Self Quotes From Big 12 Media Day

Oct. 19, 2006


Below are quotes from Kansas head coach Bill Self at Thursday’s Big 12 Men’s Basketball Media Day at the Cox Convention Center:

COACH SELF: It is good to get back to Oklahoma City even though it is just for a few hours here. It always feels good to come home.

And hopefully we have got a team this year that I would say would be more consistent and more experienced and hopefully more proven than the team we had last year, even though last year’s team finished strong.

I really like our guys. They are working pretty hard — I don’t want to say really hard because I think they can always work harder, but certainly they are working pretty hard, and they seem to like each other and are really together right now. And it is a long season, but certainly we like our team and feel like we have a chance to be pretty good if we can catch a few breaks here or there.

Q. Bill, talk about what your inside game looks like with your bigs right now and how much Darrell Arthur may figure into that big picture?

COACH SELF: Darrell will be one of the better new guys in our league, no question, and he is a talent. He doesn’t understand what we are trying to get accomplished consistently, but certainly he picks up things fast and hopefully will be a guy that will be comfortable by the time the league rolls around.

We have good depth inside. We can throw size at you. We can throw some length at you. And with, barring injuries or whatever, I do think that we have at least four guys that can certainly be an impact player and give us pivotal minutes. And a lot of teams are pretty fortunate because a lot of teams don’t have four guys they can rely on, I think, like we can.

Q. Bill, you’d probably rather have the Big 12 tournament in Kansas City every year, but being a native here, what’s this going to mean for the area and maybe the league?

COACH SELF: Well, I think Oklahoma City will do a fabulous job supporting this tournament. I don’t think there is any doubt about that. The people I have spoken to down here are very excited about having it.

With the two colleges so close, OU and OSU, there is a natural fan base already. And it will be “the” show. I know we have the Hornets here in town, but it will certainly be “the” show for that week, I believe. I think it will be great.

I am selfish. I always loved having the Big 8 tournament in Kansas City when I was at Oklahoma State as an assistant. When the new arena is built there, I do think it will once again support the tournament in a first-class fashion like it always has. I certainly anticipate Oklahoma City will do the same this particular year.

Q. Another young guy everybody is talking about, Sherron Collins. Do you give him the ball from the get-go?

COACH SELF: Probably not. Sherron is a very talented guy and he has picked up things remarkably quick, but we return three pretty good perimeter players, and I think all four of those guys, if you add Sherron to that mix, will certainly get ample minutes.

But to say to give him the ball right off the bat, I think would be an overstatement. I think he will be a natural leader. I think he will be a point guard that can shoot the ball a little bit. But it is going to take him time just like it takes most freshmen time to get totally acclimated and comfortable.

Q. Bill, any sense at all of what all the new coaches are going to do to this league and how much things are going to change?

COACH SELF: I think things will change for the better. I really do. I think the respective institutions made great hires. You look at the background of all the guys that have been hired, they have all made an impact on the game, not only regionally but nationally. I am excited about our league.

I think that this is not saying bad things about previous programs because all programs go through phases at some point in time where they need a little bit of an energy boost. I think that certainly happened with the respective hires. I think the game will be faster. More up-tempo and more pressure on both ends and a fan-friendly game and certainly one with the different styles.

I do think it is a preparation league for the postseason tournament. I really believe that in our league, a lot of teams play the same way since I have been in the league. I think you will have the pressing, the halfcourt offensive sets, the all out denial. You will have a lot of different systems in place now that I think would be great preparation for all the respective teams.

Q. Bill, talk about how Julian Wright and Brandon Rush have grown from this time last year when they were freshmen?

COACH SELF: Last year when Brandon was a freshman, he didn’t make many baskets in practice. He was so nonaggressive that it was hard to get him to look for a shot or look to score. When performed in the game, it was almost like a pleasant surprise to us. Because for the majority of the season, he averaged about 15 [points] a game and shot 50 [percent] from three and from two. He was a very pleasant surprise last year.

I think the one thing about him this year, he will be more aggressive. Your leading scorer, not very often should shoot 50 percent from the three. He has got to take more shots than that. He has to take the perfect shot most of the time. He has to be a guy that looks to score. I want him to shoot 50 percent, but if he shot 42 or 43, that means he is probably be a lot more aggressive, at least from the three.

I hope that he is more aggressive and Julian has improved strength-wise. Last year at this stage, Julian was trying to find his way. He did not play a lot early in the season. By Christmas, him and Mario had come into their own a little bit.

All those guys have improved. I think the biggest thing they have done, they are a year older and a year wiser.

Q. Most people thought Brandon wasn’t very aggressive. This time last year people thought he would be one year done and come out and look for a shot and put up numbers. Were you surprised about that?

COACH SELF: Just about everything Brandon has done from a team standpoint has been a pleasant surprise to me. He is an unselfish for a fault. He thinks “we” instead of “me.” He is as liked by his teammates as anybody we have. He will work every bit as hard as anybody does as long as you are there to push him to do so.

And he is a guy that enjoys school. Those are all qualities that people probably didn’t feel about with him when first came to Kansas.

I would say I would be surprised, I would be surprised at this time last year that he is back a second year after seeing how much he enjoyed school and college and the season last year, I am not surprised at all that he chose to come back.

Q. You were picked to win the league. Do you feel that confident about it? I can probably guess that answer. And who else among the league, how would you survey the rest of the league?

COACH SELF: I didn’t pick us, so it is not unanimous. I picked Gillispie. I think that based on how we finished and the number of players that returned, I think you would say that this would be a team that has a chance to be pretty good this year. But every year is different and last year we were forced in so many ways to escape injuries and things like that.

But I do think we will have a nice team, not predicting anything, just a nice team that has a chance to be very good over time.

But I love Billy’s team. I think they are tough and I think they have got some young players that can really shoot and stretch the defense around Joseph.

And I think Texas is very talented. Texas is going to be very similar to how we were last year. I think Oklahoma State, to me, they were just an eyelash away from really having a very, very, very good one-loss record last year. They lost a lot of close games, but they were right there and they were very young.

Kansas State has a majority of guys back, plus they have new energy. They will be very good. Baylor is much improved. Texas Tech will be a lot better just because of the recruits and having a healthy Jackson and Zeno. Zeno played hurt last year. There are good players in our league. Our league RPI, or overall strength of our league nationally, at least from an appearance standpoint, I think will be much stronger this year.

Q. Sasha Kaun, what is his role going to be on this team? Is there more to his game than we have seen so far?

COACH SELF: I hope so. Sasha didn’t start playing ball until he was a sophomore in high school, and that was the first time he had seen ball. They didn’t have a lot of leagues in Siberia where he lived that he could play. He just started playing ball when he went to Florida Air Academy as a sophomore and played because he was tall.

He’s made remarkable progress in a short amount of time. But he hasn’t shown us the consistent ability to score or have great feel around the basket and touch. But those are things that he worked hard on. He is a very good post defender. He is the anchor of our team on both ends of the courts when he is in the game. He is a very, very, very good athlete that sometimes goes unnoticed because he can really run and jump and he is strong. I think he will have a big year.

I think he is right where he should be based on how much experience he’s had. These next two years hopefully will be ones in which he shows great improvement.

Q. Bill, can you talk about Bob Huggins and some of the recruits he is getting into Manhattan, Kansas?

COACH SELF: I think Bob will do a great job in Manhattan — fabulous. I know that at the very end of the recruiting period last year when schools are scrambling, trying to find some help late, he was able to go out and get two or three guys that are going to be difference makers on his team immediately. So that’s a great feather right there.

I don’t follow K-State’s recruiting. I have enough to worry about with my own, but I do hear that they are obviously involved with some very good players. If they are able to get those very good players, then certainly that will enhance any program.

We will know a lot more about recruiting come November when the ink is dry, so to speak. But I think they are off to a really good start based on everything I have heard.

Q. Bill, you talk about those four inside players, that is not including C.J.?
COACH SELF: I think I said at least four, so I know we have Darnell, Julian, Sasha and Darrell. That will be where I am right now in that situation, as of today.

Q. Bill, obviously you got ties to Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. What are your thoughts on Sean Sutton taking over the program?

COACH SELF: I coached Sean and he was a very smart beyond his years player with unbelievable feel. In large part, he grew up in a home that understood ball pretty well and been in a lot of locker rooms. So I think from that vantage point, he was beyond his years. And certainly as an assistant coach, he is tough. He is competitive. He understands the game. He has a very good offensive mind, and I think he will do very, very well.

I think Coach Sutton will be missed by everybody who loves Oklahoma State and he has been very good for this league, but the transition will be one that’s very smooth, I feel. I think they will do extremely well. And I look to them to be one of our real challengers in our league and should have a great season.