Self talks Aggies, Azubuike’s health at weekly presser

LAWRENCE, Kan. – Kansas head coach Bill Self previewed his team’s upcoming contest against New Mexico State in Kansas City during his weekly press conference Thursday afternoon inside Allen Fieldhouse. Self discussed the health status of recently injured Jayhawk Udoka Azubuike and when he expects the junior to return to action. He also talked on how his squad will move forward in the meantime with a four-guard lineup.
A video of the press conference is available on ESPN+ and a full transcript is below.
On Devon Dotson making the transition from high school to college:
“I don’t know if there’s been anything in particular. He’s been a sponge. The opportunity presented itself perfectly when we lost Devonte’ (Graham) last year. He’s fought through competition, because certainly there’s been competition there. We could’ve started Marcus (Garrett) or Charlie (Moore) at that spot too. The biggest thing is, I think he’s just having fun and competing and he’s certainly worried about the right things and his play reflects that.”
On coaching David McCormack:
“He just needs time. This is not a knock at all to anyone who comes in, Cole Aldrich kind of went through the same thing, we’ve had some pretty good players that have gone through the same thing that David is. David is going to be a really good player and he is a good player now, but he’s going to be a rally good player. He just needs time. We didn’t expect David to come in and dominate as a freshman and with Doke (Udoka Azubuike), if he isn’t in foul trouble or he’s healthy, then you know that his (McCormack’s) opportunities would be limited but you have to look long range. Certainly, I think, he is going to be a really good player for us, but he does need probably some time in the games to be able to play through some mistakes and with our schedule, and how we’ve been unable to separate ourselves in games, that’s been pretty hard to do. I would much rather have to turn a guy down than to turn a guy up, there’s no question about that. His motor is good, it’s really good.”
On what McCormack needs to key in on:
“I would just make easy plays, defend and rebound, and try to get angles and score in close. Sometimes I think his thoughts are right, I mean he wants to make the rights plays. You haven’t seen it in the games but we’ve seen it in practice more, he’ll make some pretty careless plays and he gets sped up, obviously, around the basket. I just think he needs to keep doing what he’s doing. Run defense, rebound, and pay attention to scout report, things like that can help us. He doesn’t have to be a prolific scorer for him to help us.”
On if Mitch Lightfoot will play a bigger role with Azubuike out:
“Mitch or David, one of the two for sure. One of the things that is a little bit different is, the game the other night was different, they (Wofford) traditionally played two bigs. Wofford played two bigs at all times and we were better playing four guards. You would think it would be just the opposite, if you play two bigs that would be a great opportunity for us to play two bigs. We defended them so much better with Marcus (Garrett) on their big guy and so we’ll start him in that spot. We’ll make an adjustment behind that on how it goes but I have confidence on Marcus defending the foreman. We may need to trap the post or do things like that but I think that’s good for us.”
On what makes Marcus Garrett such a strong defender:
“There are a lot of things. He’s got a good size, he’s got long arms, physically, but he is very, very smart. As far as IQ and understanding the game on the defensive side, he’s right up there with the best we’ve ever had. He’s tough and he’s strong and he pays attention to scout report so he knows when to show, when not to show, when to front, when to empty. He just does a better job than I would say a majority of the college players out there, you know earlier in his career. He does have a great feel, defensively.”
On depth without Azubuike:
“We go from being a really deep team inside, to now we don’t have much depth at all because you not only have Doke out, but you have Silvio (De Sousa) out too. We do have more options. Last year, if Doke went out, for almost half the season we didn’t have Silvio either, so it was just Mitch (Lightfoot) so if Mitch got two fouls in the first ten minutes, it was like ‘what are we going to do’ and we don’t have that this year. Even if we don’t play as big, the percentage of the time, we have enough bigs that we have a backup for a backup, which is nice to have, that we didn’t have last year.”
On the tough nonconference schedule:
“We’ve played a great schedule. We played Stanford on probably their best day, which is good for us, and we didn’t play well defensively at all but we hung in there. The Wofford game the other night, considering Doke and Lagerald (Vick) don’t scratch, and you win like that and you actually play better, without Lagerald in the game, I think those are all positive signs. I think those are all positive signs. We played good against Wofford, you don’t turn it over, you defend for 40 minutes, they obviously did a better job on the glass, which I think we can correct some of that, maybe not all of it if we play small. I thought we did some really good things against Wofford, even though the score didn’t really indicate it early on. That run we had there in the second half was pretty impressive and we still didn’t make shots. You go on a 27-0 run against a really good team and don’t make any shots, at least from behind the arch, so I thought that was a good sign.”
On Dedric Lawson leading in points, rebounds, and assists:
“I think it was expected. He is a guy that just has a way to put up numbers. You can look at him and say ‘He didn’t play very good’, and he had 23 (points), 14 (rebounds), and 5 (assists). He just has a way to put up numbers. A lot of guys you can say ‘He played great today’ and he has eight points, six rebounds, and three assists. He just does it, you know, which is something that we knew he was going to do and certainly capable of doing. I still think he’s getting his legs under him too. He hasn’t shot it well yet. I think his numbers, I would assume, would get better when he starts shooting the ball like he’s capable of shooting.”
On Dedric Lawson’s 3-point shooting:
“I told him the other day, he needs to shoot more. Now that Doke’s not in the game, maybe not a lot more. He needs to be close to the basket, but I do think, in order for us to run good offense over time, we need to have more guys be able to stretch it and he’s certainly one of those guys.”
On what the team did differently on defense against Wofford:
“It was unbelievable, I thought we played harder. I thought we played with more energy, we engaged them as soon as they crossed half court rather than 3-point line. I thought they caught it a step further out a vast majority of the possessions as opposed to catching on the line and now the shot fake becomes a factor. Playing harder is probably not the right word, I would say playing with more energy and playing more aggressively, maybe more in attack mode when we were on defense whereas I think we just let people do what they want to do against us, but that wasn’t the case the other night. Our guys guarded from the opening tip.”
On New Mexico State:
“I’ve known (NMSU head coach) Chris (Jans) a long time. We go way back and if you look at them, they’re averaging well over 80 (points) and their leading scorer is averaging 11 something. They’ve got about 10 guys scoring points so they’re obviously balance. Their scorers are impressive but their last one is really impressive to do what they did to New Mexico, beat them by 35 (points), in a rival game. That’s pretty impressive. They’ve only lost once and I think that was to Saint Mary’s and Saint Mary’s has a really good ball club. They’ll be good. Our schedule is one in which there is no let-ups, whatsoever.”
On playing schools that are picked to win their leagues:
“I think it is better for your team to play good teams in your non-conference. The key to having a good non-conference resume is you have to beat some high-level teams away from your home. We have been fortunate to have done that a couple of times. But, the reality of what makes your schedule is you are guaranteed games. Those games that you don’t have to return to game and how good those teams are and what kind of year they are going to have, that is what makes your RPI, net moving forward. Trying to get as many quality wins in there as possible. People may not look at Wofford as being a quality win. You could ask a lot of folks, South Carolina, Carolina, over the last couple of years how good is Wofford and they would say they are the best kept secret around. So, that was a really good win the other day.”
On the schedule having no let-ups:
“I do think that it prepares you for league without question. But the other thing is I do think it would be nice not to sweat every single moment. And that is not going to happen before Christmas for us, so it would be nice. And I am not saying it will happen after Christmas, but I am saying if you look at our immediate schedule and go two weeks at a time, there is not a lot time to breathe from a standpoint where you go in and say if we just really try hard today, we are going to be okay. That has not been the way it has been with us. I think it is good with young kids, but I also think it doesn’t allow guys like David the opportunity to play as much as what we would be able to play if it wasn’t a one, two or three possession game.”
On the value of playing at Sprint Center:
“We haven’t played well in this game over there. We played well in the Sprint Center in the tournament but of all the games, I think we have only lost two or three games in the tournament ever over there, but as far as a regular season game this is the game that we struggle with the most. Usually, it is a good crowd, no students, not quite the same atmosphere as it is at home. But the value is I do think it is great to play in a place where you play in the tournament. I do. And I am sure K-State feels the same way and I bet that is why they play a game there too. I actually like the game a lot and last year we obviously played very poorly over there and so we will remind our guys about that. But this will be a hard game and certainly one that should be fun to play in. They are going to get after you and this is going to be a fast-paced game.”
On if he knows the identity the team yet:
“I have a better sense of what it could be. I don’t think we are there yet, but I do have a better sense of what it could be. I really think that we could be pretty good defensively. I really do. And I really think there is some things about us offensively that we are always going to be inconsistent. But if the other team doesn’t score then you are probably going to be okay. And that is the mindset that we need to get, and we don’t have it yet but hopefully the other night was a step in that direction.”
On who is catching his eye around the league thus far:
“You know I haven’t followed it as close in terms of watching it. I try to watch a couple of games, bits and pieces, last night while I was traveling. I think Texas Tech, you knew they would be good because they have a lot of momentum right now, but they are a really good team. I believe that K-State is going to have a terrific year. That is no surprise to anyone. I say the two teams that have been the biggest surprise to me from a positive standpoint are Iowa State, because they are missing four dudes and they are still beating people. And those four dudes, two or three of them are going to start so they are going to be terrific. And then Oklahoma. Oklahoma has a couple of big road wins, and they beat Notre Dame the other day, that is impressive. So, I would say to me Tech and Oklahoma and Iowa State to me have been the most pleasant surprises to what the preseason predictions said.”
On the comfort level of four guard lineups:
“I love it. I asked the team the other day what the biggest difference is between this year’s team and last years. And K.J. (Lawson) said it. He said last year’s team could bail out the offense by just jumping up and making a three whereas this year’s team has been inconsistent except for one player in doing that. I think playing four guards is great, but you are going to have to be making shots when you play four guards. But I actually feel as comfortable coaching a small team as much as a big team, which I have done basically my entire career. But the last couple of years have taught me a lot and I think we are comfortable either way.”
On if he ever thought the comfort level would get there for small teams:
“I think when you have Josh at the four and Svi (Mykhailiuk) at the four your comfort level rises quite a bit. Yeah, I did. The biggest key to me was how we are going to guard defensively. Sometimes it is easier to guard with four guards because you can switch more.”
On how long they think Azubuike will be out:
“I haven’t talked to him today, but he seems to have good spirits. I don’t think he is excited about it. He is not going to put any weight on it, or very little weight on it, the next couple of days. But I don’t see any reason why he can’t be up and at’em by the end of the weekend. And by that, I mean walking in a boot and being active and that kind of stuff. But it is going to be extended. I said when it happened, and I don’t know anything scientifically, if he is 100 percent by conference that would be okay. I am not saying he would have to miss everything up until that point but just to be confident and 100 percent, I don’t think that would be a bad wish.”
On what makes him think his team could have a high defensive ceiling:
“Really I haven’t seen much besides what I saw the other night. I think we can pressure the ball. We have potential to be very active and certainly I think we are starting to understand the point of team concept and that kind of stuff. I didn’t say we are good defensively right now because we are not, I think we are getting better. And I say that after a few days ago where we just absolutely stunk. But I do say that we do have potential there. When we first started watching them this summer and in the early parts of fall that is what we all thought. This team could be really good defensively. I just think with Devon and with Quinten, and maybe Marcus not being out there as much with Charlie, I don’t think there has been much activity at all compared to what I saw the other night. And a lot of that is just confidence and trust in your feet and that kind of stuff. We are long enough so I don’t see why we couldn’t be really good defensively.”
On the perimeter defenders being good enough to where you don’t need rim protection:
“They better be. But I think they are good enough. But we are going to get beat some and they are going to force help. Our best rim protector right now without question is Mitch. But we need to do a better job of keeping them out of the pain and still applying some pressure. I just don’t think that this team’s mindset, if we just play between you and the basket and allow you to do what you want to do then I don’t think that is a formula for success for us.”



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