Self checks in with media at weekly press conference

LAWRENCE, Kan. – Bill Self met with the media Thursday afternoon inside the Allen Fieldhouse press room. The 15-year KU head man talked more on his team’s win over West Virginia earlier in the week, the potential for a two big-man line-up with the addition of Silvio De Sousa and the upcoming match-up with the Baylor Bears this weekend.

A video of the press conference can be seen on the Kansas Basketball Facebook Page. A full transcript is available below.

Q. How important is the chance to breathe after that West Virginia game for your guys and (get) a little rest, mental rest maybe, as much as anything?
BILL SELF: I think the best thing about Big Monday games if you’re successful in them, it gives you five days to, as you say, “Catch your breath.” So we took Tuesday off, obviously. We didn’t get back until about four (in the morning Tuesday).

Then we went light yesterday, didn’t go up and down, just half-court stuff, and then we will get into it today. So basically, they probably had the equivalent of a day and a half off. We’re getting ready to start the toughest stretch of everyone’s season, (in) February, so we’re getting ready to start that and hopefully our minds and bodies will be as fresh as they can be.

Q. Is there something that’s unique about this team that’s made them so effective on the road?
BILL SELF: I don’t know. I think we have pretty good seniors. I think Devonte’ (Graham) and Svi (Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk) have been very good seniors. I think our focus has been better on the road than at home. We talked about that. In basketball, or in (any) sport, one or two-possession games obviously can go the other way just as easy, and we’ve been fortunate in some close games on the road.

Q. Coach, what do you see from Silvio De Sousa as far as him getting more playing time?
BILL SELF: Yeah, I think so. It’s hard to practice a way that you know you’re not going to play for three weeks. We didn’t say, “Okay, we’re going to play two bigs now,” because we knew he wasn’t going to be ready to help us for a period of time. I think he’s at the point now where we can get him more minutes. I said this earlier, probably February 1, which is two weeks or however long, 13 days or whatever, before he’s probably really comfortable.

But, we’re going to spend every day playing with two bigs, practicing with two bigs, and we haven’t done that all year. So it’s going to take a while for the others to get comfortable but certainly, more importantly, him.

But I’m excited, because I do think he brings us physical presence. He’s a strong dude. He’s not going to be great this year. We knew that. But he is going to be a guy that I think can give us substantial minutes and not (make) us take a step backward from a competitive standpoint or rebounding standpoint.

Q. Is there anything about him (De Sousa) that stands out the most?
BILL SELF: Not really. I think he’s strong. I don’t think anybody is going to push him around. So physically, which is, obviously a bonus.

Q. It seemed like even when he (De Sousa) would post, which maybe wasn’t a ton, but it seemed like guys on the perimeter weren’t ready to throw it down to him?
BILL SELF: That hasn’t happened much, but it did happen against West Virginia, and when he wasn’t thinking he did go and make a good move, so I think guys will get comfortable throwing him the ball.

Q. With that two-big look what do you think your team can get out of it?
BILL SELF: I think, when teams pressure out like West Virginia did, a lot of times your pressure relief is throw the ball to the big. We need to be able to do that more. The thing about it is, playing two bigs offensively is in large part easier than playing two bigs defensively if you play a team that has four guards playing around one, like a lot of teams that we’ve had that we played against.

West Virginia was a little bit more traditional, even though their four man shot threes. Baylor is definitely more traditional when you talk about three around two. But K-State with Dean Wade or Texas Tech or TCU, all their four men play on the perimeter, so that makes it harder for a guy that’s never guarded out there to have to go out there.

Q. Coach, it’s an interesting week in the Big 12, but are you surprised how the Big 12 is stacking up right now?
BILL SELF: I don’t know that there are a lot of surprises. We’ve been fortunate, we won a couple of close games this past week, which allowed us to have a 5-1 record; but the difference between us and a 3-3 team is just one week and we know that.

Certainly, the road teams have had some success in our league so far, and then K-State holding serve, Texas holding serve against two teams tied for first. That shouldn’t surprise anybody though. If anything, you’re almost more surprised if one of those teams loses at home, to be real candid with you, even though that hasn’t been the norm.

I’ve said all along I thought 13-5 (record) would get a piece of it (regular-season conference title). I think anything better than that would certainly have a great chance to win, but it’s going to be a monster all the way through it.

Q. What did you think of Svi’s play in the last game?
BILL SELF: I personally thought it was the best game he’s played since he’s been at Kansas. When you look at shots, if they make shots, great. But he competed for balls, he was much more physical. That rebound he got, late (in the) game, where he spun out of it and walked was maybe the best defensive play of the game.

I can’t hardly get upset at a kid for that. Then, of course, he was totally exhausted, but he made timely shots late. I thought he played very, very well. I thought he and Devonte’ really did a nice job.

Q. Do you think it was the environment (at West Virginia), the magnitude of that game or maybe senior urgency?
BILL SELF: No, I don’t think so. It could be, I guess. But I think it’s just a guy who wants to win and knows what we need him to do to win and just playing to his talent level as opposed to his shooting ability.

Q. Big picture question, but how has he (Svi) changed since he first got to Kansas, both on and off the court?
BILL SELF: He’s much more comfortable in his own skin now. He’s more vocal. He understands the culture a lot better, and he certainly understands coaching a lot better.

He’s much tougher, mentally. I’ve always thought that Svi was a terrific shooter who hasn’t shot it great consistently, yet. Everybody kind of knew that (in) his first three years, he can make shots, he’s a good shooter, but he hasn’t gotten on one of those rolls, and I think this year he’s being much more consistent.

Yeah, (also) just growing up. He’s still 20 years old, so he’s still pretty young. He’s the same age as most sophomores, so I think just growing up.

Q. Do you think we underestimate the cultural adjustments that it takes for guys to come overseas?
BILL SELF: Do we underestimate it? Maybe some. (For) Some it’s probably easier than others, but Svi was in a situation where the first time he spent any significant time in America is when he enrolled at Kansas. So it’s a little different than Udoka (Azubuike) and a little bit different than Silvio, but I still think there is a culture shock for a lot of kids. They’ve never been (here) — if you can imagine a kid coming over, let’s say from Africa, and he lives with a family for a couple years, how close you would become, naturally, to that family?

And then (you have to) up and leave them and you can’t get to your mom and dad except via phone or Face Time or text or whatever.

I do think it’s pretty tough. You’ve got to respect kids and families that want the best for their kids, so much, that they send them away. I think that would be difficult to do in our society because we always want to keep ’em close. But I think our guys have all reacted to it pretty favorably, but it doesn’t happen overnight.

Q. Talk about the challenges facing Baylor.
BILL SELF: Well, obviously first think you think of, “how do you attack their zone?” And they’re actually playing a little bit more man this year than they have in the past. Their zone is still what they want to play, but they’re certainly playing more man, so we’ve got to do a good job in both of those areas. But the biggest thing is, like you said, is you (have) got to be able to control their point guard and give them one or less shots each possession, and they’re really good at not letting you do that.

Every time we (have) played Baylor we come out on the good end of some close games, but every game seems like they’re one-or two-possession games, and they both were last year, if I’m not mistaken.

We know what they bring to the table, they’re capable of playing great, and they’re definitely an NCAA Tournament team. They got off to a slow start in the league, not because they played poorly, but because the league is so good. So I’m sure our guys will be ready for them.

Q. Scott Drew has really turned this (Baylor) program around in the 14 years he’s been there. What do you think of him as a coach, and do you have a personal relationship with him?
BILL SELF: I don’t know if I consider us buddies, but we’re certainly very friendly. We talk — I probably talk to Scott about as much as I do any of the other coaches in the league, for the most part. You’re right, he’s done a phenomenal job in the time he’s been there, because he took over a program that was (at) rock bottom. People can talk about taking over a tough job; he took over a ridiculously hard situation and they responded very well to him. He and his staff have done an unbelievable job recruiting.
Q. Udoka (Azubuike), obviously he’s still growing and learning and figuring things out himself, and you talked about after that West Virginia how he’s constantly trying to help Silvio (De Sousa) along. What can he offer him in that way, at the risk of not hurting himself and his own development?
BILL SELF: Oh, no, he would benefit from having another guy out there to take the pressure off him, and I think he probably sees that. I don’t know, I’m not in on their talks over in the dorm or anything like that, so I don’t know to the extent. Looks like to me Mitch (Lightfoot) has been the best guy to help Silvio, and you would think if Mitch helps Silvio that could impact Mitch more than it could Doke, because Doke is not going to get impacted. There is no way that Silvio is going to beat Doke out this year, so if anything Doke would see it as another way to make our team better.

Q. I guess in terms of focusing on his own development not helping the young guy come along?
BILL SELF: I’ve always thought the more you care about others the more it helps yourself. The more unselfish you are with your time and knowledge or whatever all it does is come back to you. I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s the case with Doke.

Q. (WVU head coach) Bob Huggins said today your defense was good in the second half. What do you think of the team’s defense and how much it has it gotten better?
BILL SELF: I thought it was pretty good, but the biggest reason was because we didn’t give up broken plays. You turn it over, live ball, whatever, which leads to 3-on-2 and or 2-on-1, and those are hard for anybody to defend, and we played 5-on-5 the second half. I thought that was the biggest reason why it was better. We didn’t rebound the ball great by any stretch. What did they beat us, by two on the glass? So two on the glass with a small team going in there the way they rebound the ball, I’ll consider that a win.

Q. A lot of times teams coming off monster wins on the road will have a natural let down, particularly with another big one coming up. Since you’ve been there that’s not happened to you as much as with other programs. Can you talk about not allowing a let down coming off a big win?
BILL SELF: Yeah, well, that’s probably true, but in large part it’s probably true because most of the times you get a big win on the road, the next one is at home. We’ve had such a good home court that players draw confidence from that. Our home court hasn’t been as good this year, obviously, because we’ve lost twice on it. I don’t know that there is any formula for that.

I do think that the formula for having great league records or whatnot is, you know, holding serve at home and stealing some on the road. We’ve been able to steal some, we haven’t been able to hold serve at home.

I think the mindset of anybody is to play the next game like it was the last big game. I’ll say this, so much of it is with scheduling, just like scheduling West Virginia on every big Monday, that’s a hard schedule for us on the road because there’s no time to prepare. But getting a big win on the road and coming back on a Monday, that’s a harder game to win because you’re on that emotional deal or getting it — you know, whatever happened on Saturday makes it harder to recover in just a shorter period of time.

You can look at it however you look at it, but that’s why I hope, I hope that big Monday win will allow you to kinda be in a good spirits and still yet catch your breath. It’s probably I hope not a bad formula for being ready to play on Saturday.

Q. Hopefully you want your teams to be tougher and play a little bit tougher, and I think when we think of West Virginia that’s the kind of team we tend to think about. Can that rub off on your team, a little bit, after playing them and kind of being in that style of play?
BILL SELF: I hope so. I love how West Virginia plays. They’re the most — I shouldn’t say the most because we haven’t played everybody yet, but I would say the most physical team we’ve played to date. I mean on block-outs and posting and things like that. So hopefully it will benefit us. The thing about it is from a toughness standpoint — you know, a lot of it’s physical, but I would say the majority of it’s not.

I thought we were more mentally tough against West Virginia, getting down, not panicking, shot selection was better, making sure we executed what we were at least trying to do, and they’re hard to execute against, was much better the second half, guys making individual plays with the game on the line was better.

But a lot — we need to be more physical but, you know, it’s — whenever you’re starting Devonte’ and Malik and Lagerald and Svi, you’re not going to be the most physical team. You need to be probably more physical than we are but we need to be tougher in other areas, too.

Q. Lagerald Vick hasn’t been scoring as much in recent weeks…
BILL SELF: He hasn’t — not even close, yeah.

Q. Do you see Lagerald doing other things that you need him doing?
BILL SELF: I did against West Virginia. I’ll be honest with you, I hadn’t in games prior to that. K-State he stepped up and made two big threes and scored some baskets when we had to have ’em, late-game situation. But his activity level hasn’t been good at all there for about a week and a half stretch, about a three-game stretch, but I thought against West Virginia it was a lot better.

I thought he made winning plays throughout the game that gave us a chance. That doesn’t always translate to scoring, but I certainly thought he was more aggressive. He needs to play — if he’s our best athlete, play to your athletic ability, and I thought he did a little bit better job against West Virginia.

Q. You might not know yet, but if the start of the college basketball season is moving up earlier next year, will you change anything next year since you start off with a major team instead of having games to get you going?
BILL SELF: No, no. We will play our exhibition games like we always do. That was a decision which I think is good for college basketball, personally. When you play on Friday and open on Friday, you still have Saturday football, which is right in the heat of the season. So playing on that Tuesday — it’s a Tuesday? Yeah. So whatever, moving it up, there is no football games on Wednesday. I do think it gives the chance to have a bigger impact.

Then the other thing is, it allows you to probably consistently play a game that during the entire day is paying honor to our military and our veterans, which isn’t always the case the way it is now, because Veteran’s Day could fall before our season started, so I think that’s real positive, too.




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