Kansas Men's Team Participates in Big 12 Media Day
Oct. 27, 2004
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Kansas head coach Bill Self and seniors Keith Langford, Michael Lee, Aaron Miles and Wayne Simien spoke to the Big 12 media in Kansas City on Wednesday. Kansas and Oklahoma State were each the coaches’ preseason favorite for the upcoming 2005 Big 12 men’s basketball race. Simien is the coaches’ preseason player of the year and is joined by Langford on the first team. Jayhawks J.R. Giddens and Aaron Miles were honorable mention selections.
Below are quotes from the KU coaches and student-athletes from media days:
COACH SELF: Good morning, all. With us today we have, on the far right, Aaron Miles, Wayne Simien, Michael Lee and Keith Langford here. It’s our four seniors, and they say a team can only ?? a lot of coaches feel a team is only as good as the seniors allow them to be. That’s one reason we feel we have a special team, because of these four guys. It’s a huge reason, maybe the biggest reason.
We are here, excited for the season. Last year, although it ended on a sour note, we felt like it gave us some momentum going into the off?season. We have recruited some guys that I think make us better, and practices have been going well, certainly we are looking forward to getting started next month.
Q. Bill, at your Media Day you talked about call back 10 days from now and we will talk about that fourth spot, or the one position next to wing inside, have you got any closer to a starter there, or how is the competition at that spot?
COACH SELF: No, I think you could approach these guys and they would give you the same reply. We have about four guys that are all about the same. Nobody has really emerged yet. It’s kind of a different guy in practice, and a lot of times it’s a different guy throughout each practice. Our freshmen don’t consistently play hard yet, and really don’t know how to.Christian Moody is looking good, in my opinion, thus far, but I think we put so much emphasis on starting. To me that’s almost irrelevant. I would rather be in there at the end than be in there at the beginning where it counts the most. I think it will be by committee. I do, and I think that we will have more fouls to give. I can’t see anybody just stepping up and being a guy that is going to play 25, 30 minutes a game in that spot.
Q. Bill, do you think you and your guys embrace the expectations you all have for this season from the outside?
COACH SELF: I tell you what, we might as well because it’s going to be expectations ?? there’s going to be expectations. I get concerned sometimes where I was visiting with the guy last night and I said, “One thing that concerns me about this team, the expectations are so high that anything less than having a chance to win it all would be a disappointment.” He quickly reminded me that’s no different than the expectations of 15?20 other schools out there. I think you might as well embrace them.
They are going to be there regardless. We are not ?? all we are, and we talk about this all the time as a team, we are in the game. We have really good players and we have some experience. That doesn’t put us ahead of anybody else. A lot of teams, several in this league, have good players with experience. I think that with the expectations, though, they put you in a position to operate under pressure, if you rest early in the season, which I think is very helpful in March.
Q. Keith, along those expectations lines, you guys have lived with them for four years now. Is this season any different?
Keith Langford: No, not at all. I think these last few years, as far as anything, as far as before anything happens, you still have to play the game. We are actually out on the court, we are not thinking about what’s going to be written about us or what people are thinking. We are trying to win the game. That was instilled in us when we were freshmen, and the previous coach that we had and everything else. Expectations and pressure is all part of the game.
Q. For Wayne. Speaking of previous coaches, go through what you guys went through learning Bill’s system and how much that pays off this year as far as benefits from last year.
Wayne Simien: This year to last year we are further along. Last year, especially in the leadership standpoint, last year coming in, everyone is trying to get a feel for each other: Player personnel, coaching?wise, system?wise, it was a little harder to lead in that aspect. But now that we have a year under our belt, Coach Self, like he said, we have a better feel for each other and the system, and the 10 practices that we had going into the Canada trip really helped, and I think we are further along. That was Wayne.
Q. How are things different for you in the second year from the first year?
COACH SELF: I think the biggest thing is even though we had some experience last year, from my perspective, everybody was a freshman. Everybody was a first?year player. I think this year I am much more comfortable, I think the players, I can’t speak for them, but I think they are probably more comfortable because they know what to expect, what’s important to me, and I just think there is ?? last year wasn’t bad, but this year there is better harmony. I think that our young guys know who the best players are. We have more depth.
I think practices have been more competitive. I think just from an operational standpoint we are getting used to each other or we are pretty used to each other, and kind of know the lay of the land a little better both in the player and coach’s perspective.
Q. Bill, seniors, especially talented seniors, what do they do that sets them apart from the younger guys?
COACH SELF: Well, you know, with these guys I think when you have young guys everybody thinks they play hard, and very few do when they first get to school. Everybody thinks that they are doing everything they can do to allow them to be as good as they can be. Very few understand it. When you really look at a day in the life of a freshman coming from high school, you start thinking about the mandatory breakfast and weight lifting and classes and tutors between classes and getting to practice early for treatment.
If you miss treatment, you have extra penalties and things like that. When you first ?? that’s culture shock to a lot of guys naturally, but these guys have been through it. They understand. Their time management is good. The thing that I am most proud of about these guys, these guys are vocal in some way. Everybody is vocal in different ways.
Aaron, when the ball is in his hand on the court, Mike in the locker room, Wayne does it by example, Keith is our energy giver. Everybody is a leader in our own way. Our freshmen are going to follow their lead and they have done a great job setting the tone.
Q. In this era we live in, Bill, are you surprised you have four talented seniors?
COACH SELF: Kansas has been spoiled in that way. If you look at all the tremendous players Kansas has had, you know, and not going back to Will, but I mean going back since, let’s say, Danny, only two players, I believe, if I am not mistaken, have left early. Paul left after three and Drew left after three. We have picks that stayed all four. You don’t have that very often in today’s time. We are fortunate to have these guys stay all four.
My personal opinion, it is wise that they have, but secondly, I think they know this is it. They have to perform with a sense of urgency. There is no pressure on them to be great. All they have to do is work hard and try as hard as they can. That will take care of how well they play by itself. So even though they are seniors, even though the clock is ticking, so to speak, and this is the last go?around, they shouldn’t feel any pressure, it’s their last year. All they have to do is go be themselves.
Q. Wayne, along those lines, would you talk about your thoughts about coming back, and from what you have seen in practice so far, are you happy you did?
Wayne Simien: Yes, definitely. I am definitely glad that I returned. There really wasn’t too much consideration into making that jump. You know, with the great things that were still alive this last year, the relationships that I built, the opportunity to continue to win, and hopefully win a championship, as far as now, the first couple of weeks in practice, the trip to Canada has been great, growing the camaraderie, seeing these young guys come up and do well. The expectations for this year, you know, are really exciting. I am excited. The team is excited. We hope to do well.
Q. Wayne, how much time did you take off after the season? Have you done anything or do you think anything will change, help keep you more healthy throughout the season, not get worn down?
Wayne Simien: I took a few weeks off after the season, let the groin heal up. This summer I definitely hit it real hard, traveled around, went to some camps, stayed in summer school in June. Coach worked us out real hard there, worked hard in the fall, and I am definitely not going to pump the brakes at all worried about getting hurt. This is it for me. This is the last year. So there is really no need for me to hold back in any way. You know, I don’t expect to get injured, as no one does, so I am just going to go through the season with a full head of steam just like the other seasons.
Q. Aaron, would you, from a point guard’s perspective, kind of size up the new guys, the freshmen that have come in? What do you see there?
Aaron Miles: I see a lot of potential in them. I believe that they can help us out, help us win games and help us become a great team, especially with the size that we added to the team and the depth. So I think it would be a real bonus for us.
Q. This is for Aaron or anyone else who wants to answer it. Coach said there is no pressure on you guys. Personally would you be disappointed if the season ended your senior year without a title?
Aaron Miles: Personally, I do. Once I committed to come here, I believe all four of us have that same mind?set, we need to work hard to win the national championship. We have been to two Final Fours and lead 8. Anything else, I mean, we won’t be satisfied at all.