KU Men's Basketball Previews EA Sports Maui Invitational

Nov. 17, 2011

  • T. Taylor Interview
  • J. Wesley Interview
  • J. Withey Interview

On Wednesday afternoon Kansas players, along with head coach Bill Self, spoke with members of the media in Allen Fieldhouse about the Jayhawks’ upcoming trip to the EA Sports Maui Invitational. Self fielded questions about the improvements he would like to see after the loss to Kentucky, as well as the challenges that will be presented to his team next week in Maui.

Below is a transcript of Coach Self’s and select players’ interviews.

Bill Self Press Conference
November 17, 2011
Lawrence, Kan.

Kansas head coach Bill Self
On what he is encouraged with about his team as they head to the Maui Invitational:
“We only had a chance to practice for about an hour and a half last night and I am encouraged in some areas and in other areas, obviously, we’ve got a lot of room for improvement. From a positive standpoint, we showed that we can guard (against Kentucky) and we showed we can battle long guys rebounding. We won the battle of the boards against Kentucky. It does mean a lot to our guys – there’s no question – because they fought hard. An area we need to improve, playing hard isn’t good enough. You’ve got to compete, you’ve got to be disciplined, you’ve got to pay attention to detail, you’ve got to carry out assignments, you’ve got to trust. Those are all areas that we’ve got to get a lot better in. That was very evident on the offensive end because we were out there on an island offensively as opposed to letting ball and body dictate how we got our shots, we were just trying to take them. That’s not the way you play against really talented, long teams. It shouldn’t be the way you ever play, but that’s certainly the tendency. Sometimes you get by with it but we didn’t there. Kentucky’s best offense was our offense. We have to do a much better job of taking care of the basketball, running our stuff to score and certainly taking better shots.”

On what the Kentucky loss showed him about his team:
“I think that game showed our guys that we’re better as a group than we are individually. You look at our team individually and we don’t jump off the paper at you at all. That doesn’t mean we don’t have good players; we do, but not like we’ve had from a marquee standpoint in the past. You have to become one and we’re not one yet. I don’t know of any team in the country that’s one yet this time of year. The great thing about playing Kentucky in the second game of the season with a bunch of inexperienced guys is you find out where you’re at and what your deficiencies are and if they’re magnified. There are some things that were magnified that I believe are correctable. I believe that we can perform a lot better. I thought we missed a golden opportunity Tuesday because we could’ve been up six or eight at half and been in control of the game and we didn’t do that. Of course they played the first 10 minutes of the second half perfectly and we played bad. Next thing you know the game is 17 (point differential). We fought hard but we didn’t have enough gas in the tank. I think we can learn from it and I think our guys will be better from it. It’s a long season in basketball. I’m not discouraged at all that we didn’t win the game. I’m encouraged how hard we played and how well we guarded, but also understand that there’s so much room for improvement. We’ve got a much higher ceiling than what we showed the other night.”

On Tyshawn Taylor’s play against Kentucky:
“What’s frustrating is the way he had to score his points. We scored his points just by playing ‘take him and get fouled.’ The 3-for-13 is also misleading. How many of those were blocked shots on lay-up attempts trying to drive it? How many of those did we get back; ones that blocked out of bounds? Nobody was hurt by that type of stuff. I’m not the least bit discouraged by that.”

On how the team executed the offense against Kentucky:
“I think the point guard should take responsibility for everything that’s going on, but other guys have to follow, too. He (Taylor) tried really hard the other night. He fought until the end but it’s not the way we want to play. We’re not going to win a ton of games just by playing ‘take him.’ That’s not how we have ever done things. The ball has got to move and the defense needs to dictate who shoots it. We’ve got to be patient enough to give Thomas (Robinson) a chance to have a touch where he can maybe have an angle. We were just impatient (against Kentucky).

On the team’s offensive aggressiveness against Kentucky and the atmosphere at Madison Square Garden:
“I’d like everybody to be more aggressive. Travis (Releford) had a tough night the other night. He’s better than that and he’ll play better than that. It’s a different pressure. That was a big-time deal. It was probably the best atmosphere that I have been a part of that didn’t have anything to do with crowd noise. It was just cool. You’ve got celebrities all around. Our guys were so excited and I think that also attributed a little to us being sped up.”

On how this team’s ball movement compares to his past KU teams:
“Brady (Morningstar) is the best ball mover we’ve had since we’ve been here. You know who else were great ball movers; Marcus and Markieff (Morris). They were great passers. This team isn’t as good of a passing team yet as that team was. We’ll get better at that. We’ve been practicing for three weeks. It’s a totally different team. We were exposed, obviously, the other day. After Towson everybody was thinking, ‘What a great passing team.’ Assist-to-turnover ratio was 6-to-1. That’s not real and the Kentucky deal wasn’t real either. We’re somewhere in the middle. We just have to do a better job of running our stuff and running our stuff to score. We didn’t do that the other night.”

On if this is the best field of teams he’s been a part of at the Maui Invitational:
“The last time we were there, obviously, was very good because we finished seventh. If I’m not mistaken there were six national champions since ’88 and the one that wasn’t was Gonzaga and that was when they had (Adam) Morrison so they were loaded. If I remember right you had Connecticut, Arizona, Michigan State, Gonzaga, Arkansas and us. That was probably the most heralded field. I’ve watched some tape on Georgetown and they are really good. For us to win this field we’re going to have to beat a really good team and a couple other nationally-ranked teams, so for us to win, it’s probably as good as I’ve seen it.”

On if the Maui Invitational is similar to the NCAA Tournament:
“It’s a little bit different because we don’t have a lot of tape. I guess Duke’s played the most games with three, but the thing is, I’m not even worried about the other half of the bracket. We’ve got two games to scout them in person. I’m concerned about Georgetown and then the next day with a short turnaround.”

On what problems Georgetown presents:
“Their bigs can really pass. (Nate) Lubick’s a great passer. I’ve watched tape and then (Jason) Clark is about as active as any big guard that we’ll play against. If I’m not mistaken, Hollis Thompson is 7-for-9 from three this year, so they can really shoot the basketball. They run that variation of the Princeton stuff, so they get a lot of easy baskets off back-cutting. We’re going to have to do a good job of eliminating lay-ups and threes, which has always been a strategy of ours whenever we play somebody that runs a similar-type offense.”

On the last time his team went to Maui and what it did for the team:
“I don’t know what that trip particularly did for us because we weren’t very good on that trip, but also we weren’t ready to be good. We all want this and coaches do too, but there’s a process we have to go through before we can get this and that team at that particular time wasn’t ready to be a team that could win the Big 12. We were two months later, but at that time nobody would have thought. If anything, I think we were humbled and I don’t think that was a bad thing. This is certainly a different team going there and it’s one that’s non-conference schedule is so tough that we certainly need to play well out there and come away believing that we’re closer to being a team. That is probably my goal for this trip as much as anything.”

On if it is an advantage playing in two tough tournaments to start the season:
“My last year at Illinois I started all freshmen and maybe a sophomore. We were so young and we scheduled soft that year. We started 10-0 going into Big 10 play and that was great for that team because it gave us confidence. We started believing we were good. I don’t know if there’s an exact science on what the best formula is. I do think it is awfully good to know who you are and not have a false sense of who you are. I think playing tough schedules early gives you a better sense of who you are. Winning games early gives you confidence. Playing great teams may put you in jeopardy of losing games, but it will probably help you farther down the road and I think playing a hard schedule will definitely help us down the road.”

On if the team will have some free time in Maui:
“To me, you team-bond through your team. You don’t team-bond by going hang-gliding or surfing. I don’t really see that as a bonding deal. I do think the fact that we’re going out there early (is good), so we basically have all day Saturday as a play day for them. We’ll practice hard, but they’ll get a chance to have some fun. Come Sunday, it’s a business trip until Wednesday after the game. They’ll get a chance to enjoy it, but I’ve always told them, ‘if you want to have some fun, win.’ That’s more fun than anything else. These guys know that.”

On the time change being a factor:
“They’re (Georgetown) tipping off too. We’re tipping off at 11 (p.m. CST) and they’re tipping off at 12 (a.m. EST). There can’t be any excuses. Certainly, getting out there early with the big time change and getting acclimated is good. It’s much easier going West than it is going East.”

Senior guard Tyshawn Taylor
On what he took away from Tuesday night’s game against Kentucky:
“I think we played ok, I think we could have played better, we could have done some things better offensively. I think our defense was exactly how we wanted it to be; we stopped them from penetrating in the half court. They didn’t score too many points in the half court offense. Offensively, we could have done some things differently; we could have moved the ball a little better. We understand now what cost us the game, so we’ll need to go to Maui and play better.”

On how different this year is as opposed to his earlier years at KU:
“I think things have reversed a little bit, we weren’t the best defensive teams earlier, just because we knew we would be able to outscore teams. I think our mindset has to be different this year, because we aren’t as deep as we have been the last couple of years. Defensively, we have to hold our ground and stop teams because we won’t be able to outscore everybody.”

On the team needing to be more patient on offense:
“There were points in the game when I was speeding up because of everything going on – the environment in the arena and the fact that it was such a big game so early in the season, I just got excited. I think offensively there were points when we just sped up and we have to move the ball more. I think when we move the ball, we’re going to get where we want to be, and we just have to be more patient offensively because our shots are going to come. It definitely starts with me because I’m the point guard. I think Tuesday’s game was a learning experience for us; I’m not glad that it happened, but it’s better to have it happen early in the season.”

On the Maui Invitational:
“It’s an exciting trip; it is one of the best tournaments ever. The Maui Invitational is a legendary tournament, so I’m excited that I get to play in it during my last year of college. I watched a lot of the games when I was growing up, I’ve watched plenty of teams play in the tournament. I remember Mario Chalmers’ freshman year when they played there, I remember watching that game, so it goes back a long time for me.”

Junior center Jeff Withey
On what he learned from the loss to Kentucky:
“We have to be more prepared in the second half. We have to pass the ball more and get into our offense. I think in the second half of the Kentucky game we were trying to do everything ourselves. If we had played the way we are supposed to I think the game would have been different.”

On if playing in Madison Square Garden was intimidating:
“For me personally, I didn’t feel that way. The other guys on the team could have felt that way. It was a big stage for sure and it was the first game for a lot of guys in that big of a spotlight. It was more fun that intimidating for me.”

On how the Kentucky game will prepare the team for Maui:
“Kentucky is a really good team. I think we competed really well in the first half. If we would have done a couple things differently we could have been up by more. I think if we play that way when we get to Maui, like we did in the first half, we can compete with anyone.”

On if the team needs to be more patient:
“Yes, I think we got sped up in the second half. We got down early and when that happens to a young team, you want to do things individually. Then we tried catching up all at once instead of just running the offense and taking it slow. We definitely learned a lot from it.”

Sophomore forward Justin Wesley
On if the team got sped up on offense against Kentucky:
“We just didn’t execute on offense. I thought our effort was there 100 percent, but throughout the game we had trouble running the offense.”

On if it was because of inexperience:
“I think that has something to do with it. We’re young and like Coach (Self) said, the only one who has been in a big-time game like that is Tyshawn (Taylor). The rest of us have taken kind of a backseat to that kind of situation. That was the first time any of us have been in a big-time game and playing against top talent like Kentucky. It was a good learning experience, but it’s time for us to adjust.”

On if it took a couple minutes to loosen up in the game:
“Going into the game when we were in the locker room I was pretty nervous, but once we got out there and absorbed the atmosphere I became more comfortable. I think we all did.”