Jayhawks Meet the Media, Practice in Sprint Center Thursday

March 21, 2013

Ellis DunkKANSAS CITY, Mo. – The Kansas Jayhawks met with the media and practiced in front of hundreds of fans during the team’s open shootaround in the Sprint Center Thursday. Kansas held a closed practice off-site Thursday morning before meeting with local and national media during NCAA Tournament media availability in the afternoon. The top-seeded Jayhawks received a standing ovation from a spirit crowd as it made final preparations for it’s second round contest against Western Kentucky Friday night.

Below is a transcript from the press conference provided by ASAP Sports, featuring Kansas seniors Jeff Withey and Kevin Young, and KU head coach Bill Self.

Q. Jeff, can you talk about the size advantage you have in the low post.

Jeff Withey: We have a pretty good size advantage with me and Kevin. Then we have Perry and Jamari.

But they got some pretty good size, too. One of their guys is 6’10”, another 6’7″. We definitely do have a size advantage, but not that much of one. So it’s still going to be a tough game.

Q. Kevin, can you talk about George Fant, No. 44 for Western a little bit, the player he is in the post, what kind of things you’re going to have to do to neutralize him?

Kevin Young: He’s a pretty good player in the post. Hopefully Jeff’s length will bother him and my length will bother him. He’s not that tall. He’s very aggressive. They try to get him the ball a lot.

Q. With Perry Ellis coming on in the last few games, has that changed your role at all?

Kevin Young: No, it doesn’t change anything. I’m very happy for him. I mean, it’s just a boost for the team. I’m still going to play hard. When he comes in the game, I’m happy for him. I’m still there on the bench cheering just like I was before.

He’s a great kid. I love to see him shine.

Q. Does it change how you approach it any at all? Your minutes haven’t gone down.

Kevin Young: I think it just gives me more confidence to go a little bit harder and it lets me be able to talk to him about more stuff, just communicate with him more.

I think that would be probably my biggest focus going into the next game, talk to him, make sure he’s good on everything.

Q. Jeff, from watching Western Kentucky, what stands out for you on tape? What do you think some of the keys are as far as being able to get out to a lead early?

Jeff Withey: You know, they’re really aggressive. They’re a really aggressive team.

For us to be able to win and get out on a lead, we definitely have to do the small things, like rebound. Defense is really important this time of the year.

We know that they have really two good scorers, they like to be on the same side. The whole team kind of runs around them.

So me and Travis are going to have our hands full definitely. We’re looking forward to the challenge. It’s going to be a fun game. We know what we have to do. I can’t tell all our secrets (smiling).

We’re joined by Kansas head coach Bill Self. We’ll ask you to make a statement and then we’ll take questions.

COACH SELF: Like everybody else in the field, we’re thrilled and honored to be a part of it. Really proud of my team that we perform well enough to play down the road from Lawrence.

Hopefully now that, you know, the dust has settled, the matchups are all here, hopefully now we can play like a team that’s been seeded on the 1 line and perform that way.

Q. Kevin Young said with Ellis playing a little better, he can go even harder. Do you see his role changing any?

COACH SELF: I don’t think his role changes much. I think that he’s been a guy that we probably wanted to play 25, 27 minutes a game. That could go down if Perry is playing well or Jamari. Particularly Perry here of late.

He plays with such energy and plays so hard, hopefully with shorter spurts, he can play even harder maybe. I’m excited about that.

I also think this: when you have guys playing well off the bench, it makes starters maybe focus a little bit better and maybe execute or carry out assignments a little bit better.

Kevin, since Perry has played really well the last couple weeks, I think Kevin’s played even better. I think it’s raised his level.

Q. What about Perry Ellis and his role? Does his role expand on the team now?

COACH SELF: Well, probably not. His role has been the same as it’s been all year long. He’ll be our first big off the bench. He’ll play certain minutes regardless if the ball is going in or not. If the ball is going in, the minutes will probably be extended some.

As far as changing a role, switching lineups or anything like that, that’s not going to happen.

Q. I know you talked a little bit about Western earlier. Have you had a chance to watch more film and break them down?

COACH SELF: Yeah, we’ve watched a lot of tape. Ray has an athletic team, without question, a little bit unconventional compared to the teams we play. Most of the teams we play, their 16 guys are low post guys, whereas theirs is a guy that can stretch it. They play with an undersized post man, not a good player, a terrific player. It’s a little bit different.

They have a guard they play through that can obviously score the ball. They’re both good and they’re gonna get a lot better because they’re young.

I like their team. They’re quick on the perimeter. They got different guys that can stretch it. They’re very scrappy. He’s done a good job. They’re a fun team to watch play, at least on tape.

Q. All the travels that Ben went on from one high school to the next, how did you maybe kind of keep on the trail with him? Did you expect even as good of a year as he’s had?

COACH SELF: After watching him last year, our second half of the season when he was able to participate in practice, yeah, I expected him to be good. He was the best prospect in our gym last year with Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor. They’d be the first to tell you also. He’s had a unique path to get to where he is. Really it’s a path in which there really hasn’t been any fault on anyone’s part to get there. It’s been a tough situation.

Kurtis Townsend, our assistant that was a point guy on him, we knew we wanted him all along and did a great job in maintaining that relationship and contact. No matter how shaky it got with him, wondering if he was going to be eligible or not, this or that, we never wavered one instant on how bad we wanted him. We knew he had a chance to be special and it certainly played out that way.

Q. A few times this season you’ve said that Travis Releford is the rock or personality of your team. Can you elaborate on what that means at all?

COACH SELF: I don’t know if I said ‘personality.’ I’m not going to give him that much credit. Certainly I think he is the foundation. I think he’s the guy that gives everybody a chance to do what they do. He’s our best perimeter defender without question. He’s as competitive as anybody we have. He’s elevated his game offensively this year tremendously. He’s probably as well-liked as anybody we have in our program.

Everybody wants to see Trav do well. For a guy to pay the dues like he has, realize the fruits of that, has been pretty cool for everybody to watch, and certainly everybody respects it.

Q. Could you talk about the tournament experience. You have a lot of guys on the roster who have had a lot of success in the NCAA tournament. How does that help you?

COACH SELF: We really haven’t had a lot of guys. I mean, we’ve got four seniors, and three of them played a lot in the tournament, experienced some success last year. Other than that, we really don’t have much experience at all.

So this is a new experience for a lot of our guys. But I do think the old guys will help the young guys.

You know, experience is great, but talent will trump experience. Experienced talent is the best. Hopefully that will play out to be true for us.

Our seniors have been great with our young guys, particularly Ben, making sure that we’re focused, eliminating distractions to give us the best chance.

Q. I wanted your thoughts. You have guys that don’t get a lot of playing time. Tyler, Evan Manning. How great a reward would it be if they were able to get in a game in the NCAA tournament?

COACH SELF: I’m not even thinking of it like that at all.

Coaches want everybody to play. But obviously it’s not equal opportunity. My wife even understands it, so it’s not a big deal.

But my focus and our kids’ focus isn’t anything other than our team doing well. The teams are so good in the NCAA tournament that very rarely do you have a chance to put guys in that are walk-ons and that kind of stuff. Who knows.

I want what’s best for all our guys, I certainly do my son and that kind of stuff. But that doesn’t even register with us.

Q. I know you have 68 or now 64 great coaches in this tournament. But the depth of the coaching talent in this particular weekend is pretty daunting, isn’t it?

COACH SELF: Oh, yeah. Who has won the most national championships? Well, it’s not Coach Williams or Jay or me, it’s the guy we’re coaching against tomorrow. Ray Harper has won the most championships. He’s terrific. I’ve known Ray for a while. He’s done a great job wherever he’s been and won at the highest level wherever he’s been.

Of course, the other coaches in our four-team field, Villanova and Carolina, that goes without saying. One of them is already in the Hall of Fame.

It’s a loaded field from a coach’s perspective. Of course, coaches don’t play, but certainly there’s some heavyweights from a coaching perspective in this regional.

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