Jayhawks Attend Big 12 Media Day in Kansas City
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The Kansas men’s basketball contingent of head coach Bill Self, senior Tarik Black, junior Naadir Tharpe, sophomore Perry Ellis and freshman Andrew Wiggins spent Tuesday morning and early afternoon at Big 12 Media Day at the Sprint Center in Kansas City.
The 10 schools were up early with the day beginning at 8 a.m. with the local and national media. The Jayhawks attended individual interviews with television and national radio entities until 11:30 a.m. Then the coaches headed to the south end of the Sprint Center floor and conducted 1-on-1 sessions followed by the student-athletes.
Below are the transcripts from when Self addressed the media during one of the morning sessions:
THE MODERATOR: We’re now joined by coach Bill Self from Kansas. Coach, your opening thoughts and welcome.
COACH SELF: Good morning, everyone. I wish we could have started this at 6:30 instead of 8:00, don’t you guys?
We’re obviously excited for another great year of league play. It’s going to be a terrific team, and, I mean, terrific league with good teams, and hopefully we’ll be one of them.
Certainly I think there is as much anticipation in our group as what we’ve had in just about any time that I’ve been there. So should be a lot of fun, and a time that we’re very much looking forward to.
Q. Obviously a lot of talk about Andrew Wiggins, but Joel Embiid has been a guy that’s really blossomed, it seems, early. Can you talk about him and what you expect to see from him this season?
COACH SELF: I think Joel has a chance to be about as talented a big guy as I’ve ever had. He’s only been playing ball for two years. He’s just starting his third. He’s made a lot of progress in a short amount of time since he’s been with us. If he continues to improve at this rate, he could be a guy that could not only really impact our league, but impact the landscape nationally a little bit.
He’s young and green and doesn’t really know what he’s doing, but there is obviously a skillset there that few seven-footers have.
Q. The anticipation, I think you’re right, but so much of it is unproven. How do you handle that?
COACH SELF: The thing about it is that we’ve had on a national scene, we’ve been ranked higher preseason a lot of times than we are this year. But seems like to me there is more hype around this team in large part because of our recruiting class, the unknown, and of course getting Andrew (Wiggins) late.
All we’ve really done is basically tell our guys there’s been some pretty good players here before you that have proven their ability and how they can impact a program, and none of you guys have even made a basket yet.
It’s not going to be easy. You’re going to have to fight for everything you get. Certainly I think with the hype surrounding our newcomers, I think they’ll get everyone’s best shot too. So if we’re not prepared for that, it could be a pretty slow start. But they’re excited.
They come to work every day, and really we don’t talk much about the hype. We just talk about trying to get a little bit better each day.
Q. How do you respond when you hear LeBron (James) and (Kevin) Durant comparisons when people are talking about Andrew Wiggins?
COACH SELF: Well, he hasn’t asked for any of it. If you talk to him, he’s about as humble and low-key guy that deflects attention as much as anybody I’ve been around. But when you hear those things, it’s not fair. It’s because he’s not bad. I don’t even know of one player that I can think of that he’s like that guy. He’s just Andrew. That’s all he needs to be is just try to be himself and not live up to what other people think he should be. When you’re the cover of SI and they’re comparing you to Chamberlain and Manning, and in Chamberlain’s first game he went for 52 and 31, that’s not going to happen. He could go for 20 and 10 and disappoint everybody.
But the thing about Andrew, if you really understand ball, he’ll be a guy that will impact our team in ways other than scoring points because he can do a lot of different things. And so much of what is perceived of him, if he didn’t get 22 a night or whatever it is, it will be not successful. Well, that may not happen. But he can impact in ways to help us win far more so than maybe anybody I’ve ever coached.
I hope people do cut him some slack from a production standpoint. I think the expectation should be high. I think that there should be hype. But comparing some of the guys that they’ve compared him to I don’t think is fair because those guys come around once in a lifetime.
But he is talented and he can certainly put his handprint on everything that we do.
Q. Following up on that, you’ve had some big perimeter guys. How do you see your guards fitting the way you want to play when you have a guy like Andrew? Do they compare to any teams you’ve had before?
COACH SELF: Last year we had big guards too with Travis and Ben. You know, not quite as big as we’re going to be this year. Some of my best teams I’ve had little-bitty guards, guys that make plays. But I do think there is a difference with Wayne (Selden) and with Andrew. I do think they can make plays and make them off the bounce. I think they can make them off the catch too because they both shoot the ball pretty well.
It’s going to be a little bit different, but we’re not going to play much different. We’re going to try to put them in as many ball screens as we possibly can and get them to the point where they can attack off the bounce and get a piece of the paint like those little guards we’ve had in the past. I think they’ll be able to do it.
Q. Hey, Bill, just discuss the impact of the new rules, how is it going to change things?
COACH SELF: My initial thought was that scoring is going to go up and good play is going to go down. That was my initial thought. Because the reason scoring will go up is because we’re shooting more free throws. It won’t be because of artistic play. I’ve always thought the way to improve our game was to try to create a situation where you get more shots. I don’t know if this is going to create more shots. I think it’s going to create more free throws, which I’m not saying is bad. But when you watch a game — early in the season we may have some games where you can’t go up and down twice without having stoppage because it’s going to be a broken game in large part.
But I think players will adjust, coaches will adjust. I think over time it will be good. I’m a little concerned early on that, to get to where we need it, it’s going to be some pretty fragmented games.
Q. How difficult is it to prepare for a guy like Marcus Smart with all the things he’s capable of doing?
COACH SELF: He’s probably the best competitor maybe we’ve played against since I’ve been coaching at Kansas. He’s a terrific competitor and he’s a great kid. He can do a lot of different things. But the biggest thing he does is he wills his team to win. He’s a great player, but that is his biggest quality, in my eyes.
Preparing for his strength and preparing for his ability to get in the paint and all that stuff is important. Yet he’s going to do whatever it takes to give his team the best chance. Sometimes those are the hardest guys to prepare for.
Q. You talk a lot about how freshmen by the end of the season aren’t really freshmen anymore. At what point does that change occur? Given the schedule that you guys have, does that change have to occur maybe sooner than ever for you this year?
COACH SELF: Well, we’re going to make mistakes and we’ll struggle in some areas, and I assume closing close games out could be a struggle until you learn how to win and that kind of stuff.
But I would hope by conference play we don’t allude to these guys as young kids, inexperienced and that kind of stuff. Because the game that’s we play non-conference, if that can’t get a freshman ready to become a sophomore by mid-season, I’m not sure there is any schedule out there that can.
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