Kansas Holds Court at Big 12 Media Day

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. – In the middle of a city rocked by Royals fever, Kansas joined the rest of the league at the Big 12 Conference men’s basketball media day Wednesday morning.

Junior forwards Perry Ellis and Jamari Traylor, sophomore guard Wayne Selden, Jr. and head coach Bill Self represented the 10-straight defending Big 12 champs at the annual event, held at the Sprint Center for the sixth-consecutive year. The Jayhawks officially open the season against UC Santa Barbara at home on Nov. 14, but the second game of the season pits Kansas against Kentucky in the Champions Classic, Nov. 18.
 Perry Ellis talks with Wendell Barnhouse from
the Big 12 Digital Network.”It’s important for us to evolve,” Selden said about the importance of jumping out to a hot start. “It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. We want to be good early, but we want to be great late.”
Though the media following was slightly subdued thanks to the Kansas City Royals hosting game four of the American League Championship Series on the same day, all four Jayhawks in attendance didn’t notice a difference. Each kept busy with long lines of questions, ranging from the pressures associated with a decade’s worth of conference titles to what they see in the newcomers to how many candy bars they could name.
Self conducted his press conference in the early part of the morning as each coach took their turn at the podium. He eventually wrapped up his day with a breakout media session that included all 10 Big 12 coaches and finally a coaches’ group photo. Both he and the Jayhawks fielded questions from national and local media outlets to make for a full morning.
“It says a lot for our team and our conference that so many people come out,” Traylor said. “I’m honored to be one of the faces of the program right now and I just want to go out and represent our team in the best way I can.”
Head Coach Bill Self (FastScripts by ASAP Sports)
Q: Please address the crowd with an opening statement?
SELF:  “I’m excited.  We’re obviously a much different team than what we were last year. We lost three quality guys, but we recruited fairly well and have four newcomers who we think will all be good players, and our returning guys have improved.  So I think we’ll be a fun team to watch play, but we’ll be a lot different than what we’ve been in the past because we don’t have the same size we’ve had in the past. But hopefully we rely on our speed a little bit more than we have in the past.”
Q. Every year you are charged with the task of making guys become better and improving their game.  How do you reenergize each and every year to rise to that challenge?
SELF:  “How does anybody reenergize themselves to do their job?  I mean, that’s our job.  The other thing is it’s not really work.  It’s something that we love – to be a part of, what we feel like, is the greatest game on earth. So I don’t think that’s very difficult, but it is fun to watch guys get better.  We take a lot of pride in it, whether it’s a (Andrew) Wiggins or maybe a Brady Morningstar or Tyrel Reed, our job is to get them as close to their ceiling as possible as quickly as we can.  That’s something that our coaches work very, very hard to do.”
Q.  Going back to your reference to Wiggins, obviously he got a lot of attention as a scorer, but he was also your second-best shot blocker last year and he was tied for second as a defensive rebounder.  In what ways do you feel like the new guys will be able to compensate for some of the void that he left as a defensive player?
SELF:  “Joel (Embiid) got voted as best defensive player in the league, but Wiggins was our best defender.  Joel blocked the most shots.
“I think we’ll do it by committee.  As a team, we were probably as poor defensively last year as we’ve been in a long time.  I think this year’s team has a different mindset, maybe more capable physically to be better defenders, but we do not have a rim protector like we had last year. We’ll do it by committee, and there’s enough competition in the gym, I believe, that will force guys to become better defenders because of the fact that the guy that they’re competing for spots with, or competing for minutes with, will probably do what we ask them to do.”
Q.  Obviously, the Big 12 Conference has been highly-contested for years.  A lot of people are vying for the top spot.  Do you feel like there is more parity this year in the conference compared to past recent years?
SELF:  “I don’t know.  The appearance is there’s going to be a lot of good teams in our league.  Last year our league was fabulous.  It was arguably the best league in America, and statistically it was the best league in America. This year I’ve seen a lot of the preseason publications, and a lot of them have five (Big 12) teams that are preseason top-25 teams, but to me, that really doesn’t mean anything either.  A lot depends on how we do in non-conference.  Let’s just face it, we need to play well during non-conference because that sets your RPI up for the entire year. But there are multiple teams that have a legitimate shot at winning our league this year.”
Q.  You’ve got a lot of moving parts in the backcourt, a lot of guys that were highly sought out coming in.  How is that competition shaping up?  When do you feel you might know who’s going to get the bulk of the minutes there?
SELF:  “There’s a chance Wayne’s (Selden, Jr.) going to play a lot.  Truthfully, we’ve got seven good perimeter players. I didn’t say great, but really good perimeter players.  There is a lot of competition there because you can’t play seven perimeter guys.  We’ll play five and maybe six in certain situations.
“So I think practices are a little bit more heated.  I think the guys are competing against each other, but it will probably be at least two or three weeks before I have a feel for how we’ll start the season. How we start the season, I guarantee, won’t be how we finish it because we’ve got some young kids.  When they figure it out, they’re going to get pretty good.”
Kansas will host “Celebrating 60 Years” to honor the 60th anniversary of Allen Fieldhouse on Oct. 27, as coaching legends Ted Owens, Larry Brown, Roy Williams and current head coach Bill Self reunite for a special evening inside Allen Fieldhouse. Jay Bilas will serve as Master of Ceremonies. The program is set to start at 7:30 p.m. and tickets are available at KUAthletics.com. 
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