Self previews Sunday's exhibition and blue blood matchups
LAWRENCE, Kan. — Kansas basketball head coach Bill Self, freshman forward Mitch Lightfoot and junior guard Devonte’ Graham met with members of the media as the Jayhawks prepare for their second exhibition game against Emporia State on Sunday, Nov. 6 (7 p.m., JTV/ESPN3).
Q. How have your guys responded after the first exhibition the last couple days?
COACH SELF: Well, we’ve only had one practice; we practiced yesterday and it was a pretty spirited practice. We’ll take off today by rule and then we’ll practice Friday, Saturday, play Sunday, practice Monday. And then we’ll leave on Tuesday and obviously not practice on Tuesday, so we’ve only got, what is that, just three practice days left before we take off?
Q. Is that the last one you have to sit out, today?
COACH SELF: Well, we’ll sit out today and then we’ll sit out the travel day on Tuesday. We need to take both off in order to get in our 12 days.
Q. What did the film from the exhibition game vs. Washburn show you?
COACH SELF: I think we’re a pretty poor rebounding team right now, and I don’t think we’re very explosive going after the ball. We had two guys get the ball, rebound — two guys actually got a rebound the other night that was within one foot of the rim and that was Frank (Mason III) and Devonte’ (Graham). Nobody else got a rebound within one foot of the rim.
So that tells you right there that guys aren’t really exploding and going after the ball, kind of waiting for the ball to come to them. That’s something we can definitely improve on and get better at, but certainly our big guys and Josh (Jackson) and Lagerald (Vick) more so than anybody. They have got to rebound the ball better.
Q. Spirited at your request or the veterans’ request?
COACH SELF: Practice yesterday? I don’t think it was at anybody’s request. I think the guys know that we didn’t play particularly well in a couple areas, and it was pretty spirited. I was fairly demanding and they responded pretty well to it.
Q. Do you think Udoka Azubuike had foul problems?
COACH SELF: I don’t think he’ll foul out in eight minutes every game, but I do think there’s a chance. He got a bum whistle on a couple of those. The thing about Dok, if he bumps you, it automatically displaces you and gives the appearance of a foul where a lot of that is just incidental contact.
But I do think that was a good teaching tool for him to understand how important it is to play your man before he catches it, and certainly be able to move your feet and not put yourself in bad positions or in as many bad positions.
Q. You’ve got these exhibition games here, but have you started on Indiana yet?
COACH SELF: We have as a staff. I personally have not. They played an exhibition game — I want to say they played on Tuesday, as well, if I’m not mistaken and I believe they have one more, but I don’t think they are scrimmaging.
But I’ll watch and certainly have added clips done from the end of the season last year and their exhibition game or games that we have. But I’ll get on that this weekend so really beginning Friday. Just to be real clear, we’ll start working on some things that we anticipate Indiana doing a little bit Friday, a little bit Saturday. And then beginning Monday, that will be all we’ll talk about besides trying to improve ourselves.
Q. You mentioned improving the rebounding. Do you feel like that area can take a big jump in that short amount of time? You’ve got nine days now, eight days.
COACH SELF: I think that’s a good question because I don’t think you can just turn the switch on and automatically get a lot better at a lot of things.
But it’s something that we have actually labored the entire preseason getting our guys to — big guys, especially — to look athletic and go after the ball.
So I think that we will get better on it. That’s on me to do a much better job of demanding it and emphasizing it more, but I don’t think we can really get worse at that particular aspect after watching the tape.
Q. (Lagerald) Vick’s had some good off-season reviews. When he’s playing well — what is he, I guess?
COACH SELF: He’s best athlete. He’s quickest with length and he should be a guy that steals us extra possessions, but he didn’t play like himself the other night, either. He’s our best offensive rebounder and gets zero. I don’t know if he had a steal or a deflection. Those are things that he can do. It wasn’t that we didn’t try. We tried. We just weren’t in the right spots and probably just not quite as aggressive, in attack mode, as what we should be going after the ball.
So I would anticipate him being maybe our most aggressive guy as far as creating havoc, and he didn’t do that the other night, and he’s very capable of doing that.
Q. Were you surprised Devonte’ (Graham) was a little quiet?
COACH SELF: Watching the tape, I thought Devonte’ tried pretty hard defensively. I don’t think he played great, but I don’t think he was bad.
I think sometimes in games, sometimes guys get more opportunities to make plays than others and I didn’t think the other night he had a ton of opportunities but he only had one turnover, I believe. He didn’t get a lot of shots, and certainly was careless defensively and (there are) some things that we can certainly improve on, but I don’t think he was poor. I just don’t think he really ever got into much rhythm.
Q. In the situation in the second half, when Josh (Jackson) started to be more aggressive and took over, do you want Devonte’ to do similar things, find more shots for himself?
COACH SELF: In some situations, I would say yes. But Josh, the way he scored in the second half, is different than the way Devonte’ will score. Devonte’ will score more off two feet shooting the basketball, where Josh got the majority of his baskets slashing to the rim and things like that.
So whatever the situation calls, for but I don’t think that’s as much Devonte’s game as it is shooting the ball.
Q. Are you still trying to figure out what the best fit is for Josh offensively or what you can do offensively? Are you still trying to figure that piece out right now?
COACH SELF: I would say yes, but the reality of it is he’s going to be a good three-point shooter, but he’s not going to be probably Svi (Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk) or Brannen Green, or maybe even Frank or Devonte’ this year because he’s a year or two younger.
But he can’t play to that. That’s not what he should play to this year. He should let the other thing set that up, as opposed to that setting other things up. He needs to be a junkyard dog. He needed to be an extra possessions, offensive rebounding guy; a guy that creates points in transition.
I’ve said all along, he could score 12 points a game and dominate a game, but he’s got to do more things to get us easy baskets. And at times the other night in the second half, I thought he did some good things. But I even still thought the way he scored the other night, against Washburn, won’t be how he would score against Indiana.
I think that there’s got to be more explosive, more straight-line drives, more athletic-type plays, although he did fine the other night in the second half. I still think there’s an aggressive mindset that he can definitely play with more of than what he did the other night.
Q. Was that because he was trying to run the offense and to be to be aggressive at the same time?
COACH SELF: There was not that much offense to run. I mean, we didn’t run one play. We didn’t do anything the other night.
If you have to think in order to do what we want to you do the other night, then we’re probably a little bit behind, because we didn’t do anything. I mean, all you’ve got to do is get in the right spots and we’ve been working on that for more than a month.
I don’t think that’s the reason why, but I do think he can get hesitant sometimes when he’s used to just catching and doing whatever. He can hold it if he wants to. He can shoot it if he wants to, and the way that we play, he’s got to become probably more of a ball mover and then play off of bad closeouts and things like that than maybe what he’s had to in the past.
Q. Can you talk about some of your times going up against Indiana, their tradition and kind of what they mean as a program?
COACH SELF: I haven’t had a chance to play them that many times, I think five or six is all. But when we were in the league, and of course when I got there, Coach (Bob) Knight was still coaching, and then that fall is when he was no longer the coach.
So I didn’t have a chance to coach against Coach Knight while he was at Indiana. When you talk about historic programs, they are certainly going to be in the top four or five nationally when you talk about winning and championships and those sorts of very good things. Tom (Crean) has done a really good job. They have got that thing going, and it’s rolling and they are recruiting very, very well.
But I think Indiana should be a game, or is a type of game that we should try to schedule each year; whether it’s Kentucky or Duke or Michigan State, which we obviously have a chance to play in the Champions Classic, one of those each year, or an SEC Challenge Game, which could be kind of a traditional-type game.
But I think to get a couple of bluebloods to play, I think will be a great game. It’s one that I know that Larry (Keating) and I have talked about, it’s a game that I think would be good for both universities moving forward, if they are open to it. I don’t know what their interest level is on that, but I do think it would be a good game.
Playing in Assembly Hall when I was at Illinois was the hardest place to play in the Big Ten, when I was there. Everybody talks about other places and they are great, but on the nights that we played, that was the toughest; and in large part, the year we played them was one of the times over there they went to the National Championship and they were 16-of-21 from three, their guards were, during the game. That maybe was one reason why the building was jumping a little bit. But we had some really competitive games with those guys.
Q. You have high expectations of Joel (Embiid, former Kansas player), but he’s averaging 17 points a game right now (in the NBA). Did you expect him to make that kind of impact that quick?
COACH SELF: I think he’s great. I mean, he’s great. He’s going to be one of the best bigs in the league this year. He may not make the All-Star Game in large part because he’s not going to play enough games or enough minutes, but he’s great.
At the end of the season, you put his production per minute, he’ll probably be comparable to the very best in the NBA at that particular position, so he just needs to stay healthy. I saw last night, if I’m not mistaken, was the second night of a back-to-back in which his team played Charlotte and he didn’t play. He didn’t suit. They are still going to monitor his minutes and those things.
But nothing that he does on a basketball court will surprise me, because I think he can do just about anything.
Q. What do you expect to be the biggest difference for your team Sunday?
COACH SELF: Hopefully (they will) pay attention to detail better. We’ll rebound it better. It wasn’t that we didn’t play hard the other night. It’s just that we didn’t play alert, and we played passive and soft at times. But it wasn’t that we didn’t try. I watched the tape. We looked quick.
We did some things, but we just didn’t put ourselves in the right position as much. And I would like to see us take a lot more pride in our first two steps in defensive transition, getting in motion with the ball earlier, big guys sprinting back so that way they can help guard the ball in transition.
There’s so many things like that that we didn’t do the other night that are correctible that we’ve got to get good at real fast.
Q. Josh played way better in the second half —
COACH SELF: Yeah, he was way better second half. But still, to me, a lot of times, you guys look at points as a determining factor if you play well or not, and I don’t as much. But obviously that’s part of the equation, but certainly I think that — and he’d be the first to tell you.
I think he was nervous. The first time he catches the ball, he goes once against three, makes a spin move, turns it over. That’s not great for confidence, when you just start.
I think he probably started going south a little bit early and it probably was something that he didn’t anticipate and a little bit hard to deal with. But I thought he did a lot better in the second half, so there was some marked improvement there.
Q. Can he help you with rebounding?
COACH SELF: He’d better. That’s what he does. He’s a 6-8, 6-9 with his hair, 6-7 maybe without. But that’s what he is. He’s a rebounder, extra-possession guy. That’s what he’s known to be. So he’s got to do more of that.
Q. I think he had three in the first seven or eight minutes (of the second half) and he finished with 14. Do you think it was a product of, now I’ve got to focus on my offense?
COACH SELF: No. See, if that’s the mindset, then we’re all screwed up, because the mindset should be to worry about the things that are important and then the offense will take care of itself.
When you put so much pressure on yourself offensively, because I’ve got to do this or I’ve got to make this shot, you’re going to not do the things that really matter. Granted, you’ve got to score points to win, I know that.
We get so hung up on what we do when we have the ball. Josh played 19 minutes the other day. He probably actually had the ball maybe a total of one minute or a minute and a half. What did he do the other 17 minutes that he didn’t actually touch the ball?
Those are the things that we have to get better at and worry about because when you worry about the right things — which I’m not saying he’s not — but I’m just saying in that when you worry about the right things, the other things come a lot more naturally and there’s not nearly as much pressure to maybe go out and show what you can do.
I thought there was some of that the other night; the guys wanted to do well so badly that maybe they didn’t rely on the other guys to help them do well. So we can improve on that.
Q. Landen Lucas got the two quick ones (fouls) the other night, Udoka hasn’t played a ton, (Dwight) Coleby is fitting in. Does he (Lucas) have to stay away from that stuff for awhile?
COACH SELF: I think so. We’re going to play three bigs for the most part, and then we’ll go small. Dwight may play some, and they will play some. But the core of the team will be those eight guys probably playing the majority of the minutes, at least starting out.
And Dok will probably be the guy, obviously, with the least experience out of those eight, because he’s very green. I actually thought Udoka did some good things the other night. I thought he looked pretty good.
He’s just got to get where he just understands how to put himself in a better position on the court to maybe eliminate some of the things that he may do fouling. If he steps up the floor, maybe he doesn’t give a guard to get ahead of steam and drive it at him because if a guard drives it at him and he slides, can’t stay in front of him as well, so it’s going to be a foul if there’s contact.
(There are) Just some things like that that he’ll get better at, but I thought he actually did pretty good the other night in limited minutes.
Q. What did you think of his conditioning?
COACH SELF: Well, he only played nine minutes, or eight. I guess he fouled out in eight. So if he had of played nine, maybe I could comment better to it. I thought it was okay, but not great.
Of all our guys, he would be the one that would probably labor playing five or six straight minutes, but I don’t think his conditioning is bad. I’m so proud of him, how far he’s come in a short amount of time, and it’s going to continue to get better.
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