Jayhawks Continue Preparations for North Carolina

March 23, 2013

032313aak_252_8731104.jpegKansas met with the media and conducted a closed practice at the Sprint Center Saturday in preparation for its Sunday showdown with North Carolina. Below is a transcript from the press conference portion of Saturday’s activities, provided by ASAP Fastscripts.

Q. Ben, yesterday you said that the lights were a little brighter out on the court. Can you elaborate on what you meant, what that felt like.
Ben McLemore: You know, just my first time on the bigger stage. Since last year, I ain’t get to play last year, I sat out. Like I said, it was a bigger light for me. I was just trying to get my move and groove on.

But, you know, I tried to do some things to help out the teammates. My offense wasn’t great, but I tried to help the best I can for my team.

Q. Ben, what do you need to get more consistent with? Last night wasn’t a consistent game. What do you need to do?
Ben McLemore: I mean, I just got to go out there, just play my game like my coaches want me to, just be more assertive on the offensive end. Just play my game like I need to.
That’s all I need to do, just go out there, be free, have fun.

Q. Brandon Rush did what you did in some games, be inconsistent. Does Bill remind you of that from time to time?
Ben McLemore: Definitely. Each and every day, even in practice, he want me to be more aggressive. He want me to just play my game, just go out there and give it my all, like I said, just be free.

Q. Ben, you talk about playing your game. What do you think your game really is? What are your strengths?
Ben McLemore: You know, shooting the ball very well, you know, trying to create for myself, create for my teammates.

You know, I just do the best I can when I go out there on the court and give my all.

Q. Naadir, do you see any similarities the way North Carolina plays with spreading the floor like Western Kentucky or any other teams you played? When you play a team that spreads things out, what makes that difficult defensively?
Naadir Tharpe: Probably most important thing is for our bigs now because North Carolina, they can shoot the ball real well. They put like a little four-guard set. Our bigs are going to have to get out to the shooters as well. That’s something that’s going to be different than Western Kentucky did.

Q. Ben, watching that Carolina game on the sidelines last year, to go to the Final Four, what do you really remember from that?
Ben McLemore: I seen my teammates was out there having fun. They played as a team, which we always been doing, playing Kansas ball.

Tomorrow we just got to go out there and give it our all, just go out there and play Kansas ball.

Q. I know you get up for every game, you take them one at a time. How much extra does it give you to play a team with the name of ‘North Carolina’ and your memories of watching them as you grew up?
Naadir Tharpe: You know, this is a big game, not just for being the NCAA tournament, but it’s a big-school name we’re playing against. A lot of players like us dream about playing against a team like this.

I feel like we’re going to come out with the urge of being ready to go. That’s probably the most important thing.

Ben McLemore: Basically what he said.

You know, just going up and just seeing, you know, two great teams playing against each other. Seeing these two great programs being able to play against each other again is great. Just knowing like tomorrow is just going to be a great game.

Q. How comfortable are you playing in this building? Does it feel like almost a second home court?
Ben McLemore: It feels great to be playing here. It’s just like our second home, just like the Field House. Our fans is here cheering us on, giving a lot of momentum into the game. It feel great to be here and play here.

Naadir Tharpe: We already played seven games here, so I feel like we adjusted to the building. Didn’t show as much yesterday, we didn’t shoot the ball so well.

I still feel like we come out with an attack mode and can shoot the ball well here. We also have a great fan base here. It is like our second home, like Ben said. That’s also a plus for us.

Q. Do you think you learned anything from playing in such a close game yesterday?
Ben McLemore: I mean, I think we learned a lot. You know, we know what we got to work on, what we got to do to prepare for the game tomorrow.

So like I said, we just got to go out there, get ready, get prepped for the game tomorrow, have a great game tomorrow.

Naadir Tharpe: Basically throughout the Big 12 as well, we had a lot of close games. I felt we’ve been, you know, getting prepared for stuff like this throughout the Big 12. Now being able to play in the tournament…

We know what we need to do. That’s probably the most important thing, make sure we get it done on the court. I wouldn’t feel like Western Kentucky was our first close game. It’s been like that all year playing. I felt like we was into what we know needed to be done.

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

COACH SELF: I think I’ve already talked enough about last night’s game.

No, we’re certainly looking forward to playing UNC tomorrow. Terrific team. Great program. Unbelievable history, one that we certainly respect a ton. Look at them as one of the standards of our game. Certainly look forward to accepting a big challenge playing here in Kansas City against a top-flight program.

Q. Would you be able to talk about Ben’s game, what you like most about it, what you think he needs to improve most at this stage of his career?
COACH SELF: He’s young. Obviously this is his first time on a big stage. He didn’t have his best game last night. But certainly we need him in the game so much because he’s so athletic and he can do things to open up things for other guys.

What I like most is he can shoot the basketball and he’s very athletic. It’s effortless for him. Of course, he can become more aggressive, when things aren’t going his way, figure out a way to get to the free-throw line.

But basically I’m so pleased with his year and how he’s played all year long.

Q. Continuing on Ben. What is key to getting him going in a game? Reminds you of Rush, high moments, then quiet moments. Is Elijah the key?
COACH SELF: I think Elijah probably is as big a key to our team for everybody playing well ’cause he’s got to be our primary distributor and that kind of stuff.

But, you know, people are going to guard Ben a certain way. They’re going to try to take away certain things that come easy for him, make him do some things that, at least on paper or through video, doesn’t come as easy for him. That’s scouting. Everybody scouts, that kind of stuff.

He’s capable of doing it all. The thing that I hope happens, and I believe will happen, is that he’s got to be a kid, go out and enjoy the moment, understand that it’s just a game. He’s just part of it, trying to do his best, not put pressure on him to be a guy that has to carry our team or anything like that.
We all know as a group collectively when he’s aggressive, we’re better. We just got to get him to be a little more aggressive.

Q. You obviously had another really good performance from Travis defensively. Can you describe some of the attributes besides wanting to do it that makes him such a good defender?
COACH SELF: Travis is smart and he’s strong and he’s athletic. He understands angles. There’s a lot of things that go into it. Probably the biggest thing is he’s very, very competitive.

The job he did last night on Price was very good because Price made a three the second possession of the game and he scored seven points in the game under two minutes. There was a long period of time, 35 or 36 minutes, where he didn’t make a basket. That was primarily ’cause of Travis’ defense on him.

I don’t think there’s any one thing. There may be guys stronger, a little faster, jump a little higher, but there’s not anybody out there that’s more competitive on the defensive end.

Q. Last night Elijah said something to the effect that it’s kind of second nature for this team to get up for a name program and for Roy. Is that the case?
COACH SELF: Well, Elijah can’t speak for past teams. On teams he’s played on, I think our guys enjoy playing in games where the appearance is that it’s for the highest of stakes. That’s not always the case.

Last night was a game for the highest of stakes. I don’t agree with exactly what he said because I think that we were ready to play. But for whatever reason, we were a little tight, to be candid. Tomorrow we can’t be that way. We have to be very ready to play.

And I also think this: I don’t think getting up for Coach Williams has anything to do with whether we win or lose. I think we’ve got to get up for North Carolina. Certainly with our players, there’s no side-bar at all other than getting ready to play their team.

Q. Where has Withey made the biggest offensive strides this year?
COACH SELF: I think he’s become better with his back to the basket. I am happy with him as an offensive player. His numbers don’t jump off the page, but he’s getting about 14 a game, shooting a good percentage. He’s always been a good free throw shooter.

I think we’re playing through him more, where in the past, last year we played through Thomas. He benefited from Thomas getting doubled. Now basically others are benefitting from Jeff getting doubled and everything.

The biggest thing is just a confidence level and scoring with his back to the basket.

Q. The way North Carolina has changed and played with the four guys out on the perimeter, are they at all similar to maybe like an Iowa State? Does that help with preparation?
COACH SELF: Well, they don’t run the same stuff. I think personnel there are some similarities, except Carolina’s got a guy you can throw it to at 10 feet or throw it to him at three feet and you can come away with two points or a foul, where Iowa State liked to spread it all over, all five spots.
Certainly we haven’t played against a so-called 4-man that can stretch it and shoot it with the range that Hairston does, not at all.

Iowa State did have some 4-men that could make threes, but this is ridiculous how he makes threes and how many he can make, what a streak he can get on. That’s a little bit different.
But I do think the fact that we have played somebody that can stretch it from at least four spots at all times hopefully will be a benefit playing in the game tomorrow.

Q. Do you expect, based on yesterday, on everything, that Carolina might press? What things did you feel like your team didn’t do well against the press?
COACH SELF: Well, I think we had opportunities to dunk a couple balls if we could just, you know, play catch as opposed to being at second base and throwing it into the stands. It was almost like that. So we didn’t do a great job against the pressure.

But Carolina will try to pressure us. I don’t know if Carolina will try to press us, but I think they’ll try to pressure us. We got to get better getting open one pass away, we have to get better at passing and handling. Once you are better at that, you have to be better at attacking pressure and scoring behind the pressure. That’s something we didn’t do a good job of at all yesterday.

Q. Roy has been answering a lot of questions about being back in Kansas City. From your perspective, how do you think the fan base has maybe adapted over these 10 years since he left, the view they have of his time in Kansas?
COACH SELF: Well, you’d have to ask the fan base on what their views are and everything because I know I don’t speak for the Jayhawk Nation. But I do think everybody that has supported Kansas over time certainly respects and appreciates everything that Coach Williams did during his time in Lawrence.
Nobody can ever take away that he did a fabulous job, ran a first-class program. The people of Kansas were beneficiaries of him being the head coach at KU. Anybody that doesn’t feel that way I think is not real because that is the reality of it.

On the flipside, I don’t really see after 10 years that it’s near as big a deal as what maybe the storyline would be. I mean, 10 years is a long time. I could go back to Champaign and they wouldn’t even know if I was in town for a month if I was there.

I know Roy is different in this community ’cause he was here for 15 years. But I think there would have been a much bigger storyline if it had happened earlier. Since we’ve had a chance to play a couple times in the tournament, I think there were some storylines there that probably aren’t as good of storylines now.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports