Jayhawks Meet the Media, Workout in Omaha

March 15, 2012

| Gametracker vs. (15) Detroit

031512aad_246_7573927.jpegThe Kansas Jayhawks met the press in Omaha, Neb., Thursday, to talk about the team’s match-up with Detroit at CenturyLink Center on Friday night. Kansas guards Tyshawn Taylor and Elijah Johnson were interviewed in the formal press conference, as was Kansas head coach Bill Self. The following is a largely unedited transcript from ASAP Sports.

THE MODERATOR: We have Elijah Johnson and Tyshawn Taylor with us, we will go right to questions.

Q. Elijah, during the season Coach Self said something to the affect that he was not sure you understood how good of a player you are or could be. Did he ever talk to you in those terms and is that true, that maybe you don’t know how good your potential is?

Elijah Johnson: He mentioned it to me a couple of times, but I try not to be too full of myself so I try to keep myself humble, and it’s something he overlooked, he never complemented me for something the average person would get complemented for but it never affected me and it was just something that I was supposed to go and I’m starting to become more away of what I need to do to help this team and I’m sure there is going to be an extra boost for us in March.

Q. Tyshawn, what have you learned about Detroit in preparation for the game?

TYSHAWN TAYLOR: We haven’t watched too much tape yet but we went through the scouting report a few times. They’re athletic, they like to pressure the ball, they have two 6-10 guys and a good point guard who controls the game for them and he is their guy.

It’s going to be a challenge for us inside and on the perimeter, defensively and they’re going to make us work offensively, I think it’s going to be a good game, we’re going to match up and we’ve got to be as hungry as them.

I’ve always said this, if we match our opponent’s intensity and are just as hungry, we can compete with anybody, and I’m sure they feel the same way and it’s going to be a good match-up because they’ve got guys who can really play and we just want to get out here and — they just want to get out here, I’m sure and show the world that they can play.

Q. You guys have been through this before, but what is it like to have to play basically the last game of the first round of the tournament, you have to sit around, people are playing ball for two days, how do you burn off the energy and handle it.

Tyshawn Taylor: Personally I don’t like it I don’t like sitting around and waiting for the games, I feel like it’s one of those things where I feel like I’ve got to tone it down a little bit. I don’t like playing the last game but that’s the draw and we’ve got to take advantage of the situation the best we can.

Elijah Johnson: We’re anxious to play and we will just wait our turn, and I was watching teams earlier and they were turning the ball over and having jitters and just watching and it’s fun to watch the teams that you never thought would play each other, play each other so I’m enjoying the process I’m not in a rush.

Q. You guys were riding high after the Missouri win at home and then winning the conference title and now we’re seeing you for the first time after a loss, what is the team attitude like right now?

Elijah Johnson: Humble, definitely humbled. That’s a lot. It’s something we tried to spin into a positive and I think we honestly did. Who knows if we had beat Missouri how big we would be on our high horse. We spinned it into a positive, we focused, we know it can happen now and Baylor was a good team, they are ranged among the best, but that loss was unacceptable, and it’s time to play together and buckle down.

TYSHAWN TAYLOR: Basically what he said. I think since we got in the gym we had our best practices of the year recently. I’m sure we’re all excited to play and kinda just want to get out there and show everybody that we can bounce back. It was a tough loss but I mean, we weren’t prepared, we weren’t focused for that and we understand when we are not focused or tuned as a team we can loose to anybody. We showed that this year when we are not as focused as we can be, we can loose to anybody. I think it was a humbling experience because we know if we don’t come to play and come regularly, guys can beat us.

Definitely one of those things we’re going to try and take it and like I said these last couple of practices I’ve been the best I have all year so we flipped it into a positive and we are just going to try to make a run.

Q. You guys won’t have two play them but do you have any thoughts on Missouri being in town with you guys this weekend?

TYSHAWN TAYLOR: No, I don’t have any thoughts on it.

Elijah Johnson: Not too many thoughts. They are close to home, too.

TYSHAWN TAYLOR: I hope they are enjoying the weather.

Elijah Johnson: Yeah.

Q. Are you going to root for them?

Elijah Johnson: I’ll root for the Big 12 because I know that any win with help our conference.

TYSHAWN TAYLOR: They’re not in the conference they’re in the SEC now.

Elijah Johnson: You know what, Ty, you got a good point! (Chuckles.)

TYSHAWN TAYLOR: So it doesn’t matter, really.

Q. Tyshawn, why do you think you have had the best practices of the season?

TYSHAWN TAYLOR: I think it’s March, we understand the importance of that and we understand we have to be ready to play we can’t just win games showing up. This last week everybody has been focused, coming to practice ready to get better, want to go get better and everybody has been trying hard, our red team has been going real hard competing with us and the six or seven guys that played the majority minutes have been working as hard as we worked all year and I think it’s clear, you know, to Coach, to the coaching staff and to me as a captain and as kind of a student of the game, just being out there on the court with my teammates practicing I feel the atmosphere is a little bit different.

Like we said, losing that game to Baylor in the conference semifinals was a humbling experience for us and we had to sit back and watch the team get yelled at about it, be disappointed in ourselves and then just try to get better and that’s what we have been doing this last week.

Q. Elijah, comment on the same question?

Elijah Johnson: I think it was a quick flash for a the lot of players, mostly the important players, Tyshawn, T-Rob, Teahan, there is a couple of people that realized this could have been our last practice and that’s going through a lot of people’s minds and this is want the way we wanted this to end and that alone was the reason to give the best the red team had and with us going at it, we realized that we are all on the same team, we are all hungry, nobody wants to go home and it’s like it’s on everybody’s mind, the focus right now, nobody wants to go home.

Q. What are your thoughts on Ray McCallum?

Elijah Johnson: He carries the team, the energy, we just want to lean back on our leaders like they choose to lean on theirs. We have some people out here who they have to guard, we have captains out here who are actually just as smart of a student of the game as him and I am ready to guard whoever I have to, 6-10 to 5-10, doesn’t really matter.

TYSHAWN TAYLOR: I think he’s a terrific guard, man. He’s a crafty player. He’s the coach’s son so he has a great understanding of the game. I think it’s going to be a tough guard for whoever has to guard him but like Elijah said he has to play defense and we’re going to make him have to move around, we learned about him briefly that he doesn’t want to guard too much so we’re going to put him in situations where he has to be a defender and maybe that can wear him down offensively, but he’s good, he does a great job for his dad over there and for their team.

I think he’s the main reason why they even in the tournament or whatever and why they had a good season. He’s going to come out here and I’m sure he’s a competitive kid, he’s going to come out here and I’m sure he’s going to look forward to this game as much as we are looking forward to it so I’m sure he’s out here and he will be ready to play and we have to match their intensity of him and his teammates.

Q. Ty, with guys like Jeff Withey and others, how much does experience play in the tournament?

Tyshawn Taylor: I think it plays a big part because it’s a different kind of atmosphere, being on that court doesn’t feel the same as it does during the regular season, but even though Jeff doesn’t have a lot of minutes he’s been around for years, he’s part of a really good team and when you put guys like Jeff, Conner, Trev, Elijah, I mean even Thomas hasn’t been in the same situation in the past years so this is new to him. I think if you put any of those guys who have been students of the game for three years on great teams and paying attention and watching and working hard I think we’re going to play because it’s basketball and whether it’s March or December doesn’t matter.

I think it plays a part but you’ve got to go out there and play, man.

Q. Have you guys heard about Doug Anderson’s dunking ability, have you caught any of that on “You Tube” or TV, and can that give a team an emotional lift when they have a big dunk?

TYSHAWN TAYLOR: I have seen a few of his dunk and he’s a freak, he’s athletic, he’s got a big body and he can get up and off the ground. Dunks definitely change games, they’re not just 2 points, they definitely change games, the momentum swings and changes, and so, you know, that’s going to be a good match-up for Trav to have to match him on the wing and I can’t say take his athleticism away but take the highlight plays away, and limit him. He’s a tough kid but he’s going to come out hungry and ready to play and we’ve got to match that intensity.

Elijah Johnson: I believe we have to limit his chances to do stuff. We know if we give him the opportunity to do stuff he will do it just like if you give Thomas the opportunity he will do it. That’s the difference between being up by 10 points and having somebody get a dunk like that, get their team pumped up, and that’s not something that we look forward to letting happen. Just limit his chances and I think we will be able to pull it through.

Q. Tyshawn, having lost to non-big names in the tournament, VCU, Northern Iowa is that to your advantage or, is that a disadvantage? Do you feel pressured or more prepared from these early games by that experience?

TYSHAWN TAYLOR: I don’t see how it works to our favor at all and I don’t feel any pressure. Like I said, it’s just basketball so I think the less pressure we put on ourselves the better we’re going to play.

You know, I guess we kinda got a record of losing to — I don’t know what — mid-majors or whatever, I feel like once you’re in the tournament, man, everybody is out here to win, so, you know, I think we’ve just got to — I think those past years prepared us for this year because we understand the feelings — how we felt the last two years and we understood why we lost those games, we didn’t come to play, we thought if we showed up we would beat those teams that we were playing against so I think those two years helped us for this year because we understand that we can’t just show up, we’ve got to be in tune defensively, offensively, we’ve got to be turned up, we’ve got to be the best rebounding team and share the ball in order for us to win games and be a good team and effective.

We can’t sleep on anybody, take anybody lightly. You know, I think those two years kinda prepared us for this situation that we are in right now.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, gentlemen, best of luck to you.

Now the coach for Kansas, Bill Self. Bill?

COACH SELF: We’re excited to be in the NCAA Tournament, and every student is excited to be here, and certainly excited to be back in Omaha. We were here four years ago and started a nice run for us then and we are looking forward to this weekend.

Q. Elaborating on that last point, could you talk more about being in Nebraska to start off your tournament run and how successful the last two times Kansas has been when they start off in Nebraska?

COACH SELF: I guess in ’88 started out in Lincoln, and then in Omaha and stayed at the Embassy suites, so there is similarity, I hope we play like that team did.

It’s exciting. I really am not much into fate or — I’m superstitious but not to that extent. But it is nice to be here. Of course, it’s always 80 degrees in Omaha in mid-March so it’s good to catch good weather, too.

Q. Bill, how is Ray McCallum’s game changed from when you saw him in high school to now?

COACH SELF: He looks stronger to me. He’s still a point guard but he’s certainly — he’s always athletic but he looks more athletic to me. Certainly he appears to have a liver body and getting in the paint more and making more plays and very aggressive and very competitive. I thought he was very good in high school but he’s certainly improved like most kids do over a couple-year period, but he’s got his game at a high level.

Q. Bill, you’ve been in this position for — before where you’ve played the last game of the second or third round. How — has your approach changed at all and the potential restlessness leading up to that last game?

COACH SELF: I don’t know if my approach has changed. I do know that we need to shorten the day somehow. Whether that be strictly let ’em sleep longer, change your practice time to break it up more, break up the day more, but the last thing you want to do is lay around in your room and watch other people play because I think that does build to the anxiousness so we will try to occupy their time a little bit.

The other team has to play at the same time, too, so it’s not the perfect time, I think, that anybody would want to play but we played five or six games at 8 p.m. this last year and nobody wanted to play then either, but it just works out.

Q. How have your players responded since the loss to Baylor?

COACH SELF: I think we have had a good week, a real good week. People that win the conference tournament are happy, and the people that don’t, which is the vast majority, definitely got, I would say, a chip on their shoulder and then the selection show occurs and you forget about that and now you get to work and that’s how we have been.

We haven’t talked about the Baylor game one time, we talked about it a lot before the selection but since the selection we haven’t. I know our guys’ eyes are definitely looking ahead and not behind.

Q. There are ten coaches that have won a national championship, nine are in the tournament this year, two of ’em are here. Once you have won a national championship, do the expectations go through the roof, does nothing less than a Final Four appear ence satisfy?

COACH SELF: I think you have a team that is capable of getting there, that’s probably true and we have had teams capable of getting there. I think coaches are more realistic better than the people around them and the fans are because coaches know their team’s ceiling and you want your team to operate to that ceiling as close as possible. Three years ago we go to the Sweet 16 and lose to MichiganState, I felt good about that team. We have won four games in the tournament the last four years and we got out of there thinking we under achieved. A lot of people would like to go through the tournament winning 8 and under achieved. I don’t know if winning a national championship changes that, but it might a little bit. Before you win the national championship it was the pressure to get to the a Final Four. Now we would like to get to the national championship, we would like to get to the Final Four, but we would like to get the chance to play for it all.

Q. Is depth not a big deal in the tournament because your time-outs are so long, or having said that do you think you are living on the edge because of your depth situation?

COACH SELF: I think depth is important but I don’t think from a fatigue standpoint as it is from an injury or foul standpoint. The time-outs are long and I think that most coaches shorten their bench a little bit this time year, at least a little bit. In our situation, I’ll be honesty probably have as much confidence now in our bench as I’ve had. I think Kevin Young is playing the best he has and Conner has given us a lot of good minutes and there is not a lot of teams that are going to go nine deep but I think our depth is not a huge factor unless it’s injury or foul issues, not fatigue.

Q. You kinda started answering, do you feel confident putting Young and Conner in there?

COACH SELF: I do. Kevin to me, we have played some of our best ball with him in there and Conner is going to be a staple, he’s going to play a certain number of minutes regardless of the situation. I don’t want to say we go nine deep but certainly seven without any hesitation.

Q. Coach, Illinois is currently undergoing a coaching search. What are the unique challenges so that job and what traits are needed a coach to succeed there?

COACH SELF: In my opinion they had a coach that succeeded there.

Bruce has won a lot of games, no question. Not as many games the last couple of years as what he did when he started but yet he’s had a pretty good run. But the Illinois job is a great job and the biggest reason is because there are so many potential recruits right there in your state.

I believe in ’89 when they went to the Final Four there may have been one guy on the roster from outside the state and when we had a good run there, primarily there was one guy — of course he was pretty good — on each of those teams — maybe two — that actually contributed in a big way that was out of state. It’s a great job, so many positives with it, we loved it there and you can certainly win big there and the biggest draw to me is your recruiting base.

Q. Can you tell me what you know about Eli Holman and the threat he poses against you guys?

COACH SELF: Well, he’s big, big and long and he’s not the only 6-10 guy they got, they got two, there are not too many programs that have 6-10 guys, two, that can play. He can rebound, score the ball on the block, in tight, and he’s a physical presence. I think that he’s certainly one of the bigger physical presence we have gone against just in size alone.

Q. Bill, about Conner, when somebody enters your program as a walk-on. Is Conner about the height of an expectation player?

COACH SELF: We had another one that I didn’t — I wasn’t the coach when he came, Christian Moody, he did that, too. He started for Kansas as a big guy, back early in my tenure there and he came as a walk-on under Roy and Conner came as a walk-on but we anticipated Conner playing. He was a guy that deserved a scholarship, we just didn’t have one and he wanted to be at Kansas so his family made some sacrifices to make sure that occurred but I never, ever think of Conner as a walk-on and he’s now on scholarship but he’s a guy that I think could have impacted many schools across America in a very positive way and been one of their key contributors and with us we have been fortunate to have so many good players he’s been on the outside looking in but he just kind of waited his turn and because of that, and was patient, he kept getting a little bit better and he’s now had a chance to impact this team and we have no way of being a 2 seed if it wasn’t for him.

Q. Bill, you have some players who use Twitter. How closely does your staff monitor the Tweets and do you feel a need particularly at this time of the year to tell guys to be careful or just stop all together?

COACH SELF: You don’t know anything that I don’t know, I hope that’s not why you’re asking, but we have had a couple of Twitter episodes in our program that probably wasn’t totally negative but it wasn’t the most positive thing. But I trust our guys and we talk about, you know, you can’t put anything out there that you wouldn’t want your mother to read, your grandparents to read, your coaches to read or anybody that supports our program.

It’s a different world. I’ve actually done it a little bit and I’m not into it at all but I’ve done it a little bit because it helps recruiting, they say. But I’m not into the social networking like a lot of others are but we have one person on our staff that monitors what’s going out. We haven’t had any major issues, knock on wood, here of late.

It’s also part of growing up, too, guys — we want to put our players in a situation where we help educate them and get them more prepared and a lot of times telling them they can’t, in my opinion, doesn’t help them long term. They’ve got to learn the value of what they say and how it impacts not only their image but everybody else’s image that has played a role in knowing where they’re at. I trust our guys, but it’s something we talk about a lot but I haven’t put a muzzle on it.

Q. Bill, do you use past upset losses in NCAA Tournament as teaching tools this time of year or do you keep ’em tucked away in a dark shed?

COACH SELF: We’ve had a couple ourselves and in my mind they’re not tucked away but I don’t bring up a lot of things that have happened with our team that this team had nothing to do with. For instance, we can talk about VCU last year, but we can’t talk about Bucknell, our guys didn’t have anything to do with that. But we will talk about why certain things happen, and a lot of times in this tournament — there are upsets, don’t get me wrong and sometimes we don’t play well or certain teams don’t play well and the appearance is it’s a major upset but there are not as many going on in this tournament as what is perceived by the fans and media, there are a lot of good teams playing and when good players get hot and you have a situation where maybe you’re not your best for one day, anything can happen. In a six-game tournament it’s hard to be your best at six games. That’s why I thought the teams that won the national championships stole one when they were bad. Even when we won in ’08, we weren’t very good against Davidson and that would have been considered an upset, and they still got the best player in the tournament but somehow we were able to win one when we weren’t our best. Every team that plays in this tournament that cuts down nets in April probably has experienced that.

MODERATOR: Thank you very much, Bill. Best of luck.

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