Jayhawks meet with Big 12 Media in Kansas City
Head coach Bill Self
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – More than 200 media spent Tuesday morning inside Sprint Center in downtown Kansas City, Missouri, for the annual Big 12 Media Day with coaches and student-athletes to preview the upcoming men’s basketball season.
Kansas was represented by head coach Bill Self along with returning starters Devonte’ Graham and Svi Mykhailiuk as well as sophomore Malik Newman.
Kansas begins exhibition play against Pittsburg State on Tuesday, Oct. 31, at 7 p.m. in Allen Fieldhouse.
Below are transcribed quotes from when Self addressed the writers on the dais.
Big 12 Conference Men’s Basketball Media Day
Tuesday, October 24, 2017
THE MODERATOR: We are now joined by Kansas coach, Bill Self. Coach, welcome and your thoughts about the upcoming season?
BILL SELF: We’re excited to get started. I think we got an early jump a couple of days ago playing here in the Sprint Center, and that was a great event, and I know our players were excited to play. It was something that created a lot of energy around both programs, us and Missouri’s, and hopefully that will continue to be the case up until we open up in a couple of weeks. It’s going to be an exciting year without question, and of course in an unbelievable league once again.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Coach?
Q. Devonte’ Graham, you anticipated — I don’t know if you anticipated him coming back, but I know you encouraged guys to go that should go, but can you take us through the process of your own ups and downs of him coming back?
BILL SELF: I don’t know that there were any downs. The thing about Devonte’ Graham is he had every right to test the waters. He could have and certainly visiting with his mother quite a bit and Devonte’, you know, he likes college. He also wants to see if he can, you know, improve himself and his positioning much like Frank did last year, by having a big senior year. He could have been in the game to possibly be a draft pick this past year. But certainly, you know, he’s got a chance to come back and roll the dice and see if he can improve his position and at the same time get his degree. It wasn’t anything convincing him to come back. That was a situation in which he came to me and said I don’t think I need to — I’m a little confused. I need to think about it. He talked to his mom. We talked about it will a little bit and then he came back and said I think it’s in my best interest to stay.
Q. You talk about Kansas math. Is there an illustration of how different your job is from other places in the sport?
BILL SELF: Pressure is when you have to win games and your players aren’t quite as good. So that’s real pressure. You know, we’ve had our fair share of good guys but I made that as a joke when I first got the job because I remember going and speaking around the state and numerous fans would tell me, hey, this is going to be our year. This is going to be our year. And I’m like going, what about these last years? You had (Nick) Collison and (Kirk) Hinrich and (Drew) Gooden and now we are automatically supposed to be better after going to back-to-back Final Fours and that’s why I made the joke with Kansas math. And it’s a lot about this team, and a lot of people expect this team to be really, really good, which we have a chance. We are not close now, but you lose the National Player of the Year, and you lose, you know, a guy that’s arguably as good as anybody in the draft last year. That’s a lot to replace, but somehow people are so optimistic always that we should always be better.
Q. Just wondering in today’s landscape of the college game, did you find it odd at all that five players on the preseason team are all seniors this year?
BILL SELF: Yeah, that is kind of — I would say that’s odd. I don’t know if it will play out to be that way because I think we have some really good young players in our league but most of those preseason polls that are done, you know, people vote on what they know and they have obviously seen these guys coming back. I do think that’s odd and certainly that means our league is going to be older and certainly usually with older brings maturity and more consistency and usually better play. You can’t have a great league unless you have great young talent, that’s obvious and this league has that. But the foundation of every league and every team should be their veterans, so that’s probably good to see.
Q. Knowing Jamie Dixon like you know him, how hard of a charge would you say he’s making in this league?
BILL SELF: Well, Jamie, you know, and his staff, they did an unbelievable job at Pittsburgh, so him doing well isn’t a surprise to anybody that coaches in our league. We expect him to do well. TCU is — a lot of people thought that’s been a sleeping giant so to speak with the Metroplex and the proximity to guys that can make you better. It certainly appears to everybody in our league that Jamie and staff have maximized their time there, their brief time there to put together a product that certainly their team has a chance to win our league this year. I mean, they’re good! They were really good last year on how they finished and winning the NIT obviously gives them unbelievable momentum going forward and you return all five starters and you recruit guys that are probably good enough to start. That’s a pretty nice start! I think they’re there to stay. I don’t think TCU basketball is going to take a step backwards. We all take steps sideways sometimes based on personnel and things that go on, but TCU is going to be a force in our league for as long as he’s there.
Q. Bill, what level of concern do you have about your depth?
BILL SELF: A lot. You know, we played eight guys the other day because we only have eight guys on scholarship that are eligible to play. So we have four guys sitting out. So, yes, I’m concerned. We get one more Christmas, but primarily concerned inside. If an injury or major foul problems can obviously put you behind the eight ball, not only for one game but for the long term. So that is a major concern. Last year obviously we were very thin up front as well after Udoka went down, and this year I’m not sure that we could sustain another injury like that and still have a chance to have a great season. So depth is certainly a concern. Eight is plenty as long as you’re healthy, but whenever injuries start occurring or peak guys start wearing down, it’s a concern.
Q. Devonte’ Graham, you might have used the term earlier is him becoming the face of the program and can you contrast his demeanor with Frank’s?
BILL SELF: Devonte’ is the face of our program. There is no question about it, probably as much right now as anybody we’ve had. Even with Frank last year we still have Devonte’ or we had Landen or we still have Josh or whatnot. But this year coming in, Billy is a talented guy, but he doesn’t come in with the same hype as what some of our other guys have had in the past, and Devonte’ has been a pretty consistent performer for three years. But in order for us to be really, really good he has to play at an All-American type level for us, and we think he’s very capable of doing that and certainly he’s got the personality that will certainly draw people to him by watching him play.
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