Jayhawks practice, meet with media in Wichita
WICHITA, Kan. – Kansas basketball made its final preparations for the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Wednesday with a closed practice in the morning and an open practice in the afternoon at INTRUST Bank Arena.
Prior to the open practice, which arena officials announced was attended by an estimated 13,000 fans, the Jayhawks met with members of the media during an open locker room availability and a press conference featuring Bill Self, Devonte’ Graham and Lagerald Vick.
A complete transcript of the press conference is available below.
No. 1 seed Kansas faces No. 16 seed Penn on Thursday at 1 p.m. on TBS.
THE MODERATOR: Delighted to have with us Kansas University head coach Bill Self, welcome to Wichita, and the challenges Penn presents tomorrow.
COACH SELF: First of all, we’re proud and happy to be here, to be in the tournament. It’s definitely a reward for the teams that have had outstanding seasons, so we’re proud to be one of them, and certainly happy to be in Wichita. Certainly not home, but it’s hopefully home away from home. So we’re excited about that. We know that we have a very difficult draw with Penn. My personal opinion is they don’t resemble a 16 seed at all. Steve’s done a great job. They’re sound, they can shoot. They’re physical. They can play through their bigs, and, of course, they got some depth, too. So — and they can guard. So we know that they pose some issues for us if we don’t come ready to play, and they certainly have our attention.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for the coach, please raise your hand.
Q. Kind of a random question. When you win the league every year and when you go to the tournament every year, how do you make it not normal, if that makes sense?
COACH SELF: You know, I think that’s a good question. I think that, first of all, the staff, it’s hard to do that with the staff. With the players it’s not because there’s turnover. So like with our team right now, you know, this is really Mitch’s first time to play in the tournament. This is Silvio’s first time. This is obviously Malik’s first time to play in the tournament. This would be Udoka’s first time to play in the tournament if he’s able to play and first time Lagerald has had a substantial role. So with the players, I do think it’s relatively new, but what we try to emphasize is this is the reward, and certainly you’ve listened to my rhetoric all year long, me jumping you isn’t going to change anything now, just go out and have fun and let’s enjoy the moment and let’s play with joy and passion and play with a free mind.
Q. Coach, what is Udoka’s status and has he been able to practice at all this week?
COACH SELF: Dok’s been on the floor Sunday, Monday and Tuesday — no. I’m sorry. Monday,
Tuesday and today. He’s been on the floor. Monday and Tuesday was strictly non-contact. Today was limited contact, went four possessions. We feel and the docs feel that he’s making unbelievable progress. We do not want to have a setback. His availability tomorrow will probably be a game-time decision, but certainly we feel he’s getting better each day, and each day has certainly played out to be a pretty big improvement from a rehab standpoint. So I’m optimistic he can get in the game tomorrow. I’m not overly optimistic he can play significant minutes or be — you know, be a real positive force inside for us. But I do think that he can be out there, and if he can play at 80 percent or 70 percent and be confident, we may use him a few minutes. But that 70 percent tomorrow could be 90 percent or 85 percent by Friday and 90 percent by Saturday if we’re fortunate enough to win.
Q. Coach, you had your last hard practice this morning and then last chance to install, and tomorrow you’re facing a team that’s very structured and will try to limit your possessions. Your thoughts on that?
COACH SELF: Well, there’s no question, you know, we can say limit possessions, but Penn, if I’m not mistaken, is averaging 76 points a game. So they’re wanting to score. They’re wanting to get up and down. They’re sound defensively. So sometimes I think that opponents have longer possessions against them because they don’t give up easy shots on the first or second side. So our deal is we’ve still gotta play fast, but playing fast doesn’t mean shoot fast. Playing fast means move fast, move the ball fast, get the ball to the third side as fast as you can. And certainly defensively, you know, they are structured, but there’s a lot of freedom within their structure, too. And we know the bigs are unbelievable passers and then they got four guys around a big that can always shoot. So obviously that’ll pose problems for anybody if they’re not prepared.
Q. Coach, you’ve obviously seen firsthand the talent that comes out of Wichita. You know what Coach Marshall has got going on here and now this. Can you talk about your perception of Wichita as a basketball city?
COACH SELF: Well, I mean, my perception of Wichita as a basketball city has been very, very high, going way back, you know. When you’re talking about Dreiling and Aubrey Sherrod and all those guys going back, there has been — did Ricky Ross grow up in Wichita? I mean, if I’m not mistaken — I can’t remember if he did — he did, didn’t he? And I can’t remember the bigs that — all the bigs off the top of my head. But this has been an unbelievable basketball town over time. And certainly, you know, us recruiting Perry, Perry was obviously one of the best players that we’ve had in my tenure at Kansas, and he was from Wichita. And with the success that Wichita State’s had, which is incredible, certainly has put Wichita on the map nationally, not just with recruiting but with quality of play here in town. So you know, I think that — I think that Kansas as a whole, when you have three Division I schools and all three have done as well as they’ve done, I think it’s made a pretty good name for basketball in our state. Although, most of the kids that play at the three universities are not local kids. Most of them are probably from somewhere, another state. But I think Wichita’s got a terrific name nationally basketball-wise, especially if you go back to the history of the guys that played here, Darnell and everybody else.
Q. Devonte’ compared the 1 seed tournament loss to a 16 seed kind of like your Big 12 streak. Do you see a parallel just kind of in the back of your mind that you don’t want to be the team to break a streak, that type of thing?
COACH SELF: Well, I think that that’s fair. I don’t see the parallel at all. But I think that that’s fair that guys could say that. I think every team that’s a 1 seed, you know, in the back of their mind would say, oh, geez, this hasn’t happened before, it can’t happen to us. I think that’s fair that somebody would say that. I think this is a little bit different this year because you can say 1 versus 16, but our players know after watching tape definitely not 16. So they have our attention. But once you get in the tournament, you should have to play well to advance. I mean, that’s the reality of it, and I believe that we’re prepared to do that.
Q. Bill, they are allowing 29 percent from the three, I think. Specifically what are you seeing on tape that allows them to be so successful?
COACH SELF: Well, I think — you know, I heard Steve talk, and he talked a lot about they’ve got some guys that can really guard the ball. So if you can stay in front of your man and guard the ball, it creates less dribble penetrations, which create less help situations and rotations, which you know, we kind of make a living off of that, you know, making the extra pass off of rotations and things like that. So from what I’ve seen is, you know, they guard the ball well, and certainly they don’t give — you know, even if you get up a three, it’s usually contested. So we’ve gotta do a good job of forcing help on the first side just to set up a second drive and force help on the second drive just to set up a third drive as opposed to thinking that we can attack them like we did West Virginia who put so much pressure on the ball that if you can get your shoulders past them, initially, you may can score on the first side. I don’t believe scoring on the first side will be that prevalent against Penn.
Q. Coach, we had a chance to talk with Lagerald before you came in. Could you offer some insights about what your expectations and hopes are for him in this tournament?
COACH SELF: Well, I think, you know, in order for us to have a chance to advance, we need to have all our best players playing well, and he’s certainly one of our best players. And I thought he played really well against West Virginia. I thought his activity level is good. He’s had some really good practices since then. And so I’m anticipating having a Lagerald that was — his activity level was similar to what it was a couple of months ago. I don’t think his activity level during league play was quite as good as it was before, and I think there’s reasons for that, and — but I think he’s on a serious uptick right now.
THE MODERATOR: Okay. If there are no other questions, best of luck tomorrow, Coach.
COACH SELF: Thank you. Appreciate it.
THE MODERATOR: We have student-athletes from Kansas University. We’ll take questions at this time.
Q. For either of you two guys, what have you heard about Penn? And there’s a lot of talk that this could be a more competitive 1-16 game than usual. People think they were underseeded. Have you heard any of that talk, and what are your thoughts on them?
LAGERALD VICK: Yeah. Been hearing a lot of talk about it. You know, they tied the league, won their conference championship. So that’s all I got to say.
DEVONTE’ GRAHAM: Yeah. They’re a pretty good team, well rounded. They can play inside and out.
They made more threes than we do a game, so you know they can stretch the floor and shoot it. We just gotta come in focused like we do every game and try to jump on them from the start. And they play well without the ball, moving without the ball, backdoor cuts and things like that that we’ve been going over in practice.
And if we come in focused, you know, we’ll be good.
Q. You’ve been a 1 seed a few years. Have you ever had in the middle of the night a nightmare about being that first 1 seed to lose to a 16? And, if so, how did that go?
LAGERALD VICK: No. I don’t think I ever had no nightmare like that.
DEVONTE’ GRAHAM: I mean, you don’t really want to be that team that does it. You kind of have it in the back of your head. I feel like just thinking about being that first team to do it, kind of like being the team to break the streak, you know. It’s just one of those things that you kind of think about in the back of your head, but hopefully that doesn’t happen.
Q. Devonte’, could you take us through this week of preparation, how it’s been for you guys, what the attitude is, coming off that big performance on Saturday? Do you want to play off of that, or do you want to just put it in the past and forget about it? How do you move on from that?
DEVONTE’ GRAHAM: We just try and take that momentum we had and confidence that everybody got from this weekend and try to keep it going. I felt like we had pretty good days of practice, including this morning, and everybody’s just got that same confidence and Silvio and Mitch are still playing and practicing well, so we’re just feeding off that energy and trying to bring it into this tournament.
Q. Lagerald, could you share some thoughts about what your personal goals are for your performances in the tournament? What do you want to see from yourself?
LAGERALD VICK: Just being more aggressive. You know, taking more responsibility, just being a huge effect on the court and bringing more energy. Just continue doing the smaller things.
Q. Lagerald, you’ve been called the X factor because your ceiling is so high and what you can do. Just talk about what you think that means to you, and also if Devonte’ would talk about Lagerald being an X factor for Kansas in he tournament.
LAGERALD VICK: I would say I just feel like I do all the little things that people don’t always see or can comment or congratulations me on. I just feel like I bring the energy, person that can bring a lot of energy, and just do a lot of different things for the team and help us be successful.
DEVONTE’ GRAHAM: He just do a lot of things that a lot of us can’t do, basically. You know, his athleticism, guys like big Svi and Malik on the perimeter can’t do, putbacks, lobs, getting to the offensive glass. He can defend multiple positions, 1 through 4. So just being the X factor, when he bring that energy, he’s just kind of like a mismatch for a bigger guard, and then he kind of post up on little guards. So just when he energized and juiced up, he bring a lot to the table.
Q. Devonte’, you’re the guy that puts the lobs up for the bigs, for Lagerald, for everybody. Can you just talk about in the back of your head what are you thinking? What kind of lob you throw up to Lagerald as opposed to Udoka, as opposed to any other guys, Svi, because you’re doing all of them?
DEVONTE’ GRAHAM: You just gotta know your personnel. With Lagerald and Udoka, I feel like I can grow up anywhere and they’ll go get it and with Svi sometimes you might have to throw it a certain way or certain height just because his arms are so short. But no, you just gotta know your personnel and about how high the guys can jump and the timing of the jump and stuff like that.
Q. Devonte’, how is Udoka moving around this week?
DEVONTE’ GRAHAM: He’s been moving pretty good. His attitude has been great, getting treatment. Seen him running up and down this morning. He’s been trying to get in with us a little bit. And he said he was feeling good. But he’s been looking a lot better.
Q. Just to follow up on that, after the performance of especially Silvio, if you get few minutes or no minutes from Udoka, do you guys feel more comfortable about the big situation after what you saw on Saturday?
DEVONTE’ GRAHAM: Definitely. I feel like this weekend just gave us a lot more confidence with Mitch and Silvio, and it gave them a lot more confidence in themselves. So if we have them, that’ll be great, it’ll be a plus. If not, we just got that confidence in the team that we just won the Big 12 Championship with. So either way it goes, we’re going to have confidence in each other.
Q. Devonte’, you were named as a finalist for the Naismith Award yesterday. What is it like being up for a national honor, that type of thing?
DEVONTE’ GRAHAM: It’s an honor, you know. I don’t really know what to say right now, but it hasn’t really hit me yet. And it’s just, you know, you put in a lot of hard work, and it ended up paying off and people recognizing it. And I appreciate everybody who nominated me and voted for me and stuff like that. But that’s an individual award. You know, I’m more of a team guy. So I focus on the team and trying to get past this first game.
Q. Lagerald, could you kind of comment really quickly following up on that question, KU had a
National Player of the Year last year in Frank, and KU has a First Team All-American candidate and Player of the Year candidate. What are their styles? Can you sort of offer some insights on their styles of leadership?
LAGERALD VICK: Well, I came in as a freshman, and I had Frank and then — well, I had both of them, but Frank was, you know, he was a leader. He didn’t talk — well, he didn’t talk as much, but he talked to me, telling me things to do, you know, help us win, just the small things. And then just seeing him, you know, the growth in him and him telling me right from wrong, and now I got Devonte’, another huge leader. Devonte’, he talked more than Frank did, but the comparisons, I would say they’re kind of similar. But, you know, it’s just an honor playing with both of them. So I definitely appreciate, you know, playing with these two definitely.
Q. This is for both of you. Of course, we know your fans travel well no matter where you play, but still, to be here in Wichita where there’s a lot of support for KU basketball here, plus all your fans that are here, what’s it like to be able to play here in Wichita this close to home?
LAGERALD VICK: I kind of feel like it’s close to home, so I feel like we’ll have kind of home-court crowd. So it’ll definitely probably feel good.
DEVONTE’ GRAHAM: It’ll be great, you know. It’s just like having a home-court game. And been getting a lot of tweets and Snapchats and stuff from fans saying they can’t wait to see us practice. And it’s just great for people in Wichita who really don’t get to come out and see us. They get to come out and see us practice, and it’s like we’re playing right here at home for them. So it’ll just be great for the fans. And that’s the benefit of being a 1 seed, you get to play close to home.
Q. Gentlemen, you just had your last hard practice today, this morning, and obviously you’re going to have to work on defense because Penn limits your possession offensively and they shoot the ball pretty well. Philosophy going into this game, playing a structured team like Penn, who’s very disciplined?
LAGERALD VICK: Yeah, just moving the ball and, you know, carrying for others, and just continue playing Kansas basketball.
DEVONTE’ GRAHAM: Basically the same thing. Coach been emphasizing getting downhill. They pack it in, so you gotta have space and make plays for others. And they go under the screen, so everybody gotta be ready to shoot. And just play how we’ve been playing. Everybody gotta stay in attack mode.
THE MODERATOR: If there are no other questions, best of luck tomorrow, guys. Thank you very much.