Jayhawks Talk Texas Tech at Weekly Press Conference

Jan. 9, 2012

LAWRENCE, Kan. – On Monday 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 their upcoming opponent, the Texas Tech Red Raiders. Self fielded questions on the breakout play of junior guard Travis Releford, as well as the challenges that are presented when preparing for a team with a first-year head coach.

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

  • Kansas Players
  • Coach Self 1
  • Coach Self 2
  • Coach Self 3

Bill Self Press Conference
January 9, 2012
Lawrence, Kan.

Kansas head coach Bill Self
On junior guard Travis Releford’s breakout week:
“He’s practiced pretty well, and he’s been pretty aggressive in practice. The problem I have with Travis—when I do have one—is that he loses that aggression sometimes. He’s been more aggressive, but I think he’s worrying about things you can’t control every night. You can control your energy and loose balls and defense. You can control all of that, so when you worry about the right things, that’s when you score more. That’s what is happening; he’s scoring more not (by) worrying about scoring.”

On Releford shooting three pointers:
Statistically, it’s pretty good. It was even good last year until he hurt his ankle. He’s not going to be a high-volume three-point shooter as far as number of attempts. I think he’s definitely a guy you have to guard. He may only take two or three a game, but you can’t dare him to shoot. I don’t think that’s the way that opponents look at him at all. I like it when it leaves his hands. He’s a shot maker. He probably needs to shoot a few more threes moving forward if he continues to be confident like this.”

On senior guard Tyshawn Taylor’s shooting performance at Oklahoma:“I don’t really worry about shots too much. Some players have to shoot well to play well, but he is not one of them. He did a lot of nice things. He got a little out of control when we had the lead late because he tried to do too much too soon. For the most part, he was aggressive and I think he is defending better as we get into conference play.”

On the perimeter players’ defensive performance this season:
“It’s been pretty good. (Junior guard) Elijah (Johnson) has been pretty sound for the most part, Ty (Tyshawn Taylor) can do some things defensively and Travis is excellent. (Senior guard) Conner (Teahan) is solid. He’s not going to get as many steals as some of the other guys, but he’s a good position defender. They have done pretty well. If you look in the league, nobody is going to shoot as high of a field goal percentage as they did during non-conference, and your field goal percentage defense is going to go up because you’re playing against better opponents. We have been decent defensively most of the year. Davidson was awful defensively (for us), but I like what we have done the last two games because we have scored off of our defense. We have been more active with our hands, and there is certainly a skill to that. You want guys to be active with their hands and get more deflections and touches defensively, which create good things offensively. That was the difference in the game at Oklahoma.”

On if a player being more aggressive comes from confidence or picking good moments:
“It is probably a little bit of both. Some guys play to please the coach or not screw up. When you get comfortable enough where you know what you are doing is pleasing the coach, then you are probably going to perform better offensively. That is where (Releford) is playing right now. He is playing the way he wants to play, which is the way we want him to play, too. He is not going to be a scorer over a defender, though. He has to keep doing what he is doing defensively because I think he is doing a nice job.”

On if Texas Tech head coach Billy Gillispie wanted back into coaching:
“I have been around him a lot. I don’t talk to him as much as I used to, but he’s had the itch for a couple of years. I think the lay-off probably helped him. He had some things going on health-wise with his mother and family, and it allowed him to spend more time with them last year. He’s hungry, and they are going to get guys down there.”

On Texas Tech’s close loss to No. 4 Baylor:
“They were down four with the ball multiple times under eight (minutes to play). They had their chances. They really attacked their zone well at times and did some really nice things. They also could have won that game at Oklahoma State. That was a one-possession game late, so they are getting better.”

On what he will use to prepare his players for Texas Tech:
“I think what we will show our guys to get ready is what teams do when they are performing well. That doesn’t necessarily mean making shots, but it means actions and things like that. I think all coaches would do that, show other teams when they are playing well to see what they are capable of doing. That is easy to do with Tech.”

On Texas Tech freshman forward Jordan Tolbert:
“He puts pressure on the defense. He is one of those prototypical undersized four men that just drives and is always drawing fouls. He is listed as 6’7″, but is still a little undersized when you talk about playing inside. Billy runs a lot of the high-low stuff and (Tolbert) is really good in the high post area because he can put it down and drive it. He is hard to guard one-on-one. He is, without question, one of the most dominant producing freshmen in our league so far.”

On if there is someone comparable to Iowa State redshirt sophomore forward Royce White:
“I haven’t seen one. If we had played Marcus (Morris) like that last year, he probably would have done some of the same things, but he is a power forward getting triple doubles with assists. That is the most impressive, eye-catching score I have seen so far in our league. He is obviously very good. Not too many people have the luxury of eliminating pressure by having your four man bring it up.”

On college basketball giving young men a second chance:
“I don’t think you ever sacrifice your program trying to save one, but there are so many times that stereotypes are made about kids when they are young and make some mistakes that they wish they could get back. Through athletics in general, kids in many instances go on and make a good life for themselves and be very productive. You can look at some of the kids here. Look at Jamari (Traylor), not from a legal standpoint, but he has been able to use basketball as a vehicle to actually get an education. Sherron (Collins) was the same way, and so have many kids that come from such tough backgrounds. It is hard to really make judgments on people. Have you ever seen the movie ‘Trading Places?’ It is probably a bad analogy, but they switched Eddie Murphy and Dan Akroyd around. (It was about) how he would act when he didn’t have the same things that he did. It was a totally different world. So much of what decisions are made are because of environment. I very rarely ever pass judgment on things until you give kids opportunities. Now if they screw those up, that is one thing; but everybody deserves another chance.”

On if he talked to Gillispie specifically about the Texas Tech position:
“Yeah, I talked to Billy about the job. I really think getting back in the league, getting back to his home state, and getting back to an area where he could recruit is where he excels. He excels in digging up diamonds in the rough and developing guys. Kentucky is a different deal, and (Kentucky head coach John Calipari) has proven that how you can do it there. He recruits four of the top 10 players in the country every year and then wins with them. Cal (Calipari) has done a masterful job of coaching them after he gets them, but most places, you can’t do that. It is all about development and those sorts of things. Billy will be great in taking the guys like we had at Illinois, the guys we had a Tulsa and the guys he at UTEP and Texas A&M that were good players and getting them to compete at a higher level. They have a chance to do great things, which he did at UTEP and that is how we recruited at Tulsa and Illinois, too.”

On the challenges for a coach that is coming into a new program:
“Well, for instance, it doesn’t do me much good to watch our game last year with Tech. Totally different personnel. Totally different style. That really doesn’t help much. Sometimes you’re better off doing it this way because you’re better off setting the ground work of how it’s going to be done forever. I had a great situation when I came in here, but I inherited guys who had been to Final Fours in back-to-back years and I tell them, ‘We’re going to do it my way and it really works,’ and they’re thinking, ‘They way we’ve been doing it works pretty well, too.’ That makes it a little bit difficult in some ways but the advantage is you probably have better players. In Billy’s (Gillispie) case, I really feel that you have to set the foundation of who you are. They have nine new players and a new system so it’s basically new to everybody. Everyone is coming in on the ground floor and that may be the best way to do it, over time. Maybe not for immediate results, but over time.”

On the aggressiveness of Jeff Withey in recent games:
“I would say the last two second halves (he has played well). I think he’s been great in both second halves. I don’t think he’s been unbelievable in both first halves but I think in both second halves because he has seemed to play with more fire and energy. When he’s emotional and fired up, he gets pretty athletic, too. I said this before the season; he’s only averaging 22 minutes per game and he’s leading the league in blocked shots. He’s doing some good things, without question, but we need him to start it from the tip. Not after the halftime talk.”

On what has been making Withey more aggressive in the second half:
“I just think it’s good plays (that make him more aggressive). I don’t think he’d be emotional if there weren’t good plays going on. When you make plays that change games, that’s what gets emotion out in everybody.”

On Withey’s rebounding this season:
“I would say he’s doing okay. He’s averaging just under six per game. I think that’s pretty good. You really shouldn’t look at your season-long stats. You should take your six best non-conference games and add them to your conference games and that’s who you are. Getting 45 against opponents that you should be able to rebound against or score against, that shouldn’t really count. If you look at the 10 good games that we’ve played so far, I’d say he’s done good. I do think there’s another step he could take. To be honest, Jeff has been better against our best competition. Sometimes it’s easier for big guys to play against big guys than it is for big guys to play against little guys. I think he’s been better against the higher-level teams that we’ve played.”

On what Withey needs to do to take the ‘next step’:
“He just needs to continue to get better. He could continue to become more of a low post scorer. Just being aggressive all the time. He’s not naturally a guy who bangs on people. He’s not Thomas (Robinson) and he’s not Markieff (Morris). Physically he’s not going to be able to do that. But his length allows him to do different things in different ways that they couldn’t do. A big thing that he can do is being aggressive and impact the possessions everytime down the floor defensively, because he can protect the rim pretty well.”

On how the program has developed Travis Releford:
“The thing with Travis, first of all, is he’s a great kid. There are a lot of things that depth does. It allows you to put guys on the bench if they’re not playing the way you want them to. It allows you to play through foul problems. It allows you to play through injuries. One thing we haven’t talked about; it allows you to redshirt guys. Because of depth, we’ve been able to redshirt (Conner) Teahan. Because of depth we’ve been able to redshirt Releford. Because of transfer (rules) we’ve been able to redshirt Withey. Three of our top six are spending an extra year here. That’s because of depth. If we needed those guys immediately we wouldn’t have done that. I think that bodes well for our guys from a recruiting standpoint that our system has done a good job getting players of pretty high quality so we can afford to do something like that. Coaches get a lot of credit sometimes when players get better. The biggest reason why players get better is they want to get better. Travis has a great attitude. I think that we coach them up pretty good though. If you have a mindset that you want to do something with this, then you’re probably going to do it. He’s had so many repetitions of doing it the way that we coach it, that he’s gotten really good of playing it those ways. I think that he’s bought in and that’s the biggest reason why he’s doing really well.”

Travis is never going to be a 20 point per game scorer. But he can get 28 in any game. He’s proven that. He is a defender, loose ball guy. An energy guy that scores basically out of making simple plays. He’s done a really good job of that. He knows who he is. A lot of players don’t know who they are. He knows who he is and he knows how to play to his strengths. He’s playing with more confidence the more success he’s having. Him getting Big 12 Player of the Week is so deserved in my opinion. That should give him a lot of confidence because we’ve got to be premier players around to win an award like that. He certainly proved it this first week of conference play.”

On what areas may have been improved for Releford after his redshirt year:
“You’re substituting 23 for age 18. That’s the biggest reason why you getting better. You’re taking kids who maybe aren’t ready mentally, physically or emotionally where they need to be and you’re substituting that year for the year that you do play. In Travis’ case he was 20 and now he’s 22, so that’s the biggest thing. Same thing with Ben (McLemore) and Jamari (Traylor), too. Even though we don’t like that, them getting a redshirt year should help them, too.”

Kansas junior Travis Releford
On being named Big 12 Player of the Week:
“When I first heard about it, I was really surprised because I have never been Big 12 Player of the Week or even come close to it. I’m just happy about it.”

On what has attributed to his more aggressive style:
“I’d say it is just from preparation for conference play. We came out and we knew some things we had to do early on in order to get key wins away. Coach (Bill Self) wanted me to stay aggressive and take what the defenses give me, so I’m going to continue to do that.”

On how much his redshirt year helped him:
“It helped me a lot confidence-wise, skill-wise and learning how Coach Self wanted me to play.”

On how the Jayhawks can sustain solid pressure and energy for 40 minutes:
“We need to come out with that type of pace at the beginning of the game so we won’t find ourselves down at halftime. If we come out how we did the second half against Oklahoma, putting the pressure on and getting breaks, it will make it a lot easier on the offensive end for us.”

On why this team is good on the fast break:
“We are quick from one all the way down to five. All of our guys can run the floor. Now with T-Rob (Thomas Robinson) sometimes getting a rebound and taking it coast-to-coast, we don’t have to look for him to pass the ball after the rebound. We can just take off. You may see a lot of that this year.”

On knowing who he is as a player:
“I don’t come into games thinking that I have to score points to win. We have Ty (Tyshawn Taylor), Elijah (Johnson) and T-Rob to do that, and they have been doing that. My goal is just to stop the other best player on the wing. If I have to guard down low a little bit, that is what I come into the game to do. Scoring just happened. My teammates found me in the right spots. With their scoring abilities, it opens up a lot for me, so I really don’t have to do much. I’m just playing off of how they play.”

On Texas Tech:
“We know they are a good team. They have a bunch of guys that came in this year, so it is not going to be an easy game down there. We have to get prepared for them this week.”

Junior forward Thomas Robinson
On the effect of Travis Releford’s good play has on the team:
“I think it’s a great sign. Just for the simple fact that it’s taking pressure off of me. Now people have to worry about Travis scoring on them and that makes things easier for me inside. Now we just have another weapon to add to it.

“Guys like Travis and Jeff (Withey) are definitely the X-factors for our team. With Travis playing like this, it’s definitely a good sign and definitely making me more confident in him and the rest of our team.”

On figuring out who they are as a team:
“Coach (Self) has said we’ve been searching for our identity all year and I think we’ve been playing fairly well on the defensive end the past couple games. I just think that has to be out identity first. Defense and then being able to get out and run and being able to use our players in the open court.”

On being named the Player of the Year midway through the season by ESPN’s Dick Vitale:
“That’s definitely a great compliment but the Player of the Year isn’t given out until the end of the season. I have a lot more work to do. If I receive the award, then I receive it, but right now the whole focus is to get the conference championship and make a run in the tournament. If I can play that well and things go that well, then great.”