Bill Self previews Davidson
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Kansas basketball head coach Bill Self met with members of the media on Thursday to preview the third-ranked Jayhawks game against Davidson in the Jayhawk Shootout presented by Shawnee Mission Health on Saturday night (6 p.m., ESPN2).
The winningest coach in Allen Fieldhouse history dished his take on topics ranging from the 2008 Elite Eight matchup against a Davidson team featuring Stehpen Curry, how Kansas will guard the Wildcats’ 3-point heavy offense, and how the Jayhawks balance the stresses of final exam week.
Read the complete transcript below or watch the press conferences here.
Q. Frank Mason III is averaging 20.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, 5.5 assists. Where do you think he’s having his biggest impact in games?
BILL SELF: Well, I think he’s being aggressive and he’s looking to score. He shot the ball pretty well to date. I think that goes without saying. But the biggest thing is I think his personality and his toughness, as he has rubbed off and given other guys confidence. But 10 games in, he’s got to be in the conversation for having as good a year as anybody in the country’s having.
Q. In a day and age where guys seem to leave school so fast, how much fun has it been to watch Frank Mason III develop and reach is potential?
BILL SELF: Well, we’ve had our fair share that stayed and quite a few that left early, but it goes to show you that school is not all bad. There are guys that actually benefit from being in school. I know the goal is for many, which I don’t blame at all, is to put themselves in a position to provide for their family in ways that they’ve never dreamed of.
Well, Frank’s opportunity to do that would be staying through school, and he’s made the most of it. The fact that he’s going to graduate in the spring and everything, I think, does make for a real good story.
Q. On that same note, do you have guys that kind of come back to you and say, ‘I wish I would have stayed’?
BILL SELF: No, not really. Not really. That’s not anything you should really talk about. I don’t think that — you know, you make decisions and you move on, and certainly don’t look back. But I wouldn’t put a player in that position to say that, even if he did feel it. But I’d say the vast majority of the guys that we’ve had have made good decisions when they decide to leave.
Q. Were you able to get much done this week around finals and stuff?
BILL SELF: Yeah, quite a bit. We still have — we just got out of practice, and we still have, I think, two or three more guys who will test tomorrow, and we’ll do our holiday shopping tonight. But, yeah, I think so. I’m not going to say we got a lot better. I’m going to say we’ve maintained, probably, and I think that’s probably the goal of every coach during this week.
Q. Do you prepare them to help avoid complacency during a week off, or count on them to know better?
BILL SELF: We talk about that in practice and everything else, but I think finals week is a little bit different. The intensity in practice is probably backed off a little bit during this week. Again, it’s more of a maintain (mindset). We practiced — we were off Sunday. We’re going to practice Monday and Tuesday and be off Wednesday, and Tuesday’s practice was so lackadaisical, we came in and practiced 45 minutes on Wednesday. While we didn’t get through, it hasn’t been a taxing week for them.
Q. Are you conscious of limiting the number of one-and-done players, or is it just the way it works out that you have that nice blend?
BILL SELF: I think it’s just the way it works out. If we could get three top-five picks this spring, we will. If we can’t get them, we won’t, and we’ll be happy with what we get. But the reality of it is I think you coach whatever you have. And in a perfect world, in my perfect world, I think having your best player, your most talented prospect or prospects will be your youngest guys. I don’t think that’s bad. And then have a foundation that’s made up of your veterans that are basically the face of your program that can carry.
That’s kind of what we got this year. Josh (Jackson) is probably the best prospect we have, no question. But the flip side of that you could make a case for one reason why Josh is performing well is because he’s got some veterans around him.
Q. What you guys went through watching a young man get put under the spotlight – is that a coachable moment? Is that a reminder to all the guys, all the athletes on this campus how vulnerable they can be to something like that?
BILL SELF: I don’t speak to that specific incident, because I already have. But I’ll say, regardless of athlete, student, parent, whoever, it’s certainly a situation that you would probably never hope that you would ever have to deal with, but unfortunately people do. The manner in which this particular situation transpired, I think was educational.
I also think it was one in which you could look at Carlton and understand he took some hits in order to do the right thing by letting the process play out. Not putting guilt or blame on anybody. But a lot of times the first thing you want to do is speak up, and this was a situation that I think that his teammates learned the best way to handle it was the way he did.
Q. When do you talk to your players about how to conduct themselves in social settings because they are a representative of this program and this university?
BILL SELF: That’s something we talk about every day. You play basketball here, you’re a high-profile college athlete at a high-profile institution, and you’re living in a glass house, so to speak. Part of the negative thing is people can see in. But the positive thing is if you’re taking care of your business and people can see in, it can be also a positive thing as well.
I think that we should always be very conscious that we know we’re representing far more than ourselves every time we walk out of our dorm story or apartment or however you want to determine it. And I think our players for the most part, for the most part, no one’s perfect, but they obviously do a pretty good job with that.
Q. What do you try to emphasize to your players when it comes to that?
BILL SELF: Well, you know, the whole thing is we’re on a stage now where the stats mean something. We’re not quite there yet, because not everybody plays comparable competition. So if you play five teams that are great 3-point shooting teams and five teams that are average, obviously, your three-point defensive stats are not going to look as good. But usually once you get halfway through conference or a third of the way through conference and really conference stats are the only thing you should look at, you’ll start getting a better understanding of exactly where you are and what your deficiencies are statistically.
I would say ours, as a 3-point shooting team, the first two teams that you play are Duke and Indiana and I could be wrong on this, but I think they reel off 24 or 25 made threes in the first two games. Your stats aren’t going to balance out until later on in the season.
We’re a better 3-point shooting team than our statistics. At the end of the year, the goal in mind would be to have your opponents shoot under 33 – 33 is the equivalent of 50 from two. But if you can get your opponent to shoot from 30 percent from three, you’re probably defending the arc pretty well. But a lot of times people didn’t defend the arc at the risk of allowing driving lanes and things like that. You want to be consistent and be able to do both.
Q. After playing Duke and Indiana, teams haven’t shot many games against you, so does that go into the equation too?
BILL SELF: Yeah, yeah, so I think if somebody goes 4 for 7 from three against you, you don’t look at your percentage, you look at the number of points that they would score from three. And I think that’s probably a better way to look at it. But I don’t know.
Q. What are the challenges of going up against a team like Davidson, which has more 3-point field goal attempts (242) than 2-point field goal attempts (238) this season?
BILL SELF: Their five man has shot 6 of 26 from three, and their four man has taken over 50 (3-point attempts). They combine to have the second highest scoring combo in the country. I don’t know if people understand that. They can score the ball. So that will be a challenge. But fortunately for us, if it is fortunate, we’ve been playing a lot of small (lineups), so we can switch ball screens and do some things and hopefully not create situations where the bigs are open behind the arc.
Q. You’ve had a couple entertaining games against Davidson.
BILL SELF: No, we had one entertaining game. The other one stunk. [Laughter]
Q. Have you ever taken a minute with this long week to look back and reflect on those a little?
BILL SELF: No. Well, first of all, it has been a long week, maybe, but not because of rest. We’ve had a few things going on. But I have not — I didn’t realize that Kansas and Davidson only played twice ever. I did not know that until I read the game notes. So we’ve won one and they’ve won one.
But the way that this one is set up, it’s pretty eerie in that it’s the exact same time of year. Kansas City. Of it’s going to be ridiculously cold, and that we go west the next game because I think last time we went to USC right before Christmas, and this time we’re going to Vegas, if I’m not mistaken. So there are some similarities going back to that 2011 game.
But I hadn’t really thought back. The only thing I think back when I think of Davidson, I’m just glad that Steph (Curry) didn’t take the last shot. That’s probably the thing I think about as much as anything.
Q. Did you think he would be as good as he is?
BILL SELF: No, no, no. I obviously thought he was good. He’s by far the best player in the tournament that year. And that tournament was loaded. You look at the players in the Final Four, whether it be (Memphis’ Derrick) Rose or (UCLA’s Russell) Westbrook, (Kevin) Love, (Luc) Mbah a Moute, all of our guys then (North Carolina’s) Ty Lawson, (Tyler) Hansbrough, (Wayne) Ellington, (Danny) Green – you think of all those guys that played in that (2008) Final Four, and Steph Curry was by far the best player in the tournament.
We were fortunate that we did a pretty good job on him. I’m not sure we did a great job. I think maybe he just missed shots because he could get a shot any time he wanted to.
Q. You have the long coaching tenures of Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski and Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim. What does it say about Bob McKillop that he has coached 28 years at Davidson?
BILL SELF: Well, Bob McKillop, if you just look in coaching circles, he’s one of the most respected coaches there is in the country, hands down. He’s obviously sharp. He looks like a million dollars. He looks like Carey Grant or something there on the sideline.
But he gets those guys to play so tough, and they execute and they’re sound. There’s very few out there respected as much as him. He’s had opportunities to go other places, but obviously feels like that’s the best fit for him, and I think it’s played out overtime to be a great fit.
Q. Your big guys, Landen Lucas and Udoka Azubuike – have they had to defend a lot of 3-point shooters this year?
BILL SELF: No, well, (Indiana’s) Thomas Bryant, we didn’t do a great job on him because we told our guys he only made two last year or whatever, so no big deal (from long range). He makes the first six points of the game. But for the most part we haven’t had to defend a lot of five men that shoot threes. That will be different, yeah.
Q. What jumps out at you regarding the play of Big 12 teams so far this season?
BILL SELF: Well, I have watched. I watched Oklahoma State last night, and I know they’re playing Pine Bluff, but you can’t pass the ball against them. You have to make everything off the bounce because they deny so well. I haven’t watched much of Texas. But they’re young. They’re going to get it together.
I watched K-State, and I think K-State is really good. I do. I think they’re sound and scoring the ball easier than they did last year. They’re a good team. But the two teams to me, Texas Tech, the way people are beating people, they’re just dismantling them, and we don’t do that consistently. But the two teams to me that have jumped off the page are obviously West Virginia and Baylor. Because they lost some good players. You lose Taurean Prince, he’s a good player, and lost a point guard. Those guys are good players. And you lose, what, West Virginia loses two guys that finish on the first two teams of all Big 12 last year in Paige and Williams, and both teams got better. So I think this is going to be a fun year for fans again. The teams that weren’t as good last year are a lot better. The teams that were really good last year are pretty comparable, so there will be more balance this year. There will be more teams around 9-9 than we’ve ever had, I think.
Q. What do you think of Davidson’s Jack Gibbs?
BILL SELF: Yeah, he’s averaging 23. Like I said, I think they’re averaging 43 between the two. But he’s a strong guard, he can get his own shot. They know how to play. He’ll pass and immediately they’ll set some afraid screens for him and get the shot off the catch a little bit. It will be a big challenge for Frank and Devonte’ to try to keep him under his average.
Q. How has Carlton Bragg Jr. practiced and as far as the game, what do you want more out of him?
BILL SELF: Well, he’s practiced fine. We haven’t, like we said before, it’s not like he’s been out of practice. He’s practiced the last few days. His role in practice probably changed a little bit here in the last day or so. But he’s done fine. He’s done fine. Hopefully he can come out and just focus on basketball and perform well on Saturday and kind of get a little bit of his confidence and maybe a little bit of his mojo back.
Q. It has looked like Carlton Bragg Jr. was frustrated and pressing in games at times this season. Do you think having basketball taken away from him even for a brief period of time will kind of refocus him like, ‘hey, now I can worry about this. That’s a lot better than what I was worrying about.’
BILL SELF: That’s a great point. I hope so. But what he was worrying about before wasn’t anything that was awful. It’s just things that, you know, your brain can only handle so much, and he’s had a lot on his prior to this past week. We’ve told him all along, just worry about things you can control. You can’t control what other people think. You can’t control what family needs all the time, all these things. You can’t control all those things. Just focus in on taking care of your business and all those other things will take care of themselves.
I think that he’s certainly made an effort. I think that he’ll be much better moving forward. The things that kids go through different things where different things become priorities and become stresses and those sorts of things. And he’s certainly had some. And I’m not even talking about recent events. He’s had some. But I think those are things that players go through.
A lot of times kids go through them beginning their sophomore year because usually their sophomore year their role is much different than what it was the year before. It’s easy from the cheap seats to say when I get out there I’ll be better, and then you get a chance to play and it hasn’t quite played out that way, and it’s kind of humbling. So he’s gone through a little bit of that.
Q. When you go do the shopping and you get away from basketball, and you do some selfless things for the community and for charity. Which one of your players goes all-in?
BILL SELF: Well, I thinks they all do a pretty good job of it. But I would say Frank (Mason III) or Devonte’ (Graham), one of the two will for sure have their Santa’s hat on tonight as much as anything. Maybe it is to cover their hair because they haven’t had a haircut in a year. I don’t know.
But the bottom line, I think Frank and Devonte’ probably get into it as much as anybody.
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