Kansas head basketball coach Bill Self is reloading again following last year’s disappointing finish. He talks about the upcoming season at his press conference today:
BILL SELF: Good afternoon, all. All right, guys. Fire away.
Q. You had them for about a month now, what’s the most encouraging and most disappointing so far?
BILL SELF: Encouraging, probably experience I would say would be the most encouraging.
Flashes of doing, playing really well and playing the way that we want to play.
Discouraging, I would say inconsistency and not great energy consistently. And certainly our ball handling and passing has been poor. But I like our guys. I don’t think that we played well at all in practice last couple weeks. I’m hoping it’s just because we want to play somebody else, so.
Q. Who is your most improved player from last year at the end of the year to right now that you’ve been pleased with?
BILL SELF: I think Frank and Perry are both really improved, which so if you want to pick somebody to be improved, I think you would want to pick your best guys.
I would say the thing that’s probably been frustrating to me, to go back to back to your question, I don’t think I’ve seen a big jump consistently with a lot of our players from an improvement, individual improvement standpoint. I think that we have been solid, but I don’t think that we have taken that next step.
Now, could that be because of health with Wayne’s ankle and with Brannen Greene’s hip and some things like that? It may be as much health related as whatever else. But I would say, to me, Hunter Mickelson is probably, well, what fans would probably view as our most improved guy. But I’m not sure that Frank and Perry and Jamari probably haven’t played at a higher level than they did at any point in time last year right now.
Q. What percent is Wayne’s ankle?
BILL SELF: You would have to ask him, but he hasn’t missed any time. He hasn’t taken any days off. He just doesn’t look quite as explosive to me. But he would tell you it’s fine and a hundred percent. But there’s no excuse, but the thing about with Wayne is he practiced a good portion of our pre-season not being very healthy. Doctors said that’s what he should do and fight through it, but I don’t think he quite had the explosion this pre-season as what he would have or what he did this summer.
Q. Before the season starts do you guys get together, I know you get together a lot as a team and assess your goals for the season?
BILL SELF: No, I never have been big on that. That doesn’t mean that’s right that I’m not, so I think, obviously, a goal would be to win the league, but if you ask Frank what his goals would be he would say well I think we should win every game we play. And I do think that’s a great goal to have. It stones necessarily mean it’s going to be true, but we should be in the game to win most every game that we play, so — but I really, my goals have always just been, hey, let’s just get as close to our ceiling as we possible can.
Q. Talk about what a great ambassador and role model Perry is for the program.
BILL SELF: Yeah, well, Perry’s been awesome. The depending upon what kind of year he has, which I predict he’ll be a guy that could average 17 a game, that type of year, he could go down as the fifth leading scorer in the history of the school. So, yeah, he’s had a fabulous career and of courses a better kid than player and has handled everything so well.
I could be negative and say I wish he was more aggressive at times and I wish he was more vocal at times, but you’re splitting hairs with him. I don’t think that we ever dreamed that we would get a better person or player when we signed him than what we have.
Q. You mentioned the last couple weeks maybe not being quite as crisp as you wanted. I know there’s a lot of benefits going over to Korea, but have you seen they’re a little more tired and not as fresh?
BILL SELF: No, no, I don’t think it’s that at all. I don’t think there is fatigue from that, I think it’s more of boredom from it. These guys have, I mean for the first time in awhile we have got an experienced team for the most part. So you have an experienced team and they have heard my rhetoric for three years or four years and in Jamari’s case five years.
And I think that there will be a lot of times that I can call, hey, let’s run this, and they will just go do it and we haven’t done it since last year, but you can’t go fast because you obviously got three guys that don’t know. But I think it’s as much that as anything else.
Q. What do you want it see in the first game from your guys?
BILL SELF: I would love to see how we play within the focus of the rules. I would love to see if we can play without fouling and still be aggressive. A lot of people can play without fouling but they lose all aggressiveness and can we do both. Can we be good defensively and also be a team that plays smart and doesn’t play with their hands as much and are disciplined. Those are what I want to see and then to see how the young kids react when the lights are on.
Q. Have you had officials to practice?
BILL SELF: We have had officials and we’re having them again today.
Q. How is that going?
BILL SELF: Well, I got on the officials the first time, because they called four fouls in the first two possessions. And I said, guys, I mean, gee, I’m all for this, but we at least want to scrimmage today.
So we would have never — I mean we would have never got through a quarter at that same pace. But I do think that our guys, it has been emphasized a lot and do think they’re handling it better now. But they will be shocked today when you have Big-12 officials calling our scrimmage today, and they will be shocked today that they will all foul out. I really think that — I think it’s going to be that big of an adjustment for everybody.
Q. Who will foul out first?
BILL SELF: Cheick. Without question.
Q. When Carlton signed here you said you kind of had maybe an idea of what to expect and those maybe expectations maybe changed a little bit early on?
BILL SELF: Not really. We knew he would be good, but he’s been really, really good at times and then he’s been a freshman at times. I think he’s going to be a little inconsistent early, but he’s going to be terrific. He won’t be in school here four years. I honestly feel that way.
Q. Officials are human and if the early games are just nothing but whistles and free throws, everybody’s going to be miserable and will they just back off and go back to what they used to do?
BILL SELF: Not this time. Not this time. I think that they are human and I do think that there will be talks about how do we stay on the course or how do we improve a little bit what we’re doing, how are we letting certain things slide how we’re maybe calling this other stuff a little too tight. I think there will be talks like that. But those will be talks you have during the course of the year any time.
But I think they’re going to stay the course and I think the players and the coaches have to understand that it’s going to stay the way it is. I think we also need to understand that it’s going to be a much better game two or three years from now, but we’re going to go through some growing pains early.
Q. Do you think eventually college will go to FIFA?
BILL SELF: I don’t know that we’ll go to FIFA, but I do think that we’ll adopt some rules that FIFA has eventually. You guys watched us play this summer, I mean, that was a blood bath. That was more physical than here, it’s just they have more absolutes. If your hands are up, there can be as much contact as there is. If you reach and there’s no contact hardly at all it will be a foul. I mean, they have more absolutes than what we have, I believe.
But it was a very physical game over there. Way more physical than what we’re used to playing. So, I don’t think that at all prepared us for the rules emphasis changes at all. But the FIFA game, I’ll be the first to tell you, there’s some things about it that I think is better than our game.
Q. The absolutes?
BILL SELF: No, no, I think that, for instance, we lowered the shot clock to 30, which is good. FIFA is 24. But if they get an offensive rebound, it resets to 14, it doesn’t even go back to 24. Ours will reset to 30.
So, I think there’s some things that we could do moving forward to create more possessions. Let’s say ours just reset to 20, or let’s say you can advance the ball in late game situations, you know, after a timeout. It keeps you in the game, it keeps the excitement.
So, if you’re down three with one second left, game’s not over any more. The game, because you’ll have to defend the last second in the fore court.
So there’s a lot of things about it that I think, to me, if you implement what our game is, which is really, really good and just tweak it a little bit with a couple of things that we learned this summer, I think it could be a better game.
Q. When you have practice, you know you got certain guys playing, you don’t know about Cheick, do you get other guys more reps or how does that work?
BILL SELF: Not yet. We haven’t done anything like that yet. Now we may be doing that next week, but we got six big guys and we’re massaging them all and trying to figure out how to work them, so they’re all getting pretty much the same reps with the exception of Perry. Really, the reps are based on whose playing with Perry for the most part.
But, no, we haven’t gotten to that point with Cheick, we’re treating it just like he’s going to play, but if we find out something later on that he won’t be or something, then of course we’ll alter it then.
Q. Optimistic you’ll know that the first game with him?
BILL SELF: Well, first game is Wednesday, right? Yeah, I was hoping by this Wednesday. But the reality, I think there will be a definitive answer by Northern Colorado, but I’m hoping, obviously, even sooner than that. But I have no feelings that it will get done by Wednesday, but I’m still hopefully full that it can.
Q. Can he play if he’s not cleared by Wednesday?
BILL SELF: No. No. We won’t play him. No, we won’t play him. Not unless the NCAA told us, play him, and it has no bearing on hurting him if they make a determination later. But that will not happen. They’re not going to tell us that. We’ll hold him until we know.
Q. Do you think that they haven’t gotten to it or have you hit a snag?
BILL SELF: No, they have gotten to it. They have gotten to it. It’s been handled the right way. And of course you’ll never be privy to what’s been done, but it’s been handled in a correct way and I think there’s a lot of processing going on right now. But we don’t know if that takes additional information, we don’t know what that entails, but I do think that everybody’s on the same page and understanding the importance of getting this thing cleared up as soon as possible. No question.
Q. Besides wanting to win what would you like to see most on Wednesday? What area would you like to see really stand out?
BILL SELF: Well, I would like for us to be able to score inside. I think that’s got something, that’s something that obviously was a deficiency last year that we’re trying to address, but I still don’t think we’re very good at it.
I would like for us to be able to, I think, play within the way the game is going to be officiated and not lose an identity of who we are. Those are the things that I would like to see as much as anything else. We’re going to throw it all over the gym, we’ll turn it over, we’ll not miss block outs, we’ll do all that stuff, just like they will also. I mean, it’s so early, it’s hard to be great at everything.
We’re talking today of, okay, in the next two weeks we got to get this in, and it will take a month to get in what we talked about getting in, in the next two weeks, just before we’re prepared to really play a game that matters.
So it’s — there’s a lot going on. But if we could just get an idea on how aggressive we can be, how the game’s going to be called, how to take advantage of how the game’s going to be called, to me, we got as good a guard in the country to take advantage of how the game’s going to be called, because nobody can drive it better than Frank. So hopefully that will be a bonus for us instead of looking at it as a negative hopefully it will be a bonus for us, too.
Q. Did you watch the game last night?
BILL SELF: Oh, yeah, every pitch. I don’t think I missed — I think I missed a few pitches, I had to speak Friday night in Kansas City, but other than that, no, I’ve caught all the action. It’s very cool.
Q. Is there a lesson to be taken from the fact that they are a team that you can maybe even take in basketball and say, guys, you play like this, this is what’s going to happen?
BILL SELF: I think baseball gives you the best examples on sports as much as anything else. I mean, I claim that I know baseball, but I played when I was young, but you look at it, Volquez getting out of the sixth with one run with the bases loaded one out. That won, that gave us a chance to be in the game.
How many times do you — in basketball, it’s not a matter of making great plays, it’s a matter of making successive good plays. It’s not as — it’s just as important to make the pass to start the play as it is to make the pass to finish the play.
Well nobody illustrates that better than the Royals baseball-wise, because did they go yard in the last several games? I mean, Alex went yard once and then they had an inside the park or they went off a guy’s foot. Yeah, but that wasn’t a home run, that should have been an out. So it turns into a home run. But that reminds me of when you’re a little leaguer you hit it to the short stop and it goes through his legs and the left fielder’s legs and all of a sudden you have a home run.
But yeah, I think that just the successive plays. And then the other thing is, is that it’s never over. You just keep grinding. Those guys were grinders. That’s — there’s so many amazing things about it, but everybody, I know our bullpen’s good, I know that. But what Hochevar did last night is unbelievable. What Chris Young did to come in and pitch those three score-less and all this — we’re counting on guys that under most circumstances don’t get a chance to throw and they’re in there, they’re mowing them down. I thought that was unbelievable. And you knew that if you got, if we got to our bullpen and their bullpen and the score was tied, you knew that the advantage was to us.
Q. You’ve been at the top of your profession is that in some instances maybe alive changing experience? Winning the whole thing.
BILL SELF: Well, I think that — oh, it was for me for sure. Yeah, yeah, it was for me, for sure. Not saying it changes you as a person, but it changes opportunities, without question. And it will for those guys, too.
You stop and think, Ned Yost has been in the game what did he say? Since 1974? And it was his 8th World Series. I mean, and unbelievable. And then Dayton Moore, all the things that he’s done and people question and you know, and then to make every move with if you’re playing checkers or chess, he had everything perfect. He made every right move. It’s unbelievable. Who bats a thousand on moves that Zobrist and Cueto and obviously who else did they bring in? I mean, who bats a thousand on that? And they did. It’s unbelievable. And of course Bob knows it better than anything because he covered them for so many years. He hasn’t covered them the last two years, Bob, right? What a coincidence that they gotten a lot better.
Addition by subtraction. You’ve heard that before.
Q. Out of all the practices you’ve had what do you think of the Frank, Devonte’, Selden combination?
BILL SELF: We practice that way every day. It’s been okay. It’s been okay. But I don’t think that Frank or Devonte’ or Wayne puts enough pressure on people defensively or offensively. I think that they can certainly do more things to help our team by being aggressive all the time.
You know, that’s the advantage that we will have with the new rule changes is being aggressive, because if there’s no touch you got to drive it. That’s our advantage. And those guys can do that. So I certainly hope we drive the ball a lot more than we have in the past.
Q. But are you still intrigued by Frank and Devonte’ playing at the same time a lot?
BILL SELF: I don’t want to say intrigued any more, because that’s how it’s going to be, they’re going to play together, they’re going to start together, so I don’t know if intrigued is the right word. Intrigued would be something that you’ve only seen glimpses off. That’s how we have practiced every day so far.
Q. The change from 35 to 30, isn’t that big, is it big enough to try to pressure a team more so they can’t get into their offense?
BILL SELF: No, I do think there’s some validity to that. We’re not at that point yet where we’ll say, okay, we’ll soft press and then get, have them across at 22 and have them get organized and now it’s 18 and then you got to defend 8 seconds before you switch every ball screen or whatnot.
That’s, in theory, how teams will do it.
Or soft press and then fall back to zone and then you organize 18, you got 8 seconds to attack a zone before you have to start scrambling for a shot.
I think there’s going to be a lot of things like that. But you can also look at it from the flip side. Every press that they press you now, you should look at that as a fast break.
So any time you go against pressure, even soft, you got to think of, have a way to attack that and look at it as a fast break.
And the other thing is, if, if it’s going to take us a little bit more time to get into stuff, how do we get it up the court a couple seconds quicker to make sure we allow ourself a little bit more time.
So I think those are the things that are very, very minor, but will eventually be a big deal in buying your team a little extra time. I don’t think 30 seconds is going to be a huge impact, except for the last five minutes. And the last five minutes last year, 30 seconds was, 35 seconds wasn’t enough time because teams that are ahead stall the ball and then they play for one shot on the shot clock.
Well it’s going to be the same thing, it’s not going to be worse offense, you’re still going to have teams trying to get a shot in the last five seconds of the clock, regardless if it’s 30 or 35. In my opinion.
Q. You had a lot of big guys, where can Traylor get on the floor, he hasn’t been a great rebounder, he’s not a naturally great scorer. Is it being disruptive?
BILL SELF: I think so. Just energy. Jamari has actually played better than he’s played at any point in time in his career or the last two weeks, so I don’t know who will start tomorrow night, but he certainly would be a guy that deserves to start as much as anybody else right now, but that doesn’t mean we’ll start him, just because we want to look at different combinations. We already know how he and Perry can play together, we may want to look at some different stuff. Not tomorrow night, Wednesday night.
Q. Are you looking at brining Greene and guys off the bench to give you a shot or?
BILL SELF: Well, if you’re going to start Devonte’ and Wayne and Frank, then, yeah, we’re looking at them coming off the bench. So, but, yeah, they need to be instant offense they need to be able to be guys that can be more than adequate defensively, but be a guy that can — Brannen Greene to me, whether he plays 10 minutes or whether he plays 20 or 25, whatever it is, he could be a guy, if he gets five open looks, he can come away with 12 points. That to me is a situation with him. So we need him to make shots.
But on the flip side, he’s got to be able to do some other things to give our team the best chance, because people aren’t going to let him shoot. So if people defend him a certain way and not going to let him get his feet set and chase him off the line or do whatever, then he’s got to be able to obviously do other things to help us win.
Q. In the past it seemed like at times that getting back on defense wasn’t an instinct for him?
BILL SELF: For Brannen?
BILL SELF: Well, yeah, I guess you could make a case for that. Maybe bending knees, anything like that. So, no, I’m joking. But Brannen’s had, he’s had a good camp. I just don’t think his health has allowed him to be at 100 percent.
Q. It’s late in his career to have to worry about little things like that, isn’t it?
BILL SELF: No, I don’t think so. I do think — I told our guys the other day, hey, as a freshman, you’re learning. As a sophomore, you’re stubborn. As a Junior, well you just don’t get it.
You know, that’s the kind of thought process. And I’m not talking about Brannen I’m talking about anybody in general. So if you’re still fighting certain things as a junior or senior, then it’s not stubbornness, you just don’t get it. Stubbornness was when you’re young and you believe that you’re right and everybody else is wrong. If that’s not the case any more and you worked work through that, then you just don’t understand. And that’s, I think our guys will be better with that. I think Brannen will be better with that.
Q. The AP came out, you guys are 4, you got five first place votes. Do you like it?
BILL SELF: You’re the first one to mention that to me, so I like whatever. Whatever they said is great. So I don’t think there’s any reason to ever dislike what somebody else think because it doesn’t do any good.
The other thing is, we don’t, we have done nothing, other than have a group of guys play good and go on tour and deserve to be ranked fourth. We still have a lot to prove. That is nice, but I don’t think it means anything.
Q. (No microphone.)
BILL SELF: Pretty good. He shot the ball well. He shot the ball well. He’s stronger, his body looks great. Defensively, he’s conscientious, he tries to do everything we want him to do, but I do think that our carelessness is our biggest issue and when guys are careless, it’s hard to be as confident as you want to be, because you worry about not making mistakes as opposed to just playing and I think we got several guys going through that. Svi’s one of them.
Q. Any red shirt possibilities?
BILL SELF: You know what? No. No. But if we decided to red shirt a freshman, we can do it after the two exhibition games. You just can’t red shirt anybody else. So, if everybody plays on Wednesday, that’s returning, then that would eliminate them as a possible red shirt.