Jayhawks Meet the Press Before Battle with Dayton
March 21, 2009
MINNEAPOLIS – Following a closed practice at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, the Kansas men’s basketball met the media for 40 minutes the day before KU plays Dayton in the second round of the NCAA Tournament here Saturday.
The following are the transcripts from KU players Brady Morningstar, Marcus Morris and Tyshawn Taylor and KU head coach Bill Self.
MODERATOR: We are joined on the dais by the Kansas State athletes, on my left, Marcus Morris, Tyshawn Taylor, Brady Morningstar.
Q. Marcus, I would imagine there’s a chance you will be guarding Chris Wright tomorrow. Does he remind you of anyone you’ve guarded before? What are your impressions of him?
Marcus Morris: Actually no, he doesn’t. He’s quicker on his feet than normal big guys. I think I’m going to have to slide a little more, but he’s very aggressive.
So the technique I just have to use is just be aggressive with him and don’t let him overpower me going to the basket.
Q. Marcus, do you think you’ve gotten better avoiding foul trouble? Is that a concern against a high-flying athlete like him?
Marcus Morris: Nah, I will still be fouling a lot, just sometimes the refs don’t see it. But when they do see it, they always give it to me. Good case yesterday, I actually made a foul and they gave it to Brady. We talked about it after the game, joked about it after the game.
I think I am sliding a little better, but earlier in the season I was being too aggressive with my hands and getting too many touch fouls, but I think I am getting better at it as the season go on.
Q. Just for anybody. Did you get a chance to look at any film of Dayton? I imagine you didn’t see the game live. Just what are your impressions of them?
TYSHAWN TAYLOR: We seen a little bit of film. We watched the film on them last night. They are very athletic. They have a lot of guys that drive the ball and they are aggressive on defense. Offensively they are aggressive, too.
So it’s going to be a fast-paced game. And it’s going to be two aggressive teams playing against each other and it’s going to be fun.
Brady Morningstar: I mean, just like he said, to pick up full court every time you score the ball. And kind of like some other teams we played this year, Tennessee and whatnot, so I think that’s helped us out for this opportunity. And, like you said, they’re aggressive on each end of the court.
Q. Tyshawn and Marcus, how is playing in the NCAA tournament compared to what you thought it would be? What was different? What was — about what you thought it would be from watching on TV all those years?
TYSHAWN TAYLOR: To me I think the only difference was just the whole process about it. Like going — all the media and the traveling. I mean, once you get on the court it’s basketball either way. So it wasn’t anything more than what I expected basketball-wise, just two teams playing against each other, which is the same thing every time you step on the court.
I think the only difference, the only thing I kind of didn’t expect is the media and all the hype around everything. That was the difference for me.
Marcus Morris: That was definitely one of the major things, the media. It is a lot, and you talk to a lot of people every day. But just from watching it growing up and seeing other players that went through it, now the NBA pros, it’s just amazing just to be here. And just to experience it. I mean, growing up not knowing if you’re going to make it to this point. And now that you’re here, you just try to live it up.
Q. Do you guys feel like a little bit getting that first game out of the way, maybe the jitters and all that stuff in the NCAA tournament that that brings? Do you feel you will play a little looser maybe tomorrow?
Brady Morningstar: Yeah, I feel coming into this game a lot of people had nerves. We are a team that’s a little bit inexperienced except for maybe Sherron and maybe Cole.
But, I mean, getting the first game out of the way, it helps out a lot. And, you know, we’re ready to play tomorrow.
MODERATOR: Okay, if we don’t have any other questions, we’ll go ahead and excuse the student-athletes back to the locker room.
Marcus Morris: Have a great day.
MODERATOR: We’re joined on the dais by Kansas head coach, Bill Self. We will go ahead and begin taking questions for Coach.
Q. Does this team remind you of Tennessee maybe at all?
COACH SELF: A lot.
Q. And, also, the fact at how they go from defense to offense, can you talk about that a little bit?
COACH SELF: Well, they do. And the reason I say Tennessee is because we played them earlier in the year, so we’re familiar with them a little bit, but athletic like that. And I think Tennessee is one of the most athletic teams in the country.
And then, you know, Coach Gregory, obviously working for Coach Izzo, I’m sure emphasized going from defense to offense, who emphasizes going from defense to offense as well as anybody in the country, I am sure that’s been a point of emphasis for Dayton since the day he arrived on campus. They do a great job of that. Stopping, eliminating transition will be a big key.
And, you know, we’ve watched enough tape that you can actually do a good job in that, and then in three possessions they have got three dunks and the next thing you know all momentum has swung and that kind of stuff. So we have to be very good at defensive transition.
Q. Bill, have you had to do more coaching this year do you think after all the experience you lost last year?
COACH SELF: Well, I hope not. I think you coach every day. There’s probably been more teaching that has been done, but coaching is different. Coaching isn’t just x’s and o’s; coaching is getting guys to think the right things and be on the right page and getting teammates to like each other, and get them to see what you think is important is exactly what they also feel is important.
You know, you do a lot of your coaching before you ever get to the practice floor, just getting their heads right so you can be better on the court.
So I would probably say this year’s been more — has tested my patience more because last year we had young — older guys that could definitely police each other and coach each other. While this year I have probably been more vocal than what I’ve had to be.
Q. You’ve had a couple of Kansas kids, Brady and Tyrel, play pretty important roles. And I think Travis Releford is probably on his way of doing that. Can you talk about the idea of recruiting in Kansas when you recruit nationally, when you are national program. How do you pick and choose in Kansas? And the second part of that, talk about the development of Tyrel and Brady.
COACH SELF: Well, I think that they’ve both improved a ton. Neither one last year — although Brady red-shirted, he played the year before, and Tyrel played last year, neither one would have had a chance to play a ton of minutes just because of the personnel we had, and they understand that.
But they got better by going against basically pros every day. So their development has been unbelievable. I did not anticipate them having this big of an impact their sophomore season at Kansas, so I am very pleased with that.
And, you know, there are some great advantages recruiting to a name with as much history as Kansas. You can get your foot in most doors. You can. But getting your foot in most doors does not guarantee you success at all.
When coaches look at the best recruiting jobs out there, it’s always the jobs where you have players in your backyard. I would think Dayton would be great recruiting job, I would think Ohio State would be a great recruiting job. Illinois was a great recruiting job, where you had built-in players within, you know, 2 1/2, 3 hours.
So, I think, you know, we do have a good name nationally, but still yet for us to get players outside of our area, we’ve got to go beat somebody on their own turf and that’s not the easiest thing to do usually.
So, you know, great advantages in recruiting to a program like Kansas with the history and tradition, but, also, it’s not easy. You just don’t show up and get it done; you’ve got to fight.
Q. Coach, defending champion, you’re always going to have a target on your back. You had to get North Dakota, the partisan crowd. You have Dayton, another, you know, underdog coming at you. Does your team relish that role of kind of being the villain?
COACH SELF: The villain, that’s kind of strong, isn’t it? I think that we like the role that we have because usually when Kansas plays and it’s somebody else’s building, it is usually a pretty big game. But it’s that way with a lot of schools across America.
And these guys don’t feel like they are defending the national championship. We never talked about it with our guys because there’s only really one guy that played ample minutes that really played a big part of us winning it last year. Cole would be the second, and he averaged 2.8 points per game. Nobody else contributed on the court as far as the games go.
So these are all new guys. We’re not trying to defend anything; we’re trying to go take what we want as opposed to defending.
So, you know, whether us winning it last year is a bigger target or not, I don’t know. But by this time of the year if it has been, it certainly probably helped our toughness level because we have played in some pretty good environments this past year.
Q. Chris Wright is a high-flying guy who is good at drawing fouls. And I would imagine that some of the guys who are guarding him maybe are kind of foul-prone. How do you deal with that issue?
COACH SELF: We just tell them don’t foul, you know. That’s pretty simple. You know, not only Wright, but Little. They’re great at creating contact. And they are not the only ones. They are a team that drives it hard. Dayton does as good of a job as anybody we played this year of putting the ball down and putting pressure on you defensively.
You have to do a good job of guarding the ball, but you also have to do a good job of being one pass away and maybe helping the guy guard the ball. We will certainly emphasize and try to do that. But hopefully if foul situations do occur, which you know they could, you never know, hopefully we have depth that we can put other guys out there. I mean, we go four deep with our bigs, and can play a fifth and I feel pretty good about any of those guys being in the game at any time.
Q. Bill, along those lines, can you break down Chris Wright for us?
COACH SELF: Well, I’ve watched enough tape, and I’ve watched him play in high school when he was being recruited. And I thought to myself, boy, did Dayton get a steal in this guy because he’s really good.
But how many guys out there are that tall, that physically gifted from a strength standpoint and have a 40-inch vertical or close to it on top of that. At least based on what I hear, and I hear Little’s is maybe even higher than that.
So very active. Puts a lot of pressure on the defense. He’s one of those guys that can play so aggressive that there’s always going to be contact. And I think Tom’s point’s correct because he puts so much pressure on you, if you’re not in the proper defensive positioning, you can pick up a lot of fouls.
But on the flip side, if you are, maybe you can get a cheap one or two on him as well. But he is a fabulous player. And probably puts as much pressure on you defensively as anybody that we played this year from either posting it, rebounding it, or catching it and driving it. I mean, he’s a guy that can really drive the ball.
Q. Coach, to think back in your time at Tulsa, kind of a comparable league to a degree, why, though, are Chris Wright and Charles Little A-10 and not playing in a bigger league? There has to be a flaw. Why do they trickle down to the A-10?
COACH SELF: I don’t think that is a fair assessment. But let me tell you, forget Chris Wright and forget Little. I think things like that happen sometimes because maybe guys mature late. Maybe guys don’t pass the eye test as much when you see them standing there. I don’t think that’s the case with these two. I think these two could have played anywhere.
And I don’t know, I don’t know their situation recruiting, but I would bet that Chris Wright committed before the summer before senior year. I would bet he did. I don’t know if that’s true or not. Because if he did, then when people like Kansas or somebody else goes and sees him and says oh, God, who is this guy, we want to get in on him, and the word is, well, he’s already committed to Dayton.
And that’s where you need to probably give more credit to the staffs at those respective schools than you do at what’s wrong, because they did such a good job of evaluating at a very young age and developing a relationship. And now that these youngsters feel indebted or obligated, I am so comfortable with this place, I want to go play for these guys — I don’t know if that’s what happened with him, but I would bet that it was something like that. And that’s a credit to the staff more so than anything wrong.
When I was at Tulsa, we, you know — we went to the Elite Eight and had a pretty good team and I felt like I had four guys that could play at OU or OSU. For whatever reasons they weren’t recruited at that particular tomorrow and we were able to sneak in there and get them. And they did play with a chip on their shoulders, and I would bet the Dayton players do that as well.
Q. Bill, how big a deal is it this time of year to have officials in the games that maybe aren’t familiar with how you guys play or how a team like Dayton plays? And how much of your in-game adjustment is based on how a game is being called this time of year?
COACH SELF: I think you always have to make adjustments based on how — not maybe based on how the game is being called, but based on your foul situation, or, you know, if they’re calling it tight, you may want to drive it more. If they’re not calling it as tight and maybe you can post stronger or have, you know — play with your hands more or whatever.
But I have never gone into a game thinking, well, you know, this crew hasn’t seen us or this crew hasn’t seen us. I am not smart enough to figure all that stuff out. I just worry about how our team performs. And you may make adjustments on — maybe in the game on if there’s something that you feel like is being emphasized that particular night. But not much.
I mean, I could be wrong with some coaches, but you may do that during some timeouts or whatnot. But for the most part, I think you just play and know you’re going to get a good whistle this time of year because all of the officials that are calling now are just like the teams. They are the best that our game has and certainly deserve to be calling.
Q. Wright did commit as a junior. He was a kid that committed as a junior. Point guard played for Dayton — now they lost the one point guard who kind of shared time and at times has been in an erratic yesterday, the kid had nine assists and one turnover.
COACH SELF: He was good.
Q. I just wanted your observations.
COACH SELF: The player that went down is a talented guy based on the little bit I’ve seen and certainly based on what I’ve heard. But yesterday’s point guard play was very, very good. Got the ball into the paint, forced help. And when you’re that aggressive and you have nine assists and only one turnover, that means you’re making some great decisions and taking care of the ball.
And, you know, I can’t speak for Brian, but I would think that his value to the team is every bit as much on the defensive end as it is the offensive end as well. So he’s a good lead guard.
Q. Are you guys able to win when Sherron’s off? He kind of said if I have an okay night we can win, but an off night it’s awfully tough.
COACH SELF: Yeah, I think we can. You know, because if I tell you that, yeah, we are not going to win if Sherron is off, what if he is off? Am I telling the team it is over? That is not it at all. Guys have a tendency step up and make plays when other guys may not be their best that night.
I’m not buying into that theory at all. Because I do think our supporting cast around Sherron and Cole has gotten better each and every week as the season progressed, so we’ve won games where Sherron hadn’t shot the ball well. We also have lost games where he hadn’t shot the ball well.
The thing about the percentage play with us is for our main two guns to perform well, to give us the best chance. That’s a percentage play.
But I would say this, also. Even though guys sometimes don’t shoot the ball well, Sherron can still control the game and not score and there’s not a lot of guys out there that can do that.
Q. Coach, could you just kind of update us on Appleton, his situation as far as someone said he went home for a funeral?
COACH SELF: He left for — he had a very, very — a family member which is also the cousin of Elijah Johnson, a young man we signed. Elijah and Tyrone grew up in the same neighborhood in Gary, Indiana. And there was a family member that was shot and killed this past week and the services were this morning. So after the game he flew home to be with his family and he’ll be back here by I believe 7:30 this evening.
Q. Bill, you talked about Sherron controlling the game without scoring. How is that exactly?
COACH SELF: Well, when the ball is in his hands, he can make plays for others just as easy as he can make plays for himself. And I do think he can put great pressure on the defense, because he’s good with the ball in his hands.
And even last night, even though he scored the ball extremely well yesterday obviously, but when the game is on the line last night, I mean, he also distributed the ball very well, too. And he can be a great distributor of the ball.
Q. Follow-up question. Is there a risk, then, that he will try to do too much?
COACH SELF: We talked about that. There is always a risk with him in that, because that’s who he is. I mean, he’s a play-making guy. And he wants to put himself in position to make as many plays as possible.
And we’ve talked about that, and I think he’s got better as the season’s gone on and as the supporting cast has gotten better.
Because early in the season, I felt like in his mind he put so much pressure on himself, I need to go do it for us to be successful. Now even though we are better off when he’s really on, now the whole mindset, you know what? It doesn’t matter who it is because I trust my guys around me enough that they can make the plays as long as I set them up. So I do think he really matured in that respect.
Q. Hi, Bill. I just heard that your response to — I am not really familiar with what’s going on with the team, but a family member of one of the players was shot and killed. And we’re talking about the United States; we’re not talking about Iraq. I came from Chicago. I think we’ve had 29 — when I left, 29 student-age kids shot and killed somehow this school year. Are we just becoming inert to that? Is this kind of bizarre we passed this up? Or is this something you have to deal with in modern society, being a basketball coach that a player might have to leave because somebody has been shot. It seems to happen an awful lot.
COACH SELF: It happens, you know, far too often. Of course once is way too much.
Last year we had two individuals who had family members that were murdered in drive-bys the same week. So and this is a unique situation as well. And you know, there’s — when you coach, you recruit from areas or cities sometimes where there is crime, violent crime. And, certainly, you can have the most innocent of bystanders, which was the case in this particular situation, that put themselves at such a wrong place at the wrong time and totally incidental, not planned and all those things.
And so we do, I think as coaches, you know, not just basketball coaches, coaches of football or whatever sports where you recruit guys from inner cities, not just always inner cities, but predominantly so, that you have situations like this that can occur.
And it does put a perspective on everything. Because basketball is important and of course it’s why we’re all here and all that kind of stuff, but it is not certainly life or death, which a lot of these guys go through and we just kind of pass it by as it is not that big a thing and you know that these guys are really, really hurting inside.
Q. Bill, what is the biggest thing that Danny’s given Cole since the two have been working together?
COACH SELF: Well, you know, Danny has been great with all our guys. In large part because he’s done exactly what everybody dreams of doing. And, I mean, if you’re a young guy and you can, you know, be tutored by a guy that’s won a national championship, the number one pick in the draft, been an Olympian, the National Player of the Year. At that time he signed the richest contract ever for a rookie, to an NBA All-Star to the Six-Man Award winner, playing 15 years in the league, and on top of all that to be a great family guy, a great role model.
I mean, he’s taken the same steps that these guys all hope to take. So when he speaks, they do listen.
The other thing about Danny that’s unique is that Danny wasn’t a high-flying athlete. He had three ACL’s after he was in the NBA. Three ACL’s and still played 15 years. So he had to learn shortcuts. He wasn’t as athletic as guys at that level. He had to learn shortcuts.
Sometimes the greatest players it is harder to translate into teaching because other guys can’t naturally do what great players do. He’s had — it’s easier for him to teach it because he had to learn all the shortcuts and I think he has been a huge asset in that regard.
MODERATOR: If there are no more questions, thank you, Coach, and good luck tomorrow.