Elite Eight Media Day Quotes
Video Press Conference
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — In preparation for the NCAA Elite Eight matchup against No. 2 seed Villanova, the Jayhawks met with members of the media on Friday at KFC Yum! Center. Kansas head coach Bill Self and starters Frank Mason III, Devonte’ Graham, Landen Lucas, Perry Ellis, and Wayne Selden Jr., represented the team in the large interview room.
The Jayhawks and Wildcats face on Saturday night at 7:50 p.m. Central time on CBS.
Complete transcript from Friday’s media session is below:
Q. Coach, do you see any similarities in the structure of the fact that both teams are veteran teams that hadn’t had much tournament success, got past that, have played great in the tournament? Are there similarities there?
COACH BILL SELF: Well, I don’t know if I totally agree with that, because both programs have experienced success in the tournament. Neither one of us have a lot in the last couple years.
So I see some similarities. They’re a veteran team, even though Brunson’s a freshman and they have some young guys off the bench that are going to be tremendous players. But we do too. Our bench is very young as well for the most part.
I see some similarities. I think that the similarities are more personnel driven. They’ve got a really, really skilled four man and we’ve got a really skilled four man. All their guards can beat you off the bounce. That’s very similar to our guards.
|Bill Self, Perry Ellis and Frank Mason III meet with the Westwood One national radio crew on Friday.|
But the thing that I do love about their team and always have is how hard they play and how scrappy they are.
Q. I wanted to ask about buzzer beaters. There have been several prominent ones in the tournament so far. Frank and Wayne, there was — in the OU game there were a couple close calls. Frank, I think you hit one last year against TCU maybe. I was wondering if it’s a thing you guys practice in practice, like tough, long-distance shots at the buzzer. Also, for Coach, I was wondering if there’s a two-point conversion matrix, like if you’re down five, you have a certain thing to do in order to try to get up and tie the game or win the game with very little time left.
COACH SELF: I think from my vantage point, it’s kind of by feel. If it’s a two-possession game, I would probably try to score quick and take the best shot available. Not necessarily having to be a three.
But I don’t have a matrix or a formula that we go by, that this is what we do when you’re down five with 30 left or you’re down four with 20 left.
I think if we’re down three with five left, seconds, then we’ll try to shoot a three, though. But that’s about it.
Q. You were at Perry’s first high school game back in 2008. It was a Friday night. I think you had a game the very next day. Can you discuss the process of recruiting him and then also coaching him, what that’s been like to get him to get to the level he’s at today.
COACH SELF: We probably spent as much time on Perry, recruiting him, as anybody just because we were so aware of him at an early age and a young age. And Danny Manning was our point man in his recruitment for the most part.
But he was an easy guy to recruit because he wasn’t seeking attention. Just like he is now, he’s not seeking attention. So he was a fun guy to recruit because it wasn’t like you had to talk to him every day, to be honest with you, in order to let him know that you love him a lot, which you have to do with a lot of recruits.
If you told him that maybe on Monday, then by Friday he would still believe that there was probably still some love involved, which is a little different for some recruits.
But he was an easy recruit, great family and certainly coaching him, it’s been a real treat because — and it has been for all our guys, because just watching how he’s matured off the court so much, in my opinion, which has really spearheaded his development on the court.
And just see how he’s kind of grown not only into a great player, but really an outstanding young man as well.
Q. Bill, when you look at Villanova these first three games, their shooting percentage is up there in the history of the tournament, making a ridiculous number of threes. In your preparation in years past for games like this, are they playing as well as any team you can remember?
COACH SELF: Preparation is so short. We’re talking about a 45-minute practice today and scouts. So there will probably be more time prepping for Nova off the court as far as film work or getting guys to understand scouting reports than there probably will be on the court.
But, yeah, they’re probably playing as well as anybody that we’ve gone against in recent memory, at least that I can recall. They’re on fire right now. It’s one thing to shoot a high percentage, but to shoot that high a percentage with the volume of threes they’ve been shooting makes it even more impressive.
And they’re doing it — and everybody’s making them. It’s not like you can just key on one guy. I mean, everybody’s been shooting them well.
So they’re a red-hot team right now. But, honestly, we’ve been playing pretty well ourselves. So we won’t want to change how we’re playing, but we certainly need to emphasize on how to get to their shooters and, certainly, still guard the ball and keep it out of the paint.
Q. Bill, just along the lines of the 3-pointer, you guys shoot quite a high percentage, but not as many as other teams might shoot at times. I just wonder how your philosophy of shooting, taking the threes maybe has evolved.
COACH SELF: Well, I have said making jump shots all the time and not playing through the post some or driving the ball can be fool’s gold. Making threes is not at all. But that can’t be, the way we play, all you rely on. I’ve always been a guy that played inside-out. This year, we probably play less inside-out than we have.
But the reality of it is we’ve got, my opinion, really, really good shooters on the perimeter, and I think every coach plays to his strengths. So certainly people say that I don’t shoot as many — we don’t shoot as many threes. I guess statistically that could be accurate, but that’s not something that we want to shoot a certain percentage or anything like that.
I thought last night we were pretty efficient, and we shot nine. And there’s been some games where we’ve taken 52 shots and shot 25. I think a lot of times, defenses dictate how many you take, as opposed to an actual game plan offensively.
Q. You said the key to winning games is, even when you’re not playing great, keeping the other team from going on their runs. Sometimes that’s easy to plan for but not as easy to execute. So physically and mentally, how do you prevent a team from going on runs when you’re not playing great at that moment?
COACH SELF: My philosophy has always been if the other team can’t score, you can’t lose. And that’s not a realistic — I mean, that’s not a real thing. But I think it hopefully drives a mindset that defense matters.
And in the tournament, I really feel this way, is that when you play a team like Villanova, if you let them be who they’ve been the first three games in the tournament, you’ve got to play at a ridiculously high level to play — to shoot the ball like that and to score the ball that easy.
So your focus a lot of times is making sure that they can’t be as comfortable as what they’ve been in the first three games. So I really believe that that’s it as much as anything, is not let your opponent play well. And when you don’t let your opponent play well, you may feel like you’re not playing well, but you look up and, you know, you’re still up two or you’re only down two and there hasn’t been much separation in times where you’re not very good.
PERRY ELLIS: Yeah, I feel like, you know, we know that teams can go on runs and we know as a team that we try not to let that happen. If it does happen, defense is always key.
We really try to make sure defense is our key, main focus, because if we’re not thinking about our offense, it really helps us.
Q. Bill, yesterday (KU assistant coach) Norm Roberts said that there has been emphasis on having the guys play for pleasure, not pressure was his term. In what ways is that different — in what ways have you prepared this team kind of differently for this tournament, as opposed to the recent past?
COACH SELF: I think going into tournaments, there’s a lot of times that teams are on an upward incline, on an uptick when you’re healthy, when you’ve been on a little bit of a run, when you’ve played well in your conference.
Sometimes, whether it be health or distractions or whatnot can keep a team from probably being its best going into the tournament. The last couple years, that’s been us, to be real candid. We haven’t been whole.
So this year, fortunately, knock on wood, we’ve been whole. I think that has as much to do with anything with us being more confident. But I saw an expression that never let the pressure exceed the pleasure. I thought it was pretty accurate with our guys. I shared that with them after we won — after we clinched the Big 12. Guys, hey, we’ve already done what we set out to do for the regular season. Now let’s just play with pleasure the rest of the way. And there’s no pressure to win the league. We’ve already done that. So let’s play with pleasure.
I don’t know if that has anything to do with how — why we’ve played pretty well of late, but I do think it’s important this time of year to enjoy the moment. You’ve earned the right to enjoy this moment. You put yourself in a favorable position. Enjoy it, have fun. So that’s kind of been our message.
Q. Perry Ellis was a valedictorian in high school. He came from a family of parents who were athletes, they work with kids. I imagine you figured you were getting a pretty solid person when he came in. I want to ask you how he’s grown, if he had any growing up to do, how he has grown since then, and, Perry, how you think you have over four years of college?
COACH SELF: I think that he’s obviously a very bright young man, both on the court and in the classroom. And the way I think he’s grown as much as anything is he’s always been very, very quiet and reserved.
To see how he handles situations publicly and through the media or with his teammates, he exudes confidence. I think that’s as much how he’s grown as anything else.
He’s always been rock solid, but I think he’s much more comfortable in public settings than maybe what he was early.
PERRY ELLIS: Yeah, confidence was the biggest thing. Each year I felt like I’m more confident in my skin, which helped me speak to people and be comfortable. So that was a key thing for me.
Q. With the game time being pretty late tomorrow (8:50 EDT/7:50 CDT), I believe, what are you guys planning on doing to use up the time tonight, but especially tomorrow, all the waiting?
WAYNE SELDEN JR.: Our game the other night was around the same time. So the same thing we did pretty much, which was wake up, eat breakfast. We did shoot-around. Then we ate again. And by that time, it was time to play, I think.
FRANK MASON III: Same as Wayne. We got up, we ate breakfast. We watched a little bit of film. We went to shoot-around and we ate again. We got to lay around for a little bit, and then we came back and watched some more film. And just got ready for the game.
THE MODERATOR: We’ll let the student-athletes go to the breakout room and keep Coach Self with us.
Q. Coach, last year at this time, Kentucky was undefeated, number one overall. Everybody saw them with a target on their back. Your team seems to have embraced the whole pros versus Joes underdog role, even though you’re the No. 1 overall seed. Is that the mentality you want to create, or do you want them to act like they should be the No. 1?
COACH SELF: The underdog role, I don’t think that anybody’s ever — I’ve never said that to our guys. I may repeat what maybe some analysts have said. But to me, I’m confident in our guys. I think if we play well, we’ll have an opportunity to win.
So if we don’t play well, we’re — our talent level is not such that that opportunity’s near as high to win. I really believe that we’ve got a good team, and I’ve been telling them all along that I believe we’ve got a good team.
It’s always nice to have a chip, which maybe our guys do have a chip, but it hasn’t been something that we’ve emphasized from a disrespect standpoint at all. I think people have respected us, or we wouldn’t have been ranked where we were and certainly thought of highly by others.
But just because you’ve achieved something, you don’t rest on it. You want to build off of it. That’s what I think our mindset’s been, is to build on what’s transpired as opposed to rest on it.
Q. Bill, where have you seen this defense progress, especially during the win streak? And the obvious, I guess, how good will it have to be tomorrow?
COACH SELF: It will probably need to be as good as it’s been all year tomorrow. You also got to hope that they don’t continue to shoot at such a high clip. But you also hope that you can put your guys in a position where they don’t allow them to be as comfortable to shoot at such a high percentage.
Our defense has gotten better. It’s still a little bit inconsistent. Our rebounding has gotten better, but it’s still inconsistent at times. But this is a different team defensively than it was in January. I don’t know that it’s an unbelievable team defensively, compared to some of the teams we’ve had in our past. I do think we’ve made huge strides in that area.
Q. Don’t want to assume your matchups, Bill, but if Ellis and Jenkins get to see something of each other at both ends of the court, what do you see as the advantages and disadvantages of those matchups for both guys? How do you see them pairing up?
COACH SELF: I think that will be a key matchup. I do think that they’ll guard each other a good portion of the time when they’re in there together.
One of the challenges for us, obviously, in Perry would be getting to shooters. Even though he can guard a perimeter player, but he’s not used to guarding somebody that has the freedom and the ability to make hard, distant threes.
So that will be different. And certainly with him, with Perry, Jay would be able to answer that far better than I could. But it will be two really good offensive players going against each other, though.
Q. Bill, how common is it for you to be at the first game of a high school career for a player? Second part of that, what shortcomings does Perry have that may limit him at the next level?
COACH SELF: I don’t think — I’m sure — I mean, I’ve seen a freshman play before, I believe. I don’t know if it’s been in the first game of his career. Perry was such a hyped kid coming in. I mean, as an eighth grader, everybody talked about he’d be the best player in the state as a freshman, and he turned out getting Player of the Year in the state as a freshman.
I think he’s the only four-time State Player of the Year. But I do think that’s very unusual.
It’s amazing to me what’s important to families. That was really important to their family, that I was there the first game, and it was luck because we weren’t playing that night. If we’d been playing that night, I wouldn’t have been there.
Perry’s shortcomings, I don’t know that he has a lot of shortcomings. He’s not a big four-man, but he can stretch it and certainly put it down and he’s a good passer. I think he can really defend his position. So I think he can really make an NBA team better.
But as far as shortcomings, I think the thing that people don’t realize, all college kids going to the next level is going to go through some struggles, regardless. But I do think he’s prepared to be a pro, both on and off the court.
Q. Bill, some coaches who have gone to traditional powers like a UCLA, Kentucky, Indiana haven’t been that comfortable with the historic importance of the program. You seem to have embraced it at Kansas. Why have you been so comfortable with it?
COACH SELF: I’m really proud of everyone’s successes that’s been there. I took over a situation that probably, in my mind — it may have been easier to the outside basketball world, but in my mind, that was a tough act to follow, following Roy (Williams) and all the success that he had there.
But, you know, he followed Larry (Brown). And Larry went to two Final Fours in five years and won a national championship. And he followed Ted (Owens). And he followed Dick Harp. And then he followed Coach (Phog) Allen. There’s been so much history and success.
And the other thing is, I don’t think at Kansas your goal is to ever try to be the best that’s been there. That’s not going to happen. As a player, your goal is not to be the best player that’s ever played there. That’s not going to happen. Wilt (Chamberlain) played there and Phog Allen coached there.
It’s not something that I think we have to hold ourselves to other standards, but I think if you embrace the tradition and the history and the success, it allows you to do a better job because you can build off of that and you can recruit off of that, and that’s something that we’ve always tried to do.
Q. Bill, how late did you guys go before deciding Brannen (Greene) couldn’t go last night? What’s his status?
COACH SELF: I’ve suspected that he wouldn’t be very effective for a while. He was — we put him in in Des Moines, and every time he turned, he winced. So I don’t know if you guys remember, but there was a play in Des Moines where there was a shot and a rebound came to his man, and he just reached out and grabbed him. Just reached out and grabbed him with the ball intentionally. I said, What are you doing? He said, Coach, I had to. I can’t move.
So we’ll check him out again, but I don’t think that he’ll be available to us.
Q. Bill, just one more thing on the three. Going back to your playing days, if I have this right, your last year playing would have been the last year before the 3-pointer came into —
COACH SELF: No, it was two years after that.
Q. Okay. But when it came about, did you wish you’d had that in the game when you were playing? And the flip side of that, how did you embrace it initially and how did you start incorporating it into your coaching?
COACH SELF: Well, I was — well, everybody wished they would have played with a 3-point line. Because if you go back, the way I remember it, I was a fabulous shooter back then. So, no, I wasn’t a very — I wasn’t a good shooter by a high standard at all.
But I think the 3-point line’s been great for our game and everybody would have loved to play with it. But as far as incorporating it, I don’t know that there’s been any one set thing that we’ve done to try to — I’ve always been — to me, field goal percentage, field goal percentage defense, and rebounding have always been important elements to determining whether you win or not.
And 3-point field goal percentage is certainly part of field goal percentage. But I think the emphasis to get good shots has maybe not allowed our guys to shoot as many as maybe some other teams. Doesn’t mean our shots are necessarily better.
I was taught by Coach (Eddie) Sutton if you can’t score early, you want to give the defense a chance to break down. So sometimes, with that, that means a ball moves from side to side and makes it go from strong to weak, the defense.
So I want to shoot — if my guys are open, I want to shoot threes. And we’ve shot a higher percentage of threes this year than we have in the past, but the percentage has only been like three or four more percent. It’s not like we’re shooting a ton more threes this year.
Q. Bill, last night you had talked about the trust that you’ve developed with this year’s team. Since you’re a fan of the Royals, have you found yourself, as a coach, observing the trust that Ned Yost developed between himself and the players, knowing that his players would go out and do the right thing to get themselves prepared?
COACH SELF: I am a fan. Certainly, I heard Ned say that he didn’t give one steal sign the whole year last year. The players did it on their own, which I thought was — I don’t know. I’m not a baseball manager, but I thought that was kind of unique that he trusted them that much.
But I haven’t tried to equate trusting our guys with the Royals. There’s been a lot of teams that I’ve trusted a lot. But I think that this team, particularly, has earned the staff’s trust because they try to do what we want them to do. They don’t always do it, and certainly we don’t always tell them the right things to do.
But their focus and their effort to try to do that is about as high as any team that I’ve had. So I can’t help but trust them, because I feel like that they’re trying to be an extension of what the staff is actually trying to teach them to do.
Q. Coach, just a couple memories some of Villanova-Kansas games. Love to get your take on those. A couple years ago, the Battle 4 Atlantis game in the semifinals there. Then in ’08 when you played Villanova in the Sweet 16 in Detroit on the way to your national championship.
COACH SELF: In ’08, we played really, really well the first half. I don’t remember exactly how it played out, but we played very, very well the first half. That team was on a roll at that time and we were able to hang on.
Then in Atlantis, Nova kept us from playing with any rhythm at all. I mean, Wiggs (Andrew Wiggins) and Joel (Embiid) were freshmen and they had young guys playing too, but they out scrapped us. And certainly their pressure and their press bothered us at times.
But we had a one-point lead with out of bounds under Villanova’s ball, and Ryan (Arcidiacono) makes a three to win the game. So if I’m not mistaken, by two, if I’m not mistaken.
So, certainly, not a good memory but one that I think that we certainly grew from. But I think that the teams historically, at least in the times we’ve played, have been pretty evenly match and we got the best of one and they got the best of one.
Q. Bill, speaking of Ryan Arcidiacono. You mentioned the scrappers on the team. He’s certainly one of the scrappers. Does every team need a Ryan Arch-type guy?
COACH SELF: I think every team would love to have Ryan as their point guard or as one of their lead guards. There’s no — we would too. We’d love to have Ryan. I don’t know if there’s a college program in the country that wouldn’t love to have him.
But the bottom — the things that he does well, he’s a great leader. He’s tough, probably as much as anything else. He does such a good job of playing at different speeds and getting guys off balance.
He gets inside of people because he’s so good with the ball, shot fakes or he’s got great feet. But he’s a winner. I think I heard Jay say that he can basically coach his team because he’s heard his voice so many times and he knows exactly what Jay wants. And there’s times that he can be just the — instead of being an extension of him, he can actually run things.
Maybe I misheard the quote, but I thought Jay said something like that. So I think that Frank and Devonte’ are totally different in their approach in how they lead, but I certainly think that Ryan is one of the best leaders and one of the best guards in the country.
Q. Bill, you said last night that you felt that Wayne Selden Jr., brought a confidence out onto the floor at just the right time when you needed it. A confident presence. In what ways does that manifest itself to you and to his teammates?
COACH SELF: Well, to me, Wayne loves the moment. There’s a lot of players out there that do. He’s the one guy, to me, with our team, that when you run bad offense and don’t have anything going, he can get a shot. He can go get his own shot, or he’s got a quick release or he can get a three up or make a big shot that’s guarded.
I do think it gives guys confidence, knowing that we’re struggling right now, but we can — but if we can’t play through Perry, then Wayne’s a guy that will make a big play. He’s done that a lot. Even when he hasn’t shot the ball well in games, he’s made some huge shots for us.
I think the guys get confidence from that. The other thing they get confidence from is he can do some things physically that our other little guards can’t do. He can play above the rim. He can post. He can do some things that I do think, through that, it gives our guys confidence as well.
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