Self Preps for Season Opener in Weekly Presser
LAWRENCE, Kan. – On the eve of the 2014-15 season opener against UC Santa Barbara, Kansas head coach Bill Self welcomed reporters to the Allen Fieldhouse media room Thursday afternoon to talk starting lineups, getting after the ball and, of course, the excitement of another basketball season.
Ten-time defending Big 12 Conference champion Kansas will tipoff against UC Santa Barbara, Friday, Nov. 14, at 7 p.m. (Central). The game will be televised on Jayhawk IMG TV/ESPN3.com.
Q. Is it good you’ve got a potential All-American and legitimate team to start the season with, or would you like to play a patsy right off the bat?
COACH SELF: Oh, I think with our team, it’s probably good that we play a good team to find out where we’re at, but certainly the start of our schedule is definitely top heavy with Santa Barbara and then, of course, on Tuesday (vs. Kentucky) and going down to Orlando (for the Orlando Classic). Then you have Florida right after that and Utah and Vegas. It’s a great schedule. It may be a little bit much early, but we need to find out who we are and definitely be exposed in what we need to get better at. He (Alan Williams, Sr., F) can certainly expose you because he’s really good.
Q. You have concern or anything going into the opener as far as your team?
COACH SELF: Yeah, I’m a little nervous. I think everybody is before you play your first game because you really don’t know what to expect. But I’m excited, too. Nervous doesn’t mean anything negative. It just means unknown, and certainly we’ll know more tomorrow night.
Q. Can you talk about what concerns you the most about Santa Barbara?
COACH SELF: Well, they’re very well-coached. They have multiple good players. (Alan) Williams is their star, but (Michael) Bryson’s a really good player, too. Bryson’s a good three-point shooter and good athlete and really quick on the perimeter. They can stretch you a majority of the game at four spots, so it will be hard to trap the post and things like that.
But Williams is a guy great at getting angles and he scores before he catches. He’s a man down there, and he goes after the ball like a man. We haven’t had anybody compete like he’ll compete against us even in practice guarding each other because he really gets after it.
Q. Do you wonder about your post defense?
COACH SELF: Yeah, I wonder a lot about it and our length. Williams is plenty good enough that if you play behind, he catches it and he scores over you. If you front him, he’s great at sealing, and you throw over and they look to that. We’re going to have to be pretty alert on the weak side, that’s for sure.
Q. Coach, have you ever had a freshman that’s naturally as aggressive as Cliff Alexander?
COACH SELF: Yeah, I would say we probably have. Cliff looks more aggressive because he’s 6-8.5, 240 pounds. We’ve had some really aggressive 170-pound guys. They just don’t appear to be as aggressive. He does play aggressive at times. You guys see him when the lights are on in the games. I see him every day, and I tell you this, I want him to be much more aggressive than what he’s been, but he is an aggressive-by-nature guy.
Q. The other day you guys did some full court pressure type stuff on the defensive end. How much of that was just to get a look at it, and how much of it do you want to do this year?
COACH SELF: That’s who I hope we are. We created a couple of — not a couple, but maybe a few turnovers just by being in the right place. They kind of threw the ball away, so to speak. That’s what pressure does. That doesn’t necessarily mean you take the ball, but when other people make a mistake, you’re in position to take advantage of that. We definitely need to extend our defense up the floor. I look to us doing more and more of that even as the season goes on and becoming much better at it. We’ve spent some time working on it without question. But most of our stuff so far has been trying to be sound in the half court and that kind of stuff.
So I would like to be able to extend at least pressure. I didn’t say press, but pressure and still be sound in the frontcourt.
Q. Looking back at last year, what do you think it was about last year’s defense that the numbers weren’t quite there compared to in normal years?
COACH SELF: I think last year we didn’t have great individual defenders. Usually we’ve been a good team defensive team, even if the individual defenders weren’t excellent. But last year we really didn’t have, other than (Andrew) Wiggins and Joel (Embiid), we really didn’t have good individual defenders. Point guard spot didn’t put great pressure on the ball. That is, the thing you want to do is cut the head off and they say the body will follow. We didn’t do that much last year. Wiggs, as good as he was guarding his man, didn’t create a lot of havoc, steals and running through passes. Wayne (Selden, Jr.), I would say would be an average defender last year, and much improved this year, and Perry (Ellis) was probably average last year. Hopefully much improved this year.
I don’t think we had the mindset. Last year, regardless of what it looked like, last year we scored easy. We averaged 80 points a game, and that is a lot of points for us. I think our National Championship team averaged 81. But we don’t do that a lot even though we play fast. That’s a lot of points for anybody to score. I think a lot of games we scored too easy. We’d rather outscore folks than actually make somebody play poorly. I said that all year last year. We actually got a little bit better at it, but certainly that’s something that we’ve got to be really good at this year.
Q. How were the guys on this team? Who would you profile as the best individual type defender?
COACH SELF: You know, I don’t know yet. Jamari (Traylor could be. I think Wayne could be a good defender. He ball watches all the time, though, so that’s something that he’s got to improve on. I think Devonte (Graham) is a good defender, and I think Svi (Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk), position-wise, is probably our best defender. After watching the tape, Svi didn’t play well offensively, but he played a lot better after watching the tape. But I think we have potential to be a pretty good defensive team because we can heat people up.
Q. Joel Embiid was sort of a mix of naturally sophisticated but raw. He looks older sometimes, even though he was young. Is Svi the same way?
COACH SELF: To me he doesn’t look older. He’s 17, but he looks 14. But I do think he’s beyond his years for a 17-year-old, without question. Just like Joel was beyond his years for an 18, 19-year-old. Svi’s played all his whole life, Joel hadn’t, obviously. But sometimes it’s easier for those big guys to come faster than it is in guard, and Joel had a naturally gifted body and length, and playing soccer helped his feet so much. Svi’s going to be a special player.
The thing about Joel that I thought was pretty cool as things didn’t bother Joel. He didn’t get hung up if he didn’t play great or made a bad play. Svi’s too nice. He worries about everything. He’s got to get where things don’t bother him. And, of course, it’s natural for that to happen to young kids, but I think as he gets a little older and being around here a little more, he’ll get better in that area. He still amazes me. Out there starting the other night, I had to tell him where to run when they introduced him because that would be new. Think about 16,000 watching a high school junior play and that kind of stuff. It was pretty overwhelming for him there for a while.
Q. What would you like to see Cliff get more aggressive with, in getting open?
COACH SELF: No, going after the ball. When there is a ball in the air, Cliff has to be the type of guy that believes every ball is his. Thomas (Robinson) was that way. Cliff is not as aggressive as Thomas was, yet. I think you saw how Cliff runs in the exhibition games like a deer and he runs like a plow horse in practice. So there’s obviously a big difference in him turning it up all the time. But that’s what I’m talking about, always keeping a body on somebody, and going after the ball with two hands, that kind of stuff. Cliff will do that. That’s who he is, but he doesn’t do that consistently yet.
Q. So you’re not cool with guys just turning it up?
COACH SELF: No, I don’t think that. It’s amazing to me what some of our guys come up with. I would still like to see him (Brannen Greene) turn it up once anyway, period. But he was turned up a little bit the other day. He got three offensive rebounds the other day, and I’d say that’s a great way to go after the ball.
But his responsibility is getting back every time we shoot it. He actually got three balls that he shouldn’t have gotten if he had done what he was supposed to do, but that’s Brannen for you. That’s kind of how we operate from time to time.
Q. In exhibition play or in practice recently has anybody separated themselves or played their way into the starting lineup?
COACH SELF: Well, we’re for sure starting those four (Ellis, Traylor, Selden, Jr., and Mason III). I haven’t decided what we’re going to do on the fifth yet. We’ll have a staff meeting today and talk about it because I really don’t know what’s best yet. So we’re going to kick that around some more.
Q. Is Kelly Oubre, Jr., a guy that’s still finding his way?
COACH SELF: Yeah, Kelly is finding his way. I thought he was aggressive and played well the other night. He’s fine as well. It’s going to take him a little bit of time. Hopefully not long, but just like it will Cliff and Devonte’ to play to a level that we anticipated him playing at. He hasn’t done that yet, but he’s more than capable of playing at a super high level. But he’s got to get confidence and he can get confidence through repetition, and you’ve got to be able to play instead of think. Sometimes these guys are so screwed up because we’ve got them thinking instead of playing, but all young kids go through that.
Q. Has Landen Lucas’ body changed a lot since he got here?
COACH SELF: I think so. You’d have to ask Andrea (Hudy, strength and conditioning coach) the exact details on body composition and that stuff, but I think he’s a lot stronger. He’s a lot leaner. He is a lot more explosive. He’s a very, very smart player. I don’t know if you watch it and study it, but he seems to know how to utilize his skill set better than most guys do. So I’m really pleased with him.
Q. Coach, this time of year with the NBA getting rolling, how close do you try to follow? You’ve got a lot of guys in the league this year.
COACH SELF: 17. Well, I don’t know how many we have in the league, but Kansas has 17 in the league, if I’m not mistaken. I think that we may be at 15 or 16 or so. Obviously, three are in the league: Drew (Gooden) and Nick (Collison) and Kirk (Hinrich) that we hadn’t coached, and then, of course, Deron (Williams) is in the league from Illinois. I’m trying to think who else from Illinois is in the league that we coached. I think he’s the only one.
But I keep up pretty good. I watched the game in Mexico City last night. (Andrew) Wiggins had his moments, obviously, but Tarik (Black) played great. Tarik is doing good. And Markieff (Morris) is playing probably the best of any Kansas alum right now. He may be playing as well as anybody. He’s starting to get into the flow a little bit. Somebody said he had 19 last night; is that right? Or the night before. So, I’m really pleased with all of those guys. (I’m) Really happy for them.
Q. Is it weird not having students sit behind the bench anymore?
COACH SELF: I hadn’t really thought about it. I would say probably not for me, but I haven’t even thought about it. To me, the students were never behind the bench because where my seat is at the bench, there are no students there. So I guess if you go to the (other) end of the bench there is an area there where the students were. I guess it’s a little bit different, but I haven’t noticed that at all. I know why decisions were made to do certain things, but there are still plenty of good seats for the students to get. They’ve been great. Our crowds for the exhibition games were unbelievable. I never thought we’d have that good of crowds for exhibition games, but we always do. It’s amazing.
Q. Do you think the team will be juiced for the opener? Do you have to worry about them looking ahead?
COACH SELF: Yeah, I think our guys will be really excited to play tomorrow. They shouldn’t look ahead because Santa Barbara can come here and have success and put themselves in a position to win. They’re good enough to. They’re well coached enough. I don’t think it will be a problem getting our guys juiced. But come Saturday, they’ll be juiced for Tuesday, so that will be a different type of deal.
But that’s part of it. I don’t see this as a trap game at all. A lot of people say that. I don’t see how your first game can be a trap game because our guys should be juiced to play.
Q. Do you think UCSB will play zone extensively?
COACH SELF: I don’t know about extensively, but they’re going to play zone. Play the three-two and two-three, and extend it a little bit, and they may do some things we haven’t seen. But, yeah, they’re going to play some zone.
Q. If one of these first couple of games has come down to a last-possession type of thing, at this point do you have any idea what kind of play you’re going to be running? Or is it going to the guy with the hot hand?
COACH SELF: I think we have an idea what we’d like to do or where we want the ball to go. Without saying too much, we’re going to put the ball in Frank’s hands and hopefully Perry can be a finisher in some form or fashion. That would be because Frank can get a guy a shot or get himself a shot. Perry is the best scorer we have, so that would be something that we’d definitely try to do. Depending if we need a three, (we)
maybe something else, but that would definitely be in the cards regardless of who we’re playing.
I don’t think that’s anything earth shattering that we just gave you because I think everybody would know that.
Q. Frank didn’t play much point guard before he came to Kansas?
COACH SELF: Not a lot, he was a scorer. If you hear Frank tell it, he was the greatest scorer ever in high school. But I said, ‘Frank, Moses (Malone) played there. You weren’t the greatest scorer ever.’ Moses? Yeah, Malone, he was pretty good. But, Frank has always been a scorer. He’s always going to be a scorer.
Q. Was he better at looking for other guys?
COACH SELF: I think he’s better at getting other guys shots, but I don’t think Frank’s a true point (guard). I think Frank’s a scoring point. One thing he can do is put his head down and force help. When you force help, you create rotations and he’s really, really good at that. (He’s) Better than anybody we’ve had on the team, by far, at that. That is something we didn’t have any of last year with the exception of Frank. (And) He didn’t play that much. It’s pretty refreshing to see guys be able to get in the paint.
Q. Is Devonte’ Graham as good of an inside passer?
COACH SELF: I think Devonte’s a pretty good passer. He and Wayne and Frank, knock on wood, statistically they’ve done a pretty good job the first part (of the season), being aggressive and still taking care of the ball.
Q. Coach, in the home games people have really fallen in love with Tyler (Self). How much do you enjoy watching that at the end of those games? It seems like you have a little bit of fun with him.
COACH SELF: Yeah, but I have fun with Evan (Manning) and Christian (Garrett) and Josh (Pollard), too. Pollard set the record, maybe ever, for attempts per minute the other night and maybe misses per minute too. But it was nice seeing a Pollard and Manning out there together the other night. I don’t know if Tyler enjoys the attention that he gets, but certainly he loves being out there with his teammates.
FastScripts by ASAP Sports
Kansas will face top-ranked Kentucky in the Champions Classic on Tuesday, Nov. 18, at the Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. The game will be televised on ESPN and will be the second of a doubleheader (Duke-Michigan State) with an approximate start time of 8 p.m. (Central). KU will return home on Monday, Nov. 24, at 7 p.m. to host Rider in the opening round of the Orlando Classic. The Rider game will be televised on Jayhawk IMG TV/ESPN3/ESPN Full Court. KU will then head to Orlando, Florida, for bracket play in the Orlando Classic. KU will face Rhode Island at 1:30 p.m. (Central) on Thanksgiving Day and either Tennessee or Santa Clara the following day, Nov. 28, at 11 a.m. The event concludes on Sunday, Nov. 30.
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