Big 12 Media Day Quotes

Oct. 19, 2005


BIG 12 MEDIA DAY QUOTES<?xml:namespace prefix=”o” ns=”urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office”?>

MODERATOR: Welcome, Coach. Make a few opening comments, please.

COACH Bill Self: Good morning. With me today is Christian Moody, senior from Asheville, North Carolina, and Jeff Hawkins, a senior from Kansas City.

I think that we’re all very excited just like every staff and every team in America right now to get started. I certainly feel like there’s a lot of unknowns with our ballclub that will certainly, through time, the next two, three weeks kind of become knowns for us.

I certainly like our team. We’re very young. We’re inexperienced. With the exception of these two, we don’t return anybody with — that would be considered experienced at the major college level, but I think they are very talented. They are long. They are athletic, and I think they will have a very fun year for us.

MODERATOR: Questions from the floor.

Q. With such a young team, what would you identify as your major strengths and weaknesses?

COACH Bill Self: I think major strengths and these guys, these guys have really seen our team more than me because throughout the — I have only seen them really for four days for the most part. I think we have some guys with some pretty good feel. We have some natural athletic ability. We’re deeper. I think those would be strengths.

And weaknesses, there’s plenty. We don’t know what we’re doing yet. Definitely we’re not very sound. We’re probably not as tough as we should be yet. But I think there’s a chance that those things could come, come real fast. Certainly not a perfect team by any means, but it’s going to be a pretty good team we feel.

Q. So much tradition at your school. Do you feel like a little bit pressured for everybody to step in so many holes to fill?

Christian Moody: I definitely feel that pressure of trying to fill that, those spots that guys from the past have done a great job of doing. And I think that this year we just — I mean, Jeff and myself and another senior, Steve Vinson and Moulaye Niang, we’re excited about having a chance to be leaders on such a young team and with the youth, I think, that it’s just a great chance to become a team that Coach Self has put together and the team that he knows we can beat.

Q. Would you talk about just what you have seen of your freshmen class so far, if they can possibly live up to the publicity that they made?

COACH Bill Self: These guys would agree, all four individually are very good and they all do something different. Mario is a very quick, great anticipator, scoring pointguard that, you know, is still a ways away just because he has got to get used to playing against competition. Julian Wright is kind of a do everything guy but is still a ways away. Same with Micah and same with Brandon. I think all four have shown moments where you can say, man, it’s really going to kick in and now they are on their way. But two good days, one average day, one bad day, they are still freshmen and inexperienced.

But I think the thing that I have seen is they like each other. They share it. They don’t have egos, none of them right now. These guys will know better than me in the locker room, but they are going to be a good group, but one thing about people have talked about our freshmen, they are going to be good, but our returning players are much better than what they have been allowed to be so far through playing time.

I was thinking last year — last year we were here and I think we brought in 43 points and 19 rebounds and 12 assists a game sitting up here. This year, we obviously don’t have that type of returning production. So I really feel that the young guys will be good, but one reason they will be good is because there’s a lot of competition for those guys to earn minutes.

Q. From the time you have spent so far with the freshmen, have they done some unique things either how high they jump or the way they play and pick up games? Can you share some stories about stuff you saw that you really couldn’t believe and can you beat them out for a starting spot?

Jeff Hawkins: I mean, each and every one of them has done something. For one, Julian is unbelievable athlete. I mean, he’s a high flier, he just — he plays above the rim. One time he did some 360 dunk that I can’t really explain. I still don’t know how to explain it ’til this day. I it was unbelievable. They all have like real great knowledge of the game and they all do, you know, some exciting things.

Christian Moody: I know that dunk that Hawk is talking about, Julian had, it was an incredible — it was a fast break and Julian just — he went up and I can’t remember who he dunked on, but whoever he dunked on will remember it for a while (laughter).

But I have also been just in awe of all the freshmen shooting ability. All of them can shoot. Brandon has got a great dribble, pull up jumper and Mario and Mike have been real impressive from outside the arc. I just, I mean, at late night you got a taste of how Micah can play and just been impressed with all the freshmen.

Q. Can you beat them out?

Christian Moody: Fortunately they are playing the guard and forward positions, so…

COACH Bill Self: That’s ’til today, Christian. No, these guys both will be tough to beat out, to be real honest. Because Jeff, I really feel Jeff is a really, really, really good player that came in the same time Aaron Miles did and just kind of backed up Aaron. And Aaron is very worthy of playing minutes and that kind of stuff. But Jeff is a good player that people haven’t seen yet. He will be tough to beat out. Of course everybody saw what Christian did last year. Those guys have to be beaten out as opposed to them beating out the young guys.

Q. You inherited a lot of good players when you got to Kansas. Maybe the road is a little rockier than you thought it might be. Talk about the process of getting this program to the point you want it to be at?

COACH Bill Self: I don’t think the road is that rocky. We finished 2-and-1 in the league. I mean it’s not terrible. We were 20-and-1 last year, rank No. 2 in America for like 16, 15 weeks. We finished poorly last year. I think a lot of it was due to the things that we couldn’t control such as health. But certainly the way the year finished last year with Bucknell, I think, put a very sour taste in everybody’s mouth. I think it gives everybody the impression that we didn’t do that well. You can’t have great years unless you perform in March, in my opinion, but you can have good years.

We had a good year last year. I don’t think we should apologize for winning the league or finishing second the year before and going into the lead 8.

With that being said, I like your point because there’s something about newness. There’s something about youthful enthusiasm. There’s something about guys not knowing any other way. I love coaching the guys that we have had, but those guys knew a different way to do it, was very successful doing it that way because of all the talent and the great job the previous staff did. Now we don’t know any better and I think that makes it easier to coach in a lot of ways.

Q. Easier or more difficult today to win with a young team and why do you think it might be easier or the same or more difficult to win with a young group?

COACH Bill Self: I think it’s easier to win with young guys than it was ten years ago because college basketball is younger in general. There’s less great, you know, All-American-type players that are juniors and seniors playing today because they opt for the draft.

And the other thing is with the travel schedule that these guys have in high school through A ball, through different things, I think these guys are beyond their years, more so than they would be back in the early ’90s or even late ’90s. That doesn’t mean it makes it easy. I think the best team, you know, if Oklahoma State had, what, five or six fifth-year seniors last year. We had four seniors last year. I think that’s still easier, but I don’t think — I think that’s the minority in today’s game with really good programs.

Q. You mentioned that you guys will play 80 games in summer and travel and they are more ready, but with that being said, do you spend a lot of time with some of these guys that have picked up some bad habits in the summer where they can just roll out a ball and go play, teach them some stuff?

COACH Bill Self: Just teach is not the right word. We have to teach them the way we want them to do things. I think everybody has bad habits. When you don’t have coaches in the gym with them and they are just playing pick-up we develop bad habits. My point was being more ready, they are more worldly. They have seen things. They have played against other players, they know how hard you have to work, things like that today I think maybe than, say, ten years ago.

But certainly you have got to break them of the things that you don’t like them doing and I think that’s very prevalent with all freshmen. But I do think they are beyond their years from a maturity standpoint and competition standpoint because of things they are able to do now in high school that they weren’t doing 10, 15 years ago.

Q. Coach mentioned kind of a refreshing new add to this year, you played those other guys for what, ten years, seems like, has this been kind of a rebirth as it were for you as well?

Christian Moody: Definitely, but like Coach said, that excitement of having the young guys and them — and everyone on the outside looking in, not really knowing how good they are, I mean, it’s something that for me and I know for Jeff is just — it’s exciting to know how much this group wants to learn; how much this group wants to just take in from the coaching staff and knowing that they can — that they can just — they can be great players and — that’s the excitement of having such a young group.