Press Conference: Bill Self previews top-5 matchup against Baylor

Video Press Conference Video

LAWRENCE, Kan. – Kansas head basketball coach Bill Self met with members of the media inside Allen Fieldhouse on Monday afternoon to preview KU’s top-5 matchup against Baylor on Wednesday (8 p.m., ESPN2) in Lawrence. 

Q. With the depth situation being what it is, how do you get Landen Lucas to maximize his productivity without any worry about getting in foul trouble?
BILL SELF: Well, you know, I was actually watching ESPN (College) GameDay, and I was listening to the guys talk, and (Jay) Bilas said something that I thought was interesting: ‘You can get a basket back but you can’t get a foul back.’ And if you noticed a couple of times, especially in the second half when he defended Bam (Edrice Adebayo) pretty strong, but Bam, when it was obvious that Bam had position on him, he kind of shied away from him a little bit. I think that’s the kind of stuff he’s got to do. Big guys are going to foul. There’s going to be contact if you’re aggressive at all.

But he just needs to play with his head and his feet, and if you watched, his first foul was a foul, but his second foul was all because a guy gambled and missed at the top, and the guy had a direct drive to the basket and he just came over to help late. Those are things that you’ve got to — half the time big guys foul because guards make mistakes, and that’s what we’ve got to understand as a group. We need to keep the ball in front of us so it doesn’t put him in harm’s way near as much.

Q. A lot of talk about the timing of that nonconference game at Kentucky, all the hype there. Now that you’re on the other side of it, are you aware of what kind of toll it took on your guys? Do you think it was a break? Do you think they’re exhausted, or do you think they’re fine?
BILL SELF: I think they’re fine. You know, I’m not a big fan of the break in the conference season, but if you’re going to have a break, you might as well play a game with that much hype against the two winningest programs in the country, and that is certainly — that could generate that much interest for your program, so if you’re going to take a break, at least have it be one that really matters, and certainly that game did. But I think if anything it’ll be a momentum push for us. It doesn’t guarantee success moving forward, but certainly I think that it was definitely something that was very positive for our team.

Q. Talk about Baylor. It’s going to be No. 3/2 versus No. 2/3 on Wednesday (AP poll/coaches’ poll). How are they different, how are they the same?
BILL SELF: You know, Chris (Theisen) just told me the polls came out and Baylor was No. 2 and we were No. 3. I mean, that’s obviously going to be — not very often you have a chance to host a top-5 team at home, and we were able to do that last year in an epic game, and I’m sure this one will be a hotly contested game, as well.

I think they’re obviously better than they have been, and I think they’ve been very good in the past. They’re longer up front with their bigs and their depth up front, and certainly I think their zone is probably better than it has been, but they’re playing more man now, too.

I just think they’re a better team. They’re so deep up front, and then their point guard has had a terrific year, and then you’ve got Ish (Ishmail Wainright) and you’ve got (Al) Freeman and all those other guys with experience on the perimeter. They’re a total team.

And a lot of times teams have an identity. It could be scoring more points. We’re still trying to find ours, but it could be how fast they are, scoring more — their team identity is they don’t let people score. That is what they do. So we’re going to have to run really good offense.

Q. What does Johnathan Motley look like on film, and are you surprised at his development?
BILL SELF: No, not at all. I thought he was terrific before this year. As a matter of fact, I was hoping that he would test the waters last year because I thought he could be without question a first-round draft pick last year. He’s played himself — it was smart for him to come back to school, and he’s certainly played himself into a higher pick. Anybody that can — that has had games where he’s had 30 and 20 in a game tells you how talented — that’s hard to do, tells you how talented he is. But he can score. He can rebound. He can do a lot of different things, and he can face and shoot. He’s a great passer. And certainly he can score with his back to the basket. It’ll be a big challenge for Landen (Lucas) and our other big guys.

Q. He’s a different test than Kentucky’s Edrice “Bam” Adebayo was for Landen Lucas, right?
BILL SELF: I think Bam was obviously more power, although I think Bam is pretty skilled, but he was probably more powerful, where Motley can move anywhere on the court. I mean, he can make a 17-footer or he can be a good passer, feed another big or whatnot. So yeah, it’s definitely a different test.

Q. I know defensively you like to stay with the man-to-man, but it seems maybe there are some advantages to mixing it up and maybe catching the other team by surprise?
BILL SELF: Yeah, I think there is, depending on personnel. If you’re going against somebody that’s got three guys all shooting 40 percent from three, I’m not sure if as much time as we spend on zone or combo if that would be a percentage play. But in certain situations, and I think it obviously helped us against Kentucky without question, but it may have helped us more offensively than defensively. They still shot — what did they shoot, 47 or 50 percent the second half? It’s not like we stymied them by any stretch, but what I think it allowed us to do, I think it allowed the guys to stay in the game because maybe the fatigue factor wasn’t as much.

I hate to say that you could ever rest on defense, but with our particular zone, the way we played it, I think it kind of bought us a little time that we didn’t have to sub quite as much.

Q. How has Dwight Coleby handled some of the adversity he’s gone through with the injury?
BILL SELF: I think Dwight has done pretty good. I’ll be honest with you. I mean, we’re all frustrated, a little disappointed that his health isn’t better than what we anticipated it would be. We thought obviously when he tore it and had surgery, that was back early October. I think he had surgery the Monday or Tuesday after late night, so that was early October.

And to think that we’re — what does that put us, 16 months out? And he’s still not quite 100 percent? Now, he’s a lot better than he was two months ago, but it’s not a structural thing at all. I think it’s as much a strength thing and just confidence.

And he is getting better, and certainly I thought he did pretty good the other night and did fine. But he’s got to get in a little bit better physical shape. He got tired, and he’d be the first to tell you that. But we’re going to need him, obviously, to be a guy that can come in and give us quality minutes considering our depth situation inside.

Q. With Mitch Lightfoot and Dwight Coleby, is that sort of a game-by-game feel, how you’re going to use them and who’s who?
BILL SELF: I don’t know. You know, it’s — we’ve only been going through it for one game. But you know, it may be a situation that in our mind we’re going to start with him and see how he does and knowing you’re going to play the other one, if the other one comes in and plays better, maybe you go back to him before. That’s kind of what we did the other night. We gave Mitch a chance and gave Dwight a chance, and then I thought Dwight was probably going to be a little bit more effective guarding Bam than Mitch just because of his weight.

Q. Before or after Ishmail Wainwright left the Kansas City area, was he ever on your recruiting radar?
BILL SELF: Oh, yeah, Ish has been over here. We went to watch — I forget what high school he transferred to, geez, out east (Montrose Christian School in Rockville,?Maryland). I’ve gone — I’m having a senior moment. But we went out there and watched him, and he played high school ball here in Kansas City (Raytown South High School), and then senior year he went back east. We knew he was good. He was on our radar. It was one of those things, a need and those sorts of things at that particular time, but yeah, I have total respect for Ishmail. Not only is he probably going to be the best athlete on the floor when you talk about all the different sports that he has — you know, he was a great swimmer, and certainly I guess that’s how he got those shoulders. But he was a terrific athlete growing up.

He’s been over here, but I think he’s even a better kid than he is an athlete or a player. He’s a terrific young man.

Q. Based on whatever opponent you face, are your points of emphasis to your players — do they vary, like hey, I need you to be extra aggressive on the boards or I need you to be extra scrappy because of whoever you’re playing?
BILL SELF: You could say that, but I think it’s pretty consistent that we need basically the same things every game. But you may adjust how you go about getting them.

Like for instance, I’ll give you an example. You want guys to be scrappy all the time, but if you’re guarding a non-shooter and they have a low post presence and don’t trap the post, then you have to be extra scrappy on diving on the post to try to disrupt him.

There’s things in every game that you would say that we need to do this when you’re guarding that guy or whatever, but the core philosophy doesn’t change. You know, Lagerald Vick, we need you to be extra possession guy, this, this and that, or Josh, we need you to be this. It doesn’t change; it just may change game to game on how you go about getting it.

Q. What about mentally vying for the Big 12 title? You had to go to Kentucky in the middle of the conference season. Do you think you have to address —
BILL SELF: I think so. I think you have to address it. You know, to me, and I’ve said it all along, I said, the Kentucky win wasn’t as big as the West Virginia loss, and certainly if you don’t play well on Wednesday, then it totally negates the good that the Kentucky game did.

I mean, that’s a big game to fans and all of those things, but in the big scheme of things — and I said it after the game, and I thought it was actually one of my very few good analogies that I’ve ever come up with, is that when you go to an AAU tournament, before the AAU tournament ever starts, they have a showcase game that doesn’t mean anything, and that’s kind of what that was, and then you get back into the tournament after that, and it didn’t matter if you won or lost the showcase game.

I kind of looked — I know it’s bigger than that, but I kind of look at the Kentucky game in that manner.

Q. Is Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk playing with as much confidence as he’s had since he’s been here?
BILL SELF: Yeah, he’s playing with as much confidence. You know, he was — he went soft on a couple of plays, could have got an and-one, didn’t make his frees, two for four from the line in the first half, really didn’t do much. But then he made two hard, hard, hard shots that were defended pretty well that were really big for us, and he made his free throws late. Yeah, he knows he belongs. He’s playing with confidence.

Q. Late first half Frank Mason III took it right at Kentucky’s Edrice “Bam” Adebayo. Talk about a guard of his size to be able to get the and-1 to avoid maybe kind of a blocked shot. Talk about that uniqueness and what Frank can do.
BILL SELF: Yeah, Frank is — yeah, he doesn’t see size, like if you’re standing there and he’s coming at you, he just sees opportunity. He doesn’t see what’s in the way. But he is really, really good at finishing with either hand, and we’ve seen that.

Now, he didn’t do it as good against West Virginia, but he certainly did the other day. He’s about as good as I’ve seen as far as a little guy playing through contact, whether it be the slightest — a slight nudge — on a guy that weighs 180 pounds going against a guy that weighs 260, a slight nudge is still a pretty good bump. He’s as good as I’ve ever had finishing through contact.

Q. Did you address getting stronger or anything like that with him in the off-season? What did you want him to work on?
BILL SELF: No, because I’ll be honest with you, he’s been that way ever since we started playing him. I mean, if you go back when he was a sophomore — I don’t know if you guys remember this, but when we ran crap offense back in the past and we had to win a game, it was just play take ’em, Frank, so this is nothing new for him trying to be aggressive like that.

Q. Is Frank Mason III’s leadership more important with the off-the-court distractions you guys have had to deal with? Is leadership more important for this team right now than ever?
BILL SELF: I think that he and Devonte’ Graham’s leadership is vital, and Landen (Lucas), is vital. But I wouldn’t throw it into just in the limited realm in which you said. I mean, it’s going on with everything. It’s certainly — I think our guys definitely draw confidence from those three and their words. Frank is not a big talker, so Devonte’ talks more, but Frank sets the tone. Frank is our energy giver, more so than anybody else. He sets the tone for everything.

Q. Was that the next gear for Josh Jackson? You’ve talked a lot about he’s got some more that he can give.
BILL SELF: Yeah, I think so. I watched the game, and watching it through it, he was pretty solid throughout. Kind of kept us in it early when we really were struggling, and then made some big, big plays to — timely plays to make sure we kept them at at least a distance that was a two- or three-possession difference. I thought he was fabulous on both ends. I thought he rebounded. He thought he defended. I thought he played with energy. I thought he thought next play. You never saw any negative nor positive body language. It was just, hey, next play, next play, next play. I thought he handled the environment very well.

Q. You said West Virginia was a big-boy game. Is Baylor a big-boy game, so to speak?
BILL SELF: Yeah, absolutely. You know, when you’re going against 7-footer, and you have the bench that they have inside, I mean, they’re a physical, long team, and that’s one reason why their zone is so good because they’re so long. I think they have three guys in their starting lineup with above a 7-foot-5 wingspan; maybe it’s above 7-foot-1. But you get up high and wide, and certainly it makes everything look guarded. Yeah, this will be a big-boy game. This will be a fun game.

Q. Josh Jackson is Newcomer of the Week for the fifth time. Frank Mason III is a favorite for Player of the Year. Devonte’ Graham is solid. That being said, was your core group of guards — is Landen Lucas underappreciated?
BILL SELF: Sure he is. Sure he is.

I think Landen to me is — and I’m going to be a little bit (seemingly) negative about Landen, okay. Landen is a guy that when we recruited him, we thought could be a rotation guy in time. Like I talked to his dad, I talked to Landen, we’ll redshirt him freshman year, won’t play him. Maybe by the time the end of his sophomore year he can be in the rotation. Well, by the time of the end of his sophomore year he was a starter, and then last year he wasn’t a starter. We were looking kind of for something else, and what did we come back to? Landen. This year he was starting, and then we kind of went a different direction because we didn’t think he was playing very well, and what did we come back to? Landen. He’s like your binky or your security blanket. I mean, he’s a guy that no matter how bad we want to get rid of him, we don’t want to get rid of him — that’s not said right. No matter how bad we think that, you know what, if we could just get somebody else, we haven’t found anybody as good or better. He’s been good. I mean, he’s been really good.

Sometimes, and I mean that with all sincerity and seriousness and in a complimentary way towards Landen. But when you coach at a place like Kansas or Duke or North Carolina or Kentucky, you’re always thinking recruit these high, high-level guys, and you want to do that. But sometimes when you recruit high, high-level guys, people forget they’ve still got to beat out somebody that’s damned good that’s been here and experienced and that kind of stuff. I will not — you guys know me; I don’t go around — I told our guys after the game, I said, you know what, if I tell you I’m proud of you, you’ll mistake kindness for softness, so I’m not going to do it, okay.

But it’s the same way with him. I probably don’t tell him as much, but he’s as appreciated as any kid that we’ve ever had here. He’s smart. He’s so good with you guys. He’s intelligent. He has done everything we’ve asked him to do, even when the fan base may get onto him because he can’t finish as well and all this stuff, but he just keeps coming back.

And then all we’re doing is talking about how are you going to win if Landen gets two fouls. Who would have ever thought we would have recruited a guy that everybody would say, how are you going to win if Landen gets two fouls in the first half. That’s how important he is to us. So that’s about as complimentary as I can be towards anybody.

Q. What factors played into your decision about how long to suspend Carlton Bragg Jr.?
BILL SELF: Great question, and the answer is I have no idea, okay. He’s not going to play against Baylor, and whether or not he plays after that, I don’t know.

You know, there’s some things within a family — you know, you guys understand as a head of a family, you don’t talk about your guys publicly, but in it particular situation, I have to address it because it is public. I mean, I understand that.

But what goes on behind the scenes to determine certain things will be something that is talked about amongst us. Right now I do not have a timetable at all. At all. So you guys can ask me every day, but at least you can wait until Thursday because I guarantee you he’s not going to play on Wednesday.

Q. Did KU Athletics make a case at all for trying to withhold Carlton Bragg Jr.’s name in connection with the possession charge?
BILL SELF: No, not at all. We don’t have anything to do — well, you say KU Athletics so that’s above me. But we don’t have anything to do with how the police does their job, nor would we ever interfere, okay. I will tell you this: Carlton Bragg or your son or your daughter or anybody else that’s a student on here should be treated the exact same. They should all be treated the exact same. However it’s handled in one situation, that should be the way it’s handled in other situations. I’m not running from that at all. The fact that — obviously I told you guys last week he was suspended, obviously, for violation of team rules, and you guys can add two and two. So the whole deal, he’s been suspended for violation of team rules, and when we found out about it, then we acted on it immediately.

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