Self talks West Virginia, Big 12 race at weekly presser

LAWRENCE, Kan. – Kansas head coach Bill Self met with members of the media Thursday for his weekly press conference inside Allen Fieldhouse. Self discussed his team’s position in the Big 12 standings with six games remaining as well as the recent contributions of KU’s freshman class.
A video of the press conference is available on ESPN+ and a full transcript is below.
On Devon Dotson and Ochai Agbaji and how they compare to past KU freshmen:
“They can both be pros, eventually. They have a ways to go, but I think their talent level and their intangibles will allow them to play at the highest level at some point in time. They are both, in my eyes, ahead of the schedule of where we thought they would be. We knew Devon would be our starting point guard this year. We felt that all along, but still he’s probably exceeded what we thought. But Ochai has come from left field and he’s definitely done more than we could have ever imagined, even though we knew he would be a good player.
If you stop and think about it, it was such a poor decision on my part to make that decision (to redshirt). He went along with it, with his family thinking he probably wouldn’t have very many opportunities to impact us on a gamely basis. Not waste age 23 when you could waste age 18. He would have never got to 23 anyway. I’m happy we brought him back out, but his performance and his confidence and maturity has really helped our team.”
On which of Agbaji’s attributes most impress him:
“Just his presence and intangibles. You recruit a lot of guys at this level and their experience has put them beyond their years. Ochai hasn’t had those experiences and he’s still beyond his years. I think that is the thing that probably impresses me as much as anything.”
On why he originially decided to redshirt Agbaji:
“It’s not anything negative against him. You have a guy that averaged 13 points a game at Cal (Charlie Moore). You have a guy that averaged 13 points a game at Memphis (K.J. Lawson). You’ve got Lagerald (Vick). You’ve got Marcus Garrett. You’ve got Q (Quentin Grimes). You’ve got Devon (Dotson) on what we thought we had going in. It wasn’t that he wasn’t good enough to play, it was a crowded house and there were no other candidates to not redshirt because the other ones already had. That was it. It didn’t have anything to do with him. It was the situation of it being a crowded house. At that time we had five bigs, so we were only going to play three guards. So if you have five bigs and only going to play three guards and I just listed seven. Of the seven, you know three are going to play 30 minutes a game, that only leaves 30 more minutes to divide amongst the other four. That would be the reasons.”
On what he saw from Agabji in practice during the early months of the season:
“He was playing every bit as good as everybody else in practice, but we already made that decision to tag him (a redshirt). I actually think he wanted that. He was happy with that. His family was happy with that because they understood his best ball was well down the road. But then, when things started to occur, we had to do something to jumpstart our team, that was really one thing we had left in the bag that we could that (pull his redshirt). And fortunately for us and him, it has worked out really well.”
On Agbaji’s rebounding:
“He tries. He rebounds the ball well, but he tries. There is a difference in going after balls outside your area and only rebounding balls in your area. There was one play against TCU where we go to shoot the ball and he’s not in the picture because he was back for defensive balance and he gets the rebound on the baseline, when he’s not in the picture when the ball is shot. Those are the things that make your team. It didn’t have anything to do with talent. Of course you have to have athletic ability but it has more to do with ‘want to’ and he has a want to in going to the glass, more so than our perimeter players right now. Marcus (Garrett) to an extent but really Ochai has become, without question, our best perimeter rebounder.”
On the first time he saw Devon Dotson and his initial thoughts:
“It would have been at an Under Armor event. He had a teammate on his team that we were also looking at, a fellow guard. But the first time I saw him, I just remember thinking fast, tough, under control. He’s got a disposition about him that is very attractive. He doesn’t play to anybody else, except to play to try to win that play or that possession. I think a lot of times, you don’t see that with young kids. A lot of times people play to making the great play or whatever and he doesn’t play that way. He plays to try to win that possession. He reminds me of Frank (Mason) a lot.”
On the areas the Dotson still needs to improve:
“I think it is the same thing you would say with a quarterback. I don’t think there is anybody that would say, ‘if you’re really talented as a freshman and you stay healthy, there’s no way he wouldn’t be better as a junior, if you are smart and study’. Him understanding how the pass to start the play is just as important as the pass to finish the play. One thing that he does not do a good job of is throwing the ball up (to a big). He’s not a good lob passer at all, at all but without Doke (Udoka Azubuike) we haven’t really had the guys to throw the lob to. I believe that is something he can get a lot better at. But Frank (Mason) and Devonte’ (Graham) were not good at that either when they first got here, and look how good they became at that. There are so many things, reading a ball screen, that he can get better at. He can read a ball screen for himself but now he’s starting to learn how to attack a guy to create opportunities for others. There a lot of things he’s got to go into to become a complete point guard. And it’s not all going to be done this year, but I guarantee that if he stays healthy he will much better in two years than he is today. He’s not going to be complete this year. He’s got too much room for growth.”
On if Dotson and Agbaji are the two who have stepped up the most in Vick’s absence:
“Safe to say. I think Dedric (Lawson) also. He didn’t have a great game against TCU but the game before he had 25 (points). Dedric is consistently putting up numbers even though some games are more impressive than others. But the two that have stepped up the most are Devon (Dotson) and Ochai (Agbaji). You can’t win without the Mitch (Lightfoot)’s and David (McCormack)’s intangibles and the things that K.J. (Lawson) did the other day. You can’t win without that, but you still have to have your producers. And they went from being those that help a team win to those guys that are counted on to help a team win. There is a big difference. They have produced as of late.”
On how the team’s dynamic will change when Marcus Garrett returns:
“It doesn’t because that is no Marcus’ role anyway. Marcus should blend in better than ever now because he should have more help around him.”
On how Marcus Garrett’s ankle injury is progressing:
“I haven’t spoken with him today but yesterday he felt a lot better but still doubtful. He will not go Saturday. That is the game plan as of today unless something changes after this morning. If we say can he go, it would be in practice rather than trying to go Saturday (in a game).”
On what to expect from West Virginia:
“He’ll (Bob Huggins) will have them ready. I believe there has become a natural rivalry between us both that has been positive for both programs. He’ll have them ready and our crowd will help prepare them because it will be so good, I would assume. We know we’re going to get a very good effort and good shot from them, there is no question. The last game they played (vs. Texas on Feb. 9), they didn’t play the way they had hoped, being at home but they were going through some crap and it may have been just that day, when there were so many changes in their roster. Sometimes those are hard to come back from in a short amount time, but usually when you have some time to practice and do some things, sometimes those things can become advantages for you too to make the team closer.”
On the adjustments he has had to make with the team:
“The other (adjustments) to me were easy, because if you go to a four-guard stretch, you know that is how you are going to play that year for the most part. The thing about it is, I don’t think that personnel deserves blame at all. I think sometimes, we as coaches, don’t put personnel in the best place. When you say that, ‘Ok, you’ve got five bigs,’ and you practice that way the entire time, so now we only have four, so we’ve got four bigs, and then you realize, because of injuries, you’re actually better playing four guards and you change how you play. But you know that is only temporary, and you get the bigs back and then you go back to who you are. Then you lose forever, so you have to go back to playing four guards. Then after you play four guards, you realize you don’t have enough guards to play, so you go back to two bigs, so it isn’t the personnel’s fault, it was more circumstances. I can’t say we won’t change again.
The reality of it is that when players settle in on, ‘Hey, this is my role, this is how we play, this is where I catch it,’ you know, that kind of stuff, then you are obviously better. But you know, we’ve got four guards. Four. It is hard to play four guards at once right now. But when Marcus comes back, there will be five and we will see maybe certain situations that we can play differently, but I think that is the key thing, is guys kind of figuring out, of how we are going to play and understanding their role in how we are going to play. And even defensively we’ve changed and it hasn’t been bad for us the past couple of games and we will see where we are at moving forward. But I kind of like where we’re at, I think it has been fun. I think the last week or so has been a lot of fun to be honest with you, just kind of tinkering and seeing guys develop right before your eyes.”
On if he felt when he went to four guards in previous years:
“Oh yeah, that was fun, because I have been doing it the same way for a long time. That was fun, it’s just not as much fun when you are doing it week-to-week, that’s just not as much fun.”
On the increase of dunks on the team recently:
“Yeah we are actually getting a couple now. That is a positive thing. Devon (Dotson) actually got one a couple of games ago, which was his first of the year. So yeah, we are going to do some things that are more athletic now I believe, at least playing around the rim with what we have.”
On defining K.J. Lawson’s role:
“He did a great job, he gave us 10 points in about 14 minutes (against TCU). He was very efficient. That is the guy where you have to make a decision: Do you want to play K.J. as a guard? I think we have to do that, play him as a guard. He is the one guy that kind of needs to be that utility infielder off the bench that can play first, second, third, because we don’t know what his role will be from game-to-game, but he was terrific the other night.”
On whether he defines K.J. Lawson as a guard:
“He can be. Size-wise and everything, he can be a guard. I’m not sure if you play him as a big and he is always the second-smallest big, and now he isn’t going to score on the block. That forces Dedric (Lawson) play away where he gets beat up more. At least our offense is a little bit better the last two games because Dedric has been away from the basket. Looking at it, playing the guard slot, the question now is playing defensively, who do you guard that are perimeter shooters and stuff.”
On Dedric Lawson moving away from the basket:
“I think it is going pretty well. I think he’s had a pretty good run. I thought the other night was the best we’ve done as far throwing it to him and getting him more easy shots than he has had in a long time, he just didn’t convert. He had three layups — where he is going to make two-out-of-three every day — to start the second half and we come away empty. But that is still good offense, but he just missed or they got blocked. But we have to continue to do that, to throw it to him, because I do think he is more comfortable facing the basket.”
On if there are disadvantages changing the line-up so late in the season:
“I don’t think it will be a disadvantage with Marcus (Garrett) because I believe Marcus can fit in anywhere. And I believe Marcus does not have to be a starter, and I believe he just wants to win, and he can rest Devon for a few minutes here and there. And there is a lot of things that will be positive by adding him because he’s kind of a utility guy as well. So, I am excited about getting him back. He is the one guy that we have lost that hasn’t been good for us at all. But it has also given some other guys some opportunities you know and their opportunities make them better and that’ll make us that much stronger when we get him back.”
On if there is a date in the season when he can’t change the line-up anymore:
“I would say you are right on point on that, but I never thought about a date. And I wouldn’t say that there couldn’t be changes after that point. Because at that point in time, games are magnified and your season becomes more important. You want to do everything you can to win, if you feel like it enhances your chance to win you know you would certainly make some changes. Just because a guy is on the (disabled list) for two months and he leads the league in home runs and RBIs, I’m not sure we wouldn’t try and plug him back in. So, I am not saying that we have guys that lead the country in home runs and RBIs but we have some guys that certainly have impacted our program in a good way.”
On if there is a change in Lagerald Vick’s status:
“No. No reports on that at all.”
On if he has made a conscious effort to have his team shoot more threes:
“No, but we will shoot more threes if Dedric plays away from the basket, because that is another guy that can shoot a three away from the basket. We’ve shot more, but I do believe that Dedric has contributed that because he tries shooting four or five a game himself now, where he was probably averaging one a game before that. So, that could be it, but I think even Quinton — even though he hasn’t really got on a roll yet offensively — him shooting eight threes the other night, that is a big number for him. That is probably the most he has shot this year. But they were good looks, they were open. Devon shooting seven is probably the biggest number he has shot this year. So, maybe confidence with the young guys is probably a reason why. But I also think Dedric playing away from the basket, too.”
On if he has noticed a change in the amount of illegal screens being called this season:
“I think players have probably done a better job of screening within the rules than they were before. But I do agree that at this point, one reason that people don’t get called for as many screens anymore is because there are not very many good screeners. If you look at us, gosh dang we fake screen better than anyone in the country. And if you fake screen, you are not going to get as many fouls. So I do think that when you do actually attempt to do your job and go nail somebody, you are going to have some turnovers. And the benefit or the offset or whatever is: Does it benefit you more to play that way or would you rather just not screen? I do think the rules have created a situation where there are less hard screens than what there has been in the past, at least in my opinion.
I watch our team I would say the same thing. I watch our bigs and we are not good screeners, but when we do screen and when you screen you force help. When you don’t screen you don’t force help, so you are gaining no advantage. The whole thing is how do you force help so you can play behind that. And the aggressive teams that fight through screens and don’t allow themselves to be screened, they have a much better chance defensively. Especially if they are going up against somebody that doesn’t screen hard. And we haven’t been a good screening team at all. Maybe it has happened naturally (less illegal screens), but I haven’t noticed in our team. I really haven’t noticed that much of a difference.”
On the Big 12 race and where Kansas stands:
“We’re not in a very favorable position at all. If you go back and look at it and you’re speaking strictly from the league race, we just need to win games. Us winning at home and us winning one on the road is the best we could do over that two-game stretch, but Kansas State enhanced their position even more with their two wins because they were away from home. They’re in as good of a driver’s seat as maybe as we’ve been in in the past with six games left. They’ve put themselves in a very favorable position and their schedule really tilts to their favor in many ways. People can say the schedule tilts to our favor too, but with us, and you guys have seen us, nothing tilts to our favor it seems like. Every game will be a one or two possession game for the most part. K-State is in the driver seat, and Baylor, and us, and Iowa State, and Texas Tech still control their own fate, but K-State has put themselves in a great position.”
On the postgame locker room after TCU carrying over to practice:
“There’s no question. We’ve had better shootarounds. In the last week, we’ve been better at everything.  We beat Tennessee, we’ve beaten Marquette, we’ve beaten Michigan State and none of those locker rooms were as good as it was the other day, but it’s also just a bunch of young kids out there having fun, too, and everyone contributed so that probably added to it as well.”



@KUHoops The official online source for Kansas Athletics, Williams Education Fund contributions, tickets, merchandise, multimedia, photos and much, much more.