Head Coach Bill Self Holds Weekly Press Conference

Nov. 10, 2011

LAWRENCE, Kan. – Kansas men’s basketball head coach Bill Self met with the media Thursday afternoon to preview the Jayhawks’ upcoming games against Towson (Nov. 11) and Kentucky (Nov. 15). Below is a transcript of Coach Self’s press conference as well as interviews with selected student-athletes. Kansas head coach Bill SelfOn if Tyshawn Taylor and Elijah Johnson joining the starting lineup will interfere with any team chemistry already in place:“No, it’s not a big change. From a personal standpoint of them being in the flow it might be, but we’ve been playing the same rotation in practice with the exception of the few days before our first exhibition game.” On if Tyshawn Taylor and Elijah Johnson have improved since last season:“They’re both better players, no question. I still think they’re both inconsistent. I think defensively they’re both average compared to what they could be. They’ve got to be better defensively. That’d be the one thing that I talk to them most about; taking care of the basketball.” On who the best defenders are that he has coached while at Kansas:“Russell Robinson was pretty good. Mario (Chalmers) was the best we’ve had at stealing the ball but he would never guard his man, he would just steal it from somebody else. I would say of the three best perimeter defenders we’ve had, the best was Brandon Rush. Russell (Robinson) would probably be second and then Brady (Morningstar) is next as far as the best perimeter defenders we’ve had.” On Elijah Johnson:“He’s a talented guy. He’s one of those talented guys that hasn’t had the chance to do it yet. I think sometimes when you have an unknown out there, like a freshman coming in, there’s that anticipation that this kid will be able to do this and that. I think sometimes when you have returning guys coming in that only played a little bit, how can you really believe that they’re capable of doing the same that guys in the past have done? Elijah is capable, but he just hasn’t had the opportunity yet.” On who he has stressed to most about avoiding foul trouble:“Thomas (Robinson) more than anybody on our team because he’s a physical guy. He’s going to foul but it was nice the other day (against Pittsburg State) his first foul wasn’t until the second half. How we need to play is to make sure that we don’t put him in as many positions to foul 40 feet from the basket, which we’ve done in the past. We just can’t afford those `ticky-tack’ fouls like that.” On what he has seen from Towson in its early exhibitions:“They haven’t scored the ball great yet. It’s exhibition games though and all coaches try to win but they’re not trying to win the exhibition games as much as they’re trying to get better. They’ll have some stuff for us but I think it’ll be great to see how our guys react. Our exhibition games aren’t a true indication of who we are and I don’t think their exhibitions were either.” On if he has been surprised at Naadir Tharpe’s ability to score:“I’ve been pleasantly surprised by his shooting ability. He can shoot. When we recruited him we recruited a pass-first point guard and he should always be that. His stroke looks good. You can tell if a guy can shoot or not as soon as it leaves his hand, not if it goes in or not. His shot looks really good mechanically when it leaves his hands. He’s been a bonus that way. On the flip side, I think he can do a better job of running the team and understanding what we’re doing. He’s got to become more of a point guard, but he’s been a big bonus as far as the points he can give us offensively.” On what he wants to see from his team in the game against Towson:“I would like to see us play every possession as opposed to being inconsistent with our focus and our effort. That will be something that we talk about with this team all year long; not losing focus. That sounds easier said than done, but we have a tendency to space out every now and then. I would like to see that being reduced some.” On Kansas vs. Kentucky being good for basketball:“I think (it’s always good for basketball.) It’d be a great home-and-home every year to play Kentucky. Even though it’s not by a large margin, they’re the winningest program and we’re the second winningest program right now, and I think North Carolina is right there close behind us. It’ll be fun. They’ll be fired up and they have men. It’ll be interesting to see how our young guys react to that.” On Kentucky’s recruiting since Head Coach John Calipari became head coach:
“It’s not surprising to me. He’s a good recruiter. They’re hungry and have a great product to push. They’re very aggressive and have done really well. He’s been able to do very well with the guys that are bona fide NBA-talent guys, the one-and-done or two-and-done guys. They have a guy that came back this year that would have been a lottery pick last year in Terrence (Jones, sophomore forward.) They’ve done quite well. The thing about Calipari that I think is a little bit misleading is that guys can get reputations of being really good recruiters and very rarely do really good recruiters get the reputation of being a really good coach. I think he is a really good coach and he gets his teams to play hard and guard and play unselfish. That’s the hardest thing to do with really young talented guys.”On coaching Jeff Withey:
“Jeff’s a great kid. He’s coachable and a nice kid. He’s probably a little bit too laid back sometimes. It would be nice to see him get angry, but I like him. He’s a good player. His lower body strength probably isn’t going to allow him to be a low post presence like maybe Thomas or Markieff (Morris) that just have the lower body base. He’s really skilled and a good passer. Every morning he wakes up, he’s seven foot tall and those guys are hard to score over.”On impact of signing Perry Ellis:
“We put a lot of time into Perry. Danny (Manning) did a great job being the point man on that. I think that he obviously has a chance to have the same impact on our program that Wayne Simien did. I think he’s going to be really good.”On Perry reminding him of any other players:
“I really don’t know who he’d remind me of because he’s kind of a hybrid four in that he’s skilled enough to play the three, but big and strong enough to play the four. I think we’ll use him in both places. I think he’ll be prepared to make an impact no matter how we use him next year.”On recruiting in the state of Kansas:
“Recruiting is hard everywhere. People think that just because you coach at a place that has the appearance of having everything in place, the people you are going against have the appearance of having everything in place too. So much of it comes down to different things. A lot of times it’s geography and a lot of times, it’s not. Every individual is different, but recruiting is hard everywhere. It doesn’t make any difference if you are at Kentucky or at Duke or Carolina or Kansas. You think it should be easy, but when you are going into somebody else’s backyard to get them, it’s not always easy. There are a lot of good players out there. I hope we’re able to sign a couple more kids early. I believe we will that will really solidify this class.” On playing Kentucky’s young team this time of year:
“There is no question (this is the time of year we want to play them). We’d rather have our February team playing a November team. We’ll have a November playing too. I don’t know if that makes a huge difference because we’re young too. They return more minutes than we do when you stop and think about it with Darius Miller and Terrence Jones. Tyshawn has played more minutes than our whole team combined. They are young, but they’re very talented. Our team in 2005 was talented, but it wasn’t the same. These guys are one-and-done guys, guys that will be vying for All-American honors at the end of their freshman year, three of them and that’s not counting a couple more they have. It’s not quite the same team as what we had from a talent standpoint, but when that team from ’05-06 got good, they got real good. We’ll just have to wait and see. (Besides) Chemistry, there’s a lot of things that go into having a great team, and certainly talent is the most important one, but there are a lot of other intangibles, too.”On Kentucky recruiting the same players as KU since John Calipari has become head coach:
“It’s been a big difference. We’ve gone against them several times. They win their fair share and we’ve won a few, but I think as long as he’s there, and it really doesn’t make a difference who’s there or who’s here, we’ll go against each other recruiting-wise, and they’ve done a great job.” Senior guard Tyshawn TaylorOn if it is tough to focus on Towson with Kentucky on the horizon:“No, I’m just excited about my first game. I’ve been thinking a little bit about Kentucky, but I’ve been thinking about my first game a lot too. We’re excited about the start of the season. We’re going to do our scouting report on Towson today and watch a little film later.” On if it was helpful watching the first two games:“Definitely. I was able to observe things that I might not be able to see if I was playing. It is definitely beneficial for me coming back.” On what he was able to see doing the first two exhibition games:“I noticed how good our offense can be when the ball moves and different places I can attack when the ball moves from side to side. I think we can break it down because the defense is shifting and that’s where we get most of our good shots that Coach approves of.” On how hungry he is to get back on the court:“I’m real hungry. I’m excited because I feel like it’s been awhile since I’ve played. I’m ready to get the season rolling.” On playing in Madison Square Garden:“I’m really excited. I love playing there and it’s real close to home, so I’ll have a lot of family there and it will be fun.” On Kentucky:“They have a lot of young players and they are going to make mistakes like every young player. They have a lot of talent, but I think we can match up with them pretty well. I like our team, how we look and how we match up with them.”Junior guard Elijah JohnsonOn playing in Madison Square Garden:“It’s great; it is the best gym in the world besides the Fieldhouse. Last year was my only experience there, and it was a great experience. Growing up, I always thought that the Garden was the best gym in the world and the Fieldhouse was second. When I got here, I obviously had to rank the Fieldhouse over the Garden. I love playing in the Garden, who doesn’t want to play there?” On what he remembers from the game there last year:“I remember we went to the Knicks game the night before, and then the next night when we had our game, it felt like it was two minutes later. It was a really fun experience, but it was a really quick trip.” On if knowing he will be in the starting lineup helps him mentally:“It is definitely more comforting, you have more room for error; you aren’t looking over your shoulder at the bench to see if anyone is coming in for you if you make a mistake, it isn’t as tight of a line to walk. (With Tyshawn and I in the lineup), it will definitely be a lot faster.”On what he saw from freshman Naadir Tharpe in the two exhibition games:“I saw a point guard, I saw someone who cares, I saw someone who can play and I saw someone who can lead the team.” On the toughest part about being on the bench:“Seeing the team come out of the tunnel. It is tough to watch them from the sidelines and be a fan. Of course, I was a teammate, too, but I was more so a fan when I was sitting on the bench.” On how ready he is for the season to start:“I’m very excited; I can’t even explain how excited I am. I’ve been waiting for this opportunity for a long time; I’ve been waiting for this moment since high school, and it is finally here.”