KU Meets With Media, Holds Open Practice in OKC

March 17, 2010

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Video: Behind the scenes at the Ford Center

OKLAHOMA CITY – Kansas men’s basketball spent Wednesday going through final preparations for its first round match-up with Lehigh. The Jayhawks started the day with a private practice at Putnam City High School, the alma mater of CJ and Xavier Henry. After lunch, KU headed to the Ford Center for media interviews and an open practice.

KU and Lehigh tip-off Thursday night at 8:30 p.m. (Central) on CBS.

Press Conference Quotes

THE MODERATOR: More questions for Kansas?

Q. Guys, everybody talks about you being the favorite and the pressure that it might entail, but is there — what are the good positives to being the favorite in this tournament?

Markieff Morris: Everybody wants to be number one and I think that’s it. It doesn’t mean anything if you don’t win. So we don’t take too much out of being number one, we just look forward to the game that we got.

Tyshawn Taylor: We worked hard to get here, the number one seed. That was one of our goals to try to be the number one seed in the NCAA Tournament. So we worked hard to get here, and now we’re here and we’ve got our seed. We felt our hard work paid off a little bit, but now we just have to take it to the next level, you know. These next couple games are the most important, so now we’ve got to prove that we are number one.

Q. Can you guys address, for example, the number one team issue? Has Coach Self talked to you guys directly about that about how to deal with that how to handle it?

Tyshawn Taylor: He told us to limit the distractions because we know it’s going to come. When you get the number one team, I guess a lot of distractions come but we’ve been the number one team for a long time this year. The distractions we have now are kind of the same we had all year. We have a more mature team now so we can handle it a lot better than we did last year. We’re just mature team now, and I think we handle it fine.

Markieff Morris: Kind of like Ty said, we’ve been number one for the majority of the season and it doesn’t feel different to us. We don’t feel pressure at all. We just feel like we have to come out and play every game.

Q. You guys are basically sharing the same locker room with K-State. I don’t know if you’ve had any interaction with them, but what’s the sentiment like? Are you pulling for them or are they pulling for you?

Tyshawn Taylor: I don’t know if they’re pulling for us. I’m not sure we’re pulling for them, but I like those guys. They’re good guys. I love good competition. I’m rooting for my Big 12 teams. I guess I can say I hope they do good.

Markieff Morris: Kind of what he said, too, they are cool on the court sometimes and other times we don’t like each other, but the past couple games, we’ve been real cool. I root for Big 12 teams.

Q. Could you guys tell me what you think about Lehigh and what you’ve seen of them so far?

Tyshawn Taylor: We haven’t really seen too much. From what we’ve seen, we think they’re a good team. They shoot a lot of threes. They have a really good freshman guard in CJ McCollum and a point guard who is really solid. We have our work cut us for us. It’s going to be a tough game. We’ll be ready to play, we’re not sleeping on our opponent.

Q. How tough could you expect it and how soon can you get them out of the game, programs?

Tyshawn Taylor: We’re going to play hard and tough. Play them like we play everybody else. We’re not going to sleep on them because we know they shoot a lot of threes. Threes can keep a team in the game. We’re going the play hard and see what happens.

Q. President Obama picked you guys to win. He seems to be a pretty good prognosticator. What are your thoughts on that?

Markieff Morris: I like Obama, and I liked him more when he picked us to win, but I guess he picked North Carolina last year and they won it. So I hope it plays out the same way.

Tyshawn Taylor: I like Barrack, too. I just throw that out there.

THE MODERATOR: Now up on the podium, Kansas Head Coach, Bill Self, who will give us an opening statement and we’ll begin with Q and A. Coach?

COACH SELF: Like all the other 64 teams, we’re very excited to be a part of the tournament and excited to be here in Oklahoma City where our fans can get here to see us play and also a good opportunity for a couple of us to come back close to home. Hopefully it will be more fun than the last time we were here, because last time in the Big 12 tournament, we didn’t stay very long.

Q. Secretary of Basketball Andy Katz reports Obama has picked you guys to win the tournament. Just want to know what your reaction is?

COACH SELF: My first reaction, Secretary of basketball Andy Katz, but he’s really been elevated, but I think the President is a very wise man. He picked Carolina last year, if I’m not mistaken. So hopefully that will play out to be true, but at least we’ll get some publicity out of it. But, you know, there’s been a lot of people that have picked us to do quite well in the tournament, and I don’t know if that’s good or if that’s bad, but certainly something that we’re certainly going to try hard to strive for.

Q. Coach, could you let us know how your practices have been going this week and what your sense is how your team is dealing with the top overall seed at this point?

COACH SELF: I think we’re dealing fine with it. We don’t talk about it a lot. You know, you work your tail off for six months and try to get the best seed as possible, and now that you get the best seed that you possibly can, everybody wants to know did you really want this, is it too much pressure? You know, whether you know you’re the overall number one or not, that’s irrelevant. That doesn’t make any difference. We know that we have an extremely tough bracket. I think lot of people have noted that, and we’re just trying to win a two-game tournament this weekend. And so we’re not looking ahead at all. And our focus is on Lehigh and then hopefully have a chance to play Saturday against a couple of good teams, whoever comes out of that game, but I think our guys have handled it well. We’ve had good practices. This time of year we’ve been fortunate that we’ve remained somewhat healthy. This is a time of year where players get dinged up pretty good. But we’ve been able to keep our full complement of players in practice sessions.

Q. I know you think a lot of Frank Martin. I was just curious, do you have any advice — you’ve been through this as a coach, do you ever any advice for him on how to handle it, what might be a pretty good run for them?

COACH SELF: To Frank? You know, I probably don’t, because I think he obviously knows exactly what he’s doing based on the success that he’s had and especially the short amount of time in Manhattan. But, you know, as any coach, I think the biggest thing is try to eliminate as many distractions as possible and keep your legs and your minds fresh.

Q. There’s a lot of similarities between the game you played here in ’05. Do you bring that up at all, or is that so long ago and different that you got to stay away from it?

COACH SELF: There are similarities that we’re playing a team from the Patriot League and playing in Oklahoma City, that kind of stuff. Those are definite similarities. But, you know, we have a different team, and this is certainly a different team than what we played in ’05. And, I mean, as far as style and everything and I don’t — I don’t even think I mentioned it to our players. I may have mentioned it at one time just to try to get their attention on us being ready, but that was a long time ago. And if you talk about that stuff a lot, then you’re dwelling on the negatives as opposed to, you know, thinking positive the whole time.

Q. Bill, since coming to Kansas, has it been tough at all at any time, not being able to use the underdog card very much?

COACH SELF: Well, you know, we really have been able to use it a little bit, not a lot. Since we’ve been here, we’ve had good teams, and I guess most of the times going into the NCAA Tournament, we were a favorite. Going into the season, we had a couple of seasons we were more preseason Top 25. So those teams have probably exceeded that expectations of many. But, you know, I like the role that we’re in. You’d love to have, you know, the best team and nobody know it — that would be the perfect scenario — or the best players and nobody realizes you have great players and maybe you can sneak up on people. I’m not saying we have the best of anything, but we have a good team and we have a program that’s highly exposed, and we’ve experienced, you know, little bit of success recently. And so I don’t think that Kansas is going to sneak up on anybody at anytime and — but on the flip side, we’re used to taking good shots from people, and our league hopefully has prepared us for that so hopefully it won’t be a lot different, you know, in the NCAA Tournament playing teams, getting a great shot from teams, you know, starting tomorrow than it was playing during the Big 12 season.

Q. Bill, what have the Morris twins and their improvement meant to your team this season?

COACH SELF: We had no shot to be where we’re at if it weren’t for Markieff and Marcus and, you know, they both had really good freshmen years last year. A lot of people don’t think so because they were inconsistent. I never coached any freshmen that weren’t a little bit inconsistent. They came in and probably thought they knew, and then after being here for awhile, they realize they didn’t know. That’s when they started getting really good. Their work ethic has improved dramatically, and certainly the work they did in the weight room has really given them confidence and they’re good. They are really good players. I think Marcus could be as improved as any player in America when you really look at it and they certainly make us harder to guard because they give us balance.

Q. Again, you’re playing a number 16 seed that they’re within 20 points, it would be considered a moral victory. Do you give them that opportunity or try to spurt early?

COACH SELF: We’re trying to win the game, okay? We’re trying to win the game, and I don’t think that they’re coming in to it at all thinking moral victories. I wouldn’t think that at all. And we’re certainly not believing anything other than let’s go play as hard as we can for an entire 40 minutes. We don’t have a game plan in mind saying, hey, let’s do this at certain times of the game or this or that. We’re coming in approaching this just like we do most any other game as far as what we need to do to play well for ourselves and — we think Lehigh is very capable. There’s no question about that. They’ve got a great player that can go get 30 any night and he’s got help, too. Our guys won’t look at it that way at all and because if they do, then they don’t get it, we don’t get it as a group because this is one reason why the tournament is so great is because of Cinderella and there’s a lot of teams out there that have worn that slipper, and we’re had people do that against us and our job toys make sure we do everything we can from a competitive standpoint and approach it like it’s the biggest game of the year because it is the biggest game of the year we’ve played so far.