Kansas Runs Through Final Preparations For Northern Iowa
March 19, 2010
OKLAHOMA CITY – One day before its second round matchup with Northern Iowa, the Kansas basketball team met with the media and held a short practice at the Ford Center. Kansas will face Northern Iowa at 4:40 p.m. on CBS on Saturday, March 20. Below is the transcript from the press conference provided by asapsports.com.
THE MODERATOR: Being joined in the interview room by Kansas student-athletes, Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich. We’re ready to start with questions.
Q. Sherron, how much are you looking forward to winning another national title and proving what you can do on the next level?
Sherron Collins: I’m anxious. It takes hard work. Winning one a couple years ago, we’ve still got a lot of steps to take and lot of games left. Not trying to think too far past. It’s going to be a tough bracket for us. We’re just trying to focus on one game at a time right now.
Q. Cole, what makes them so good defensively?
Cole Aldrich: I would just say, you know, that their knowledge of where to be at what specific time. You know, they got real good ball screen defense. I mean, they really have very few lapses on the defensive end. It’s going to really be tough to score offensively with them because they do have those very few lapses.
Q. Cole, matching up with Eglseder, you’ve been asked about that, another 7-footer, big man. Talk about going against another big guy. Lot of times you have to go out and chase some smaller big men inside. How are you going to like matching up with this guy?
Cole Aldrich: Oh, it’s going to be a lot of fun. You know, he’s got a big body. The one thing that I think that really helps us out is just the conference that we play in, having Pittman and other guys like that throughout the conference that we play, you know, really helps us kind of go against those guys. Jeff on our team is about 7-foot, but he doesn’t quite have the weight that the big fella does at UNI. It’s going to be a fun matchup. It’s going to be a battle in the paint tomorrow.
Q. You guys, after this is done, I’m not sure what your schedule looks like, but I would guess there’s some opportunities to watch some basketball. Do you embrace that, or do you try to get a away from that?
Sherron Collins: We watch it. We still — we’re college players, still like to see other teams play, especially if it’s a team from our conference, like to see them play, too. Got to get off your feet, get some rest and try — you try to stay away from the press clippings and papers and reading all about yourself. We try not to get into all that. You got to enjoy the process. You made it here. You got to enjoy it, but it’s still a business trip.
Q. Cole, seems like when you guys get in the corner, you turn to Sherron to get you out of that corner. Can you talk about the leadership and how much pressure you put on him to bail you out?
Cole Aldrich: We might even put a little too much pressure on Sherron the make those big plays or hit those big shots. Sherron for us, the past three years that I’ve been here, has been a phenomenal leader and a great guy, not only on the court but off the court, that brings everybody together. We have on our team no really kind of groups that just go off to themselves. It’s everybody. Everybody hangs out with everybody, and we all just have a great time together.
Q. Sherron, when you watched UNI on film the last day or so, what stood out to you about them and maybe illustrated why they’re 29-4 this year?
Sherron Collins: Very good team, especially defensive side. They don’t have too many breakdowns. And another thing is they stretch the defense. Sometimes they can put five on the court and they all shoot the 3. Kind of a hard matchup for most teams. And I think, you know, just with us, I think we’ll be able to matchup with them pretty good. They’re real disciplined, very good coached, and it will be a tough game for us. It will be tough.
Q. Cole, did you go up against any of these Northern Iowa guys when were you in high school?
Cole Aldrich: Not that I remember. I think there are a few guys from Minnesota. But going through AAU and going through high school ball, I don’t remember playing against any of those guys.
Q. Sherron, you guys have played in spurts a lot this year. You know, like the National Championship team that kind of had that killer instinct, why do you think this team has played in spurts, and do you feel like your best game is maybe still out there for you?
Sherron Collins: I think we put whole games together. I think the times we play in spurts is when we play teams that we get a big lead against, and then we just play to the score instead of playing to the opportunity. And, you know, that’s been something we stressed all year is putting the killer instinct. But I just think when we’re challenged and know it’s a good team, we come better prepared to play. Our energy level is unbelievable in those games. When you get up early 20, 25, we got to do a good job of not playing to the score, and that’s something the coach has always been telling us about.
Q. Sherron, what goes into being a leader? How much pressure is there on you to be that go-to guy for your team?
Sherron Collins: I do it by example. I started in high school. My high school coach did a great job preparing me for that. I brought it over here. My freshman year I had guys likes Russell Robinson, Mario Chalmers, Brandon Rush, they showed me the way. I try to do the same thing to the young guys now. It’s no pressure at all. I like that. I like having the ball in my hand late in the game or making that play. If I’m not making the play, I want be the guy that makes it happen for my team. Give my team the best chance to win.
Q. Cole, Jordan Eglseder told me you guys played against each other back when you were in high school, your AAU team against his high school team. Do you remember that game, and what do you remember, if anything, about matching up against him?
Cole Aldrich I really don’t remember. My dad had mentioned to me earlier today after you mentioned that we might have. We played a tournament at I think the University of Northern Iowa, and I think we probably did matchup, but he’s just a good player. He’s gotten a lot better since we matched up before then, and he’s going to continue to get better. But he’s not only the focal point of their team, but he’s a main presence that they really have to go to down low for them.
THE MODERATOR: Being joined in the interview room by Kansas Head Coach, Bill Self. We’ll have you make an opening statement and we’ll open it up for questions.
COACH SELF: Well, we got a late night last night, and we got a good night’s rest and batteries recharged and really focused in on not only guarding but coming up with ways to attack one of the most sound teams that we’ve had an opportunity to play in a long time at Kansas.
Q. How do you think it’s benefited a young guy like Xavier to have his older brother on the team this year?
COACH SELF: They’re very close, first off. They were more than likely, I don’t know what the percentage was, but probably 90, 95 percent chance they were going to attend the same school. It’s something they thought about at least over the past 12 months prior to them coming to KU. I think it’s benefited him a lot. Xavier is a very gifted, efficient basketball player, but he just turned 19 last week or whatever, but he’s still just a kid, and to be thrown in the fire like he’s been thrown into it and have somebody with C.J.’s background from an athletic standpoint, you know, talk to him and counsel him and help him, I think, has been a big blessing for Xavier.
Q. Bill, could you talk a little bit about Sherron, his leadership and how he helped you guys get out of a lot of tight spots during the course of the season?
COACH SELF: He’s done that his entire career for the most part. Since it’s been his team, so to speak, for the last couple years, he’s done a great job with that. He’s matured so much since he’s gotten here, and he’s got a unique way of — he can get his point across by making guys think it’s their idea and he can get his point across making sure they understand it’s totally his idea, and either way, he can get them to buy in. I think that’s a sign of a true leader, and of course, he leads by example and also our guys on our team totally respect him in that when he speaks or makes an emphasis about something, they do listen without question.
Q. There was some debate with Tyrel Reed, whether he would be a really good Big 12 basketball player, at least I heard some of that debate. Did you ever have that question in your mind, and talk about his development as a player at Kansas?
COACH SELF: I’ve been asked that about Tyrel and Brady, both. Tyrel was probably much highly — more highly recruited than Brady, but Tyrel was offered by — if he wasn’t going to be a good player in the Big 12, he certainly had half the league fooled because half the league offered him a scholarship. We were fortunate we got him, and one reason why we wanted him so much is because we knew how much it would mean to him to play for Kansas because he’s grown up loving the school and his dad has worked basketball camp at Kansas for 25-plus years in a row. He’s grown up with it. I mean, I didn’t expect him to come in as a freshman and beat out Chalmers or Rush, but I did expect him to be a slight contributor as a freshman. I thought by the time he was a sophomore, he would definitely be in our rotation. He’s a good shooter, but he does more than shoot the basketball. Yesterday he made shots, but he also got us some loose balls and was probably the key performer when we stretched our lead out.
Q. You being a defensive-minded coach and all, what is it about Northern Iowa that they do so well defensively, and are your guys as tough on defense as they are?
COACH SELF: Well, I would say from a numbers standpoint, our defense matches up with anybody in the country. Opponents are shooting 37, 38, whatever it is, against us. We don’t turn people over at an alarming rate, but we do get a lot of steals and we do rebound the ball decent and above average. So you look at the numbers, you say that’s a really, really good team defensively, which we are. Northern Iowa to me is a team that when you watch them on tape, you realize that they’re not out of position. When they help, they don’t help the helper, they help the helper’s helper. They are really, really sound in that regard, and they make you make plays over the top and don’t give up easy baskets. It’s a pretty simple formula, take good shots and don’t give up easy baskets and you got a chance. Their staff has done as good a job as anybody teaching positions defensively. They’re as good as anybody we’ve played against, period.
Q. Coach, you were talking the other day about how a lot of teams have worn that Cinderella slipper in the NCAA Tournament. What might you say to your team tomorrow before tip-off to kind of warn them about UNI and make sure they have their respect?
COACH SELF: You should have been there for breakfast, because we’re not going to wait until tomorrow. To me, you know, they’re not Cinderella. Northern Iowa can beat anybody in the country on any night. That’s not a Cinderella team. Our guys won’t look at it that way at all. Now, you know, Lehigh last night, you know, that was more of a Cinderella deal. Northern Iowa is — if they played a series with many, many, many schools across America, they would have success winning a series, let alone one game. Those teams are considered Cinderella teams in my opinion.
Q. Coach, your team likes to score a lot. Northern Iowa likes to keep the opponent from scoring. Is it safe to say that there’s a dividing line somewhere at 65 or 70 points where if it goes one way, it favors them, if it goes the other way, it favors you?
COACH SELF: You could probably make a case that the higher scoring game would favor us and the lower scoring game would favor them. We’ve also played some teams this year that are grind-it-out teams defensively, whether it be Temple or whoever, that may not do things exactly the same way from a technique standpoint but philosophy is similar. So whatever the pace is, and we want it to be fast and they don’t want it to be quite so fast, but still they’ll take advantage of opportunities. And whatever the pace is, we need to embrace it and enjoy it. We don’t need to get frustrated because we don’t like the pace. I think we have a team that’s equipped to play fast or not so fast. The whole deal is from my standpoint is we need to be patient on both ends, offensively or defensively, because there’s going to be a lot of possessions tomorrow that I think gets under ten. And the team that executes under ten seconds on the shot clock will probably have a great chance. We’re going to have to be disciplined and patient defensively as well as offensively.
Q. Bill, you guys are just so efficient offensively. How much of that is Sherron, and how much do you say is just other factors?
COACH SELF: Well, I think that Sherron is our best player. So you can make a strong case that a lot of is Sherron, but you also can make even just as good an argument because we have balance. The thing about it is, last year we weren’t as efficient and Sherron scored more points. He averaged 19 a game. This year we’re much more efficient and we have more balance. I do think that, you know, having the inside presence like Cole and having a hybrid forward like Marcus and certainly a guy that can stretch it like Xavier, those are some things that a lot of teams wish they had. I like our balance. Now, we don’t always play well individually, but collectively I think we have enough pieces that it’s kind of like, you know, we don’t really care who is open because we have confidence in whoever is open that can make a play.
Q. Over last six, eight games, it seems like your team has gotten off to some slow starts. Have you had to go to more animated sideline or go to the whip a little more on the team recently at the outset of games?
COACH SELF: I didn’t yesterday, I didn’t think, unless you guys thought so (laughter). Probably prior to the tournament, I’d say I probably was more animated than what I’d like to be. It’s not from a lack of preparation. It’s not from a lack of effort. None of that stuff. It’s not from not taking your opponent seriously. Sometimes you don’t make shots and the other team makes shots. Last night, you know, Cole, Marcus got touches at one foot and Sherron misses his first four shots, and three of them were unbelievably good shots. Sometimes the ball doesn’t go in. Sometimes nerves is a factor. The big thing is we do need to get off to better starts. That is a fact. You make it too hard on yourself coming back, you know, like that because there’s no guarantee you’ll make shots to come back. But it’s also a 40-minute game. Regardless if your bad stretch is the first four minutes or your bad stretch is from the start the second half, you just have to eliminate those bad stretches or shorten them where they don’t extend. We didn’t a very good job of that last night offensively. I am concerned about it, but it’s not something I’m going to harp on with the guys a lot.
Q. Tomorrow you’ve got physically two of the bigger guys in college basketball matching up with one another. Can you talk about your impressions of Eglseder and how you think he matches up with Cole?
COACH SELF: You’re right. They are two of the biggest guys. Cole is not heavy, by any stretch, at 235 or 240 pounds, compared to him, but they are both true five-man, low-post presence, and both affect the game around the basket in a big way. You know, both average about the same amount of points. Both guard ball screens similar in how they guard them. There’s a lot of similarities, and they can both pass. They like to be trapped a lot because he’s such a good passer out of the post. I think that from not — without giving away any strategy on either team, I think the more you can get those guys moving around, whether it be Cole or whether it be Northern Iowa, it doesn’t make any difference. That would — may be a strategy of the opposing team. But he’s big, he’s huge, and he’s left-handed and — he’s more than just a big guy. He’s a good player. He’s got lot better feet. Sometimes you look at a guy that big, you don’t think he would have happy feet. He’s got really good feet.
Q. Bill, what are some of the things that Sherron learned with playing with Rush and Chalmers and some of the other guys two years ago? How do you think he’s going to do on the next level?
COACH SELF: He’ll do fine on the next level. I think he’s the best guard we’ve had since we’ve been at KU, hands down. Nobody impacts the game like he does every possession. But the one thing that I liked about what he did was when he was here, we had good enough players here that we didn’t have to play him and we didn’t, and he had to totally buy in, in order to play. And when he bought in, he got a lot better. What I think has been — what I think what having Russell and Mario around has done for him is realize how to be a part of a team and accept whatever the role is and how to impact a team, whether you’re starting or coming off the bench or whatnot. Because at the next level, more than likely, he’ll have a different role for them than what he would have for us.
Q. Coach, is there a matchup tomorrow or a facet of the game that maybe worries you about Northern Iowa? It would seem like athletically and size-wise and everything else, you have an advantage over this team. Is there something about them that concerns you?
COACH SELF: There’s a lot of things. They stretch the defense from all spots. If I’m not mistaken, they’ve got — I could be wrong on my stats, but I believe they have eight guys that are all legitimate good 3-point shooters, legitimate. Koch brothers may be two of best 3-point shooters on their team. Could be. Statistically they’re certainly right there, and how many 4 men — so that changes how you guard the post, depending on if the 4 men can stretch the defense. There’s a lot of things that concern us. And then we need to move them around defensively to hopefully open it up to where we can get to the basket some. We need the make shots. There’s no question about that. But still, yet, we need to be able to get the ball to the paint. As a matchup, I think it will be a great matchup because they’re both terrific players, is Coke and Morris. Those are two really good 4 men that I think will be an interesting matchup and I think it will be a very important part of the game.
Q. Getting back to Brady and Tyrel, I mean, obviously you need to have your stars, but can you talk about the importance of having guys like that who can come in and fill specific roles?
COACH SELF: John, you followed us all year long. We have not really had that many games this year when we’ve had basically everybody on at the same time. Whether it be Sherron or X or Tyshawn or whatever, if it’s not their night, we’ve been able to plug these guys in and it’s like you’re replacing a starter with a starter. I’ve said all along, I have confidence that we have eight starters. We need to get five playing well on the right night. That’s the advantage that a lot of teams don’t have, obviously because of depth. They’re good. Sometimes you look at guys and you say for whatever reasons, they don’t quite look the part, but they’re sneaky athletic. They both have good bounce. They can both slide their feet pretty well and make plays to give the team the best chance to be as good as the team can be.
Q. You talked about Eglseder a little bit. He plays low minutes, about 21 minutes a game. Is the preparation almost like for two teams. He plays about half the game, half in, half out?
COACH SELF: I don’t think you can do that in a 40-minute practice. His sub, although not near as tall, but active and lot of similarities and very good passer and they’re both great offensive rebounders. They collectively together playing a combination 40, I think they have 136 offensive rebounds for the year. So that’s a very good number when you don’t take a lot of shots or high volume shooting team. We’ll prepare Plan A and then we’ll have a Plan B, but it won’t be necessarily because whether or not so-and-so is in the game. It will probably just be because which way can we actually defend them the best.