Bill Self Previews Big 12 Road Opener at Texas Tech

Video Link Self Press Conference | Ellis & Graham

LAWRENCE, Kan. – Kansas head coach Bill Self addressed members of the media on Thursday to preview the top-ranked Jayhawks’ Big 12 road opener at Texas Tech (11-2) on Saturday night (8 p.m., ESPNU) in Lubbock, Texas.

No. 1 Kansas (13-1) hopes to extend a 12-game winning streak with the nation’s second-ranked scoring offense (89.8 ppg) after opening league play with a pair of 100-point games.

Self addressed the recovery period after defeating No. 2 Oklahoma on Monday night in three overtimes and Texas Tech’s strong start to the season, among other topics. Read the complete transcript below or follow the link to watch video of the press conference.


Bill Self

Q. Coach, how do you, after such a great effort the other night and the win, how do you psychologically and physically approach this game against Texas Tech?
COACH SELF: Well, we’ll start today because we took Tuesday off obviously. Then yesterday we had a 35-minute practice. All the guys that played the heavy minutes did was just shoot for 15, 20 minutes. Basically two days off in a row. Then we’ll get back after it today.

We talked about that, understanding that today and tomorrow have to be real days because, Frank, he said, Coach, I got nothing still, yesterday. And so much of that is not the physical, it’s the emotional letdown, going from being so geeked up to being drained.

We’ll handle it, but I don’t know if there’s a perfect way to do it. I think Texas Tech probably helped us some last night because our guys saw what they’re capable of. That was a game in which Iowa State controlled two, four, six points, but Tech actually had a chance to win.

I think they certainly got our players’ respect.

Q. Did you get any calls or texts more than usual from people that watched Monday’s game against OU? Any cool people reaching out?
COACH SELF: They were all cool (smiling).

I mean, I got a lot from coaches that just had watched the game saying, ‘unreal game,’ – that kind of stuff. But mostly just friends or acquaintances, an AAU coach, a high school coach that you met, just wants to say ‘congrats’ or whatnot. I did get a lot. I’m sure all the coaches did and the players did. There were a lot to return the next day.

Q. Can you talk about the energy Jamari brings off the bench? How important that is to the team?
COACH SELF: Well, that’s what he does as much as anybody. I thought Jamari played great. Those two defensive plays he had in the second half were fabulous. He certainly even kind of provided an offensive spark for us to start the second half when nobody else was very good.

I thought the combination of he and Landen in that particular game were really, really good.

Energy is important off the bench. I think ‘Mari played to a pretty high energy level pretty consistently. I still think he can do better. But I thought we probably wouldn’t have won the game unless he played in it.

Q. There was a play under the hoop where the shot clock went on. Is it possible there was a 10th of a second left?
COACH SELF: I guess anything’s possible. There may have been less than one second left. Seems to me it may have gone off before he even touched it. If there’s less than one second left, we would not have made the basket anyway. It would have still been in his hands. Seemed pretty quick.

If there had been a full second left, that could have been a big play.

Q. Texas Tech gave you a great game down there two years ago…
COACH SELF: We actually played pretty well down there last year. Year before, Joe missed a short shot, Wiggs tipped it in at the buzzer and we won by one.

Q. Why is Texas Tech so good this year?
COACH SELF: It’s the same team as last year. I think they’re just older. I could be wrong. I think they took a foreign trip this summer, I could be wrong. With that, you get the extra time together to bond as a team. Their players individually have gotten a lot better, too.

Tubby will will them to be better and will them to be good. But they’re really a nice team. They’re definitely an NCAA-tournament potential team. You look at their RPI, what were they, fourth or fifth in the RPI in the country. Strength of schedule as well, under 15 or 20, something like that. Yeah, they’ve improved a ton.

Q. You have talked about you and Cheick Diallo having a close relationship. Has that continued? Does he still ask you for feedback?
COACH SELF: Yeah, yeah. All the time. Norm watches tape with him almost every day.

But the whole thing is, this is what I told him the other night, and I mean this. I’d love for him to play a lot. The other night, there was no doubt that Jamari Traylor and Landen Lucas gave us a chance to win the game.

It’s hard to put freshmen that really don’t have any experience in any real big games or anything like that, put them in the game when you’re down 10 to the No. 1 ranked team in the country at home. You don’t say, ‘Go win the game for us, you’ve never been here, go do that.’

The thing about it is, I thought those other guys played great. And Cheick is just very young. Basketball-wise he’s very, very, very young. He’s going to be a terrific player. Nobody has ever doubted that.

But where he is right now, after being with him for six months, I mean, it’s not surprising. I think guys have to go through some natural things. I used this analogy earlier. It’s not being critical at all. It’s not an academic situation. But from a basketball situation, experience, knowing how to play, kids that go to kindergarten, they go to preschool first. Kids that go to first grade go to kindergarten first. You’re asking him to go right into first grade from a basketball standpoint. Nothing to do academically.

But just to jump a couple of the natural things that have to happen to get where you can understand the game and have better feel. That’s going to happen, guys. It’s going to happen. I hope it happens this year. But, I mean, even in practice every day, there’s something that he’s learning and picking up.

It doesn’t have anything to do with intellect. It doesn’t have anything to do with that at all. It just has something to do with him being raw from a basketball standpoint. It’s going to happen.

But he’s got to be patient. We’ve got to be patient, too. If we’re not patient, he’s not patient, it does nothing but slow the process down a little bit.

Q. It’s more just picking up the nuances of the game?
COACH SELF: Absolutely. Absolutely.

Without going into detail, we could go into a lot of detail, but if you’re guarding a big guy that’s not a real perimeter threat, somebody else is guarding (Oklahoma’s Jordan) Woodard, he’s a great driver, we guarded him extra strong help to make sure to discourage the drive and make him throw it to your man. Sometimes we think, I’m going to guard my man, my man is not going to score. The way you look at it, ‘My man didn’t score.’ Well, he really did because we weren’t in the right position.

Those are things that will come. It’s just going to happen in time. That’s just an example on things like that. But I love the kid. Nobody was happier after the game than him that we won.

Q. You mentioned giving the kids a couple days off. If this had been a Wednesday game…
COACH SELF: We’d be in trouble. The only other game I can compare to, when we played Missouri here, I don’t know if you guys remember, we played Oklahoma State Monday night at Oklahoma State. After that game, what do you do? Go home and get some rest. I told them, Have a good time, be smart, then don’t do anything on Sunday, and hope like heck that you got enough batteries to play on Monday.

Fortunately we did that particular game. I think that was a game that kind of clinched it or did something.

Yeah, I don’t think that we would have responded very well at all.

Q. When the schedule comes out and you look at it, is the first thing you see, one of the things, go down to Lubbock, all the way to West Virginia?
COACH SELF: They’re both going to be really tough games. But I don’t look at it that way at all. I look at how many (ESPN) Big Monday games. That’s basically it. How many days, quick turnarounds. We had one deal where we played a late game at Iowa State. You get home at 2 or 3 in the morning. You turn around, play Big Monday against Oklahoma, who is terrific. Those are the things that I probably look at.

Everybody goes through tough scheduling deals. But I don’t look at it. We caught a break this week because the manner in which Monday’s game was played, we at least got some time to rest before the next game. I would call that a break.

Q. Going back a ways. When you guys got Hunter Mickelson, I remember it happening pretty quick, when he transferred. What did you see from him? How did you know he was a guy you wanted in the program?
COACH SELF: We knew him in high school. From a character standpoint, there’s no question we wanted him. I think from a basketball standpoint – 6’10”, long, can make a shot, can block shots. There was no doubt we thought he could be an impact guy for us eventually and be part of our rotation.

It hadn’t happened as soon as what he probably would have hoped. But I think Hunter went through a period of time where he didn’t love the game near as much. I think he just fell back in love with it, to be real candid, this year, maybe over the summer. That’s a big reason why. I think he’s much more passionate about basketball than what he was the first two years he was here.

I could be wrong on that. You’d have to ask him. I certainly see a different bounce in his step.

Q. Did South Korea do a lot for that?
COACH SELF: I think so, yeah. I think also the obvious opportunity. You go to South Korea, Cheick doesn’t go, Perry Ellis, Landen Lucas, Jamari Traylor, Hunter Mickelson, Carlton Bragg Jr. We had five of our bigs there. I thought he was as good as any big we had over there. I think it did a great deal for his confidence.

Q. When you were over there, did it ever enter your mind that there was a shaky dictator in North Korea? Did you worry about that?
COACH SELF: No, we didn’t worry about that (laughter). We were probably six hours away from the border. But it was talked about, not necessarily with us and the locals because nobody could understand each other. But it was talked about. We got an education. We had some educational classes where people told us about how things are.

They say that’s one of the greatest tourist places you can go just to get a feel for what’s going on. But we didn’t have an opportunity to do that. But it was a great trip. It was educational.

But at that particular moment we were not worried about North Korea.

Q. Back to Hunter Mickelson for one second. Looking back at last year, do you feel like you gave him the chance to play?
COACH SELF: I think hindsight is always a lot better. But you look back on last year’s team, we thought Cliff would be with us all year long. If you know that you’re not going to have your best players at the end of the season, then you should probably prepare other players to play. We didn’t really do that because we thought we’d have Cliff.

That’s what I’m talking about with hindsight being 20/20. There’s a lot of things you would do different based on circumstances that you can’t really control.

But I look back now, you know, Jamari Traylor, there is a trust factor, Landen Lucas, there’s a trust factor. There probably wasn’t as big a trust factor with Hunter yet. Then we had Cliff Alexander, too, to go along with Perry Ellis, so he was just the odd man out.

Q. Who do you like personnel-wise from Texas Tech?
COACH SELF: Athletic guards. They can really guard and pressure, especially in the halfcourt. Their bigs have really, really, really improved. They’re big. They play two legitimate bigs.

I think they’re a team that you have to beat. I don’t think they’re going to beat themselves.

Q. Did Jamari survive the incredible fall?
COACH SELF: Yeah. I asked him yesterday, ‘How is your back?’

He said, ‘My back is fine. I kind of messed my knee up.’

It was a hard fall, though. Basketball is so weird. I mean, in that particular moment, we caught a break because when he fell, and it was a legal fall, there was nothing illegal, but when he fell, his foot was on the in line. Saved us two points because Buddy had the rebound for an uncontested basket.

The referee obviously made a real good call. As he came down, his foot slid, so while the ball was in his hands, his foot was on the in line. Most officials wouldn’t see that. That was kind of a semi-break.

That’s kind of how things go in sports sometimes. Sometimes you get a little fortunate based on the situation and sometimes you don’t.

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