Self previews Baylor at weekly press conference

LAWRENCE, Kan. – Kansas head coach Bill Self met with members of the media Thursday for his weekly press conference at Allen Fieldhouse. Self discussed his recent adjustment to the Jayhawk starting lineup, managing his players’ minutes and fatigue and KU’s contest 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. Baylor lost the last six of seven games, won two recently. Have you seen any difference?

BILL SELF: You know, they lost a lot of close games. I don’t know that they’re doing a lot of things differently. Probably playing a little bit better. But certainly, even the game they lost here, that was a game they led by six under the four-minute timeout.

They’ve been in games. There’s not a nickel’s worth of difference between being 4-7, 7-4, 6-5 or something (in the Big 12 Conference standings right now).

(They are) Playing probably a little bit more man than what they have in years past. You look at it, (redshirt-freshman forward Mark) Vital is really coming into his own as a freshman.

I mean, they’re going to continually get better because they’re getting older. Certainly, (they are) very capable of playing well against anybody.

Q. Last time you played them, you shredded their zone right off the bat, then they played tough man. Do you waste any of your time thinking about what they’re going to do or you just prepare for both?
BILL SELF: I think prepare for both. I think you’ve got to prepare for their zone because their zone can make you look really bad. I think ‘shred’ is a little bit of a stretch. Even though they made shots, that was the biggest deal, (that) we made shots early, got out to a nice lead, then they go man. That’s when they actually came back and controlled the game.

Scott (Baylor head coach Scott Drew) does a good job of switching it up. We’ve got to be prepared for both.

Q. This maybe sounds a little weird, but are you glad to get back out on the road?
BILL SELF: That does sound weird (smiling).

No, I’m not glad to get back out on the road at all. But in order to win the league, we’re obviously going to have to win on the road. There’s no doubt about that. That’s not always been the case. Not all the time, but I’d say half our seasons, we’ve gone 9-0 at home. It makes it a little more difficult to go 6-3 or 7-2 on the road.

Q. How much can you evaluate progress of your guys based on the second time through (league teams), second time playing K State, Baylor? Does that factor in at all?
BILL SELF: Yeah, I guess it does a little bit. It’s hard because some games in our league, the scheduling is done weird to me in that your sixth game you play them, then you play them again your ninth or 10th game. You may not play your first game, like we did Oklahoma State, till our 10th game, then don’t play them again till the end of the season. I think that’s a little bit strange how that can play out.

But TCU, the first time we played them, our stuff worked, their stuff worked. The second time we played them, our stuff didn’t work, their stuff didn’t work. I think you probably have that in the NFL (National Football League), the second time you play a team within your division. I think you’d have that wherever.

In all honesty, the way you win more times than not, the second half is (about) guys making individual plays rather than scoring off your plays.

Q. Can you see individual progress, especially young guys, like Udoka Azubuike?
BILL SELF: I think we’ve had some guys individually get better. Of course, I can paint a pretty bleak picture at times.

We’re still 8-3. I had a text yesterday or this morning from one of my ex-players at Oklahoma State. He said, “Coach, I know you’re having a rough, rough season, but hang in there.”

That is the mindset so much, in large part maybe because I help paint that in some ways. I’m not saying I’m happy by any stretch. I would just think that the tougher teams, the teams that can execute out of timeouts, the teams that understand the importance of getting two or three stops in a row at game point, those are the teams that will have a chance to finish strong and win the league.

Q. What did you think of the new starting lineup?
BILL SELF: I didn’t really think much about that. I was really excited for Mitch (Lightfoot). The thing that I don’t understand with young people, and I used to be one of them 40 years ago, but I don’t understand this: is how it’s cool not to show excitement and energy. I don’t understand.

With Mitch, you don’t have to worry about that. To me, Mitch is cool because he lets everybody know how excited he is to be out there. He can screw up, but he screws up going 100 miles an hour. I know his teammates and the staff appreciate it, but I also think fans appreciate it, too.

I thought he did great. I don’t know that the starting lineup had one thing to do with us winning, but I thought he did great and we are not changing. That is certainly the case as of now.

Q. How did Lagerald Vick do?
BILL SELF: He did fine. He definitely played with more energy and reckless abandon than what he had in quite some time, so he did fine.

Q. How important is confidence to Marcus Garrett’s shot? Seems like there are a few teams this year that almost dared him to take the three.
BILL SELF: Well, I think that’s important. Marcus is a good basketball player. He’s just young. But I think Marcus has an inner confidence that’s pretty good. Sometimes just because you have confidence, that you believe you’re going to make the putt, doesn’t mean you make the putt. Sometimes you miss.

I think Marcus, in all honesty, he may have lost some confidence there for a stretch with his shot. But I’m not sure it was because of that. It’s hard when you’re a reserve, you come off the bench and get one look a game. People are going to base you being a good shooter or not a good shooter on one or two looks. That’s much harder.

It’s much easier for Devonte’ (Graham) or Svi (Svi Mykhailiuk). Not the last game with Svi, but know they’re going to get 10 or 15 decent looks.

I think he’s handled it pretty well. I think his confidence level is higher shooting the basketball.

Q. When Doke (Udoka Azubuike) hasn’t been as active on the boards as what you would like him to be, what do you attribute that to?
BILL SELF: You know, I don’t know. I could attribute it to strength or toughness. But to me, it’s preparation. When Doke’s mindset is right, he’s fired up, he’s thinking about the right things, he’s terrific.

No big man in the country can defend certain possessions better than Doke. No big man anywhere. But there are times it looks like that doesn’t even exist. You don’t even know that other Doke.

Our staff even says this: it’s preparation with him. You can usually tell before practice, before the game, on what that is. A lot of that may be also youth. He’s kind of a ‘Dow Jones-er’, as (Dick) Vitale would say with that.

He’s got to be more consistent. When he’s turned up, he’s definitely a force. He’s a good rim protector, certainly a good ball screen defender, a pretty good defensive rebounder. When he’s not, he just looks slow to me.

We know he cares. We know he wants to. I attribute that probably to youth as much as anything.

Q. What do you mean by ‘preparation?’ Paying attention in practice, film?
BILL SELF: I’m talking about having the right mindset when you get here. I think sometimes players think that they can kind of turn it on and turn it off. Okay, it’s not going well, I’ll just change it. Well, no, sometimes you can’t get it back.

I think that’s a little bit like with Doke. When Doke is going good, he’s really good. He knows he’s got everybody’s support. When things don’t go well early, guys are saying, “C’mon, Doke.” (And) I think it’s more difficult for him to use that as motivation to change on a dime. I think it’s harder for him to do that than just about anybody else on our team.

Q. The team looked okay with the two bigs out there, with Mitch and Udoka.
BILL SELF: We got to play Marcus more, I think. I should have played Marcus more and taken Malik (Newman) and Lagerald out probably more. But I think it looked fine. I don’t think it looked any better, any worse offensively. Certainly, defensively I thought we rebounded the ball better. I was happy with that.

Q. What do you see Silvio De Sousa’s role being down the homestretch?
BILL SELF: I hope he can get a role. It’s hard. Silvio has been great. I mean, the first thing he texted me the next morning (after the Oklahoma State win) was a picture of Doke shooting a free throw, saying, “Coach, you should be proud of him, he’s really working hard on his free throws.”

He’s the best kid. You know, that’s not easy for a guy that expects to play. But he also understands. He’ll be the first to admit it’s (Division I college basketball) a little bit faster and certainly he gets sped up. It’s bigger and stronger. He hasn’t had the luxury of having six months before he played a game going against this. Now we’re putting him in (the lineup) in pressure situations, hoping he can deliver in a game where you’re down six, (and) one or two possessions could be the difference in being too much to come back.

I would like to be able to utilize him. Certainly, Baylor is a team you could utilize him against because they’re going to play two bigs a lot. We’ll see how it goes.

But we’re not giving up on him by any stretch. We still believe he’s going to be an impact for us before it’ll said and done.

Q. Is it fair to say you thought he (De Sousa) would be farther along?
BILL SELF: That’s fair to say. It’s also fair to say maybe I thought our guys could help him to be father along, too. I don’t put that all on him. Maybe it’s fair to say I thought our staff or myself would have helped him to be further along.

But it’s hard when you check into a game on the road at K State, you’re down four in the first half, whatever the example would be, and say, ‘Hey, go out there, don’t screw up.’ He has no history of ever even being in the game, let alone playing under those circumstances.

I would think a lot of it is on him, but also a lot of it is on us not putting him in the best positions.

Q. Will he be way ahead next year?
BILL SELF: He’ll be a lot better. He’ll be a lot better. If he came here this summer, he would not be as far along. Sometimes you got to get a knot or two on your head. That’s obviously occurred with him. He’ll be much further along.

Q. Are you seeing the stuff you’re doing between games to manage Devonte’s fatigue helping him enough in the game?
BILL SELF: You know, you guys ask questions that I know are great questions. But yesterday we took a mandatory day off, so everybody got a day off. He’ll practice today.

But yeah, I think we’re doing all we can. He gets massages every other day. We bring him milk and cookies all the time to make sure he’s content on that, his caloric intake is right at the right spot. We’re doing all we can do.

The bottom line is he can’t come out. He’s just got to play through that.

Q. Despite playing with two bigs, do you see that as an opportunity to give Devonte’ rest?
BILL SELF: That hasn’t been the problem why we haven’t given him a rest. The problem is who runs the team or who we put in there. Playing two bigs really hasn’t helped that, but it could help Svi and Malik’s minutes obviously.

Q. Is he the hardest player you’ve had to try to take out of games?
BILL SELF: I thought Frank (Mason III) was hard last year until we get to this year. Frank had Devonte’. I can’t remember someone, us, having this little depth at a key position that we couldn’t put somebody else in. That would be probably an accurate statement.

Q. You expected the margins of victory to be pretty slim (in Big 12 play). Has it been tough getting used to it, seeing it play out that way?
BILL SELF: No, not really. To answer your question, of course we’d like to have a blend. I mean, everybody would. But if you look at last year’s games, didn’t we win 10 games where we were behind double-digits? Last year’s games were comparable in some way.

To be honest with you, we have been behind less, if you look at it that way, than what we have even in last year’s games some. We just had guys that closed fast last year.

The difference is, if you really studied us on the difference in points spreads in games, we’ve always been a team that could go on a 12-2 run just like that (snapping fingers), an 8-0 run in one minute, or a 16-4 run over three minutes.

This team hasn’t been able to separate and have runs. I always learned this as a coach. You can be average, kind of go back and forth, all that stuff. Then you hit them on that one-, two-minute run, all of a sudden you can’t overcome it. We haven’t been one of those teams.

The other thing we haven’t been as good at, I don’t know if there’s a reason for that, but maybe a reason for that is in order to get on those runs, you have to be really good offensively, and the energy has to turn up. Those runs obviously lead to deflections, steals, blocked shots, long rebounds which allow you to run.

You very rarely have a 14-2 run unless transition is involved. Very rarely, it happens sometimes, but not very often. We haven’t been able to do that as much off of our defense.

The other thing is, we’ve actually had some great possessions where we get up eight or 10 on an opponent. Granted, it’s a long game. Like the NBA game, what’s the deal, you get up 20 in the first half, you know it’s going to come down to the last possession.

College basketball isn’t quite like that, but you know other teams are going to compete and make runs. You know that’s going to be the case. But we have been quick to give away our good efforts.

So you come out of halftime, you go on a 10-0 run, you go up 12. We’ve been quick to make that 12-4 in the next minute or two. Those are things that we have got to get better at, obviously.

Q. Speaking of the NBA, did you see (Joel Embiid) and (Markieff Morris) get mixed up?
BILL SELF: Last night? No, I did not. I did not. Two guys that like to talk a lot. Was it a good one or a pillow fight?

Q. (Markieff) sprained his hand.
BILL SELF: On pushing Jo?

Q. Yes.
BILL SELF: I did not see any of that. Those are two pretty competitive guys, though. Both of them like to get the last word in, I can attest to that.

Q. What do you think of Devonte’s ability to get to the line?
BILL SELF: We can talk about what we don’t do well. Guys, there’s been some vast improvements in some areas, too. To go from being a team that shot no free throws to now being a team that shoots almost as many free throws as anybody in our league, give him a lot of that credit.

Others have been better at that. But give Devonte’ a lot of that credit, yeah. He’s gotten much better.

Q. Not to go through every player, but how is Sam (Cunliffe) doing?
BILL SELF: Yeah, he’s doing okay. He’s behind. But he’s doing okay. He usually tries hard. He got hurt last week and fell on his hip hard. I think it was on Wednesday. He wasn’t able to be utilized Saturday. He didn’t practice before the OSU game. He said he could. The guy didn’t practice for three days. Unless you’re Devonte’, Doke or Svi, I’m not going to put him out there much. He was available against TCU, but I didn’t think the situation called for it.

Q. With conserving Graham’s energy, is it possible to play him off the ball more?
BILL SELF: We tried that. I think it’s possible. I don’t think it’s worked out very well for us. But we have tried that. I personally thought that Malik and Lagerald would be not point guard by any stretch, but could be immediate point guards or be able to initiate, things like that. It hasn’t quite worked out the way I’d hoped to on that front.

Q. Svi did that all summer, the last two summers, with his national team. Could he be that ball handler?
BILL SELF: Maybe, yeah. You could, but you’re taking a guy and putting him on the ball, which I guess would be all right. It’s playing 38 minutes a game instead of 40, taking him off what he does best.

We could do that some. But the best way we could do it, and maybe it’s Marcus, is to have someone that could literally take Devonte’ out and sit him down, or take Devonte’ off the ball and utilize him getting some shots off the catch. The vast majority of Devonte’s makes are off the bounce, unless it’s an offensive rebound.

Q. Is it hard to recruit in this day and age when you don’t know your roster size?
BILL SELF: I don’t think so. It’s always a crapshoot recruiting in November because it’s hard when you’re thinking about a high school senior, in June before his high school year, making decisions based on who is on the roster 18 months later. That’s difficult because you never know.

Even though you can express to him, This can happen, this may happen, sometimes it’s hard to make a decision based on things that are still uncertain or up in the air. I do think that’s a little bit of a crapshoot.

Now, if you recruit Josh or Wigs or whatever, you know, You’ll be replacing that guy, you know he’s only going to be here one year, that’s certainly easier. But we haven’t been in a situation since we obviously recruited Josh where we had somebody that we knew for sure wouldn’t be here. Billy would probably be the closest things. We were able to recruit fine with recruits knowing that.

Q. Did you get a better sense of how Svi ended up only getting two shot attempts?
BILL SELF: You know what, not really. Watching the tape, I don’t know that he felt great. He did not look visibly himself. I don’t know if anybody else noticed that. There was something. He just didn’t seem quite energetic or talkative or himself. When other teams take you away like TCU did, you got to be able to work through that and adjust.

I think Svi has been absolutely terrific. He’s had an unbelievable senior year. He’s been aggressive. For whatever reasons, they were able to take him away. I don’t know if it was as much us or a combination of us and maybe him just not having that extra oomph to maybe fight through some stuff.

I ask him all the time how he feels. After the game, Hey, man, you don’t look quite the same, you feel okay?

I’m fine. I’m fine.

He would never use that as an excuse. But I think TCU, they did a couple of subtle things that were really clever in defending us. Think about that. How many shots do our perimeter get off of ball screens where help is forced? Half? Well, we didn’t force help off ball screens because of the way they switched it and did some things. There are some clever things they did that they deserve credit for.

Q. If you asked your guys, you say, ‘How you doing’, how many will tell you the truth, how many will tell you what you want to hear?
BILL SELF: I think they’ve been taught that nobody really cares how you’re feeling. So when I ask them that, I think they always say, Good, great, whatever. I’ve told them many times that there’s not 16,000 people that really give a flip if your nose is running or not. They really don’t.

I think they’ve kind of learned that over time. They’re probably going to tell us what we want to hear.

Q. How are you feeling?
BILL SELF: Great (laughter).




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