Press Conference: Bill Self previews Kentucky

LAWRENCE, Kan. – Kansas head coach Bill Self met with members of the media on Thursday to preview Saturday’s upcoming Sonic SEC/Big 12 Challenge matchup at Kentucky (5:15 p.m. CST, ESPN) during his weekly press conference inside Allen Fieldhouse.

Q. Talk about the distractions for you, for the team, for all this situation that’s going on.
BILL SELF: Yeah, there’s no question. It’s not a distraction, it’s a major distraction. Certainly most importantly, I think sometimes in general when you talk about distraction, you look at it how it affects us, but more importantly, there is an obviously very serious alleged allegation that has been made. So that trumps figuring out how to guard (Kentucky’s Malik) Monk or (De’Aaron) Fox, to be real candid with you. So yeah, sure, it’s been a distraction, and one that we’ll deal with and our players will deal with. It’s not what we want to do, but certainly there is a requirement at this point in time.

Q. Given the on-going situation, have you been given any indication of when –
BILL SELF: I haven’t been given anything, except what I said last night. We have been told that some of our players are potential witnesses.

You know, sometimes — and I’m probably speaking out of turn a little bit because I’m not a thesaurus and know all the definitions of all words, but witness can carry a pretty broad definition on what that is, and certainly that there’s some players listed that are potential witnesses to a situation, which could mean anything that happened before, during, after, whether you’re an eyewitness or not of an alleged incident.

I know positively that has occurred, and I know positively that we’ve been given zero information that would warrant suspensions or anything like that that’s connected to our players at this point in time.

That’s what I know, and I certainly will act on it if any information is given to us in the future that would warrant such action.

Q. I spoke with the athletic department yesterday. They said that they knew about this the day it was reported on December 18th. What kind of conversations have you had with your players and administrators over the past month about this incident?
BILL SELF: Well, we met it head on. When the administration was made aware of it, I obviously was, as well. We’ve talked about it.

But to talk about it from a factual situation, what exactly happened, that’s not really — that’s not really fair to do because you want to find out what’s happening, but I’m going to be the first to tell you, you need professionals to do that that actually conduct interviews and those sorts of things. It’s not something that people come forward and just say, hey, this is — I mean, obviously what we’ve been told is that there hasn’t been anything that warrants any type of action by my part, but even with that being said, you have to let the investigation play out. That’s what’s most important, and the detectives need to do their job, and certainly we’ve got to give them space to do it.

So regardless of what I’ve been told, it doesn’t matter. It’s what is found out to be the facts. Hopefully that’ll happen sooner rather than later. But we have no control on that timeline.

Q. Can you speak at all to what type of information your players are giving as witnesses?
BILL SELF: No, I can’t mention that because all I can say that they are potential witnesses. But I can’t mention to what level because that’s for the police to determine, not for me to determine based on what I’ve been told, even though I have in my mind what that is. That’s for somebody else to figure out, that’s not for me to figure out and report to you.

Q. One of the big reasons for McCarthy Hall you talked about was security. Is there anything that needs to be done for that for the safety of your players or for other people that go in there?
BILL SELF: No. To enter McCarthy Hall, you have to have a fingerprint or you have to be led in or buzzed in, and then you have to be escorted after that to get off the main floor. I’m not going to say right, wrong, indifferent, I don’t think that security has anything to do with this potential incident.

Q. Do you feel this has been a distraction since the incident occurred or just since the report on Monday?
BILL SELF: Oh, there’s no question that it’s been something that has been thought about quite a bit, that has been a distraction. But certainly it’s become much more of one here in the last 48 hours or however long it’s been.

Q. I know you guys just played Monday, so I don’t know how much you’ve practiced, but can you get a sense of being with the guys in practice how they’re going to be leading up to the Kentucky game, or will you not learn until the ball is tipped?
BILL SELF: Well, I think that — we met yesterday, so we played Tuesday, we met yesterday, and didn’t practice. So we’ll practice today, and certainly I’m a little bit uncertain of how we’ll respond, to be quite candid. I know that there are some people that aren’t real happy right now that will, I’m sure, use the basketball court as a way to kind of get away from the distraction.

But how we’re going to respond, I don’t know that I have an answer for that. I know that our guys will be excited to play. This will not be an excuse if we don’t play well, and it won’t be a motivating factor if we do play well. It’s going to be a situation that guys are going to have to use the basketball court as a way to kind of bond together rather than to be talked about off it.

Q. Was there ever any discussion about getting out in front of this, around December 18th or before this week so there wasn’t any perception of possibly holding information back?
BILL SELF: Oh, nobody is holding information. I don’t know where you’re going, but I don’t like it. But there’s nobody withholding information at all. If you wanted to discuss how it’s being handled, go to the Lawrence Police Department, okay. That’s not our responsibility to report everything that the Lawrence Police Department does, and it’s not their responsibility, I don’t think, to report it, because they have certain things that they have to do to certainly follow their protocol.

So no, nobody is hiding behind this at all, and I kind of resent the fact that you would even hint at that.

Q. Can you talk about Kentucky, the young athletes, the freshmen I’m sure you saw on the circuit? And then their style of play, does it compare to anyone more in the Big 12 than others?
BILL SELF: You know, Kentucky is more traditional than a lot of teams in our league. They’re going to play two bigs. Both their bigs as far as playing the four spot, whether it be (Wenyen) Gabriel or (Derek) Willis, are both guys that can make threes, but it’s more of a traditional two bigs around three guards, but their three guards are exceptional, and certainly they go from defense to offense probably faster this particular year than just about anybody in college basketball. They’re playing with lottery picks. They’ve got at least three of them that start, and people can worry about their guards, (Malik) Monk, and obviously he’s scoring the ball at such a high rate, and then (De’Aaron) Fox and certainly (Isaiah) Briscoe, but Adebayo is starting to score the ball equally well. So they have a legitimate inside-out combination that would be hard for anybody to deal with.

But with that being said, Tennessee just had success, and that’s the way college basketball is this year. You have teams that are potentially here (raises hand), but you also have those same teams that can play to a level not quite that high, and that’s happened with us, and certainly it’s happened with them occasionally, and we just have to make sure that we do something athletically and physically and defensively that doesn’t allow them to play at that high, high level offensively.

Q. You played that zone quite a bit the other night. Is that an answer for you guys defensively? Are you going to explore that idea?
BILL SELF: We might. You know, I could just write down exactly what we’re doing to do Saturday if that would help you guys out. [Laughter]

But no, no, no, we’ll try to — we want to play man. But the reality of it is with our depth situation and certain things and maybe depending on how they’re shooting the ball that day or whatnot, it may dictate that we play some zone.

Q. How do you think they played it, your team?
BILL SELF: Not any good. Not any good. I thought we played it after we got tired. Zones are pretty good if you’re active in them. But we weren’t as active. Our hands weren’t high. We weren’t flying around like a good zone team would do.

Q. With your personnel limitations and depth limitations, what would you think is more likely to happen, you become better at protecting the rim or better at creating turnovers that lead to transition points?
BILL SELF: Well, we can’t change our standing height, so I would say we’re probably better off creating more havoc. But it’s hard to create havoc. When Frank (Mason III) is going one against two every possession playing 39 minutes, you can’t pressure. That’s the way it is. And Devonte’ (Graham), obviously he needs to be in the game, but he cramped and that kind of stuff, and so you can’t take Frank out against pressure. But I would say probably better at — now, when you say protect the rim, I don’t know if you’re talking blocking shots or just the opponent shooting short-in shots because we can certainly get better not giving up layups. That doesn’t have much to do with size; that just has more to do with want.

Or just guard your damn man. There’s some expressions in basketball, and you get real technical, but hunker down and guard your man. That’s as much of it as anything else.

Q. How much do your guys relish and enjoy the tough stretch of games that kind of match your competitiveness?
BILL SELF: Well, I think going into this stretch, I thought we were very excited going in. We’ve had obviously some things that we’re dealing with since the West Virginia game that tempers probably the excitement as we see it on a Wednesday or a Thursday. But once the guys get out there and certainly start working, and game day will be there, and we’ll feel the energy and enthusiasm. Our guys will be very excited to play.

Q. When you started to think about this team in the offseason and know you were going to be more perimeter oriented, were there any coaches you consulted or other teams you studied when you of started to put together your playbook and how you were going to do your style of play?
BILL SELF: I didn’t think that we were going to play small that much. I didn’t envision that. I thought with Udoka (Azubuike) and Landen (Lucas) and Carlton (Bragg Jr.) we would have three guys that we could play inside, and then what I envisioned was playing small and playing Josh (Jackson) at the four, maybe 10 minutes a game, in late-game situations, get your best ball handlers in the game, things like that.

So really, probably beginning September, late September, early October, is where I started visualizing, God, we’re going to have to do something a little bit different.

But even with that being said, I thought we were getting to the point where we could play ‘Doke (Azubuike) and Landen together, too, and so now that’s all out the window.

So I would say I got quite a bit of (Fred) Hoiberg tape with Georges (Niang) to see if we could kind of plug Josh in the same way with Georges and watch some other teams play. But for the most part it is stuff that we just kind of come up with on our own.

Q. Did you talk to Fred Hoiberg at all?
BILL SELF: I didn’t talk to Fred, I talked to Doc (Sadler), who worked for Fred, and got a lot of their clips and things like that.

Q. Would you talk a little bit about McCarthy Hall itself and how it benefits your basketball program?
BILL SELF: Well, yeah. McCarthy Hall was opened, I guess, it’s been about 17 months now, maybe 16 months. I think it was last September that it was open. Contrary to what has taken place or what has been reported, it’s actually a place that provides more privacy and certainly more security than other dormitories on campus with the way that the access to the floors and things of that nature.

It’s been a huge asset to us. It’ll be a huge asset from a recruiting standpoint because obviously it’s a very, very elite level apartments or dormitories, and certainly this incident is certainly not a reflection at all on the significance or the safety of that particular dormitory, because it is — far exceeds what most have and certainly on this campus.

Q. Did you have any kind of reservations or concerns about how exclusive a facility that was and maybe the kind of perception that would give, the basketball players are there and very few other students on campus get inside it?
BILL SELF: No, I don’t think so. There’s other facilities on different campuses that are similar to that. I don’t know exactly how many beds there are. I think there’s 38 beds. I could be wrong. I could be off one. And there’s 16 spots for basketball players in there. So that would leave approximately 20 to 22 for other students.

You recruit players like Andrew Wiggins. Wiggs was a big part of this from our standpoint to come here and certainly have a different perception on campus than what most general students do, and whether it be autograph seekers or fans or whatever that put themselves in positions to be there every time the doors open and to be left out every time it’s shut, we wanted to do something that protected the privacy rights of guys, too. This is what we did, and certainly I’ll stand behind that 1,000 percent.

Q. Can you talk about the level of support you guys have, the Big 12 coaches supporting each other, how you kind of come together to go against the SEC?
BILL SELF: I haven’t. I haven’t heard from other coaches, and I’m not sure that — they make a big deal out of it that it’s the SEC/Big 12 Challenge, and it is a big deal just like the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, but I think every coach in our league or in their league would tell you that the games aren’t as important as the league games. But it certainly gives your league a chance to be showcased, talked about, bring exposure to it, and then of course play a high-level team that’s out of your league.

And that could also be a good game for the selection committee to look at or whatnot.

I think it’s important that we do well, but it’s kind of like bowl season. What was the Big 12’s bowl record? Nobody knows, do you? I mean, it kind of played up to be a big deal. But the whole thing is I’m not sure it means as much to the coaches as what it may mean to the people that are watching, and of course but when you get Kentucky and Kansas together, obviously it’ll take center stage and will mean a lot to the players. Players, they practice beginning in October or whatnot with one of the games on the calendar that’s circled is this game. And so certainly it’s a big deal to them.

Q. The selection committee, they announced this week they’re going to have that kind of early reveal of the top 16 seeds in the tournament. What do you think of that?
BILL SELF: I’m fine with it. I don’t think it means much. And certainly it’ll be very flexible and it’ll change week to week. Maybe not quite as much as football does, but basketball is a little bit different. Football you’re playing one game a week. Here you’re playing two or three games a week, so obviously you have more of a chance to move or lose than what you do in football. But yeah, I think it’s good. I think if anything, it’ll be a little bit educational, but more so it’ll definitely draw more attention to people watching and thinking college basketball.

Q. If it were up to you, where would you put the Big 12/SEC Challenge game?
BILL SELF: Early- to middle-December, but you can’t with the bowl situation, with ESPN. So that’s what I think all coaches would want, but certainly that’s not possible. The SEC/Big 12 Challenge has been good. It’s been good for us. There hasn’t been anything negative about it. But the timing of it when you don’t get an off week throughout your entire regular season makes it a little bit more difficult. The official online source for Kansas Athletics, Williams Education Fund contributions, tickets, merchandise, multimedia, photos and much, much more.