Bill Self Previews Texas Tech
Q. The game down at Baylor, what was your formula — all of a sudden Wayne Selden Jr., became Superman?
COACH SELF: There is no formula for that. He just made three or four really big plays down the stretch, but certainly that didn’t have anything to do with me as much as it’s just him going and making a play.
I think that kind of stuff gets so overrated. It’s about the players out there that are doing it, and so I think it happens in all sports. (If it’s) bottom of the ninth, and you score two runs to win a game, well, what did the manager do? Maybe the pitcher threw a ball down the middle instead of hitting the corner. I don’t think that (coaching) has much to do with it.
I always come back to baseball analogies. I think that’s pretty good.
Q. Do you have full confidence in calling him (Selden) up again after he mishandled the ball?
COACH SELF: He didn’t mishandle it. Frank (Mason III) threw it too high. He made an unbelievable play to save the ball and throw it off of them, I think it was (Taurean) Prince maybe, before it went out-of-bounds. So I thought that was a great play by Wayne, but they played so high on the floor and we didn’t think that they would anticipate at that moment, fortunately, it worked.
Q. You mentioned the other night Frank Masson III kind of still being on the attack and keeping off the dribble. Is that something you’re constantly keeping on him about, that he’s got to go?
COACH SELF: Yeah, he doesn’t go nearly enough, and there were several possessions when we had bad possessions against Baylor that I don’t think he took charge of the possession. We had three shot clock violations, and two of them may have been on him, just because he wasn’t aggressive and he passed it to somebody else to go make a play when he should be the one putting his head down and trying to make a play at all times.
But certainly, he’s great at getting in there, and he was terrific the other night against Baylor. But I do think that he can even be in attack mode a lot more.
Q. Have you ever had three shot clock violations in a game?
COACH SELF: I don’t know. We did lose 18 in a row, so there’s a chance maybe that happened at ORU. But I don’t remember doing it, having it like that the other night.
Q. What Big 12 Champion team are you most proud of? Did you ever think that maybe it wasn’t going to happen?
COACH SELF: I’m not sure it’s going to happen this year, so I’d probably be as proud as this team as any of them. I think each team is different. Certainly, a majority of them, it was expected. Not all of them we were picked to win but majority of them, it was expected.
So I don’t think I’ll have one that stands out more than any others, at least in my mind, but I do think this one will be significant for our players and for me and our staff, because it’s a year in which if we’re able to do it, it’s a year in which the conference was probably the best it’s ever been, and it was as old as it’s ever been. There’s a lot of positives about our league that winning it this year, at least from our perspective, would probably be more of an accomplishment because you’re not going through one or two teams. You’ve got to beat six or whatever. And so that to me is pretty significant, if we’re fortunate enough to win.
Q. Do you think it’s the toughest Big 12 league you’ve faced?
COACH SELF: Yeah, I think they are all tough. You had (Texas’ Kevin) Durant and (Oklahoma’s Blake) Griffin and (K-State’s Michael) Beasley back-to-back-to-back. There’s never going to be players that good in our league, or consecutively. You’ve got the three best players in the country, three different guys playing in our league back-to-back-to-back years. I hope that happens again, but certainly that’s not the norm in any league.
But this year I think there are more good teams. Last year there were a lot of good teams. I think there’s more really, really good teams in our league (this year) than there ever has been.
Q. How excited would the KU players be to get a share of it at home?
COACH SELF: Oh, they will be excited. I think they would be excited regardless of where you get it, but certainly to have an opportunity to do it at home would be great. But we shouldn’t even be talking like that.
We should be talking about playing Texas Tech, and that’s how we’ll handle it with our guys. If we are able to take care of business and do well, then you have a chance to celebrate a little bit. But the reality of it is, our last three games are against teams that are all ranked in the Top-25 in the RPI, so we’ve still got a lot of work to do.
Q. What’s Tubby Smith done at Texas Tech? What’s different about Tech?
COACH SELF: I’m not there every day, but it looks to me like they are all buy into guarding, and they are certainly, the more they buy into guarding, the more freedom he is giving them offensively. And I think they are playing with great freedom and purpose.
Sometimes when you take over a job, and I’ve gone through this with my teams, is sometimes early on, it’s not that they are doing it intentionally, but sometimes it’s just hard to have that confidence that you’re doing what the coach wants you to do and you’re still playing free.
Because a lot of times, at least in my experiences in taking over jobs, that takes a little while to accomplish that (confidence), and he’s done it masterfully. They are playing with great freedom. They are playing with purpose. They are playing tough. They are executing what his philosophy is and how to win, and it looks to me like a really confident bunch.
Q. To be able to do what you’ve done this year without a projected lottery pick, you mentioned that after the second Oklahoma game, could you elaborate how you’ve been able to do that without projected top NBA picks?
COACH SELF: We don’t have the great prospects that we’ve had in the past. We’ve had some pretty good prospects run through here, as evidenced by where they were drafted. But we have as many good players. And sometimes that creates a balance, creates a lot of things. That’s actually fun to coach.
Sometimes when you say that, you’re discrediting how good your players are. I’m not doing that at all. I think we have really good players, a bunch of them. I just don’t feel like we have the NBA-projected top lottery picks like we have in some of the years past.
They care. We can talk about whatever, but these kids care and they try really hard and they are competitive. We have also been fortunate, knock-on-wood, we’ve stayed away from major injuries. We’ve been able to win some close games that could go the other way.
I think intangibles has played a little bit of a role in it, and certainly toughness is one of those big intangibles.
Q. How is Perry Ellis’ health?
COACH SELF: I did not see Perry yesterday. He was fine. He was fine at Baylor. I believe he got the stitches out of his head today. So there’s no reason why he is not 100 percent.
Frank’s got a sore neck. But it wasn’t his head; it was his neck, as you guys could tell by the way he grimaced and held on to it for 20-consecutive minutes. It is really sore, but nothing that treatment can’t work out.
Q. After the win against Kentucky, did you get the feeling that maybe your run was coming, or are you surprised looking back?
COACH SELF: I thought the way the schedule was, if I remember right, we had a chance maybe to get the wheels back on if we played well. But I don’t think of it down the road that far. I just take it a week at a time, two games at a time, and if I really get out there, you may go four games.
But I haven’t thought about, yeah, we can get on a serious roll right here. I don’t think you think like that when you’ve still got to go to OU and you’ve still got to go to Baylor and you’ve still got to go to Manhattan. I think you’re just thinking about that game and figuring out a way to win that game.
Q. You mentioned toughness as one of the intangibles with this group. Is that something that you have to see play out before you can be confident it’s there with a given team?
COACH SELF: I think so. I think there’s times when we have not played tough. Against Baylor, we didn’t play tough. We’re up 6-0 on the boards to start the game. Then you look up and it’s 26-15, because they had the stats there. I kind of like how they do that, they had the stats there so you could actually see it.
If the stats are true, they went on a 26-9 run against us rebounding the ball. So that’s not tough. But I do think when we got behind eight in the second half, I don’t know how much time was left, to go on an 11-2 run, to go down eight, to close the game out 11-2 or 13-2 or whatever it was, I think is a sign of toughness. Not necessarily physical toughness, but guys being pretty mentally tough.
Q. Is there stuff we wouldn’t notice in how you guard differently as the season goes on? Do you not give the players that help earlier because you want to challenge them?
COACH SELF: There are some things, like ball screen defense has been something that is certainly impacted all teams across America, because teams are so good with schemes to set ball screens and have little guards take advantage of that. And certainly there have been times where we have looked horrendous guarding ball screens. There’s times where we have been much better.
I think that K-State, personally, is one of the best ball screen defensive teams around, because they do such a great job of shrinking the floor to make the floor look crowded whenever ball screens occur. So when guys come off, it doesn’t look like there are gaps. We’ve been a team that everything looks open a lot of times, when we defend certain actions.
I think we’ve done a better job of late, not great, but a better job of late, of shrinking the floor and making the floor look more crowded; even though in theory we haven’t given anything up to do that. That’s maybe one thing we’ve done better.
I think early in the season, you don’t allow switches. If you allow switches, then they will want to switch all the time, and as you get into scouting reports, and later on you allow switches, that would be something we would probably do differently; that we don’t start out doing it that way.
But we’ve switched a lot lately. We’ve probably switched about as much as any team that I’ve had. One thing that we’ve done better, knock-on-wood, is that Perry has become much better at guarding the switches, where early in the season he wasn’t as good at that.
So those are positives, but those are small things. I mean, everybody gets better as the season goes on, and we’ve certainly improved in some areas. But we’re still not defensively where I think we can potentially get to.
Q. You’ve got a lot of highly recruited guys with a lot of minutes that seem to have great attitudes on the bench. Is that your observation and how much has that helped toward the overall team?
COACH SELF: It’s not an easy thing when you’ve been humbled and you’ve been highly recruited to come in, and then, you know, just totally buy in, not give in, to us, instead of me. That’s difficult to do.
But we have three freshmen that have been great. Lagerald (Vick) hasn’t gotten much clock at all, but Lagerald is going to be a really good player. But I can’t say that he’s better than Svi (Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk) or Brannen (Greene). But potentially, he’s got a chance to be really good. Cheick (Diallo) and Carlton (Bragg Jr.), I think they are going to be great. But the thing that I think has been important for us is this team also has to win.
It’s such a balancing deal because you want to do what’s best for the kids, but on the flipside, what’s best for the kids is playing the guys that are the best for our team.
I mean, people say this will hurt recruiting because kids aren’t playing as much. Well, what about a kid that’s a four-star kid, will that hurt you later, because you’re never going to play a kid that earns it because a freshman is going to come in behind him? You could have a flipped opinion based on the perspective you’re coming from, and the perspective that we have is try to give everybody an opportunity, but play the guys that give you the best chance to win. It’s not the guys that look the best. It’s not the guys that have the prettiest jump-hook or whatever. That’s all it is. It’s nothing more than that.
You’ve got guys like Cheick and Carlton, those guys are going to get the last laugh on everybody. It’s just going to take a little time. People forget that the reason that the Morris twins (Marcus and Markieff) started is because we didn’t have anybody else. They had to start, or Marcus had to and Keiff was our first guy off the bench. People forget that.
People forget that because they are lottery picks that it happened for them early in their career. People forget that Thomas Robinson averaged eight minutes a game as a freshman, but he had three lottery picks playing in front of him. People forget that.
And then Thomas finished second for National Player of the Year. People forget (Jeff) Withey was the sixth-best big man we had when he got here, and he’s second in all-time blocked shots in the NCAA Tournament. People develop at different stages and everything, but for people to say that we don’t play freshmen, that’s the most ridiculous (thing) — other than Kentucky, who started more freshmen than we have.
But the bottom line is, and on this particular team and this particular case, it’s been better to have experience out there because the inexperience probably has not, even though there’s great talent, the inexperience probably would affect us and us winning games right now. They are working hard. They have great attitudes.
I hate it when people make something more out of it than what it is. It’s just how your team has evolved as the year has gone on. Everybody does that.
In baseball, let’s say you sign a guy to be your second baseman and he gets hurt. (Ben) Zobrist comes in, he’s pretty good, and next thing you know, and it’s hard to keep him out of the lineup because it’s what best for the team at that moment. There are a lot of things that go on with that.
But having the quality of people that we have is, I think, the difference. I think that’s what’s going to give them the best chance to be great moving forward, because they are such good kids.
Q. Along those same lines, is that how your guys see Svi and what he did at K-State? Keeping their heads in it and waiting for their number to be called, not playing a ton of minutes?
COACH SELF: Yeah, I think so. Svi’s the same age as the others (freshmen). He’s the youngest kid on our team, so he should be a young freshman right now. He’s been like this, and we know that.
But when he’s confident, he’s really good. I think everybody is keeping a good attitude — our attitudes have been not good; great. And that’s hard to be when you have highly-recruited kids. You can’t keep everybody happy.
That’s the thing that’s unbelievable to me. You recruit guys, and sometimes it doesn’t go exactly as scripted because if it went exactly as scripted, then all 13 guys would be lottery picks and play in the league. It doesn’t always go that way.
There’s other teams across America that are going through the same thing, but so much of it is timing. I’m really pleased and proud of how our guys have hung in there and been really, really, really together and unselfish, for the most part, and been there when their number’s called.
Q. What does the tape show on Hunter Mickelson’s play against K-State? Did he make the right move?
COACH SELF: It was a good play. Earlier in the game, right when Perry checked back in, Perry fished and missed and gave (K-State’s Stephen) Hurt a dunk and that was going to be the same thing, if Hunter didn’t deflect that ball. That was a big-time play.
Q. How have Hunter and Jamari Traylor been with the young big men?
COACH SELF: They are awesome. Hunter’s not healthy. Even he’d tell you he’s not 100 percent, but they are great. Hunter is unreal and Jamari has been as good a teammate as you can have. Those guys have been great, helping everybody. They just want to win. I mean, it’s their last go-around. They just want to win.
Q. You guys are wearing the two jerseys for Black History Month. What do you think of the significance?
COACH SELF: The significance is obviously, in our case, as much as anything, paying a tribute or respect to Black History Month. With so many things, the good that has come of African-Americans being involved with our university and our basketball program, I can’t imagine it ever being different.
But it was pretty nice to know because I did not put the two and two together that Maurice King’s grandson is (Baylor’s) Ishmail Wainright and I did not know that until we got to the game. That’s cool, because we have known Ish forever, being from Kansas City and recruiting him.
Things like the look of the uniform doesn’t really register that much with me, but to do something for those reasons, I think, is very positive.
Q. The start time for the March 5 game is a direct conflict with the GOP caucus. Are you aware that there is a petition to change the start time of that game?
COACH SELF: Why don’t they change the time of the caucus? I was not aware of that, but I don’t think that ESPN is going to say, “Let’s do this for those reasons.” I think there’s always conflict with something going on, regardless of when you schedule it.
I guess we could schedule a game and then NASCAR could have something, too, or we could schedule a game and the Chiefs could be in a NFL playoff game. Or there’s something going on with the theatre or whatever. Certainly, that’s very important what’s going on from a political standpoint, but I can’t see that (the game time) will get moved.
Q. Will you talk to the GOP to change their time?
COACH SELF: No, I’ve got enough things on my mind. I get enough politics watching TV at night getting caught up on all the different strategies and everything that’s going on. I do think this: I think it’s fascinating, everything that’s going on. It’s disappointing it’s the same time, I guess. But I think that we’ll both live and it won’t be too negative for either one of us.
Q. Do you sense that the student turnout will be good as usual for the 11 a.m., tipoff on Saturday vs. Texas Tech?
COACH SELF: I don’t know, but I hope so. There’s a lot to be excited about Saturday, so I hope so. I think for the players, there’s nothing better than a Saturday afternoon game in the Fieldhouse, sunshine and coming through the windows, it’s great. The good thing about it is, it’s so early, you’ve got time to go to lunch afterward even. Forget dinner, you can go to lunch.
Hopefully 10 hours of sleep will be enough for them (the students) that particular night and they can actually get out of bed (and to the game).
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports
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