs and scraped knees and hustle and tears.
To put it another way, does Conner Frankamp look angry to you?
It’s hard to say no to home. Or playing time. Especially the latter. Frankamp is a Wheatshocker, at least as soon as the ink is dry on the last exam he’ll take in Lawrence. Kansas’ sophomore guard announced this week that he’s transferring to Wichita State.
Good for him. Good for them. The former four-star recruit, the all-time leading scorer in the Wichita City League, is arguably coach Gregg Marshall’s greatest recruiting coup. It’s a no-lose situation all-around, theoretically: A healthy Frankamp plays as soon as he’s eligible (mid-December of next year, reportedly) and plays minutes where he grew up torching net after net. The Shockers either have an ace third guard to pair with Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker, both juniors. Or proven cover in the backcourt if the latter decides, as many have surmised, to turn pro after this winter. In one hypothetical, Frankamp might one day replace departing senior Tekele Cotton in the starting backcourt on the wing.
And yet here’s the thought you still can’t shake, if you’ve watched the Shockers and Jayhawks up close: Cotton, like VanVleet and Baker, sums up what Marshall’s program, and in particular its run of absolute dominance, has been about. The under-recruited, the scrappy, the hungry, the tough. Football players without the pads.
And at a lithe 6-foot-1, 165 pounds, Frankamp might be one of the most un-Cotton-like players in the gym. Solid vision, solid passer, incredible range. The shooter’s shooter.
Also, skinny as a post.
As a player, in the Big 12 or the Missouri Valley, Frankamp is plug-and-play, ready to go.
As a Shocker, though, he’s a project. Strength. Defense. Anger. You know. Marshall things.
Which is not to say he can’t get there. Or won’t. This courtship was a two-way street, after all, and Marshall hasn’t missed on many fits yet.
If anything, the announcement starts what could be a sexy week for Team Play Angry on the right foot. The No. 8 Shockers (4-0) are on a run of 24 straight appearances in the Associated Press poll, the longest such streak in program history, inching them ever closer to Marshall’s desired status as the Gonzaga of the Plains. Wichita visits No. 25 Utah (5-1) Wednesday evening in one of those late-night, under-the-radar matchups that could come back into the foreground come Selection Sunday seeding.
It’s a marquee tilt, just as Frankamp is a marquee addition, having tapped the Shockers after also considering Creighton or Colorado. And any of them would’ve fit. In the end, the Wichita native went with proximity, a Kansas kid trying to make Kansas proud at a Kansas school.
Just not the one he had his heart set on.
An avowed childhood Jayhawk fan, Frankamp saved his best for last in Lawrence, averaging 11 points, two assists, two treys and 22.5 minutes in the Jayhawks’ two NCAA tourney games this past March, draining four of nine trey attempts at Scottrade Center. It raised hopes in KU circles that, despite a lost, unfulfilling weekend, a combo guard of the future — A poor man’s Kirk Hinrich? The second coming of Tyrel Reed? — had been found.
That Frankamp ultimately punted Lawrence, having averaged only 8.3 minutes per game as a freshman, wasn’t that unusual; but the timing — a few days ahead of the first exhibition — certainly was. Whatever writing had been on the wall in the spring and summer clearly changed once the fall semester rolled around. Maybe it’s just a coincidence that Ukrainian sharpshooter Svi Mykhailiuk, the gifted 17-year-old, finally rolled up to Lawrence in early September. Maybe it’s just coincidence that he serves many of the same functions Frankamp could have, minutes-wise, while also being 6-8.
PT is PT, and PT probably won’t be an issue in Wichita. Of course, defense might be — Frankamp’s defensive rating, as tracked by Sports-Reference.com in terms of points allowed per 100 possessions, was 108.6 last season. That was the third-worst figure on the KU roster (think of it like blood pressure — the lower the number, the better), and the worst of any Jayhawk who averaged at least 10 minutes a contest.
To put that in even finer perspective, the worst defensive rating on the Shockers’ roster in ’13-14 was Derail Green’s 97.9, and eight of the 12 Wichita players tracked by Sports-Reference.com registered a 96.7 or lower (VanVleet was a 92.3; Baker scored a 92.7; Cotton, 94.2).
Frankamp is joining a Marshall roster, and players on a Marshall roster who don’t hold up on the back end won’t see the floor. Since the fall of 2009, the Shockers have featured only one player to average 10 minutes or more per game who also posted a defensive rating over 100 — Evan Wessel, who was charged with a 102.5 over eight appearances. (Which was also something of a statistical aberration; the junior swingman has a career 96.6 defensive rating in 60 games at Wichita.)
To this point, Frankamp is more diamond than rough. But if anybody can get the shine off and the rough edges back on, it’s Marshall. One way or another, No. 23 will come out of this transfer a lot angrier than he was coming in.