Bill Self previews Nebraska

YouTube Coach Self Press Conference

LAWRENCE, Kan. — Kansas basketball head coach Bill Self met with members of the media on Thursday afternoon to preview Saturday’s home contest against Nebraska (2:15 p.m., ESPN).

Q. Did you watch Nebraska-Creighton last night?
BILL SELF: Yeah, I did. I watched the game. Creighton got off to a good start. I think it was 18-6, and then Nebraska played great at the end of the half, and then played out of some foul troubles in the second half, and Creighton won the game the second half.

Nebraska’s played a great schedule. I could be wrong. Dayton, Virginia Tech, UCLA, Creighton, and I think there was one more in there that’s a really, really good team that they’ve played so far.

Q. Are there some things that you’re seeing in Josh Jackson that’s even better than what you had thought coming into this deal?
BILL SELF: I don’t know about better, but I’m seeing some things that I think the potential is just off the charts. I think he’s going to be a good shooter. He hasn’t shot it great statistically yet from deep, but I think he’s going to be a good shooter. I think he’s going to be a good free-throw shooter, but the way he can slide for size and blocking shots and creating havoc and so unselfish.

But I think his vision is probably the best thing. He’s inside a zone. I haven’t seen him be inside a zone before he got here, and man, he’s good in there.

Q. Jackson so rarely settles for the jumper. Is that coaching tips or just something inherent in him?
BILL SELF: You know what? I don’t know that I totally agree with that. I think sometimes, we haven’t seen in the games, but in practice you see sometimes he may settle a little bit, but certainly not anywhere close to what I thought he was doing early on. And I think he is understanding his effectiveness when he puts pressure on the defense and so I think a lot of it is just him. I want him to shoot the ball when he’s open. But I think a lot of it is just him understanding what would be best for our team.

Q. Is it his natural instinct to be athletic, to be acrobatic, to drive the ball as opposed to pulling up for a jumper?
BILL SELF: I think he can do either one. But I do think it’s his natural instinct to be slithery. You know, he’s very good in there. It seems like to me when he jumps in the air, avoiding contact and things like that, he’s really good at that.

Q. In great teams in the past you’ve had the transition. What are the qualities those teams have? What makes one of your teams good in transition?
BILL SELF: Offensively? Usually it’s because you’ve got big guys that can run, put pressure on the defense and you’ve got good transition teams that usually create activity, and then they’re a good defensive rebounding team. A lot of times your best transition opportunity is off of bad defense.

We were good in transition back when we had (Jeff) Withey, because we would make mistakes, Withey would block a shot which would lead to numbers a lot of times. This team doesn’t have that. I think this team is more on natural speed and spacing and understanding that they don’t care who brings it up. A lot of times, breaks are slowed because one guy brings it up all the time. In this situation, whoever gets it, he brings it.

Q. What is the key to transition defense too? Isn’t it big men that can run?
BILL SELF: A lot of times, yes. I think there are a lot of things. You know, in my opinion, the key to transition defense is when the ball is shot all five guys are in motion doing something. The worst defensive transition teams are the ones that stand to watch for two steps or whatever after the ball is shot. So you usually have five guys that have an assignment, whatever that is. And even if they don’t carry out their assignment, their assignment should always be getting back. So to me, that’s the key. Having bigs that can run can allow your guards to build out quicker, which is also very big.

Q. You’ve been pounding it especially in the last game into Udoka (Azubuike) a little bit. Is that to help the team or to help him or kind of a duel nature?
BILL SELF: I think it’s to help our team. I mean, we’re not going to score consistently shooting 50 percent from three all the time. You’ve got to be able to throw the ball inside and get fouled or score on the block some. You have to be able to do that. So we need to feed those guys more often, get them more touches.

On the flip side of that, they don’t need to look to score if they’re getting the ball more. They can wait and have better timing and not force the issue. I think the more touches you get, the less you feel inclined that you have to score. The less touches you get, obviously, you want to try to shoot the ball. I think that’s a natural instinct. So we need to allow those guys to play out a rhythm, and it will be best for our team if we play inside out in I way.

Q. What is that? He seems to hold it, and it’s slow to start?
BILL SELF: Dokes (Udoka Azubuike) should catch it and go immediately, more times than not, we talked to him a lot about that. A lot of that is just confidence too, but he needs to catch and go immediately.

Q. Do you have more faith that Kansas can be a dangerous team from shooting outside?
BILL SELF: Absolutely. No question. But you play four guards, you better be dangerous from the outside. Absolutely I think we can be more dangerous than just about any team we’ve had. We’ve had other teams with good shooters. I mean, when we won it in ’08, I really think Mario (Chalmers) and Brandon Rush and Sherron Collins were really good shooters, and Russell (Robinson) was okay. That’s comparable to what we have now. The difference was that we had Darrell Arthur and Darnell (Jackson) and Sasha (Kaun) and Cole (Aldrich). That’s the difference.

Think of if this team had that team’s fourth best post man, it would certainly change some things. Not taking anything away from our guys now, but it would certainly add another dimension, certainly. So I think we’ve had balance for the most part.

Q. Do you think Landen Lucas took a step forward on Tuesday, and where’s he at right now?
BILL SELF: I think Landen’s fine. I think he did play better Tuesday. I agree with that assessment. You know, I understand why you ask it, but it’s kind of frustrating to me sometimes. A guy plays 12 minutes and we limit him minutes because of his health and he has a couple of good possessions, and we think he’s taken a big step forward. Or you think he’s taking a step backwards. I think those steps are determined over time through practice, and he didn’t practice yesterday. We just dummied offense, and he wasn’t really a part of that.

So I think it was a positive step. But I think it’s (a) baby (step). Things that have to take place over time where we actually get a true evaluation of improvements being made. But certainly he’s going to improve at an accelerated rate, because we know he can do it.

Q. Sometimes last year you called Landen Lucas the best defender on the team and the smartest player. How important would it be to get him back?
BILL SELF: It’s vital for our team to be good. I love Udoka, but Udoka isn’t going to be able to do potentially what Landen can potentially do this year. We need the combination of both. Gives us ten fouls. We need the combination of both.

But the reality of it is I do think Udoka has played every bit as good as Landen so far. I see do believe that. But we know the potential and the ceiling to help a team win. Landen would be exceeding Doke (Udoka) because he’s 23 and Doke’s 17. But as far as just a guy going after the ball when the ball’s in the air, I think Udoka would be by far the best we have. So I think those guys can complement each other.

Q. Based on personnel at the beginning of the season, you kind of seen what the identity of the team is going to be or are you just going to let it evolve as the season goes on?
BILL SELF: I think a lot of times coaches think what it will be because they wish it would be and then the reality sets in it may not be quite what you thought or what you wished for and it kind of has to evolve on its own. I don’t think teams develop an identity or personality in September or October. And whatever that identity and personality is, you go with it.

But for us, historically, we’ve always been a lot better when guys kind of thought our identity would be a defensive presence, a toughness, making it hard for other people to score, taking pride that way. I don’t quite see it with this team yet. I don’t. So my wishful thinking was we’d be tougher, we’d be harder. We’d be able to extend defensively. We’d be able to do a lot of different things defensively which would create easy offensive opportunities, and I think we’ve been averaging that way.

I think more of our identity is we have some athletes that can make plays off the bounce, and that’s been good for us. But I’d love for us to be able to do both.

Q. With Nebraska coming in, does it still feel like a conference team to you or has enough time passed?
BILL SELF: No, doesn’t feel like a conference game to me at all, and it won’t to Tim (Miles, head coach). I don’t think Tim was in the league when we played. So he was still at CSU (Colorado State), if I’m not mistaken. And it won’t to them as well, but it will mean something, because they obviously have a good name nationally and they’re from the Big Ten. And it would be a nice feather in our cap. It would be a great feather in their cap or nice feather in their cap as well if they come in here and play great.

So it will be one of our more competitive games so far, no question. But I don’t think it will have — I don’t see it as a conference type game.

Q. Does Tim Miles continue his same philosophy, same program, same system to Nebraska?
BILL SELF: I don’t know. I can’t remember exactly if they’re running the same stuff. But I do think from a philosophical standpoint, I doubt he’s changed. I still think what he valued at CSU or before that is still the same thing he values now. You don’t see coaching changing that often. So I think he’s a good coach, and other people think it too in our profession. He’s a fun guy. Maybe he’ll tweet you back at halftime and that kind of stuff. You don’t see that very often. But he’s probably the social media king of our profession, so that makes it interesting.

But I understand why he does that and everything, because he’s generating interest for his program. I like him. I think he’s good, and I think he’s done a really good job there. Certainly I don’t want him to have any success at our expense, but I hope they have a really good year.

Q. How did this game with Nebraska come about?
BILL SELF: You know, somebody asked me what the reasoning was behind the game, and I’m not sure if they reached out to us or we reached out to them. But I think that we kind of did that for Andrew (White), or maybe they wanted to do that for Andrew. Was that it? They wanted to do it for Andrew? We all love Andrew.

I mean, so don’t get me wrong. There were no ill feelings with Nebraska or with Andrew when he made the decision to leave, and it turned out to be a good decision. You go there and you average 16 (points) a game, where maybe here you didn’t get a chance to play as much. But I do think Andrew had a lot to do with the game.

Q. Anything that you’ve learned that’s kind of helped in your approach in coaching?
BILL SELF: I don’t know that I’m — I don’t know. You’d have to ask probably the other assistants. I don’t know that I’m coaching him much different. The thing about Josh that I think is really, really great, and Wiggs (Andrew Wiggens) was the same way, Joel (Embiid) was for sure the same way, is he wants to be coached. He wants somebody to correct him. Now I’m not saying he wants to be jumped, but I’m saying he’d like somebody to coach him and correct him and be constructive and at the same time push him and try to get the most out of him. He likes that. He didn’t come in here thinking that he was where he needed to be. He came in here thinking I’m picking this place because I’m not where I need to be. I think sometimes that gets lost.

I’m not sure everybody’s like that. We’ve been fortunate that the majority of our guys that we’ve had are like that. Josh is probably as a freshman, you know from an IQ standpoint, Joel was off the charts, even though he hadn’t played ball. That dude don’t think like most people. He’s so, so, so smart. But we’ve always said the best freshmen are the ones that know they don’t know, and the ones that are the hardest to coach are the ones that don’t know that that think they do.

Josh is one of those guys who is even though he’s really, really bright, he knows he doesn’t know. It’s amazing to me, when we do scouting report or whatever, he hangs on every word. Like I ask Josh a lot of questions sometimes to see if he’d know the answer, and half the time he does and half the time he doesn’t and he’s totally intrigued on why he doesn’t.

Like, oh, I mean, it’s like, oh, that makes sense to me. And I’m talking about, hey, look at this possession here and I want you to tell me exactly why the other team scored. Break it down. Well, they didn’t show this screen. No, that’s not why. Look at it again. And he’s one of those guys that wants to know those things. That’s one of the things that impresses me the most about him is he wants to get better.

Q. Do you search that type out? I’m sure you’ve maybe encountered guys that probably only wanted a stop over as opposed to evaluation?
BILL SELF: Yeah, sure you do. We’ve been fortunate because most of the guys we’ve had have unpacked their bags. There is no question about that. Not everybody probably has, but most of them have. But do you search that out? Yeah, you search that out. You also search for 7-footers that are 280 pounds and can jump. You search out whatever the best of the best is. But very rarely do you actually get a chance to coach it like that. So it’s been fun.

Q. As you look around your conference in the Big 12, Baylor knocked out Xavier and Louisville, West Virginia had a lot of good wins. Is it even going to be tougher than you thought?
BILL SELF: Oh, yeah, it’s going to be tougher. We said all along the league won’t take a step backwards. It may take a step sideways. It’s been a positive, maybe sideways, but positive sideways. You lose Buddy and George and Williams at West Virginia and then of course, Perry, you say, wow, those are the best players on some really good teams. It’s got to take a step backwards, and it hasn’t.

The young guy setting out at Baylor, nobody knew he was that good, and he’s arguably playing to a first team or second-team all league level already. Then we knew Motley was good, but we didn’t know that he would be this good, but we knew he was good. And then they have other great pieces, great pieces. Nobody knew he were this going to have a newcomer come in and block five shots a game. So the league has done a great job of replenishing itself with really quality guys.

Maybe people thought Bob would take a step backwards, but they’re better this year than they were last year, and they were really good last year. Certainly Iowa State’s not as big inside, but I’ve watched them play, and if they’re on, they can beat anybody. They’re good. Look what TCU has done, the league — Oklahoma State’s good. The league has gotten so much better from a competitive standpoint than I think it was even a year ago.

I could be wrong on this, because I haven’t studied it, but I think Texas lost at Michigan the last game, 53-50, which made them 4-4. Okay? Who would have dreamed that a team that was picked second or third in their league would be 4-4 now, and you think positively that they’re an NCAA tournament team. Where the teams that maybe had a little better record now and weren’t picked as high, and you think everybody in our league right now has a legitimate chance to go to the NCAA tournament. Think about it. Everybody in our league has a legitimate chance to go to the NCAA tournament.

Now certain teams are going to have to play well in league, and they may have to go 9-9 offer something like that. But there are ten teams vying for an NCAA tournament spot, and I don’t think there is any other league in the country that could say that.

Q. From an outsider’s perspective, Josh Jackson’s shot looks unorthodox. How would you describe it?
BILL SELF: Soft. The thing about shooting is there’s a lot of different opinions on it, okay. He has a little bit of an unorthodox way to get the ball to this position, but after it gets here it’s as good as Devonte’ (Graham)’s, it’s as good as Frank (Mason III)’s, it’s as good as anybody else we’ve got once it gets here. So what’s the most important thing about the shot? From here to finish or how you get there? Obviously it’s from here to finish.

So can he do things better with his shot? Absolutely. Can it become quicker? Absolutely, he can. But I think sometimes people look at it as a negative to him getting it to the spot when we should be looking at it as nobody can deny his shot’s soft. I mean, nobody can deny his follow through is perfect. Nobody can deny those things.

So we see a flaw rather than see what is good and what is good is much better than the flaw. Now can he tighten it up and do some things differently? Absolutely. But that will probably be on somebody else’s watch. That won’t be on our watch as much. I don’t see a reason why when you have a young man for a very brief period of time why you want to totally cloud his brain with something other than very, very few, simple things.

But I personally like his shot. I said all along, one of the best things he does since he’s been here is shoot the ball compared to what I thought it could be, and it’s going to continue to get better.

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