Head Coach Bill Self and Players Discuss Texas A&M with the Media

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March 6, 2008

Head Coach Bill Self

On the upcoming game with <?xml:namespace prefix=”st1″ ns=”urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags”?>Texas A&M:

“Certainly when Texas Tech played at (Texas) A&M, A&M dominated the game, but also, the score indicated worse than it was because Tech didn’t play starters for part of the second half. The same thing happened with the game here (with Texas Tech). We controlled the game. We made every shot and then their reserves missed every shot that our reserves made for the most part. Two of A&M’s last three games have been great performances. Of course, they had the Oklahoma performance sandwiched in there where they didn’t make shots, but last night was a great emotional win for their program, one that they felt like they needed to get. I’m sure Saturday will be an emotion-filled day also. I don’t anticipate it being hot-cold-hot-cold. Hopefully we’ll play good and we expect them to play good. It should be a great Big 12 game.”

On his memories of being around Texas A&M head coach Mark Turgeon:

“Of course, he’s a great guy, as almost everybody around here knows. He’s very knowledgeable, very competitive and certainly was an important figure in KU’s success during the time that he was here. He’s proven now to be a very good coach. Turgeon remembers me probably like I remember him. He’s a fun guy, a nice guy to be around, very competitive, but we’re not close, because we weren’t together that long.”

On the attitude of the players changing for the better recently:

“We met a lot after the OklahomaState game, but certainly it’s up to the players to get together and hold each other accountable. I don’t know why it’s changed, but I’ve certainly noticed more energy in the building. Attitudes seem to be `glass is half full’ again, opposed to `glass is half empty’. We do notice that. We just went through a funk. It’s a long season, and 30 games into it, you have to think that everybody is going to go through funks. We just happened to do it during that time, not the most opportune time with the league race. Every team needs to go through some stuff to realize who you are and fight through some things. Even though it might not seem like bumps, that was the adversity that we faced this year that we had to fight through.”

On fans appreciating the Conference Championship like they should (in any conference):

“I think our fans would appreciate it in football, but I doubt Oklahoma fans would appreciate that in football because there’s always a bigger prize. Every year your goal is to be the best that you can be in your respective league and if you’re the best in the Big 12, then you’re going to have a legitimate chance to be one of the elite teams in the country, regardless of the sport. That’s always been a goal of ours. It’s not the ultimate goal, but each season you set goals and winning league championships are great goals to get. The regular season is more important to coaches than the postseason championship because the postseason means you strung together three or four really good days and the regular season means you strung together two good months. It (the conference championship) does mean an awful lot to a lot of people. Fans may not understand, but coaches across America understand how hard it is to win league championships.”

On the achievement of winning four-consecutive league championships:

“It is a great achievement. I know it’s happened before and it’s happened with different leagues, but to win four-in-a-row in a major league where other guys are recruiting comparable-type players is a great achievement. Of course we haven’t done that. We have to win Saturday to do that, but that would be a big feather in this program’s cap and primarily in those seniors’ caps to have the chance to do that.”

On the secret of putting yourself in the position to be this successful year-in and year-out:

“Well, there’s one secret and that’s to have really, really good players. That’s the bottom line. There’s no coach with bad players winning conference championships. There are coaches with good players winning conference championships because his talent is comparable to the other best teams in the league. But nobody takes players here and gets them to play here. You take players here and get them to play a little better (at Kansas). I think that what it means is that your program has recruited well more than anything else. Then to be able to sustain success over time means you probably have a program and not a team. It’s a much easier deal to have a great team than it is to have a great program. Programs sustain hits and keep moving. Teams don’t sustain those. From a program standpoint, no matter what happens, a program can still compete at the highest level. Kansas, long before I got here, has been doing that consistently over time.”

On the players feeling like they own the league, even after the second loss of the season at Texas:

“No, they do not. If we would have won at OklahomaState, I would tell you right now that we would be the favorite because we’d have two losses and Texas would have three. Right now, how can you say we’re the favorite? Texas plays at home and we don’t. When you’ve won three-in-a-row, you still have to go through the team that’s won three-in-a-row to win it, especially when you’re the favorite going in. We should be competing for a league championship based on our talent level and expectations. Right now, nobody owns the league. No way, but we’ve put ourselves in a position to win four-in-a-row, which is a pretty remarkable accomplishment. Texas could also say, `we’ve won two of the last four’.”

On sophomore guard Sherron Collins:

“He’s not a little bit better, he’s a lot better that what he was a week ago. I had a national guy call me this morning and ask me why he’s playing better. It’s the first time he’s felt good all year. He’s had the stress fracture, the screw put in his foot and didn’t respond to treatment well after that, then he turns his ankle and chips the bone in his foot, then he gets a bruised knee. He’s never been able to practice and get to where he is right now. Right now, he’s actually practicing full-time. He hasn’t practiced full-time in months. I think he’s close to being what we thought he would be going into the season. He couldn’t pick a better time to do it. He’s close to being 100 percent, health, timing, explosiveness, and conditioning. I still think he can improve in some of those areas.”

On the overall health of the team:

“Everybody gets nicked up at this time of year, so we’re nicked up a little bit, but not to the point where guys are missing time. We can’t complain about that too much if guys aren’t missing time. If guys were missing long periods of time, you could say we’re not healthy, but everybody deals with this during this time of year.”

On playing your alma mater (Bill Self at OklahomaState and Mark Turgeon vs. Kansas):

“I hope he feels the exact same feelings I did, especially after the game starts, because it sucked for me. I’d already used all my timeouts before the 16-minute mark of the first half. That was a night where OklahomaState was absolutely fabulous. They were great. But for Turgeon, I would say it won’t be emotional for him, like it would be normally. It will be emotional for him coming back here (to Allen Fieldhouse) next year-playing in this place and being recognized and having all the talk. You know what people down there are talking about? `We need to beat Kansas to accomplish what we want to accomplish’. I think they’re in the tournament without a doubt, but for seeding or whatever. Coming back next year, depending on the timing of the game, is going to be talking about his homecoming. He’s not going to get hung up on playing his alma mater this particular game. It’ll probably be tougher for him next year.”

On Texas A&M as a team:

“Well, they defend. They’re very, very athletic. DeAndre Jordan is an athlete that few people in America have. As evidence last night, he can totally control the inside of the lane. He had six blocked shots last night. He’s a fabulous athlete and fast. Most teams, when you play good, make shots. They’ve gone through stretches. Josh Carter was the best three-point shooter in the country last year, this year he’s not shooting quite as good. We know he can shoot the ball well. They’ve got the guys, but when you make shots, everything looks a lot better. It’s the same for us.”

On the type of player Tyrel Reed is developing into:

“I think he’s going to be a nice player. He’s had kind of a rough freshman year from a playing-time standpoint, but a lot of it he’s been nicked up, but he’s fine. He’s going to be a guy that I see being a part of our rotation the next three years and hopefully be a good contributor. There are some things he’s got to work on, obviously, but I think he’s a typical freshman, playing behind some good guys. I’ll be honest with you; I didn’t anticipate him being a part of our main rotation if everybody was healthy. This year, there have been times when he’s played at a very high level in practice and times that he hasn’t, but that’s a freshman for you. Look at Cole (Aldrich). Cole’s gotten better and so has Tyrel. This year’s benefitted him a lot. I do see him being a very smart player, there’s no doubt about that. I think that some guys, when you say `a special understanding’, have unbelievable instincts, some guys think the game really well, some really understand time, score and momentum. There are a lot of elements in understanding the game. I think Tyrel is a smart player. He can become more instinctive. That will occur as he gets a little more experience.”

On the emotion surrounding Saturday’s game:

“I think our locker room will be pretty juiced up. I can’t predict exactly what the feelings are going to be in the locker room, but this should be the most competitive we feel all year long going into this game. I think a coach can orchestrate it to an extent, but I think in games like this, you probably don’t want a coach to orchestrate it too much because if you put too much emphasis on something that you know they’re already going to be juiced for, it can create anxiety or nervous energy. You want your team as calm as they can be. Our guys will be fired up to play, just like the A&M guys will be as well.”

Sophomore Forward Darrell Arthur

On the players-only meeting that the players held:

“It was good. We all got together and talked about some things that were on our minds and got some things off of our chests. I thought we came together as a group. I said a couple of things, but I’m a quiet guy.”

On the upcoming game Saturday:

“It’s going to be a tough game and a tough environment going in there. It’s going to be a fun game. Last year, it was tough. We lost when they went up after hitting a tough three. Everybody was upset and I think that’s when we came together as a team after we lost that game. We went up from there and I don’t think we lost from then on until UCLA.”

On Texas A&M’s team this year:

“They’ve been going off and on. They’re like us. They haven’t been playing well on away games, but at home they’ve been pretty tough, so it’s going to be a tough win to try to go in there and get a win out of them. They’re one of the bigger teams I’ve seen. They’ve got a lot of post guys. This team has a couple of bigs like we do and they play inside and out like us.”

On Texas A&M player DeAndre Jordan:

“He’s a pretty explosive player. I’ve played with him a couple of times. He likes to get to the rim and move a little bit closer. He’s just a big man that plays physical down there. It’s going to be a tough assignment to try to bang with him a lot.”

Senior Center Sasha Kaun

On getting revenge against A&M after a loss to them last year:

“It’s a different team in a way. Whatever happened last year happened and some of their players aren’t there. We need to win this game and focus on this season.”

On winning four-consecutive conference titles:

“It would be pretty cool. We just have to play to try to win this game. It definitely brings momentum going into the Big 12 tournament and would be a good thing for us. I think we are on the upswing. Practice has been a lot more enthusiastic and the games have been a lot more energetic. That’s a positive thing for us. We realized things weren’t going the right way the past three weeks. Guys started changing the way they approached things and have been bringing more energy to the table.”

Sophomore Guard Sherron Collins

On being healed after his various setbacks this season:

“A lot of things came around quickly for me and have turned the corner. I thought it was going to take longer. Actually I was getting a little stressed out and getting frustrated, but I try to stay as positive as I can, especially around my teammates. The pain started disappearing and now I’m where I want to be.”

On his role on the court:

“I just come in and try to be a spark and an energizer, pick things up, guard, push the ball and get up the court. I have been able to see what’s going on from the bench, so I come in and try to correct it. I think it’s a key that I’m better because I’m doing a lot more talking that I would be doing if I was just sitting on a chair on the side. Talking makes everybody else talk and we’re just having fun and working hard at the same time. Being healthy and just being out there is a plus. I’d say I’m about 90 percent.”