Bill Self previews Stanford

LAWRENCE, Kan. — Kansas basketball head coach Bill Self met with members of the media as the Jayhawks prepare for the upcoming Stanford contest, Saturday, Dec. 3, at 2:30 p.m. on ESPN.

Bill Self quotes (Dec. 1, 2016)

Q. Talk about Lagerald Vick and how he’s played.
BILL SELF: He’s played well. He didn’t play as well early when he wasn’t making shots, but it wasn’t because he wasn’t making shots, he probably just wasn’t as aggressive as he is right now. He’s played super. It’s not that we didn’t go into the season believing it couldn’t happen (getting production out of Vick), but he gave us like 38 points the last two games, something like that. It’s a bonus that we probably didn’t expect.

Q. Lagerald said the other day that he thought Frank (Mason III) is more aggressive this year than maybe he was last year. Do you think that’s true, and did you think that was even possible?
BILL SELF: Yeah, I think Frank has been more aggressive up until the last game. I didn’t think he was very aggressive the last game. Lagerald (has also been more aggressive), which I’m sure I said before the last game. But yeah, I think Frank has been more aggressive. I think he’s looking for his shot more. Last year he shot the ball probably a comparable amount, but a lot of times he shot it late (in the shot) clock. I think he’s looking for his own shot earlier in the clock, which is good.

Q. Josh (Jackson) and Udoka (Azubuike) talked about Frank pulling them aside and talking to them before their starts. Have you seen Frank emerge as more of a vocal leader this year?
BILL SELF: At times yes and at times no. I think Frank has had probably as good of a start to the season as anybody in college basketball has had, but I do think that there are times where he can be much more vocal. If you look at it from a coach’s perspective, and you have him and Devonte’ (Graham) out there together, then it seems like it’s pretty ridiculous if the other three guys don’t know what we’re trying to accomplish because it’s their responsibility to make sure they do know. So I do think they can talk better. I think Frank is much improved in that area because he’s not a natural talker, but I do think he can become more vocal.

Q. The last couple of games Frank has only played 28 minutes. What’s the value, long-term, in being able to conserve some minutes now?
BILL SELF: You know what, they talk about that. I don’t know in a 22-year-old what the value is playing 28 instead of 32. I think there are other values that may not be thought about. I think during every scouting report we sit our players down. Stop and think about it; we do scouting reports on every team for 35 games, that’s 70 scouting reports. So maybe some people have their guys on their legs an extra 35 to 50 hours (if they stand during scouting reports), where I don’t allow my guys to stand during scouting report.

Maybe reducing practice time or reducing his reps in practice (would be beneficial). I actually think that is probably as important as the number of minutes, but last year we rode him pretty hard, and as everybody knows, I do think he wore out a little bit by the end of the year. He still played well, but I don’t think he was quite as effective at the end. I think a little bit because he wouldn’t admit it, but maybe he was a little worn.

If you really look at it, if you play four guards, he’s going to play 35 minutes. He’s going to. If you play three guards the majority of the time, he’s going to play 32, 30 minutes, which would probably be better for him over time, but it’s hard to take him out if you only have one guard sub over there. Even if everybody played equal minutes and you play four guards, you’re dividing 160 by five. I don’t know what that exactly equates to, but that’s 32 minutes per person. So that’s just average, if you play small the whole time. That’s why it’s so important that we get our bigs going and we’re able to play big more.

Q. How did you get Vick in recruiting? I don’t remember that recruitment.
BILL SELF: He was ranked, but he reclassified. So everybody thought that Lagerald would be a 2016 grad, but he reclassified to 2015 after his senior season was over, so we were fortunate. Recruiting is inexact science, so you’ve got all these recruiting experts, which there are numerous ones in this particular room, as well. But take Frank and Devonte’ and Lagerald; those guys were not, at that time, considered to be blue chip, five-star type recruits and they turned out to be pretty good. You just never know.

But the thing about Lagerald, you knew he was a great athlete. You knew he had great instincts and you knew he had great size for a guard. But I will tell you this: he’s improved at such an accelerated rate, I don’t think I could have anticipated this when he first got here.

Q. With things going as well for Vick as they have so far, would you think Memphis could become a place you could keep going back to, or does it not work that way?
BILL SELF: I think it does. We can talk about it from a city standpoint or a community standpoint. Then you can even get more specific and talk about from a program standpoint. I think a lot of times you get a kid from Chicago or Memphis or Dallas or wherever, and those are such big areas, it’s hard to say one guy is just going to allow you to positively get back in there and be involved with every other good kid, although that could potentially happen.

But within that program, I would think your chances are really good that that could happen again when you have a kid that experiences great success from certain AAU programs or whatnot. Certainly, he came from a very, very good program.

Q. Wasn’t Tarik Black also from Memphis?
BILL SELF: Yeah, Tarik, so there’s two right there that you would think maybe allows us to get back in there. Memphis isn’t an easy nut to crack recruiting-wise. I’ve spent a lot of time down there and come up empty quite a bit. But we did get pretty fortunate with those two. I mean, to see what Tarik has done and how this place has impacted him and his future and to see how Lagerald has kind of exploded on the scene, I would hope that would open some doors.

Q. Do you anticipate getting Landen (Landen) back, or is he going to get some more time off?
BILL SELF: I don’t know yet. He will not practice today, and then we’ll see if he can go tomorrow. I still think he’s a day-to-day guy, but I don’t know what his availability will be against Stanford.

Q. How important was that second half the other night for Carlton (Bragg Jr.), just to be able to stay on the floor more and see the ball go in the basket?
BILL SELF: I think those things are important, I really do. He’s a great, great, great kid, and he’s gone through a little bit of stuff — I don’t know if it’s stuff that started out small and somehow got a little bit bigger, or if confidence is involved, but he made some good plays the second half that certainly should give him some confidence and they were real plays. It wasn’t like he lucked into plays. He did a great job on the glass. He made a couple of face-up shots, which is what he does best. I thought he did some really nice things.

Q. Do you think he’s kept an upbeat attitude about starting games?
BILL SELF: He smiles all the time, so you don’t know if that’s good or bad. Frank doesn’t smile; is he happy or sad? Carlton smiles; is he happy or sad, because he smiles? I think sometimes it’s a little misleading to say that a kid is down if he doesn’t smile and a little bit misleading to say he’s really happy if he does, because a lot of that’s just a natural reaction — how they’ve reacted their whole lives to whatever the situation is.

Q. What’s your scout on Stanford?
BILL SELF: Well, I think they’re good. They lost last night to St. Mary’s and St. Mary’s could beat anybody, any time, anywhere. Randy (Bennett, head coach) has one of his best teams. But Jerod (Haase, Stanford head coach) has a really good team. They’ve got a great player inside (Reid Travis). Certainly, they haven’t scored a lot of points if you look at their stats. They’re averaging about 66 or 67 a game, but a lot of that is due to the pace that he’s playing, which is a great pace for them.

Their opponents are shooting a miserable percentage behind the arc. They’re not shooting a great percentage from two, and they’re really good on the glass. They do some things defensively that we haven’t seen yet, so we’ll have to work on those the next two days. But I think he’s got a nice team. I think Jerod’s obviously done a good job, but they run great stuff and I think he’s got a really nice team.

Q. When you go up against a team that has a quality big, knowing the makeup of the guys that you have, how do they respond to what’s ahead of them?
BILL SELF: I think they’ll respond favorably. Everybody that you play that’s good has quality bigs. People that play us now, they would still say, ‘We’ve got to stop them inside first.’ I guarantee people would still say that, even though that hasn’t been how we’ve been scoring as consistently. One reason why our bigs didn’t score much against Long Beach State is that they made sure our bigs didn’t score much and that’s one reason we got a lot of perimeter shots.

But I think our guys will take to the challenge.

Q. One of the biggest differences for Frank is finishing at the rim. How important has that been for you guys considering the scoring troubles you’ve had?
BILL SELF: He’s always been a good finisher. Frank has always been a guy that could finish inside.

When they look at points in the paint, they’re looking at all points in the paint, they’re not just looking at your center’s points in the paint.

That’s the objective: to be able to score close to the basket, so sometimes people design things for guards to have opportunities to get in there and maybe bigs don’t as much. We’ve always been a team, up until last year that played inside out. The last two years we’ve obviously played outside in, and a little bit more so this year because that’s probably the strength of our team. Josh (Jackson) and Frank and Devonte’ and Lagerald are getting to the basket, and those are still points in the paint. Those are still inside points.

When I talk about our bigs, I’m talking about more of an inside presence. If they force a double-team and somebody else gets a basket, they did their job. That’s a good thing.

(In football, do) nose guards ever make any tackles? No, because they get double-teamed every snap. But if they can take on two people, then that opens up other people in the lanes to make tackles. I was always amazed by that; guys make the Pro Bowl and they have 27 tackles for the season. But they cause total disruption, and I think big guys can do that, too, by forcing double teams, by being great sealers. If you seal strong, then you force weakside help and then somebody else gets a shot. I don’t think that we’re doing those things as consistently as what we can. We always look at points and rebounds, which, granted, are a big part of the game, but there’s a lot more that goes into it as well.

Q. Frank didn’t get out of first gear Tuesday, yet you win by 30 points. Do you need him to play in fifth gear for the duration of the season?
BILL SELF: I don’t know that we need him to play every game at fifth gear to win, but I know that you usually play, over time, like you prepare to play. In order to beat good teams consistently, he has to be in fifth gear. You can be in fifth gear and not have a good game, but you can be totally engaged defensively and doing some things that I didn’t feel like he was (doing) the other night, which is the first time this year. So I’m not blasting him for that, but I do think that there’s obviously a consistency and a value that is put on playing at a pace that was faster than what he played at the other night for us to be as good as we could be.

Q. Ordinarily, visiting coaches get booed out of here (Allen Fieldhouse) pretty quickly. What do you expect the reaction to be from the fans here on Saturday?
BILL SELF: Well, unfortunately the reaction will be he’ll (Jerod Haase) be the most loved head coach in the building, so that’ll suck. (Laughter) He deserves that. He was a tremendous player and a popular player here when he played, and then of course helped recruit some really good teams after he played. He’s done a really good job after he left here, at (North) Carolina and UAB and now Stanford. Whatever ovation or response that Jerod gets from a positive standpoint is one which he richly deserves. I would hope that our fans treat him right before the game, but then let’s not get carried away after the game starts.

But before the game, I hope that he’s treated like he deserves. I think it would be really cool for his players to see how well he’s been received. I think that would be pretty cool for him.

Q. I know this is big picture, but you talked before the season started your four-guard offense, trying to figure out what you guys wanted to do with it. What goes into the discussions? What are you guys trying to create with the four-guard offense?
BILL SELF: Movement. How do we get to the offensive glass out of four guards? Which we’re not doing at all. When we run our so-called fifth series or two game or whatever we run, you have specific roles. When we’ve go to our four-out game, understanding exactly what those roles are, it can be still yet some freelance but also some set rules.

I think it could be a plethora of things, but certainly understanding ball and body movement and how to attack different situations — I think we’re still trying to figure out.

Q. You’re still kind of tweaking that?
BILL SELF: Oh, God, yeah. That’s just something to get us through right now. I think we’ve done some pretty neat stuff, but we haven’t done anything that I feel like right now, that consistently, that this is how we’re going to play in March. I still think we’re tweaking and trying to figure it out.

Q. You guys are hitting 59 percent of your free throws. It’s early, but is that troublesome?
BILL SELF: Yeah, we’ve been awful from the line. I hate to say this, but if you look at our freshmen from the line (they’re shooting a poor percentage). Other than that, we’re probably shooting 75 percent from the line. I could be off on that a little bit. Josh is shooting 50 something — 54, Udoka is shooting 33, and Mitch (Lightfoot) is shooting 0 (percent). If you were to remove those three guys, I don’t know that it’s that bad, but we still can get better. I think as a team, and those three are obviously an important part of our team, I think the bigger concern is getting those guys to make them consistently.

Q. You talked about keeping those guys off their feet during scouting reports. Is that something you’ve always done?
BILL SELF: No, I learned it from Rick Majerus.

Q. How long ago?
BILL SELF: Ten years.

Q. You didn’t do it at Illinois or anything?
BILL SELF: Yeah, we did, but even more so. I’ve always thought scouting reports should be a classroom setting where they sit down, you show them, then you ask questions and guys have to have answers. That’s what I’ve always thought. I’ve never thought scouting report was a time where you actually defend their actions. I always thought you did that in drills during practice. That’s what I’m talking about. You’re going to defend their actions, but you may do it in a three-minute segment during practice or a five-minute segment during practice. But a lot of people practice, then when they do scout, then they actually guard it.

There’s nothing wrong with that, but that’s just something that we don’t do.

Q. If you’re late in the year, in the tournament, and guys have to play 38 minutes in certain games, isn’t it good that they’ve been through that?
BILL SELF: I think so, absolutely. The tournament is a little bit different, at least in my mindset, in that it seems like guys get less tired in the tournament. It may be because the timeouts are so long and there’s an extra timeout each half. If there’s a three-minute timeout, that’s 12 minutes during the first half, plus the mandatory three minutes that you get now in the first half that you don’t get during the regular season. The second half is the same way, so that’s 30 minutes they’re sitting down. Guys can play four minutes and usually recover pretty easy.

I think in the tournament, it’s more of a foul situation that hurts you than fatigue when you talk about depth. But I do agree. Guys are young. I mean, Monte Morris of Iowa State has averaged 38 minutes a game for the last two or three years. He looks fine to me, and there’s other players that do that. But the way that we play, I still think the optimum number (of minutes played) would be in that 32 to 34. The guys could still feel very fresh late in the game if you’re able to get them out and get them little blows here and there.

Q. What was your message to the team after 19 turnovers Tuesday?
BILL SELF: Well, I haven’t seen the team. We signed (autographed) basketballs yesterday, but I haven’t talked to the team as a group. Today will be the first day.

I probably won’t even bring up 19 turnovers. I think there’s many other things that we can bring up. My son (Tyler Self) had three of them (turnovers), so I don’t even know that I’ll bring that up with the team even though they know we’ve got to take better care of the ball.
Q. Does Lagerald’s explosiveness early in the season give Josh some room to grow into his role without feeling like he has to do more than he needs to right now?
BILL SELF: I think so. I mean, I don’t think kids think of it like that. I think that Josh thinks of it like I want to get as good as fast as I can. I think he’s shown unbelievable improvement. I’m sure you guys have, too, since the season started. And he didn’t have a bad game against Indiana. He had nine points in the game, in which he fouled out and probably played 16 minutes. That’s not a bad game. But, certainly, he’s been much better since then.

But I don’t think that Josh looks at it that way remotely. (I think he sees it as) ‘I’m glad everybody else is playing well, so that takes some pressure off of me.’ I think those kids look at it like, ‘I want all the pressure on me now.’

But it is an advantage to be able to have five guards out there that are all very capable and making plays and making shots.

Q. He’s been pretty good from the three-point range. Is he doing basically what you want him to do offensively, or do you want him to do more?
BILL SELF: I think he’s fine. I mean, it’s hard for me to say. You get such a false sense of — if you look at the Long Beach State or the Asheville game, you get a false sense of what you want your guys to do because you would say Devonte’ needs to do more. Well, Devonte’ is going to do more in games that are tight. That’s kind of how it works, and Devonte’, what did he take, four shots against Asheville? Well, he can’t take four shots in a tight game. He needs to be more aggressive than that. But I think Svi has played very well on the offensive end.

Q. You mentioned a while back that Dwight Coleby, while he may be technically healthy, isn’t quite as up in his explosiveness as before the injury. Have you seen that improve?
BILL SELF: I still feel the same way, and I think he would tell you the same thing if he was honest. He may not say that because he doesn’t want to have that be a crutch, but I think Dwight has been fine in the minutes that he’s gotten. But I don’t think that he’s at the point, from an explosion standpoint, that he was before he got injured.

Q. Explain what Carlton Bragg Jr.’s role is this year compared to what it was last year.
BILL SELF: I don’t know that we’ve actually tried to differentiate. I told him I envision 12 and 7 (points and rebounds), but his role is being a defensive presence, blocking or altering (shots), being a great defensive rebounder, (being) active on the glass, playing smart. I don’t think I ever said that you have to make shots to play well and he doesn’t. If he worries about the right things, which he will, then he’ll play better and be more effective because he’s kind of like Lagerald. He’ll get some junk just because he’s in the right place at the right time, and that gives you confidence.

But I’m not concerned about him or Landen or Udoka being more efficient or being more of a presence. I think we’ll get there. I think the reality is that up until this point we haven’t gotten there, but I know they’re more than capable of doing that.

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