Jayhawks Participate in Big 12 Media Day at Sprint Center

Oct. 17, 2012

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Bill Self and his senior class took part in Big 12 Men’s Basketball Media Day at the Sprint Center in Kansas City Wednesday. Travis Releford and Kevin Young joined Big 12 preseason honorees Elijah Johnson and Jeff Withey for the league’s annual preseason media event. Kansas head coach Bill Self addressed the media in a brief Q&A session from the Sprint Center floor. The transcript follows:

THE MODERATOR: Coach Bill Self from Kansas. Coach, your thoughts about the opening season?

COACH SELF: I’m excited. I like our guys. We have great experience with our senior class that’s been through a lot of battles, and we have a lot of puppies. Seven freshmen, so I think it will be a good team in time. I don’t think that we’ll be great early. I think we have a process that we have to go through. But I do think there is some talent, and I do like the possibilities of us competing hopefully for another championship.

Q. In regards to Ben (McLemore) and Jamari (Traylor), who did they guard in practice last year? How did that help them develop?

COACH SELF: Well, we put Ben the majority of the time on Tyshawn (Taylor), which I thought was great for Ty. Because Ben was athletic enough and long enough that he could give him some problems and Jamari every day, when I say every day, second semester went head-to-head with Thomas (Robinson) every day. And Jamari actually held his own with Thomas three out of five days. Then the other two he gets murdered. But I think it was really great for those guys to play against pros last year, at least for a period of time. I think that’s helped their advancement. It’s been amazing to me how much they’ve both improved in practice since the start of practice because they’re starting to get it and get things. Because they missed all the early practices last year, this is all new to them, but they’re picking up stuff quick.

Q. Coach, last season recurring themes or recurring concerns were defense and depth. How do you feel about those two areas coming into this season?

COACH SELF: I think last season we were pretty good defensively. I mean, most of our teams since I’ve been at KU have been pretty good defensively depending on how you rate good defense. But the way we rate it, it’s been pretty good. Depth was obviously a factor last year. We went seven deep and not eight. So this year I think we can go 10 or 11 deep. We’re definitely a deeper team. I think we potentially shoot it a little better, but we don’t have the star power. You don’t have guys that can go out and get you 36 between the two of them over the course of the season like Thomas and Ty did. That will be the challenge to me is having the really good players step up and become excellent players, or to have the bling guy step up and play a more pivotal role. We’ll miss Thomas and Ty without question. But usually guys when they get the opportunity step in and make the most of it.

Q. What have you done to improve the post development? Have you added jump hooks, face-up shots? What has Jeff Withey done in terms of his post development?

COACH SELF: We’ve actually — that’s been an emphasis of ours, and we have done a lot. Norm Roberts has spent a lot of time with Jeff. But the biggest thing with him, he’s a good space up jump shooter. He’s an excellent free-throw shooter. He can make jump shots, pick and pop, score over his left shoulder. But he has to get where he can score over his right shoulder, and we’ve been working hard on him developing a left-hand jump hook or a go-to move over his right shoulder. So that’s a point of emphasis. Something we tell him to do every day. I think it will continue to develop over time. But Jeff naturally isn’t one of those guys that looks to score or it comes easy for him. That’s not the case. Last year he averaged nine a game, in large part because he played next to Thomas. Thomas would get doubled or whatever, and Jeff would benefit from that. This year defenses will be designed to stop Jeff. So he’ll get 12 a game and show great improvement in his offensive moves and repertoires, so to speak. I’m excited for him. I think he can do it. It’s just taking it and putting it in the game, because he can do it in practice.

Q. Lot of guys drafted out of the league this past year. I think I’ve only seen two or three teams preseason polls. Is this a replenishing year for the Big 12? How do you break it down?

COACH SELF: I don’t think so. I think our league doesn’t — I think our league reloads. If you stop and think about it, we did have some great prospects in our league. But don’t we have just about as many great prospects going into the season as we had last year? Nobody knew Robinson would be the fifth pick. I remember sitting here last year and I think I said we hope he can play like an All-American. You look at what Baylor’s got down there. They’ve got a high lottery pick, a first round guard (Pierre Jackson). Without question I think he’s the best guard in the country. You look at basically I think (Rodney) McGruder’s a pro. I think Henriquez Roberts will be a draft pick for sure, and Oklahoma State’s roster’s loaded without question. You’ll have guys emerge every year that will be draft picks. Our league won’t take a step backwards. Last year we had three teams in the Top 10 all year long. I’d be surprised if we don’t have comparable result this is year.

Q. You’ve talked about the new kids, the seven freshmen. How important is it for those kids to get going quickly for you guys early in the season?

COACH SELF: I think we play Michigan State in less than four weeks. So I think that it will be very important for those guys to get going. But the biggest thing is they’re going to make mistakes and be up and down and that kind of stuff. We know that. The big key is our seniors play like seniors. If they play like they’re capable of playing, we’ll get enough guys to blend in and buy time, so to speak, until everybody’s on the same page. But I’m looking forward to the process. I think we’ll have some nights where we look really good. We’ll have some nights where we don’t look good at all, in large part because of our inexperience. I think it will be a lot of fun.

Q. How do you look at the eight straight regular season Big 12 titles? Is that a point of pride or a reflection of everything you’ve done in your program?

COACH SELF: It’s not a reflection of anything I’ve done. It’s a reflection of having good players, period. We’ve had some hard rocking guys come through there, and some guys that have developed over time and played at a really high level. But it’s a great sense of pride or source of pride for us. Not just for me, but for everybody in our program, for our players. Our players don’t want to be the team that doesn’t. They put pressure on themselves not to be that. I think that’s good. I think it means an awful lot to them. I don’t think there is a jubilation of winning the league maybe that you would anticipate with our guys, because I think they take the approach this is our job. This is what we came here to do. So I really like their approach. I like how much it means to them. I like the pride they take in it, that sort of thing. But the most important one we could ever win would be this year’s, and that’s how I think our guys look at it. That is certainly how I look at it.

Q. Talk about the freshmen. How much do you feel it helped their development the fact that you can work with them more this summer?

COACH SELF: Oh, no question. That’s a great rule change. NCAA has done great things as far as rule changes here lately. That may be one great one they’ve done, giving us access to our guys, not just from an athletic standpoint, but an academic standpoint. You get a chance to steer your guys. You have more control. Guys always do better when there is structure. So it’s been really good for us. It’s helped us. We got a double bonus because we took our team to Europe. Though we still got two hours a week, we got more than two hours because we got the 10 practices. So that was good for us. I don’t think we performed well in Europe at all, but I’m not sure that wasn’t good for us too because it humbled us saying we’ve got a long ways to go. So that was a great rule change. I haven’t heard one coach say anything other than that that I’ve ever visited about.