Bill Self Holds Weekly Press Conference

LAWRENCE, Kan. – Following a win against top-five Duke, moving up to No. 2 in the Associated Press poll and an upcoming meeting with Iona, Kansas head coach Bill Self held his second press conference of the season Monday afternoon.
Q.  Is it too early to know what kind of team you have?  Just two games in do you know what kind of team you have?
COACH SELF: I think it’s not too early to have an idea, but it’s probably too early to know exactly what you have. We’ve certainly got to do many more things to probably put us in a position where we establish more of an identity of who we are. But from my standpoint we didn’t really play well in either exhibition game and didn’t play great against Louisiana at Monroe, but I did like how our guys responded on the big stage against Duke. I’m excited. I’m excited about where we’re headed.  I’m not thrilled about where we’re at, but I do see a lot of potential.
Q.  How much do you use a game like that Duke game kind of as a barometer early on to see where your team is versus one of the other top teams in the country?
COACH SELF: Well, I think you can use it as a barometer because there’s no question Duke will be a top-five team when it’s all said and done.  To think that we’re able to play with a top-five team this early, with this many young kids, I think bodes well for the future, at least I hope it does.

But if teams are going to shoot 50 percent against us, we’ve got no chance. There’s so many things that we’ve got to do to improve on, and I think we will. We’ve been fortunate, we’ve been exposed, but we’ve also won.  And that’s probably the best combination you can actually have.
Q.  Being exposed and also winning, did that lend itself to a good week of practice?  What did you work on?
COACH SELF: Well, we’re still working on everything, but we actually have had a decent week of practice. We took yesterday off, but I think our guys have gotten a little bit better. I think they’re getting a little bit more confident and comfortable. I do think the Duke game, even though it was just one game, I think definitely — guys aren’t overly ecstatic about it, but I do think it gave us some confidence because we had some guys step up and play pretty well in that setting.
Q. What kind of role has Naadir (Tharpe) played in Frank’s (Mason’s) progress since you’ve been here?
COACH SELF: Naadir has played a huge role in Frank’s progress. Naadir is one of Frank’s biggest fans, and he has taken him under his wing and taught him a lot. Frank is an interesting guy because he’s never played point guard before, and here we are playing him at point. He’s been a guy that, hey, just go get your own shots. That’s all he’s ever known. So he’s made some nice adjustments, and has really done a good job of trying to fit in. And Naadir has played a big role with that, just like Tarik (Black) has played a big role in helping Joel (Embiid), also.
Q.  When the NBA made those rule changes and tried to open up the game a little bit, it seemed like the guys that would take people off the dribble benefitted a little bit. Did that make Frank’s skill set a little bit more intriguing? I don’t know how many times he got to the line.
COACH SELF: (He got to the free throw line) 12 (times). Of course, some of those were late-game situations where they had to foul.  But I do think if you’ve got a guy that can beat a guy off the bounce or you’re got a guy that can really guard the ball, you’re probably ahead of the next guy. I do think we have some guys that can beat people off the bounce, but I’ll say this: Duke does, too. We had a hard time guarding Duke. They just drove it right down our throat, so that’s what we kind of tried to do, also, and Frank was probably as good as we had at doing that.
Q.  What kind of problems does Iona’s offense pose?
COACH SELF: Well, we haven’t gone against zone yet for the first part. I think Louisiana at Monroe played a few possessions of 1-3-1, so this will be the first time we’ve played against a team that played predominantly zone. They’ll mix it up. They’ll play 1-3-1 and 3-2 and kind of a 2-3 match-up, and they play faster than anybody we’ve played so far. They play faster than Duke as far as wanting to shoot it quick.
And they’re small, so we’ll be having bigs guard on the perimeter.

Obviously they can score the ball, and they definitely pose a threat from a scoring standpoint, and then us — whether or not we’re able to handle their zone and attack it without thinking I think will be something that will be very important.
Q.  Is Perry (Ellis) one of the guys you mentioned about having a little bit better court presence after their performance against Duke?
COACH SELF: Well, I think so. I thought he got a lot of confidence towards the end of last season, and he’s been terrific so far. But I do think he needed that game because that game was a game against guys that I think in his mind would give him confidence if he has success.
Perry got 24 but Jabari (Parker) got 27. Perry didn’t guard him all the time, but we’ve definitely got to tighten up a few things. But those were two good players going against each other; there’s no question. I bet both those guys definitely have the other one’s respect without question on their skill set and how they play because they were both very, very good.
Q.  Is it hard for that confidence carry over?
COACH SELF: Is it hard? I guess anything can be hard, but it’s a lot easier to have confidence if he finished strong (last year) than if he didn’t finish strong. I think that if anything, with Perry’s summer and everything, and with any player, if you play well one year at the end and then you have a good summer and you prepare yourself, then you should be more confident the next year, and Perry has done all those things.
Q.  Is this where you thought Perry would be by now?
COACH SELF: Yes. You know, the thing about it is, we’ve played two games, guys. Where we are is nowhere close to where we need to be, and just because — I get such a kick out of things.  If a guy played good in that game the other day, they’re automatically a draft pick. One game. And right now there’s 90 guys out there that’s been guaranteed he’s going to go in the first round. And there’s only 30 teams, and that number will go to 120. But I am happy; I’m happy where we’re at now with him individually, but I mean, nowhere near where he should be or where he can get is probably the better way to put it.
Q.  Where would you like to see improvement defensively from your guys?
COACH SELF: Well, you know, if you can guard the ball, that eliminates a lot of rotation type situations, because if you can’t guard the ball you force help all the time. I would really like to be able to guard the ball better, and obviously our interior post defense was lacking against Louisiana at Monroe. It wasn’t that bad against Duke because Duke didn’t throw the ball inside as much. They drove it, their big guys drove it. We’ve got to get better in that area. I think just as a whole and a mindset of not relaxing during possessions I think will be something that we certainly need to improve on.
Q.  Is there a little bit of adjustment without (Jeff) Withey back there, too?
COACH SELF: Yeah, we miss Jeff.  There’s no question we miss Jeff. Of course if the rules were the way they were last year the way they are now we would have been called for a foul before they ever got to Jeff, so that really would have taken away a lot of Jeff’s shot-blocking opportunities, probably. But yeah, we miss that.  But I’m hopeful that Joel (Embiid) can become a more efficient rim protector. I think he’s got it in him to do so.
Q.  Does it seem hard for Tarik to stay out of foul trouble and stay in the game?

COACH SELF: I think so. You know, he’s pressing. I shouldn’t say he’s pressing; he was pressing. His first foul he was going after a loose ball, and the second foul he mauled the guy at 17 feet. You don’t do that, and it’s just because he’s excited and that kind of stuff. I do think that you’ll see a much more relaxed and efficient Tarik beginning tomorrow.
Q.  Coming off of last year where you pretty much had your rotation set, at least the starters with four seniors and Ben McLemore for most of the year, is it stressful for you to have such a talented team and trying to find minutes for all these guys?
COACH SELF: Well, from a starting standpoint I’m pretty happy with who we’re starting, so there’s no stress on that at all. I would say if you call it stressful, I’d say it’s a good kind of stress. I mean, at least you have options. There’s a lot of people out there that don’t have options.

But do we know what we’re going to do one through eight or one through nine? No, we don’t. We don’t know that yet. A lot depends on Conner (Frankamp) and Andrew (White III) and Brannen (Greene) to see how all those guys kind of develop. Even though a couple played limited minutes, we played seven freshmen the first half the other day against Duke, if I’m not mistaken. So even though limited minutes, that’s pretty good experience for all those kids. I do think that it’ll kind of clear out, clear itself out, and we’ll become more comfortable with that.

But there’s been many years where we weren’t comfortable with our rotation until conference play. It’s just that you don’t remember it because you remember how the season ends and you forget about how it starts. So this isn’t anything that unusual at all. We do probably have more guys than what we’ve had, though.
Q.  How far back do you have to go where players didn’t use their hands a lot on defense, when it just wasn’t that big a part of the game?

COACH SELF: I don’t know. I know when I played, I very rarely ever fouled because I wasn’t quick enough to get it up against anybody. I naturally played off the whole time.
I do think, from my standpoint, it’s probably going back to our first couple years here at Kansas. We weren’t an exceptionally athletic team and not exceptionally quick. We were a good position team, and so we probably didn’t pressure as much.

But I still think — I understand how the game is being called — it’s not anyone’s fault because it may end up being the best thing for our game over time. Time will tell. But to me, it’s not the stoppages on the ball that have been kind of frustrating; to me it’s the touch fouls away from the ball that I didn’t know was even an emphasis this year.

I know we’re cleaning up off-the-ball contact and chucking cutters and freedom of movement, but it seems like there’s been a lot of very ticky-tack things called. I mean, it’s like this:  How do you tell your team that we’re a great finesse team and we’re also the most physical team? How do you tell an official we’re going to call everything on here but let things go other places?  So I think it’s an adjustment for everybody to get comfortable with it.

From my vantage point, every foul that was called in that game against Duke, I went back and watched it, you could make a case, hey, that’s a foul. Good call, by the rules. But some of the incidental contact off the ball I think will be the thing that I would like to see maybe eliminated to create less stoppages so we can get a little bit more flow during the game because there’s not much flow right now.
Q.  Is Cliff (Alexander) one of the better big men you’ve signed here?
COACH SELF: Yeah, without a doubt.  This guy has a chance to be really, really, really good. He’s ceiling is remarkably high, and he’s a — if I say he’s a monster, then that’ll be the headline, “Alexander a monster.” I’ll say he plays much more aggressively than what most 18-year-olds play. He really goes after the ball and attacks the basket very hard.  He’s got a chance to be really good.
Q.  How long were you after him?
COACH SELF: We’ve been recruiting Cliff a long time. (When) I went and saw Cliff, I think he was in ninth grade running the halls. That’s what they did there at Curie during conditioning. They’d run the halls when school was out because there was nowhere to run outside and it was too cold, so that’s how they conditioned. It was pretty cool, we actually talked about that the other day. We’ve been recruiting Cliff a long time.
There’s been a lot made of who we recruited, but we can never comment on who we recruited, but I’m really, really happy with the two we got. We got two guys, obviously top-10 players in their respective class, and that doesn’t happen every year that  we get two guys like that.
Q.  Are you still recruiting?
COACH SELF: Oh, yeah, we’re still recruiting, yes, absolutely. We don’t know exactly how our situation will play out, so we’ll always be recruiting.
Q.  You guys are up to No. 2 in the polls.
 COACH SELF: I didn’t know that.
Q.  With a young team like this, being No. 2 this early, how do you think they’ll react to that?
COACH SELF: I don’t even know. Unless you guys bring it up, they won’t know unless, I guess, people blowing them up on Twitter, maybe, or telling them. I don’t know, how did we move ahead of Louisville? That doesn’t make any sense to me.
I like it. I mean, you might as well be able to learn how to operate under a little duress or stress that’s either self-imposed or from outside influence. That’ll prepare you for later on down the road, so that doesn’t bother me at all.
 Q.  Can you just talk about your memories of Wayman Tisdale.
COACH SELF: Well, I’ve known Wayman since he was finishing his sophomore year and I was a junior, finishing my junior year. I’m a year ahead of Wayman. Of course he’s the best player ever to come out of Oklahoma hands down, and arguably as great a freshman as our sport has ever seen that could play. He was the first freshman ever First-Team All-American and all that stuff. He was great.
But my first trip with Wayman, it was with like 15 others on a 15-passenger van, which doesn’t seem like it would be that crowded except we were going from Oklahoma City to Las Vegas, and a 26-hour van trip didn’t really bode well. But I just remember this big old dude, because there was nowhere for him to put his legs. He had to drape his legs over my shoulder, and I’m in the seat in front of him, and I’m going, who is this dude?
And that first game that we played, I had 26, he had two, and I’m thinking, I’m going to start getting recruited. And not one coach spoke to me, and he had like a wedding reception line waiting to say, ‘Hey, great game, Wayman’. I knew then what the difference was between potential and actually having one decent game against bad competition.
But he was a special guy. Nobody lit up a room more than him. He changed the mood of a building, let alone a room. He probably had as much personality and as much charisma as anybody that I’ve been around, period, and certainly did more for our sport where I’m from than anybody ever has. Even people that met him later on in life when he was doing his music or whatnot, they all felt the same way.
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