Jayhawks Practice and Meet With The Media Friday

April 4, 2008

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SAN ANTONIO, Texas – A day full of practice and media sessions came to a difficult ending for the Kansas men’s basketball team when it lost senior guard Rodrick Stewart when he was injured attempting a dunk at the Jayhawks’ open practice. Stewart will not suit up the rest of the tournament.

Up until the injury to Stewart, spent the day making final preparations for Saturday’s national semifinal and meeting with the media. Below is a transcript from Friday’s press conference.

THE MODERATOR: We’re joined by Kansas coach Bill Self. Questions, please.

Q. Your team has so much balance in terms of its scoring. I’m wondering if that is part of your philosophy or if that’s just a product of the players you have on this particular team, that the scoring is so spread out.
COACH SELF: Well, I would say it’s probably a lot of both. The way that I like to coach in a perfect world is to have five guys that can score from all five spots, even maybe not prolific, but where the go-to guy is supposedly the open man, so to speak.
We’ve had guys, Wayne Simien, Brian Cook, that have been Players of the Year and averaged, you know, well above 20 a game in the respective leagues. But those teams haven’t been as competitive, in my opinion, as a team like this one that’s very balanced.
I think it’s a by-product of philosophy. It’s a by-product of our guys’ overall skill set, you know, the guys’ attitudes, because they could care less who takes a shot.

Q. Everybody talks about stopping Hansbrough for Carolina. Who else on the team concerns you and why?
COACH SELF: They’re averaging about 90 a game and he’s getting 23 of them. There’s still a lot of other points there.
Everyone concerns me. I think it starts with their transition. Of course, that is all players, but primarily when Lawson is healthy, which he is now, he takes that to a whole different realm. You know, it’s easier said than done to get back.
Their philosophy in running isn’t, We just run. There’s definitely a lot of thought that’s gone into it and a method behind the madness. So we have to do a real good job I would say defending the first five to ten seconds of the possession. That may sound very simple, but that’s very accurate because they’ll get shots up in that time frame.
If you don’t do that, now it becomes a rotation rebounding game because you’re going to have guards blocking off bigs and guys around matched up with their guys, and they are fantastic at running to the glass out of transition.
So those would be two huge concerns. And then Tyler is a part of transition. Tyler is a part of the rebounding. But he becomes their go-to guy if those things aren’t available in the halfcourt offense.
They all concern us. They have a guy like Ellington and Green that can stretch it from anywhere. But you have to slow ’em down first and foremost.

Q. One thing Carolina does really well is, once a team scores against them, running back the other way. Is that a little bit unique as far as what they try to do? What do you have to emphasize, you said, to get back.
COACH SELF: Well, when the ball is shot, you can tell if a team is good defensively that when the ball is shot — I mean offensively, you can tell a team is good offensively that when the ball is shot and you have the ball, then all five guys are in motion in some form or fashion. If you have one guy standing watch, if your philosophy is three go to the glass and your three-man stands and watches, you can tell if a team is well-coached in large part if you have all five guys in motion.
So to me, guys have responsibilities and assignments to carry out. We have to be really good at carrying out those assignments.
I also think this. If you worry so much about getting back, then that takes away your aggressiveness going. So that can’t be the case. We have to be who we are, and that is in the very aggressive attack-type mode. If guys follow their assignments and do their job, then we should be able to do both.

Q. What is the report on Stewart?
COACH SELF: Rod has a fractured kneecap, so he is obviously out. He’ll have surgery when he gets back to Lawrence. So not a great start to our day. But he did that at the end when he slipped on a wet spot.

Q. Sasha Kaun has been an interesting study this year. Can you take us through the evolution of his game this year and his importance tomorrow.
COACH SELF: Well, Sasha, he played a little bit as a freshman. Probably played 10 or 12 minutes a game, he and Darnell, as freshmen. Then, you know, he basically has been a starter ever since. His first game his sophomore year he gets 25 and 16, I believe. May have been against Idaho State or someone. I’m thinking, Hey, we’re going to take off. He had a good sophomore year, but not great. From a production standpoint, he became a little bit inconsistent, although he was a starter all the way through.
Then I really feel this year Darnell outplayed him early in the season, so we flipped them. Darnell really blossomed in that starter’s role. To be honest with you, for whatever reason, Sasha became better off the bench. I don’t think it was a pressure thing or anything like that, but just mixing things up a little bit, Sasha got a lot better.
He’s been a very consistent performer for us this year. To be honest, in the last three weeks he’s probably been our best inside player. He certainly carried us in Detroit as an inside presence against Villanova and against Davidson.

Q. Tomorrow how important will he be?
COACH SELF: All of our guys are going to be important. Because the game is going to be so fast, you’re not going to be able to play two guys 10 minutes at a time. So we’re going to have to have all four of our big guys play. But Sasha is our best low-post defender. Obviously, Carolina has a guy that scores well in the low post. You could think he would be a huge asset for us.

Q. Yesterday the Associated Press reported you had a conversation with your athletic director which said you wouldn’t be going anywhere. Can you clarify that conversation?
COACH SELF: I haven’t read anything on how it was reported. When the opening occurred at Oklahoma State, I immediately went to see Lew. At that time Lew and I talked – not talked about terms of contract or anything like that, but just said, Hey, Lew, how do we handle this? We talked about it. He asked me, Do you want to go anywhere? I said, Heck, no, I don’t want to go anywhere.
So that’s kind of how that trans — that conversation transpired. But it was a very informal deal. But the thing that Lew and I have done, and we’ve done it ever since we’ve been together, is we’ve had a very, very open line of communication. We talk about anything and everything. And so we’ve talked about what do we need to be successful, to how can we help you, to how do we help the players, what do we need to feed ’em, to academic support, you know, travel, everything. He’s very good at giving us the resources we need.
Part of the conversations we’ve had is, Hey, when the season is over, we’re going to sit down, we’re going to talk, get everything ironed out, so hopefully you can be here for a while.
I take him at his word. He takes me at mine. So I’m sure that will be the case.

Q. There’s been just one conversation, that is the one you referenced on Tuesday in Lawrence?
COACH SELF: Absolutely. That’s exactly right, yes.

Q. You’ve gone against Michael Beasley twice this year. Player of the Year type of player. How do he and Hansbrough remind you of one another or how are they different?
COACH SELF: Well, I think from a scoring standpoint, Michael scores in more ways. He was 8 of 11 from three against us. If Tyler goes 8 of 11 tomorrow, we’ve got some serious issues.
I do think that Michael scores in more ways. I do think Tyler is more relentless in going after balls. You know, he’s getting 80% of the 50/50 balls. He doesn’t allow himself to be blocked off. He just has a mindset to him that few people have.
I’m not saying Michael doesn’t play hard. I’m just saying that’s what Tyler takes great pride in. But they are similar in the fact you have to give them so much attention to give your team the best chance. But I would say this: no disrespect meant towards K State at all, but we could devote more attention to Michael. You give Tyler all that attention, they’re some other guys out there that can go for 20 any night, and multiple guys.
I think the balance around Tyler is also one thing that makes him especially hard to guard.

Q. Five years ago Roy left. I’m sure you hoped that Kansas fans were as nasty as they can be.
COACH SELF: No, I’m not. No, I don’t.

Q. I mean in terms of rooting for you guys.
COACH SELF: I wouldn’t think that’s nasty if they’re rooting for us.

Q. But they root against him, it’s noise for you, right?
COACH SELF: Well, your question’s good. But I certainly don’t see it that way. I think if our fans, which we have as good of fans as anybody, spends all their time, you know, rooting against an individual, then their energies aren’t channeled in the right direction.
It’s the same way with me. I’m not spending my time, you know, in the press conference or whatever, you know, worrying about Coach Williams. I’m worried about North Carolina.
I really think from a logical standpoint, and sometimes that word doesn’t always ring true with fans that have a vested interest in what’s going on, but five years is enough time for things to be let go.
You know, I’ve said this many times. I have a better job at Kansas because Roy Williams was a coach at Kansas. I also am glad he’s at North Carolina because if he wasn’t, then I wouldn’t be at Kansas.
So from my vantage point, all the animosity that is portrayed, which I don’t think is quite as great as what some people do, is just a backhanded compliment, that they didn’t want him to leave.
So I hope it’s an unbelievable game. It should be. Got fabulous athletes. But I hope it’s Kansas against Carolina and not Kansas fans against Roy because I guarantee our players could care less about anything other than North Carolina’s players.

Q. Your agent Stewart Campbell was quoted in the Tulsa World today as saying, “I never say never, and it would have to be eye-popping numbers if you would consider the Oklahoma State job.” You’re going to be highly sought after. Are you after Billy Donovan-type money?
COACH SELF: I’m not after anything, however it was reported, and I don’t know how it was reported, I don’t have an agent.

Q. Stewart Campbell.
COACH SELF: He’s not my agent.

Q. Representative?
COACH SELF: Stewart Campbell is an attorney that looks over my contracts. So he does not speak for me. I have not spoken with Stewart Campbell about this. I haven’t spoken to Stewart Campbell in a month. I haven’t spoken to him about this at all.
So anybody speaking on behalf of me doesn’t know what they’re talking about because I will speak for me. So if that was said that way, I’m very disappointed. But that’s not an indication of how I feel or how I would feel or anything like that.
So, you know, I don’t know if that answers your question. But I’m not looking for anything except our team to play well this weekend. That’s all I care about.

Q. Do you want an extension, a new deal next week?
COACH SELF: Do you want one?

Q. Every day.
COACH SELF: Every day (laughter). That’s exactly right. Yes, yes, I would love — and I hope Lew is talking about something in that regard as opposed to, you know, where we’re going to play golf when he said he wanted to meet with me after the season. I don’t know. You’d have to ask Lew that.
But I’m hopeful that’s the case.

Q. The Stewart injury looked bad. Did it shake the other guys up at all?
COACH SELF: You know, I think it probably did. It did. I don’t know exactly how it happened. He said he slipped on a wet spot, you know. I told our freshmen, they could go dunk. Rodrick jumps out there, goes and tries to dunk, which I’m disappointed that we — we do that every tournament, but I’m disappointed, certainly hurt for him. Guys practice their whole life to get to participate in a Final Four. That’s been taken away from him.
But I don’t know exactly how it will affect the guys other than the fact that it was a subdued locker room when I told them what the injury was and how bad it was because the doctor said he caught a break in that it could have been worse with the type of injury he just had, but the x-ray shows that he’ll heal up fine. It’s gonna be a process for him.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, coach.
COACH SELF: Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: We’re joined by Kansas student-athletes. Questions, please.

Q. Everybody talks about Hansbrough’ production at North Carolina. What do you see from their guards, in particular Wayne Ellington?
Mario Chalmers: I mean, they got great guards on their team. We know we have a tough challenge ahead of us. But we’re ready for the challenge. We know Ty Lawson is a fast point guard who likes to get to the rim. Wayne Ellington is a great shooter. It’s going to be a tough job guarding them.

Q. Mario, last weekend Sasha Kaun had a great tournament in the Midwest in Detroit. How important will he be tomorrow and especially against the matchup?
Sherron Collins: I think Sasha will be very important. He allows us to bring a defensive presence in the post. He’s a good defender down there, tough, rebounds the ball, do a lot for us. For him to stay out of foul trouble, it would be perfect for us.
Mario Chalmers: Yeah, agree with what Sherron said. I think Sasha is going to be a big factor in this lineup. He’s the tallest big we have. He’s got a wall up. Do a great job with Tyler Hansbrough.

Q. Mario, UNC players identified you as the big-shot guy for KU down the stretch. Would you say that’s accurate? If not, who is the big-shot guy for you guys?
Mario Chalmers: Yeah, I’d say that’s accurate. It’s not just me. I think everybody can take the big shot. I mean, there’s been a couple of games where Sherron has hit the big shot. Brandon has hit the big shot. We have a lot of people on our team that can hit the big shot.

Q. Talk about Tyler Hansbrough, his will, not saying he out-works other players, but he works hard underneath, kind of how you have to go — are you impressed by his game, what do you have to do to stop him?
Darrell Arthur: He’s a nice player. He has the will to go after the ball. He has the mindset where he’s going after every rebound offensively and defensively. So it’s going to be a tough challenge for us. But as long as we keep a body on him and keep bodies on him, then we’re going to do a good job.
Mario Chalmers: Yeah, I mean, we just got to do a good job on Tyler, makes sure he works for all his points, make sure we keep a body on him the whole game and make him work for everything.

Q. Emotionally Rodrick’s injury, what do you think it will do to the team, any impact tomorrow?
Sherron Collins: I think it will have some impact. Rod worked so hard to get to this point. This is his senior year. He’s been through a lot of stuff his whole career, especially this year. It sucks for him to go out like this, not even be able to participate in the Final Four. It was just another lump we got to get over. But now it’s for Rod. Just come out and try to play and look at it, like I said, like a boost, use it like an energy boost.
Darrell Arthur: It’s tough for us. I really didn’t see what happened. They just informed me on the little bit that happened. It’s going to be tough for us. We’re just going to try to surround him with our love and try to support him the whole way.
Mario Chalmers: I agree with what both of them said. Rod worked so hard to get too this point. It’s hard for him not to be able to participate. He knows we’re going to go out there and participate. He knows we got his back.

Q. What did coach say about this moment, that you’re here, it’s what you’ve worked for? What has he talked about coming in, playing tomorrow night? Any inspirational words, songs that he sang?
Sherron Collins: Mostly said we just can’t be satisfied with being here. Getting here was a good accomplishment, but getting here and losing, not winning, you know, is — you’ve got to feel the salivation in your mouth because you guys are close, but ain’t get there. I think that’s the biggest thing he’s been telling us, not to be satisfied. It’s our last two games. We’re looking for two games. Go out there, give it our all, leave it all out there.
Darrell Arthur: The tough part was getting here, now we can just let the shackles down and go play our basketball. We didn’t do a great job against Davidson. It was a tough win for us. But now we can go out there and play. Carolina likes to play up and down and we like to play fast, too. So we just got to go out there and play Kansas basketball.
Mario Chalmers: What both of them said. Basically said it’s our team, so let’s go out there and take it.

Q. When they lost the last shot for Davidson, what was going on in your mind? Was your heart up in your throat?
Mario Chalmers: No, I seen that the shot was going to be off when he let it go, because he was fading to left, his shot went left. I was just relieved that he didn’t get a good look at it. We and Sherron ran at him. I just was relieved we were going to the Four.

Q. Do you talk to Will and have you talked to him about getting to this stage?
Sherron Collins: Yes, I talked to him. He’s on a whole different time schedule. It’s about 6:00 here in the afternoon, is about 3:00 there in the morning. Sometimes I don’t get to talk to him. He got here to the championship game. He said, Enjoy it, take it in. Like he said, don’t be satisfied, go out there and play. Tell my teammates good luck and everything. So, talked to him.
THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, thank you. Good luck tomorrow.

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