Self Breaks Down Baylor Rematch in Weekly Presser
LAWRENCE, Kan. – At the top of the Big 12 Conference standings after a two-game road trip, No. 8/9 Kansas returns home to host the 16th-ranked Baylor Bears on Valentine’s Day. In his weekly press conference, head coach Bill Self covered topics such as Baylor’s convincing win at West Virginia, the passing of two Hall of Fame coaches and Perry Ellis being on the verge of 1,000 career points.
No. 8/9 Kansas (20-4, 9-2) will tipoff against No. 16/16 Baylor (18-6, 6-5) inside Allen Fieldhouse at 12 p.m. (Central) on Saturday, Feb. 14, on CBS. The Jayhawks will then play at No. 21/20 West Virginia (19-5, 7-4) on Feb. 16 in their third of four ESPN Big Monday appearances of the 2014-15 season.
Q. When Baylor goes to West Virginia and wins the way they do, does that catch your attention?
BILL SELF: Yeah, but they have always caught our attention. We ended up winning the game by one point down there, in a back-and-forth game, so we know that they’re capable and they usually play very well in our building. We’ve been fortunate and we’ve won, but they usually play us very well here and they’re good. They are ranked 16th in the country this week and they’re projected to be like a No. 4 seed (in the NCAA Tournament). They’re certainly capable of beating anybody.
Q. What are the keys against the Bears?
BILL SELF: I think you’ve got to get in gaps and you’ve got to be able to get the ball flat — and they do a great job keeping you from getting the ball flat. Then, of course, you want to be able to attack the middle of it, which is probably the key aspect of attacking any zone.
But the big thing is if they pressure out high on the wings, it really discourages you from getting the ball flat or throwing the ball inside and if that’s something that keeps you from doing it, then they win. If it’s not, then you hopefully have a chance to attack their zone better, but you’ve still got to make some shots.
Q. Does it feel like Wayne Selden, Jr., has turned the corner in the last few games? Can you remember having a guy that is so good at making tough shots from long distances?
BILL SELF: Well, I think Brannen Greene jumps up and makes probably more guarded shots than anybody we’ve had. But Wayne has played very, very well. But it’s such a misleading deal. If you study our team, Wayne hasn’t shot the ball terrible behind the arc all year long. I mean, he’s been above 35 percent, which 40 percent would be considered shooting excellent. So he hasn’t shot it great, but where Wayne has labored is shooting the ball inside the arc. That’s where his percentage is way down, is inside the arc.
Hopefully he’s going to become a guy that shoots it consistently inside the arc like he has from beyond the perimeter, because he’s been on a roll beyond the perimeter. It’s similar to everybody talking about Brannen being on a roll; but really, Wayne has shot the ball in the last five or six games every bit as good as Brannen.
But I don’t know if you really call making threes hard shots because guys are draped all over you, because you usually don’t shoot perimeter shots if guys are draped all over you. What I would consider really making hard shots are shots that were probably closer to the basket and shots off the bounce rather than off the catch. That’s something that we can all do a better job of, especially our big guys.
Q. Is it just reps, or Wayne working it out? Or was there something you did coaching-wise to help Wayne?
BILL SELF: Well, I hate to take credit, but I think it’s been coaching, without question. [Laughter]
No, it’s just him getting confidence. It’s just him getting in the gym and getting a lot of reps.
In many sports, everybody goes through phases where you don’t play as well, your confidence is a little rattled or whatnot and you’ve just got to try to find your way to grind through it/ The best way to grind through it is to see the ball go in the hole and the best way do you that is through repetition.
He (Wayne) has done a good job of working on it, though. And to your point, he is shooting it a lot better, but I don’t think he ever shot it as bad as what a lot of people assumed outside the arc. It was mainly inside the arc; his two-point shooting wasn’t very good.
Q. Wayne’s a pretty physical guy. Do you think maybe he’d fit the profile as a better finisher?
BILL SELF: Yeah, that’s my point. I think with that body and being able to get inside of people, I would think that he’d probably be a better finisher in closer to the basket. But this is the one thing that happens with players: sometimes when you don’t do something really well, you tend not to do that as much. Right now, to me, Wayne is at a point in his career, and with his game, where he can become more complete than he ever has been. Now, he can use his shot to set up getting inside people whereas before, he was just probably looking to shoot the ball, if that makes sense at all. I’m excited for him.
Q. You mentioned a couple weeks ago, you referenced “Sybil” (multiple personalities) in your team. Do you still feel the same way, seeing stabilization there?
BILL SELF: Well, yeah, I still feel the same way. You know, the last two games we’ve been pretty good in one half, awful a half, average at best a half and then great the next half. So I still think that we’re a little bit split personality, so to speak. But I also think a lot of that is youth and a lot of it is some things that we won’t control, but I do think there’s a percentage of it that we can control to become more consistent. We’ve preached the same thing all year long in what we feel like this team needs to do to become more consistent. Hopefully we’re gaining on it, but it still can change from time-out to time-out almost. It’s been a little bit frustrating. But on the flipside, when we’re playing well, it’s been very rewarding, too, because we’re a team that can do both.
I told our team, obviously we can beat by anybody in our league. (It’s the) Best league in the country. But, obviously, we can look really bad against some of the teams that aren’t the best. Our room for error is so high and so low. We can play at the highest level and we can play at the lowest level. I think it’s pretty consistent what causes that.
Q. A lot of people say that the long two shot is kind of headed toward extinction. Do you guys have lot of guys that can make that shot?
BILL SELF: Yeah, I think we actually have a decent in-between team. I thought Wiggs (Andrew Wiggins) was a good in-between player for the most part. But that’s one thing; Wayne is a pretty good in-between shooter or hasn’t been consistently a shooter, but he’s pretty good at getting his own shot off two feet. When you really study it, like when you play one-on-one in the summertime, you should never be allowed to shoot the shot off one foot. You should always play one-on-one and have to shoot off two feet because that is more realistic. That is not getting all the way to the hole, so to speak, because right now it’s (shooting a) three or getting all the way to the hole and people don’t practice that in-between game.
That’s something that we try to do. I think Frank (Mason III) is a pretty good in-between guy. I think that Wayne can be. I think Kelly (Oubre, Jr.) has his moments where he can be. I think B.G. (Brannen Greene) has his moments where he can be. So we’re probably a little bit better than what we have been in years past.
Q. Is that shot opening up a little bit more as teams guard the perimeter?
BILL SELF: Well, depending on how you guard, a lot of people will try to chase you off the line. If they chase you off the line, now it becomes really important that you can penetrate the pitch or penetrate to score. So yeah, I do think that there’s still a need and still a huge reason why we need to keep working individually on our game to do that better because against real teams, you don’t get all the way to the basket that often.
Q. Why was Rico Gathers (Baylor junior forward) so effective the first game?
BILL SELF: What were his stats the first game? [14 rebounds, nine points vs. Kansas, 1/7/15 in Waco, Texas]
You know what, 9 and 14 is average for him. He’s averaging 14 rebounds a game. So him getting 14 rebounds a game is (about right); at least he didn’t get 20. I think he’s played himself into the conversation for Player of the Year in our league. I still think there’s a lot of work to be done and a ton of games left (to be played), but when you start talking about who the best five performers in our league are so far, I don’t see how you can keep him off any list based on what he’s done. He’s a monster in there. He does a great job of going after every ball.
Q. What’s something that you can take from the last meeting with Baylor and try to improve on for Saturday’s match-up?
BILL SELF: Well, one would be doing a better job on him (Rico Gathers), trying to keep him off the offensive glass. It’s hard to keep a guy off the defensive glass, you’re not going to do that. But trying to keep a guy off the offensive glass, maybe we can do some things to improve that. I thought the first half, even though it was like a two-point game at halftime or something like that [Kansas 18, Baylor 22], I didn’t think we attacked their zone well at all the first half and I thought we missed guys that were open. Something that I think we’ve got to do is we’ve got to be able to get the ball to the open man on time and on target because in any zone or any defense, there are openings but the openings don’t last forever and we’ve got to do a better job of having the confidence to get the ball where it needs to go.
Q. You had nice things to say about Coach Dean Smith and Coach Jerry Tarkanian. I think a lot of us are surprised at the relationship you maintained with Coach Tarkanian.
BILL SELF: Oh, yeah, we were close.
Q. In the coaching fraternity, when you develop those relationships, what do you get out of it? Do you talk basketball, Xs and Os, or is it more they’re going through what you’ve gone through, that kind of thing?
BILL SELF: Well, with Tark (Jerry Tarkanian), I was a regular on his radio show. He had his radio show there; I don’t know if it was in Fresno. I think it was in Vegas, but I’m not positive. But I was a regular on his show, we talked ball then. When I was at Illinois, after he retired, I had him come out there and hang out with us, watch practice and that stuff.
But he was unique to me, and I listened to Coach (Jim) Boeheim (of Syracuse) talk last night and it reinforced what I said because this guy (Tarkanian) won 78 percent of his games. He knew what he was doing and he recruited unbelievable players, but he was so complimentary to all other coaches. Last night, Jim was talking about how he (Tarkanian) used to say, ‘God, you guys are so good. How do you get them to play that way?’ Jim’s teams were 24-10 and he (Tarkanian) was 35-2, but he did the same thing with us all the time. (He’d say) ‘I love watching you play. Geez, I don’t see how you guys guard like that.’ And, of course, he’s coached the best defensive teams ever in college basketball.
I thought he was unique in that he was very complimentary of other coaches. My last team at Tulsa lost five games — all five were at the buzzer, on the last possession. Three of them were to Fresno State. He (Tarkanian) came in our locker room after they beat us at their place in their tournament. They made some shot to win by one or two, whatever it was — I think it was a three from the corner by Terrance Roberson — but who remembers that kind of stuff? But they made a three to win the conference tournament at the buzzer. He (Tarkanian) asked me after the game, ‘Can I come talk to your team?’
He (Tarkanian) came in, talked to my team and he said, ‘I just want to tell you guys — God, I love watching you guys play. Now, we’ve beat you three times, but these are the only three games we’ve played worth a crap all year long.’ I mean, just going on and on. ‘God, you guys are so good and so much fun to watch. Man, God, you guys can go to the Final Four. I love your team.’ (he was) Just being encouraging. He was one of those kind of guys that always was very complimentary of other players.
Q. Do you think this is Baylor head coach Scott Drew’s best coaching job?
BILL SELF: I don’t know. Scott has had a great run in Waco, but I think he and his staff have done a great job. Don’t get me wrong, but I think he’s had some other really good jobs, too. They’ve been to two Elite Eights and that kind of stuff, but they’ve done a really nice job, without question.
Q. Do you have any update, comment on the story in the Peoria paper yesterday on Jerrance Howard (Kansas assistant coach)?
BILL SELF: Yeah, I’ve been working on that. I found out about it yesterday, which is disappointing and we’re working on it right now. We’ll have a release hopefully sometime this afternoon because we’re still trying to gather some stuff. Of course, there will be things that we need to do. I am disappointed, but on one front. Just to be real candid, I’m disappointed. I didn’t know about it. I love the guy. And the fact that I didn’t know about it, regardless of what circumstances surrounded it, is disappointing to me.
But we’re working on it and we’ll handle it like we should. He’ll handle it like he should and move forward. But you’ll know more this afternoon.
Q. Perry Ellis needs three points to get 1,000 for his career at Kansas. Will that be a big accomplishment if he gets it?
BILL SELF: Like I said last night on my show, we’re playing Baylor; he’s going to need to get more than three. But I think that it is a great accomplishment. There’s not as many kids doing that in today’s time as what there was before because kids don’t stay (at the collegiate level) for three or four years. If he were to stay here for all four years, he could be in that 1,500 (point) range possibly. It would be a great accomplishment to be one of the top-20 scorers in school history, which would be a great accomplishment at a place like this, or that would put him in that vicinity. But certainly, I’m proud of Perry and I certainly hope it happens early in the first half Saturday.
Q. You said earlier this season you wouldn’t tell us who was going to start, but in light of the way Cliff Alexander played the other day, are you pleased with his overall performance at Texas Tech?
BILL SELF: Yeah, I thought he played fine. I don’t know if you watched. If you saw the very first minute, he probably didn’t start the game off the way you would hope he would. He had a hard time determining that maybe somebody in the fifth row wasn’t wearing a Kansas jersey because he made two really bad passes. But he was nervous. I thought he did fine.
I’m pleased with Jamari (Traylor), but we need something a little bit different. We need some more girth, we need a bigger presence. Jamari has really done a nice job for the most part all year long in doing what he can do, but he’s physically limited to be that small and to have to play the 5. I thought Cliff did well. Cliff will be in the starting lineup moving forward as long as nothing changes, but you just never know what’s going on or how the ebbs and flows go. But I thought he played pretty well the other night.
Q. In a way does this force your team, even mentally, to just think more inside?
BILL SELF: I don’t think so. We need to throw it inside more, but we can throw it inside more and be passers out of it than we can be scorers. You can play inside-out and shoot a ton of threes, just as long as the ball touches the paint. I think Cliff is an easier presence to throw it to because he’s bigger and hopefully we’ll get some points out of it.
Even though a different guy starts, I’m not sure minutes necessarily are affected a ton because so much of that is dependent on fouls. But I’m hoping from this point forward if Cliff plays like he’s capable of playing, he can be close to a 25-minute-a-game guy for us that can give us some numbers. If that’s the case, then our team will get better.
Q. Have you been surprised that a lot has been made of your team’s three-point shooting and how good you guys have been in stretches? I know a lot of it has to do with Brannen Greene and the way he’s shot.
BILL SELF: Well, Brannen, and Wayne. They both shot the heck out of it. And if you go back and look at it, we’ve shot the ball well from three. Up until the Oklahoma State game, Frank and Kelly were both shooting under 25 percent from three in conference play, but we still shot a great percentage, in large part, because of Wayne and Brannen. But I don’t think it surprised me that we’re a good three-point shooting team or have been, but it’s surprising that we’ve reeled off some pretty good numbers in three-point shooting in certain games. Making your first eight against Oklahoma — what were we, like six of seven the other night, something like that — the second half? Then I watched Iowa State play at Oklahoma and heck, they start the game off 9-of-11 or whatever from three. You shouldn’t evaluate your team based on if we make shots we play good, if we miss shots we play poorly. The reality of it is you’ve got to make shots and everything looks so much better when you do.
But we are shooting it, knock on wood, more consistently well than probably what I think most coaches would envision. I don’t think anybody envisions that we’re going to shoot 50 percent from three and make 10 or 11, whatever the numbers are, but that’s certainly been the case the last couple of games.
Q. How important is your defensive rebounding for Saturday’s game against Baylor?
BILL SELF: We’ve become an average rebounding team. I mean, there are periods of time during the season we’ve been very good, there are periods of time we’ve been poor. I would say in league play we’ve an average-rebounding team. Certainly where I think that we struggled the most is that we haven’t been ridiculously ‘big’ in the way we play and hopefully we’re going to get a little bigger and be a little better on the defensive end. You can tell if a team is a good rebounding team defensively based on the percentage of offensive rebounds they give up and I think we’re in the middle of the pack — if I’m not mistaken with that stat. The really good rebounding teams are getting at least 70 percent of the misses and right now I think we’re about at 65 percent. That may not seem like a substantial number, but it is pretty significant and it’s going to be really important against Baylor. Baylor, arguably — because of one guy (Gathers) and then you have two guys go block out the one guy, which will give other people free to pass the basket – is as good of an offensive rebounding team as maybe we have in America.
Q. What’s it like to coach Perry Ellis?
BILL SELF: Perry is great. Perry can be frustrating at times because I want him to [makes hand gestures to get moving] — but he’s a great kid and he’s fun to coach. His personality has really come out in the last year or so. He’s a stud. He’s been a great ambassador for our University and for our (basketball) program and he’ll continue to do so.
Q. Going back to Cliff Alexander, what changed to get him in the starting lineup?
BILL SELF: To be honest, it wasn’t Cliff. It wasn’t that Cliff had done so well. It was something that I just think our team needed. It wasn’t that Jamari (Traylor) had done so poorly. It was just the fact that a bigger presence is what our team needed and so that’s the direction that I thought we should go. You guys make way too big a deal out of who starts; but that’s what we’re going to do. That’s what I feel like our team needs to be as good as we can be later on — is to develop more of an inside presence, (have a) rim protector, defensive rebounder.
Q. You mentioned Rico Gathers should obviously be a All-Big 12 First Team selection. We’re halfway through the season now. If you guys picked that team with players you thought were deserving, who would be on the All-Big 12 team?
BILL SELF: Well, I hadn’t thought about that, but somebody from Oklahoma State has got to be there, (Phil) Forte or (Le’Bryan) Nash, Buddy Hield (of Oklahoma) obviously is going to be there, Rico obviously needs to be there and somebody from Iowa State – Georges (Niang) probably needs to be there. Then there’s (West Virginia’s Juwan) Staten, who was the Player of the Year in the league last year, he’s going to be right there. There are numerous guys and I think we’ve got a couple of guys that are deserving of mention.
And there’s more, I didn’t mention everybody. But I think to get it down to five, I think you probably should wait and see how the season plays out and who does well in the league moving forward because obviously so much of a postseason honor is based on stats and sometimes that’s a little misleading based on the type of team you’re on and that kind of stuff.
But I think Frank and Perry would both deserve mention with us. There’s got to be 10 or 12 guys that you would think that would have a chance to be in the conversation right now.
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