Self talks Sun Devils, Big 12’s strength at weekly presser

LAWRENCE, Kan. – Kansas head coach Bill Self previewed his squads first true road game of the season, a Saturday night contest against No. 18/19 Arizona State, at his weekly press conference inside Allen Fieldhouse Thursday. Self also talked about the strength of the Big 12 as league play looms just two weeks away.
 
A video of the press conference is available on ESPN+ and a full transcript is below.
 
Head Coach Bill Self
On David McCormack helping the rotation:
“He hasn’t had a chance to play much at all. The thing I thought that was most encouraging about David the other night, and I actually mentioned this to David and he said that’s right, when he’s played, he’s always played in the first half and he’s sped up. He’s sped up in the first half offensively and he hasn’t had a chance to play much in the second half because all of our games have been close. The other day (vs. South Dakota) he played in the second half and he looked he was the most poised, slow-motion guy out there. That shows me he just need reps. He’s very important moving forward in so many areas. I see him definitely playing more. I know there are certain situations we maybe cannot do as much depending on matchups and things. But I definitely see him playing more and, certainly, Arizona State would be a nice way to start that because they are going to play bigger than most teams play.”
 
How Arizona State is different from last year’s team:
“They are different because last year they had those three little cats that could just go make plays and this year they are a lot bigger. They are obviously talented and athletic, probably more athletic than last year. We had such a hard time guarding the ball last year against them with their quickness and now we’re bigger and maybe not quite as quick and certainly they’re bigger. It will be two totally different teams playing against each other compared to what it was like last year.”
 
On David McCormack’s growth:
“To me his intellect is very, very good, very high. I think he really understands what we are trying to do to win. And I think that is hard to do sometimes when you are not playing very much. We’ve always known he has a motor and we’ve always known he can rebound the ball. He goes after the ball with two hands and things like that. I think his offensive skill set has definitely improved. He just gets sped up, left hand jump hooks outside the lane that are guarded, just things that get him excited and sped up. His pace is much better now than it was because as he can get sped up at times, he’s much slower in many ways even more than two or three weeks ago.”
 
On building schedules and playing on the road:
“I think the number of true road games is two. If you look at the schedule, you would understand why. Say you play two, then three neutral games at an exempt tournament, then you play the Champions (Classic), then you have different things going on and you’ve got to make your budget. I think the way you could look at it is, instead of saying how many true road games, (say) how many games away from home compared to how many that are at home. I think ours this year is 8-and-5 or 7-and-6, something like that. People would be saying, and you would be too, if we had already played Arizona State and Kentucky on the road with home games left, then you would say, oh geez, they have already been battle tested away from home. I think the timing of playing those two road games, being late, may not be the best but I still think two is the number. I would rather do them a little bit earlier.”
 
On Arizona State freshman Lugentz Dort:
“He’s a guard that is built like a safety. He’s really beyond his years physically. He was a highly recruited kid but I think what he’s been doing has been even a pleasant surprise to ASU, I can’t speak for them. He can be a lottery pick (in the NBA Draft) and here he is as a true freshman that probably wasn’t as projected as high as some of them out there. He can score from beyond the arc and he can certainly use his body and power to get to the hole. He’s really a good player. He’s like a Marcus Smart with skill. I mean, he’s a tough cat and I mean that in a sincere form a flattery because I love Marcus Smart. His competitiveness and strength and those things. I think there are some similarities like that but I do think he can shoot the ball at a pretty high clip, especially if he gets on a roll.”
 
On Dedric Lawson playing physically off balance early at home:
“If you go way back to Louisiana when he made a shot sitting on his butt. There have been stretches but I haven’t noticed that in the last several games of him maybe not having his legs under him. I think he’s much better with that.”
 
On how he will judge his team based on true road games:
“Just because you go on the road and win, doesn’t mean you conquered it or if you don’t win, you lost it. I think the statistics show it’s harder to win on the road but usually hard road games bring a tighter huddle, certainly bring a focus that is a little bit sharper than what it is when you think you’re comfortable even though you’re never really comfortable. I think we’ll learn some things from our team in this way and we need to play with a free mind with a sole purpose. I think it will be a great test for our guys to play a quality team like this. And they’re coming off a loss. They had a long road trip themselves, Georgia, then Vandy (Vanderbilt), and the game before that may have been Nevada. How about that three-game stretch and none of them at home? They’ll be amped up and ready to go.”
 
On Kansas’ defense:
“I was really encouraged after the Villanova game and not very happy at all after the South Dakota game. It wasn’t very good, at all. Whether we want to admit it or not as coaches, I do think there is something that when there is anticipation to play a game of magnitude or national implications, you approach it a lot differently than you do sometimes another game. I didn’t think our approach was close to the same for our South Dakota game as it was for the Villanova game. Against Villanova, I thought it was good, really good. Against South Dakota I didn’t feel that at all.”
 
On wanting more pressure defense:
“You can watch a lot of teams and a lot of teams don’t pressure hard but they pressure to a certain point on the floor. We’re not going to be a team that just picks up full court and does a lot of different things but we can make them feel us earlier in a possession or higher on the court than what we have at other times. If you let somebody be comfortable and initiate offense, usually, after it’s initiated, it’s hard to get it back. If you don’t start out in the right spots, you’re probably not going to end up in the right spot. If you make the guy catch it at 22 (feet) instead of 20, it may not seem like a big deal but you have just taken away a three-point shot and now you can play him as a driver or passer rather than brining him a shot fake or shot into play. I think we are doing a better job with that. Mental breakdowns, getting backdoored on timeouts, when that happens it’s usually done because they are trying to do what we ask them to do in some ways but it’s not the right time to do it. It’s ok in the middle of a possession to really get out and over play but if you know they are going to try to back cut you, maybe you kind of think about that before you overextend. I don’t think we quite got that yet.”
 
Little things that disappointed vs. South Dakota:
“Just because somebody makes a shot, doesn’t mean you played bad defense, just like if somebody missed a shot you played good defense. It’s a good or bad shot when it leaves their hand. There are a lot of times where we didn’t scramble very good. Without putting too much emphasis on that one game, I also know we played a little hungover too.”
 
More on defensive:
“You could say Devon (Dotson) is this and Devon is that. Devon can get much better off the ball. He’s good on the ball, no question. And you could say that others have shown flashes of doing things. You could say Q (Quentin Grimes) is doing a really good job of being sound and then you could say let’s get some more activity and then you could say Doke (Udoka Azubuike) has done a good job of this but you’ve got to block shots too Doke. I think that we’ve been okay but I don’t think we’ve put it together by any stretch.”
 
On Udoka Azubuike’s status for Saturday:
“I don’t know. He took yesterday off, expect for rehab and our team did as well. We just watched tape and shopped. I think Doke is going to try to do some things today in practice. I don’t know if it will be unlimited but I still think he will be doubtful for Saturday. Who knows? We’d like to get him out there if the docs say he is good to go.”
 
On the current state of the Big 12 Conference in men’s basketball:
“I got a kick out it with some of the so-called pundits saying this is going to be a ‘down’ year for the Big 12. We actually had a bad first week or so as a league as a whole. Since then, I read an article and it’s the number-one rated conference again. I think the Big Ten was two and the ACC was three. There have been some very pleasant surprises. Texas Tech, even though we knew they would be pretty good, they’ve been a very pleasant surprise and they’ve got huge game tonight against Duke. Oklahoma has been terrific. You knew they would be pretty good, but you didn’t know they would be terrific. There have been other teams that have been what everyone expected. I read something the other day that we are 20-10 against the other Power 6 leagues because we included the BIG EAST. (A) 20-10 (record), that’s terrific. That bodes well. First of all, that means everybody scheduled a good schedule and secondly, we’ve taken advantage of opportunities.”
 
On how much he has watch other Big 12 games so far this season:
“I have not watched much at all. It’s harder to watch during the nonconference (season), in large part because we all have ways to watch. A lot of times you go home and turn on ESPN or ESPN2 and watch whatever (game) is on.”
 
On what the best Christmas gift is that he has ever received:
“I’ve been pretty fortunate and blessed in many ways. I got an early Christmas gift last year, had a granddaughter, so that would take priority over everything.
 
“I’ve got things from when I was young that I can remember a little bit. I remember shooting a BB gun a lot on Christmas Day, which was pretty cool.
 
“As an adult the best way to have a good Christmas is to win your last game before Christmas. We’ve done it both ways. Christmas is much more pleasant doing it the right way. You’re going to have a good Christmas no matter what because you’ll be with family. But for everybody to have the best Christmas (this year) is to play well against Arizona State. We played Nevada the game before Christmas one year and they beat us. (Kirk) Snyder (Nevada, 2001-04) put on a show and they beat us by 15 or 20 (points) at Nevada. And at that time we didn’t know Nevada was any good and they ended up going to the Sweet 16. I remember how much I dreaded calling the players and their families, wishing them a Merry Christmas just because I didn’t want to talk to them at all and I knew they didn’t want to talk to me. It’s more fun (to make those) calls whenever you win.”
 
On if he has watched the recent Nevada vs. Arizona State game:
“I have watched the majority of that game. Arizona State controlled the game until midway in the second half and Nevada made some plays late. That was a coin-flip game.”
 
On Bobby Hurley’s rise at Arizona State:
“He can credit a lot of that to Kansas. They went from being a top-20 team last year to third in the country (by defeating Kansas). The rise, in large part, we contributed to that; so that’s not any good.
 
“That doesn’t surprise me at all. How could a guy, and his brother Danny, not be successful? (They were) Good athletes, good players, (who) grew up in an area where you had to fight and be tough every day. And maybe (were) coached by arguably one of the greatest coaches of all-time and (that coach) he also eats dinner with you every night (Bob Hurley). And then all the success he had as a player and also the heartache that he’s had as a player with the accident when he was with Sacramento. He’s been through a lot, but all those experiences prepared him to be a terrific coach.
 
“I think he’s very fiery. I do think they (ASU players) have taken on the personality of him. We saw that firsthand with Frank (Martin) at K-State. That team took on Frank’s personality and they had terrific success and this is a lot like that. Teams also take over personalities if a coach is really poised, the team seems to be poised in pressure situations. It works all ways, but I think this (ASU) team has his personality written all over it”
 
On if his own team takes on his personality ever:
“I would say sometimes, yes. I would say not as much this year. I’m not saying I have a great personality by any stretch, but I would say not this year as much as I would probably like. Kids are different and teams are different, but I do think over a course of time that part is prevalent in how a team plays and approaches the game.”
 
On KU’s practices getting better since the beginning of the season:
“I don’t think we are a great practice team, but I do think they have gotten better. I don’t think we are an awful practice team; I’m not saying that at all. We went through a period of time when we weren’t very good. I do think we have improved in that area.”
 
On if he believes the Kansas City Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes is the NFL’s MVP:
“As a fan of Mahomes, I would say, ‘Yes, positively.’ I haven’t studied it. Numbers-wise, heck yes. I also think going 2-0 the last two games would solidify it. I do believe he’s incredible. There are a couple other guys out there that if they finish strong and we (the Chiefs) don’t, then maybe people would look at it differently. But I can’t imagine (Drew) Brees or anybody (else) beating him out right now.”
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