🏀 Jayhawks Participate in Big 12 Tipoff
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Kansas Head Coach Bill Self, senior guard Ochai Agbaji and senior forward David McCormack met with the media on Wednesday, Oct. 20, as part of the Big 12 Men’s Basketball Tipoff. The event was hosted at the T-Mobile Center in downtown Kansas City.
The Jayhawks are the preseason favorite to win the Big 12 championship during the 2021-22 season after receiving eight of a possible nine first-place votes. Agbaji and McCormack were both selected to the preseason All-Big 12 team, while teammate Remy Martin was voted as the preseason Player of the Year in the conference.
Below is a transcript of Self’s press conference with the media.
BILL SELF: First of all, it’s good to be out in public and be social. Good seeing most of you guys (smiling).
I’m excited. I like our team. I think we’ve added some experience. We’ve added some athleticism. Hopefully some shooting.
The league was so terrific last year, of course with Baylor being the elite of the elite, I think this year’s league has an opportunity to be every bit as good as what it has been in the past. I know everyone is looking forward to that challenge.
QUESTION: We were just talking about Baylor, the defending national champions, picked third this year. Every year you guys talk about this being the best conference in the country. Is it even better this year?
BILL SELF: I think we talk about it being the best conference, but I think it’s proven by data as well as being the hardest or toughest conference in America over the last six or seven years.
If you were going to take what our conference strength is over those particular years, we’d rate out at 1.4 or 1.6, whatever it would be. I think a lot of people feel that way.
This year has a feel that I don’t know if we’ve ever had. Maybe we have. Had we ever had three in the pre-season top eight in the AP, in the country? Maybe we have, but I don’t know.
It’s going to be a great league. I guarantee you there’s teams that were receiving votes or whatever that are top 25 teams as well. This will be as good as it’s been, at least in my recollection.
QUESTION: Remy Martin named Pre-Season Player of the Year. What is he going to add to your school? Also Ochai and David received honors. How do you feel about them and the team so far?
BILL SELF: First of all, I’m happy that all my guys get recognition whenever it is. Pre-season really doesn’t mean squat.
The one way that guys can get recognition is in this particular league we have lost a lot of players that were impact players in our league, but we’ve also had a lot of people replace them with impact players that maybe weren’t given the pre-season notoriety that I think some of them deserve.
I think all my guys deserve to be recognized. I think Remy is a guy that adds an energy, a speed, a fun, a way that others will enjoy playing with him. I think he’s pretty darn good at playing fast. I think he can create some plays that you can’t coach.
It’s different for him than what it was at ASU, not because of anything that they did wrong or that we do right, it’s just a different philosophy and a different system that he’s still not quite accustomed to that he’s got to get comfortable with. When he does, he has a chance to be one of the better players around.
QUESTION: I read a couple days ago that you said you could possibly play a 10-man rotation this year. Could you comment on how unique that is for you as a coach, and why you think you can play 10?
BILL SELF: We played nine a lot. Not so much recently. When we play two bigs, I always played five guards and four bigs. I didn’t really care if we got in foul trouble because that forced somebody else to get an opportunity to play.
It’s not quite like that now because we’re playing four guards. It will be harder to get to 10. I’m talking about 10 guys having a chance to play double-figure minutes.
The challenge to me is how do you get from 14 to 10 because 1 through 14, we probably never had a team with as many guys that are pretty similar to the other guys . Trying to determine who’s going to actually play will be the challenge.
There could be redshirts, things like that. We don’t know that yet. But I think it will be a challenge playing 10. If we can play as fast as I’d like to play, I don’t think it will be something that will be near as challenging as what maybe some other people think.
QUESTION: On the topic of your depth, you’ve said before that if you’re winning, the pie is big enough for everybody. Does this seem like a group that’s buying in well to that so far?
BILL SELF: I think so. But we haven’t played a game. The thing about it is, I love our roster, I’m not downplaying that at all, but you don’t have a roster that people are looking at top 10 picks, lottery picks, things like that. We got a bunch of guys that are good basketball players.
One thing I would like to see that we haven’t seen yet is some separation. It always occurs, but it hadn’t occurred yet.
Right now I think it’s different. Right now there’s nobody unhappy because in practice you have to play 10, you have to play 10 in practice. Sometimes the people that are on the court in practice, they just feel like that’s the way it will be in a game. In a game, you can only play five.
I still think we probably have to get into the season to see how all that will play out. But if we don’t have that mentality, that we put winning first, if we win enough we’ll all benefit from it. If we don’t have that mentality, then this team won’t be as good as it can be. All our best teams in the past have always had that mentality.
QUESTION: You have been named the team to beat. Does that add any extra pressure to your team as you enter the season? We’ve heard you say before that rankings pre-season don’t matter until it’s closer to tournament time. Do you feel any added pressure?
BILL SELF: No. We’ve been picked fairly high most years.
I think from a staff standpoint it doesn’t really mean much at all.
I would say this. I would rather be picked high than not picked high. But the reality of it is, right now it’s a coin flip. How do you know how quickly teams with so many newcomers are going to gel together?
Everybody to me looks good on paper. We probably look as good as anybody on paper because we’ve returned guys where most of the other programs don’t return as many guys. It doesn’t mean anything to me.
I think when you play at Kansas, you coach in this league, pressure is something that is usually good. If you can’t deal with that type of pressure, then you’re probably not going to be able to deal with real pressure later on.
QUESTION: What was it like having Allen Fieldhouse packed with fans at Late Night? You said this past summer it was really hard on your players not having Allen Fieldhouse what it should be, which is full of fans.
BILL SELF: Unless you’re a junior, unless you’re Christian Braun’s age, nobody has felt what it’s like to play at Kansas. You end the season, the pandemic year, ranked No. 1. You have momentum going into the next year. The next year obviously didn’t play out probably the way we had hoped, nor was it near as much fun.
Then you recruit a recruiting class, so we have eight newcomers. None of them have felt what it’s like to play at Kansas. None of them visited. So they didn’t get a chance to feel the energy. Obviously last year there were no visits during COVID — or during the pandemic, excuse me.
Everybody has a home-court advantage, don’t get me wrong. One of the things that makes it special about playing at our place is we feel like ours is unique in many ways. They haven’t had a chance to experience any of that uniqueness. I don’t even know if 10 of our 14 scholarships know what it’s like to play ball at our place.
QUESTION: What is it going to be like for players who have never had to play at Allen Fieldhouse wearing the wrong jersey?
BILL SELF: First of all, I think one of the things that playing in a hostile environment that’s full, it brings the best out in your opponents, too. If you were to ask any of our guys when we go on the road, would you rather play in a packed house juiced against a good team or would you rather play somewhere where we have to generate our own energy, they would say let’s go to the packed place.
Sometimes the home-court advantage is definitely a home-court advantage. But the home-court advantage most of times brings out the best in opponents, as well.