Jayhawk Basketball Previews Sunflower Showdown

Jan. 3, 2012

LAWRENCE, Kan. – On Tuesday afternoon Kansas players, along with head coach Bill Self, met with members of the media in Allen Fieldhouse. As part of the weekly press conference, the Jayhawks discussed the upcoming Sunflower Showdown with Kansas State. Self fielded questions about his impressions of this year’s Kansas State team, as well as how he thinks Tyshawn Taylor has progressed since his knee surgery.

Below are videos and transcripts of Self’s and select players’ interviews.

  • Bill Self Interview Part 1
  • Bill Self Interview Part 2
  • Bill Self Interview Part 3
  • T. Robinson Interview
  • E. Johnson Interview

Bill Self Press Conference
January 3, 2012
Lawrence, Kan.

Kansas head coach Bill Self
On if Kansas State is a better team compared to last year:
“I don’t know. I think they are probably more balanced now without Jacob (Pullen), but I watched Jacob in person get 38 (points). I thought they were pretty good that night. From my standpoint, I’m glad he’s graduated and gone. I do think that there’s more balance now, and guys seem to accept their roles. Usually when you don’t have a guy like they had in Jacob, it makes it hard because teams don’t just focus in on one guy.”

On Kansas State’s rebounding ability:
“There are certain statistics that show up that you would consider effort-type statistics. I wish they kept a stat of what percentage of the time you get 50-50 balls. That’s really the difference in winning and losing. If you get 70 percent of the 50-50 balls and there’s 20 in the game, that means you’re getting 14 and the other team is getting six. That’s eight extra possessions. If you score on half of them, that’s eight more points at least, not counting threes. That’s how you win and lose games. I think far more so than screening well and being good post-feeders, I think that’s one thing that (Kansas State head coach) Frank (Martin)’s teams have always excelled in is getting the majority of the 50-50 balls and stealing extra possessions. I think on the offensive glass they do that as well as anybody. The Big 12 comes out with a statistic, and they get 42 percent of their misses back, which is an alarming rate. We get (about) 33 percent. Defensive rebounding, we’ve done a good job in having one of the higher percentages in the league in controlling the defensive glass. That will be something that’s a big key on Wednesday. Sometimes their best offense is missed shots, which is a compliment to them because that’s a testament to how hard they play.”

On the keys to offensive rebounding:
“I think there are a lot of things. A lot of it is desire. I think a lot of things are simple things like you force rotations. Now it becomes rotation rebounding as opposed to me just guarding you and keeping you off the glass. If a guard is able to force help, it forces bigs to rotate. That forces angles and guys covering for guys, helping the helper behind blocking out. Most teams are not great at that, but I will say a lot of it’s effort. A lot of it is guards getting into the paint and forcing help. A lot of times people think those are bad shots when guards drive in there and shoot the floaters. They probably have a 20 percent chance to go in, but you have a 60 percent chance to rebound behind it, so those aren’t bad shots. With them, I think it’s just a mindset of how hard they go after it. I personally have always admired teams that went after the ball like that. If you look at our stats, they kind of mirror each other rebounding the basketball, but we don’t do as good of a job on the offensive glass as what K-State does.”

On the significance of guard play in Big 12 Conference games:
“I think guards should control the game no matter what. They always say in the NCAA Tournament that teams with the best guards have the best chance. I guess in conference play guard play, to me, is most important because you can design a defense to keep a big from touching it, but you can’t design a defense to keep a guard from bringing it up. Guards are going to touch it more, so I would say guard play is imperative moving into conference (games).”

On if he has been frustrated with Jeff Withey’s play lately:
“I’m not mad at Jeff or the other guys, I’m just a little perturbed. I don’t think we rebound the ball like we should. The reason we make emphasis of certain things is games like this game (Kansas State). If you let it slide against other people, then the chances are that when you really have to be a really great rebounding, physical team that you can’t just turn it on and turn it off. It has to be a staple of who you are. Jeff is going to be very important in this game, but I think the others are (as well). I think everybody’s going to be important.”

On Thomas Robinson’s play so far this season:
“I think Thomas statistically has played about as well as I could hope. I still don’t think he impacts the possessions on both ends in a way that he’s capable of doing, but I think he’s getting better. He’s obviously a fabulous kid but, to me, the other day was such a good sign because the more patient he was, the better shots he got. He was poised and patient. He actually became a pretty good screener the other day, which opened up some things for him as well. I think he’s played well, but I have high expectations for him. I still think there’s another step he can take to really become the all-around dominant player that he can become.”

On the culture Frank Martin has established at Kansas State:
“I think the culture is you play as hard as you can every possession in all ways. I don’t think it’s just on the offensive glass. I think they’re up the line. I think they’re denying one pass away. I think they’re in stances. I think there are a lot of things they’re doing that would be the culture of what they’re trying to get accomplished.”

On the team’s ability to limit turnovers recently:
“I think we have. Tyshawn (Taylor)’s played really well since the Davidson game. In the Davidson game, he was coming off surgery seven days earlier. I think he’s done a good job as far as taking care of the basketball. Even though it was a game that wasn’t in doubt, North Dakota was he and Thomas’ game without question. He’s going to be really important because he has to get to the paint. We were so aggressive last year at our place, but (Kansas State) turned our aggressiveness into negatives because they took six charges, if I’m not mistaken. Watching the game, I couldn’t believe we just kept running over them, but they force you to go fast. Then when you go fast and are aggressive, they do a good job of rotating. We have to do a good job of being under control, but being very aggressive.”

On if losing Missouri to the SEC will ramp up the KU-KSU rivalry:
“I hadn’t thought about it, but I would say that would probably be a fair statement. That could definitely happen.”

On where he would rank Conner Teahan among some of the best shooters he’s coached:
“He’s up there. I’ve coached some pretty good players, so it’s hard for me to say he’s right at the very top. From a percentage standpoint, and if his feet are set, I haven’t had very many that are better than him shooting the basketball. The best shooter I ever had was kid nobody knows about, Tim Gillette, at Oral Roberts University. He shot 50 (percent) from three, 50 from two and 90 from the free throw line every year. That’s the best shooter I’ve had. At Illinois, I didn’t have anybody pure, maybe (Brian) Cook, and he was 6-10. Here we haven’t had that many that were pure. Tyrel (Reed) was close, but I think Conner, when his feet are set, is as good as I’ve had.”

On if he thinks it’s good when both KU and Kansas State are ranked when they play each other:
“Oh yes it’s a great thing. It’s good for our state. It’s good for Wichita State to be good, even though the better they get the more we should play them, in everybody’s mind. It’s good for them to be good. It’s good for Kansas State to be good and it’s good for Missouri to be good. It’s good for our league to be good. What you hope for is they aren’t good at your expense. I like the fact that there’s interest in the games going on. I know the players like it too.”

On if he thinks there’s a player more polarizing than Tyshawn Taylor:
“I don’t follow what you guys talk about on sports radio, I know you find that hard to believe. He is a pretty scrutinized guy, there’s no question about that. Part of that he brings on himself. A lot of that is being the point guard here. He can be frustrating, but he can make plays you can’t coach and he can make plays that make you wonder if he’s ever been coached, but that’s him. I’m glad we got him. I think he’s really talented and I think he’s getting better. I think he’s made a conscious effort to tighten his game up in a lot of ways. In the last few games he’s played pretty good, but he’s going to turn it over. He’s going to make some mistakes. The thing we can’t have him become is a non-aggressive factor because he’s playing not to screw up. He needs to be turned loose. He’s had many good games. Against Texas last year in the Big 12 Tournament, he was the best point guard in the country that day. I think there are some times when you watch a player too much and you become critical of him too much when other guys are doing the same thing. I’ve really enjoyed coaching him. He’s a kid that cares an awful lot.”

On what mistakes Taylor makes that other players don’t:
“I think if Tyshawn (Taylor) is being aggressive, his mistakes are very limited. When he’s not being aggressive, I think he can become very careless and take it for granted. The simple plays he can make look difficult and the difficult plays he can make look real easy. I don’t think that’s uncommon either. Do players concentrate more on a guarded three or an uncontested layup? I think that can happen with him sometimes. A simple guard-forward pass; sometimes we screw that up. I will say in the last three weeks, he’s done a really nice job of tightening his game up.”

On if he thinks a team can have four losses and still win the Big 12 this year:
“I think 14-4 would have a great shot at winning the league. We’ve won it a few times at 13-3, so 14-4 may not get it outright. I think that would be a great record with a chance to win it. The league is so much better than anybody thought it was coming into it.”

On Thomas Gipson of Kansas State:
“He’s a load. He’s not one of those high-flying type guys, but, to me, he is so effective because he creates space. He’s left-handed, so it’s a little awkward guarding a lefty. Frank (Martin) obviously likes him. He’s done a good job all year for them, from a production standpoint. If you look at him from a production standpoint compared to some of the McDonald’s All-Americans recruited in our league, he’s getting more done than a lot of guys. I think a lot of him.”

On Will Spradling:
“I don’t know if he’s the glue to their team. It’s hard for another coach to say that about somebody else’s team, but he seems to be a steady influence out there all the time. When things get a little out of whack, he seems like the kind of guy that can pull it back in. I’m really impressed with him. He’s a really good basketball player.”

On if he has paid any attention to the Morris Twins and Josh Selby in the NBA right now:
“I actually looked at that today and if I’m not mistaken, Josh (Selby) is getting quite a few minutes. Since (Mike) Conley has been out he’s getting some minutes and I think he had nine (points) and seven (assists) the other night. Kieff (Markieff Morris) is kicking tail. He’s in there game-point with the Suns right now. The Suns didn’t get off to a real good start, but they’re playing pretty good right now and Kieff is right there. He had 16 (points) and nine (rebounds) the other night and that’s pretty impressive. The thing about him, he’s not scared. He’s tough and strong. Mook (Marcus Morris) who you would think would have the chance to impact the team more, but he’s not playing as much and he just got sent down. I haven’t talked to him since that happened, but that’s not a negative either. If you’re not going to play a lot now, go get some minutes down there so you can come back up and help you. Everybody’s (going to have ups and downs) and they’re all freshmen. I think for the most part, the guys are doing pretty well. Brady (Morningstar) had 26 (points) the other night in the Developmental League. He never sniffed that for us and he’s getting that against pros now. So, he’s putting up numbers as well. It’s going to be an adjustment for everybody.”

Junior guard Elijah Johnson
On if the team has talked about winning its eighth-straight conference title:
“We talk about it a lot. It’s a new season. The preseason (non-conference) is over. It’s the second season of the year. It’s important to find out what the competition is like and see how some teams can play. Everybody is focusing on a championship right now, especially us because we’re used to winning it.”

On if the teams watches the other teams in the league:
“We watch them all the time. Every chance we get. You always want to watch your opponent whenever you can. We know we have to run into them twice, why not watch them?”

On his impressions of Kansas State:
“They’re long, athletic and still scrappy. It’s K-State, just like always. I think they rebound pretty well. It’s always different when you play against us. It’s a toss-up game whenever it’s K-State versus Kansas. Anybody can get on a roll. There’s so much energy in that game. There’s so much excitement and so much to play for. You never know what could happen.”

On comparing the experience of KU and K-State:
“If anything, they (Kansas State) doesn’t have that leader anymore (after losing guard Jacob Pullen). We’ve still got our leader, Tyshawn (Taylor), and we’ve got some other leaders on our team. I feel like our experience on the floor, we’re ahead of them. Honestly, there’s not too many teams I can say that about. I feel like we’re ahead of them as far as experience, as far as leadership and having some players who have played in some big games.”

On if the KU-K-State rivalry will mean more once Missouri leaves the Big 12:
“Right now, it’s the same. But who knows. It definitely could change without us having that third or fourth game. We don’t know yet. It might end up dying down. K-State might not be the school for us anymore, or it might get bigger. It might get crazy and it might get more hectic.”

On the energy it will be important to start with in Wednesday’s game:“In the Fieldhouse we have to make sure teams feel us. If they don’t feel us then they’re going to feel our fans anyway. With them feeling our fans, why not take advantage of it? We usually do so we’ll see how they react to the Fieldhouse.”

Junior forward Thomas Robinson
On Kansas State’s rebounding:
“They definitely crash the boards better than a lot of teams in the country, especially in our conference. Some of the teams that we played outrebounded us, so it’s definitely going to come down to toughness tomorrow.”

On if he has seen a lot of Kansas State games this year:
“I watched their progress this year. They definitely became more noticeable on the national stage as a good team. I actually went to their game at the Sprint Center, so I’ve definitely been watching them. I feel that we’re prepared. We’ve been practicing hard. It’s not going to come down to the scouting report. It’s just going to me a man’s game tomorrow.”

On the difference between this year’s Kansas State team and last year’s:
“They’re more dangerous. They’re more one (as a team) now. They’re not dependent on one person scoring for them. It’s more of an equal opportunity thing. They’re definitely more dangerous than just having one person. It’s easier to stop one player than 11.”

Senior guard Tyshawn Taylor
On the importance of guard play against Kansas State:
“I think it’s really important because of the way they like to pressure. We’re definitely going to have to take care of the ball and make sure we get a shot every time. We’re going to have to defend some really good guards from them, so I think it’s going to be a big game for me, Elijah (Johnson) and Travis (Releford).”

On how much Bill Self emphasizes getting the 50-50 balls in practice:
“That’s one of the main things he emphasizes, especially against teams like Missouri and Kansas State. He emphasizes it more before those games because he understands how much they pressure and how many 50-50 balls they get, how many offensive rebounds they get and how many steals they get. He understands that every possession is going to matter in games like this.”

On treating the beginning of Big 12 play like a new season:
“We have to get an understanding that it’s a new season right now. (A record of) 10-3 is good. It matters. It’s not the best. We could have done better, but it’s over now. It’s a new season now, a new year. We’re going to start conference 0-0. We start tomorrow with Kansas State. It’s a big test for us to see where we’re at in our conference. They’re one of the better teams in our conference. We’re excited. We’re more pumped, excited and have more energy in our locker room and practice than we’ve had all year. I’m excited.”