Men's Basketball meets Media

Oct. 12, 2007

Head Coach Bill Self and the men’s basketball team met with the media on Friday afternoon. Coach Self and the players spoke about the upcoming season.

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Head Coach Bill Self

On the anticipation of the upcoming season:

“To me this team is exciting because we know what we are going to get from our guys. Shady (Darrell Aruthur) and Sherron (Collins) just need to elevate their game to consistently play at the highest level and make the same jump that Julian (Wright) made and Mario (Chalmers) made last year. If we are able to stay healthy, then we will be an awfully fun team to coach. I’m also excited for Brady (Morningstar), Jeremy (Case) and Rodrick (Stewart). One of them needs to emerge and if they emerge they can continue be a part of a group that helps us throughout the season. So it should be exciting for those players also, because they are better players than the minutes they’ve received in the last couple seasons.”

On the difference from last year’s team:

“Last year, we had no senior leadership and this year we have five seniors with their last go around and there are a couple other guys that could possibly have their last go around. We tasted it last year and I think it’s a great lesson, no matter how hard you play, if you have one off day, you go home.”

On Brandon Rush’s scheduled return:

“We don’t have plans yet for exactly when he’ll play or how he’ll be utilized. He’s still a little ways away, a week or two from going through one of his final examinations for testing to see exactly where he is and how he has progressed. Depending on how quickly he gets to know his new body, will be a large part of how quickly we can get him back.”

On Brandon Rush after his return:

“<?xml:namespace prefix=”st1″ ns=”urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags”?>Brandon will not be the Brandon we saw at 100% last year, but I think he can be 100% of the new Brandon. Instead of certain moves he had made to free himself with pure athletic ability, he is going to have to learn more technique. They said (Michael) Jordan got better when he was less athletic. I think Brandon is going to be a better basketball player. Physically he is going to be 85-95 percent of what he was, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be a better player.”

On Darnell Jackson:

“He has been through a lot. He’s gotten a lot better. He is the best big man shooter on our team, hands down. He can do a lot of things to help us win games. He is our best rebounder per minute. If you go through the things that he has had to, from a personal standpoint, it is amazing that he has done as well as he has.”

On Russell Robinson:

“He’ll go down as one of my favorites to coach because I really think that Russell views his play on one thing and that is wins and losses. A lot of people think they have to score, but I think Russell cares about winning. We can all say we care about that, but are we willing to sacrifice to make sure that gives us the best chance. He’s one of those guys. He’s a really mature player.”

On the senior leadership this season:

“I think we are blessed this year in that we have five guys that are great leaders. These guys have a chance to win four Big 12 crowns and three straight Big 12 Tournament crowns. They want to go out as being recognized as one of the most winning (recruiting) classes.”

On preseason accolades:

“I think those things are worth as much as the paper they are printed on. I always say that I think we have seven guys that deserve mention and it’s true. We don’t talk about individual things. We just talk about `we’ and `us’ and `team.'”

On Jeremy Case:

“He’s had a good career. Here’s a guy who’s been here five years and got his degree in four and he’s taking master’s courses this year. I would really love to see Jeremy impact our program for us on the court. Nobody has paid there dues to this program like he has.”

On Sherron Collins:

“Whatever everybody else does, he does extra. Last year for a stretch of time he was as good as any guard in our league and I expect him to play that way again this year.”

On Rodrick Stewart:

“Rodrick is in great shape. I really thought he played well in the NCAA Tournament last year. I thought he helped us win the Southern Illinois game. Rod works hard and he deserves the chance to play and I think he is going to get that opportunity.”

On comparing last year’s team to the 2007-08 team:

“In certain situations I have no doubt we’ll be better. As a whole, I can’t imagine that if we are a whole as a team that we can’t play at the same level as last year.”

Senior Center Sasha Kaun

On Cole Aldrich:

“Cole is a hard worker. He is always asking questions and has been trying hard. Sometimes it’s hard as a big man to come in and transition from high school to college. There is a big difference besides just being big and physical. Other players are just as big and physical as you are. He has to learn how to score. The first couple of weeks will be tough, but once he figures everything out, he’s going to be a really good player.”

On his transition to the college level:

“It was hard because you’re used to catching the ball down low and being able to score. Now you have to figure out how to score and the game is so much faster. You have to run a lot more and there are plays that you have to think about. You have to put so much more into it. The first year is one the toughest. Sometimes you look back and wonder why you didn’t know something before. There are so many things that you can still learn.”

“When I played in high school people were not as big. Here, pretty much any team you play is a big team. There are going to be players who are just as big and just as strong who can push you around.”

On expectations for Late Night:

“I am so excited. I personally think this is going to be one of the best Late Night’s of all my years in the program. I am really looking forward to it. I am excited to have this place packed again with a full house.”

Senior Forward Darnell Jackson

On assuming the leadership role:

“I am not going to put myself in that type of position and say `I want to be a leader.’ Everyone on this team is capable of being a leader. When it comes down to hard times, everyone steps up to the plate and becomes a leader. It’s always been like that. Every time we’re on the court, if we’re down ten or 15, everyone steps up and says what we need to do so we can get back in the game. To me, everyone on the team is a leader. Everyone has had their ups and downs.”

On being a senior:

“We’ve been together for so long. It’s our turn to step up. This is the last go-around for all of us seniors. We can’t just go out there and showboat and mess around. We have to play as a team and do things together. We have to keep that circle complete like we have the last couple years.”

“I never thought I would get here. I can’t believe that the time has finally come. I’ve always told my mom that I have three more years, but now it’s here. We can’t believe the season is almost here and we’re about to start playing. We will go to the tournament and then that will be it. Then we will have to go out into the real world and try to do something with our lives.”

On his relationship with Coach Self:

“When I first got here I thought Coach Self was a crazy man. I had to learn the way he wanted me to play and how hard he wanted me to work. Now I realize that it helped me a lot. I wasn’t doing the things that he wanted me to do; I was always doing my own thing and wasn’t always getting to where I wanted to be. The things he and the other coaches were telling me helped me out in the long run.”

Sophomore Guard Sherron Collins

On high expectations:

“Every team wants to go far and wants to win big. That’s our plan; we want to win big. We know what we have to do to win big. We have to do everything Coach (Self) explains and tells us to do. Having that bitter taste from the end of last year has made us hungrier and want more. We’re going to come out with a different approach this year. We have to be tougher and do the things that Coach stressed last year.”

On Kansas’ backcourt:

“We know we’re good. It’s good to have people think that we are one of the top teams in the nation. We aren’t going to do anything different. We are going to stick to the plan, do what Coach tells us to do and try to win games.”

“Me, Mario (Chalmers) and Russell (Robinson) all bring speed. We bring different things as well. Once we all understand that we can contribute differently, then that’s what will make us a good backcourt.”

On his knee injury late last season:

“It slowed me up a lot. I could barely move. Every step I took when I was running hurt. I just didn’t want to quit and give up on my team. Still, I feel like I didn’t do all that I could have done to help the team win. Everyone is hungry, but I think I am hungrier because I let my team down a little bit at the end.”

Senior Guard Jeremy Case

On the team’s experience:

“I think it is a great advantage. With it being my last year, I think that with the experience we have, I think we want to put more pressure on some of the young guys to work harder.”

On being a senior:

“It puts more fire in your stomach and makes you work that much harder. When you don’t think you can work harder, you do because it’s your last time.”

On Darnell Jackson:

“He has had a great summer and a great preseason. I think he is going to do big things. He can run the floor and he’s really explosive – deceivingly explosive. He’s quick, not like a guard, but he is agile for as big as he is.

On Russell Robinson:

“I think he shoots a lot better than most people give him credit for. I know he’s tough and can shut anyone down defensively.”

Senior Guard Rodrick Stewart

On his expectations for this season:

“You have to play every day like it is your last. This is our last go around. It would mean a lot if we went out on top, especially having a lot of seniors. If you don’t win the whole thing, your last game at KU will be a loss. But it is going to be a special year this year.”

On the team’s lack of seniors last season:

“I don’t think we missed having any seniors because we had a lot of guys who took those leadership roles. Guys like Russell (Robinson), Brandon (Rush) and Mario (Chalmers), those are the guys who you count on day in and day out for anything on and off the court. This year I don’t think we necessarily have one leader. Everybody is kind of holding their own and being there for each other. I think that goes a long way when you talk about trying to contend for a national championship.”

On his role as a senior:

“You definitely have to (take a leadership role). You are one of the older guys now and you have freshmen coming in like Tyrel (Reed) and Cole (Aldrich). They need guys to be there to look out for them, especially since this is their first time being away from home. I have kind of adjusted to being away from my family, especially from my twin brother; it was hard for me. That is when you need to help your teammates the most, when they are homesick and things like that.”

On his personal goals:

“I just want to prove to myself and to everybody that I belong here. At the same time it is about KU and being part of the tradition. That’s why I came here, to be a part of something that is bigger than myself. It is really not about me. It is about being a part of something special and we have a chance to do that this year on the court.”

On what it would mean to win a national championship:

“It would definitely mean a lot to me and to all of the seniors. That is something that you are going to take with you the rest of your life. Win or lose, we are going to enjoy all of the experiences we have. But to win a national championship and be in that group that took home the whole thing would be really special.”

Freshman Forward Cole Aldrich

On the KU frontcourt:

“We definitely have some real good guys with Shady (Darrell Arthur), Darnell (Jackson), Sasha (Kaun) and (Matt) Kleinmann. I am just trying to do whatever I can do for the team to win. If I need to come out and play 10 minutes, say Sasha has two fouls in the first five minutes, I am going to try my best to do what we need to do to win.”

On the teams’ expectations:

“Winning the national title. As a team we came together and that is our goal every year. To win the conference, win the Big 12 Tournament and then go on and get to the Final Four and win it all.”

On the role of the freshmen:

“We will definitely embrace (our roles). We are going to have the best time we can, whether we are playing or not. If Coach expects us to come in and get some minutes while another player has foul trouble or is not producing like they normally do, we are just there to do our thing and have some fun.”

On Late Night:

“It is going to be a blast, but I am a little nervous. I have never quite danced and humiliated myself in front of 16,300 people. It is going to be a great time. The older guys told me to have the most fun I can have with it. The people are coming out here to support us and we just want to give them a good time.”

On why he chose Kansas:

“It is the best place. At about seven o’clock (Allen Fieldhouse) is going to be absolutely packed. There are people waiting outside to get in here. We came in to lift weights earlier this morning around 10, and there were people outside waiting to get in just for Late Night. The players definitely love that.”

Junior Guard Brandon Rush

On rehab:

“I feel that rehab is going pretty good right now. I’m pretty much allowed to do everything, but it’s just more of me getting comfortable with what I’m doing. I can’t do pick-up games yet. I can do other stuff like jump, but no contact right now. I have been doing a lot of one leg jumping and running to try to get back in shape. I’m starting to get more comfortable with what I’m doing.”

On when he’ll be ready to play this season:

“I still don’t know. I still don’t have any time table. I guess they are going by the book, so six months (from June). Sometimes I feel like I can do more things, but I just have to listen to what the doctors say. I don’t want to hurt myself again.”

On if he can play at a high level again:

“Yes, I’m pretty confident. I’m only playing at 80% or 90% full speed right now. So I’m pretty confident. They (the doctors) said I can begin doing things with the team next weekend.”

On the timing of the injury:

“The timing was pretty bad. I was in the middle of working out, getting ready for the NBA. It was a bad time. I didn’t have to think about though, I knew I had to come back to school and be in rehab everyday and work hard to get my knee right.”

On coming back to Kansas:

“It’s a good program. I’m not mad because that’s what I have to come back for, it’s just bad timing. I didn’t think I would be here this long, but things happen.”

On the season:

“We feel good. We have 17 cats on our team right now and so many different identities. Everybody is getting along really well. It’s going to be a great season. We are going to be a great team.”

Sophomore Forward Darrell Arthur

On the off-season:

“My off-season was pretty slow because of my knee injury, but I gradually picked it up with rehab. I’m back to probably 100% right now and my stress fractures are out of the way.”

On how the knee injury occurred:

“It happened when I was working out. Just playing and jumping on it and it stretched it out. It wasn’t immediate, it happened over time. This was my first time to be injured like that.”

On his expectations for the season:

“Hopefully we can get back to what we did last year and further. I’m just trying to help the team rebound, score, run the floor and score down low. I’m just going to do whatever I have to do to help our team win.”

On what he improved the most on:

“I think I improved on my passing a lot. Last year I was shooting a lot and hurrying so I just need to slow my pace of game.”

On being comfortable in a “go to” role:

“I’m pretty comfortable with it. Whoever is hot on that day that is who we are going to go to. We have so many weapons that we can do whatever we need to do.”

On his first thought when he heard Brandon Rush was coming back:

“I was pretty excited, but I didn’t know that he tore his ACL. I was thinking how long it would take for him to come back. I feel pretty good about it now and I think we are going to be great this year.”

On being disappointed if they didn’t reach the Final Four:

“I think it would be a disappointment to not get as far as we did last year. We have a good enough team and a lot of seniors to lead us. So hopefully we can make it. I think we are going to be great. We have a lot of team chemistry this year. I think we are going to get it done this year.”

Freshman Guard Tyrel Reed

On helping keep the team loose:

“There may not be as much pressure on me being a freshman so I think I can help try to keep the team loose. I think our team is already a pretty loose bunch and we are just going to try to have some fun.”

On his possible limited playing time:

“I am not trying to think about that kind of stuff. I am just trying to play and have a lot of fun. I don’t look at things from a playing time standpoint. I am just going to come to practice every day and do the best I can and try to make everyone else better. In doing that, the other guys will make me better because we have such a great group of guys.”

On dealing with high ticket demands from family and friends:

“It is a little different being from Kansas and only an hour a away. I really don’t get to go home a whole lot, but the good part is it is always available which is unlike a lot of guys, like my roommate Cole (Aldrich) who is from Minnesota so it is a little tough for him to get back.”

On what he has improved the most on since coming here in June:

“I feel a lot stronger and quicker. I feel like now I can try to guard some of these guys. We have such a great group of guards I am just trying my best to stay with them. They help me a lot just competing with them day in and day out.”

Senior Guard Russell Robinson

On not having a senior last year:

“I don’t think it hurt us. This year there will be a difference though because a lot of guys have really matured.”

On not having to deal with talking about early NCAA exits:

“It wasn’t as tough this year, but it was still tough because of how we played so poorly against UCLA last year. We beat ourselves in that game. It was pretty tough. Now it is a new year and we just have to use that as motivation. It gave us a nice little taste last year, now we just want to go out and take the whole thing.”

On Brandon Rush:

“After the first two weeks he has had nothing but a very positive attitude. The first two weeks he was down and sad, but after that he has been all positive. He has been really attentive and on-time to everything. He has a real positive energy about him and you wouldn’t even know he was hurt if you didn’t know of the injury.”

On starting the year without Brandon Rush:

“I think it should work great once we get him back. Every respects his game so I don’t think we will suffer from any chemistry problems when everyone gets back. We all love Brandon and he will fit right in when he is ready. The main part will be getting him in there and getting him confident.”

On dealing with high expectations:

“We work hard through boot camp and practice so it doesn’t bother us because that is what we signed up for when we came to Kansas. The fans have high expectations for us and that is what we have to do. Number one is what you have to be and that is what you fight for here and hopefully this year we attain it.”

On being a senior:

“It has just gone by so fast and it is hard to remember anything in detail from my first three years here. I hope to try and go out with a bang so I am going to work and play hard every game.”

Junior Guard Mario Chalmers

On listening to Coach Self from the start:

“When I first came here I tried to do things on my own. I think Sherron (Collins) had a problem with that a little bit last year as well. That has to do with our backgrounds though because I was the man on my team before I came here, he was the man on his team, and at Kansas everybody is the man. We just have to put it all together and be ready.”

On preparing for this season like it may be his last:

“Leaving is not on anybody’s mind right now. All we are focusing on right now is winning a National Championship this year.”

On Brandon Rush:

“I think he has realized what is in front of him and what he needs to do. He has been working really hard to get back. I think he has become a better dribbler since his injury. I haven’t seen a lot of him because he has been doing a lot of individual workouts.”

On what he worked on over the summer:

“I have been working on everything from dribbling to passing and knowing where my teammates like to get the ball. I have also tried to get stronger and in better condition.”

On using last year as motivation:

“I think it is a big, big motivation factor. We felt like we were right on the cusp last year and we can get back there. We just have to stay together.”