Self Talks Georgetown in Weekly Press Conference

LAWRENCE, Kan. – Preparing for an early start on Saturday morning against Georgetown, No. 18/19 Kansas head coach Bill Self held his weekly press conference on Friday morning.
Q. This is Georgetown head coach John Thompson III’s first true road game of the season. Do you not prepare differently if you’re in that situation? Do you put extra emphasis on things?
COACH SELF: I think you’d need to ask JT3 what his emphasis is. I think the first road game you talk about and they’ll probably be as galvanized as they have at any time this year coming in here, and I’m sure they’re going to expect to play great, just like we’re going to expect to play great.
It should be a fun game. Of course their reputation and their program speaks for itself. Of course he’s had a tremendous run there himself. We had a great game there with him two years ago that basically came down to one or two possessions. And they’ve added some nice pieces, especially Josh (Smith). He’s certainly a load and has given us fits in the past when he was at UCLA.  It should be a big-time college basketball game.
Q. How is his (Joshua Smith, Jr., C) body different from then? Is he better?
COACH SELF: I would say he’s probably better without question, but I don’t know about (his) body. I can’t tell from tape; I just know he’s big, hard to get around and he’s an unbelievable athlete for a guy that size. You know, we think we have some big guys, and we’re not even in the same ballpark when you start talking about Josh. His hands are soft and he’s a terrific player. He’s got a lot of things going for him, and of course, they surround him with good guards. They’ve got a nice team. They always do.
Q. Is it a big challenge for Joel (Embiid) to go against a guy with that kind of size?
COACH SELF: Well, it’ll be a good challenge for anybody, Joel or whoever it is guarding him, because you’ve got to utilize your quickness, but he’s quick himself because he is hard to get around. We need to do some good things and try to put him in situations where maybe he can’t take advantage of his low post presence, and hopefully we’ll do that.
Q. You put Andrew Wiggins on Kendall (Williams) last game (vs. New Mexico), and he struggled against him. Where is Andrew at when it comes to on-ball defense?
COACH SELF:  He’s had a great week.  Andrew has had a great week. I think you’re right.  I thought that against New Mexico that was probably one of his least effective man-to-man defensive performances. He wasn’t bad, I’m just used to his man not ever scoring, but he had a really good guy. But he’s been really good in practice, and I think he’s getting better every day, especially on that end.
Q. Overall defensively, the way you guys tag team, does it maybe make teams uncomfortable? I know you’ve talked about that.
COACH SELF: Yeah, I don’t think we’ve been as good defensively as what we’ve been in the past, but I do think we’re a lot better defensively than we were three weeks ago. So I do think there’s been some improvement made. I believe we can get to the point that we’re an excellent defensive team. We’re not there yet, but I thought New Mexico, especially the second half –  even though we didn’t create a lot of havoc – I thought we were very sound in how we guarded them.
Q. In the games you guys have played really well, Perry (Ellis) seems to have scored more in those games, and some of the other games where you haven’t played well his offense hasn’t quite been as high. Is there a common thread or theme in those games?
COACH SELF: You mean like how people are guarding him? I wouldn’t say that. But if you look at the games that we haven’t played well, Villanova played man, but Colorado and Florida played a lot of zone.    
But here’s the bottom line: look at any team across America and take a 16-point scorer and have them have an off-night – and he’s your first or second leading scorer – and your chances to win against good teams automatically go down.  So I don’t know if it’s a common thread as much as that would happen with any team, when your leading scorers don’t score as many points that night.
I don’t know if it’s a situation with Perry not doing what he should be doing. Maybe we didn’t have some other guys step up, if defenses did some things to take some things away from him.  But I know we’re a lot better when he’s scoring the ball and being aggressive and attacking the basket, trying to score the ball.
Q. I thought Villanova played zone?
COACH SELF: They played mainly man.  They played a little zone, but they played man-to-man.
Q. Some of your practice restrictions are over today, right?
Q. What are your restrictions for practicing hours and stuff?
COACH SELF: I think beginning tomorrow we’re unlimited.  I think we are.  So of course we’re not going to practice tomorrow; we play at 11 a.m.  Then we let the guys go home for break, so they’ll all be out of here for the most part tomorrow night.  We’ll reconvene on the 26th and then, from that point until the first day of classes, we are unlimited on what we can do.
So we’ll practice a lot more. We’ll spend more time in the gym, we’ll have shooting practices, certainly do more film work.
This past week, although we did practice, it wasn’t practices where we spent three hours over here because that would negate the purpose of what the week is really all about.
Q. Do you start them early in the morning so they don’t stay up late watching TV the night before?
COACH SELF: You mean like on the 26th?
Q. Yeah, and throughout that (winter break) time.
COACH SELF: What’s early? It won’t be too early. I don’t like practicing early. We’ll practice at 10 a.m. or at 5 p.m., something like that.
Q. Is that why they get better, because of the time, or because they also don’t have the distraction of school?
COACH SELF: I think you get better because of the time and all you’re doing is just focusing on basketball. Over Christmas, I think it’s the toughest time to be a student-athlete if you’re here because nobody else is. All your friends, or your girlfriend, or family; they’re all back doing their deal and you’re basically spending two weeks here. Last year was a long time; we started back to school the 21st, something like that, so we were here almost four weeks with no classes and that was not good. That was too long. A couple of weeks is plenty of time.
Q. Kind of an open-ended question, but has there been a team that you’ve had at Kansas that has made more progress over this time period than others?
COACH SELF: Oh, yeah, we’ve always gotten better over Christmas. Last year was the one year we didn’t. If you go back and study our team last year, we were great in December. Great.  You look at Belmont, Richmond, Ohio State, Colorado; those were big-time performances throughout the entire month of December. You get into January and we start puttering around. We were fortunate to beat Iowa State; we puttered around and then we started that little three-game — not little, monstrous — three-game losing streak there for a stretch.
I really think that last year was the one year where we did not get better over break. I don’t know if it’s because of any one thing; we just didn’t.  But most other years we’ve been a team that basically kicked it in when we had a chance to spend some time together.
Q. Do you think the younger the team, the more progress you might be able to make?          
COACH SELF: Well, you would think that the team that has the most to learn when you get more time would obviously absorb more. I think that’s a fair assessment.
Q. You talked about Tarik (Black) in practice earlier this week. Do you still feel like there’s a role for him?
COACH SELF: Sure there’s a role for him, absolutely. We’re going to start Joel (Embiid) and that might be better for Tarik coming off the bench and not have that mental deal that he’s got two fouls by the 17-minute mark most every game.  You know, Tarik has been good in practice and he just needs to be able to take the practice to the games, but absolutely he’s got a role, important role.
Q. There’s not been as much chatter about Wayne Selden, Jr. Can you talk about your impressions 10 games in and where you see him improving?
COACH SELF: I thought Wayne was the best newcomer we had for a period of time when we first started practicing. I thought he hit a little bit of a wall and then against Duke he was just fabulous. Since the Duke game I think he’s been up and down.
His health hasn’t been great, but it’s not anything structurally that’s bothering him, he just hasn’t been able to — whether it’s a hip pointer here or this or that, he just probably hasn’t felt 100 percent much in the last month or so. I would say he’s been up and down, just like all freshmen are. The difference between our freshmen that play a lot and the past freshmen that played a lot is the past freshmen, when they were up, they played; when they were down, they sat. And here, whether you’re up or down, you play.
So that’s one reason why I think the opinion is that maybe he has gone under the radar a little bit because that’s honestly been the case. He’s a good player and he’s getting better all the time in practice, getting comfortable. I think he will be a guy that will benefit from a few days off and then benefit from a lot of time in the gym, because these kids, it’s a different deal when kids come in and they’re used to playing 25 minutes a game and practicing 80 minutes a day and that’s about the extent of it. Now everything is so magnified, bodies aren’t quite used to taking that pounding. I think he could use a few days off.
Q. Regarding Kansas being away from Allen Fieldhouse for 29 days, the longest-away-from-home stretch in the Bill Self era, but not in Kansas men’s basketball history. Back in the Ted Owens era, his KU teams were always gone about five or six weeks over Christmas in the Big 8 Tournament.
COACH SELF: Is that right? So I was wrong on that, so I wish you never would have researched it. It was much better when I didn’t know the answer.
Without obviously a rodeo or the Ice Capades performing in here, I don’t know why you’d ever spend this much time away from home.  But we certainly did and I’m excited to get back home. We need to play at home. Our players need to feel the home crowd and get themselves juiced up. I think it’ll be a great atmosphere tomorrow and our guys will be excited.
Q. The Big 12 Conference got another quality win recently (Texas defeated North Carolina 12/18). Can you talk about your impressions?
COACH SELF: The Big 12 is good. I mean, you stop and think about it, I think our league is hands down — I could be wrong, the No. 1 RPI league in the country. Maybe The Big Ten is, I don’t know, but the Big Ten has three teams ranked No. 3, 4 and 5, so obviously, they’re going to be up there really high. We haven’t had an unbelievable non-conference by any stretch. I know that. We’ve lost a couple of games that maybe we could have won. Still, we have — by a large distance — the No. 1 strength of schedule in the country. I don’t know if you realize who’s 2; that’s Baylor.
And then you stop and think about ‘So here’s Kansas, the fourth-highest rated team in our league, if I’m not mistaken, and Texas is getting ready to jump into the top 25, too.
So it’s fabulous. Whenever 50 percent of teams in your league are in the top 25 and there’s other teams in the league, I think OU has got one loss if I’m not mistaken, there’s some teams out there having some great years. For us to win a 10th time in a row, or whatever it is, it’ll be as difficult as ever because the competition will be probably as stiff as it’s ever been.
Q. Do you see Naadir (Tharpe) keeping the starting point guard spot now the rest of the way?
COACH SELF: I would hope that that’s the case, but I don’t know. If somebody plays better (than Tharpe), then he’ll start. But I certainly think Naadir has got a great opportunity and a huge role to fill, if, in fact, he does what we think he’s capable of doing, and that’s leading us because we definitely need him to be the quarterback for us.
Q. Joel Embiid’s progress, for a guy that didn’t play a lot of basketball previously, is it surprising that he can be as good as he is against tough competition?
COACH SELF: It’s surprising that he can be as good as he is this soon if you don’t know him. But if you watch him every day, nothing surprises you. The kid can do anything. He’s smart and he’s a sponge.
Now, that does not translate to him playing well, not at all. He’s going to have games where he has six points and four rebounds, and he’ll have games where he gets 20 and 12. A lot of that is just experience and knowing how to plug himself into the game. But when you think about (him being) gifted with hands and feet and intellect and things like that, I don’t think anything really surprises you. But it does amaze you watching him make some plays.
You can see a guy make a play, and you know he’s capable of making it, but then you say ‘Did he just do that?’ He’s one of those guys that once a day he’ll do something like that. I think he dunked one yesterday and never jumped. I mean, that was amazing to me. But he and Andrew (Wiggins) can make some plays that you just can’t coach, unorthodox things. Joel is a guy that when you work with your big guys and you teach them, we’re going to move over this shoulder, we’re going to move over this shoulder, guys get confidence through reputation. Well, Joel’s moves are never the same. You can teach him this, but he’s going to have a different way to get to it every day. That’s what makes him so unique, because he’s not robotic at all.
FastScripts by ASAP Sports
No. 18/19 Kansas (7-3) returns to Allen Fieldhouse Saturday morning against Georgetown (7-2) at 11 a.m. The game will be televised on ESPN.  The official online source for Kansas Athletics, Williams Education Fund contributions, tickets, merchandise, multimedia, photos and much, much more.