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October 2, 2014

Bill Self

COACH SELF:  Nice of everybody to show up considering there's nothing else in the sport world going on in Kansas City today.

Q.  You've got three shorter guards.  Would you expect the norm to be two of those guys on the floor at the same time or one?
COACH SELF:  You know, Tom, I don't know what the norm is going to be yet, but I would say in a perfect world, we need more ball handling.  We need more play‑making.
You know, last year our assist‑to‑turnover ratio wasn't what we hoped.  We didn't handle pressure as well as we hoped.  Probably didn't feed the post as well as we hoped.  So getting your better ball handlers and passers out there, you would think would help you do so.
I can see a scenario where Wayne plays point with two big wings, and I can see a scenario where Frank and Devonte' or Frank and Connor, whoever it is, is in the game at the same times.  I don't see many scenarios where all three will be in the game together but I think we can definitely play small.  Frank is tough enough, he allows us to play small because I think he an guard a bigger guard.

Q.  Do you like having the versatility?
COACH SELF:  Yeah, I think so.  Last year we were probably more versatile than what I thought we were or allowed us to be because we were pretty locked in that we were going to play Wiggs at the three and Wayne at the two, or vice versa.  And when we did that, we really took away some play making and some perimeter ball handling and passing I think.  Not that Wayne is not a good passer.  But he's probably not, you know, the play maker last year that Frank could be this year.
So I see us being small a lot.  But when I say being small, I can see us playing Wayne at the four, Kelly Oubre at the four, Brannen Greene at the four, to make us ‑‑ even though standing height will be about the same, but to make us a much more perimeter‑oriented team.

Q.  Hunter Mickelson is the one guy with a history of blocking shots.
COACH SELF:  Hunter, he's a prototypical four man.  He's a face‑up guy.  I think the challenge for him is to play bigger than what he is or what has been, because, you know, I could be wrong, but I can't see anybody beating Perry out.
So what is best for the team if Perry is on the court would be to have somebody that can keep him from defending the five, somebody that can keep him from having to be the primary rebounder all the time, somebody that can keep him from having to play on the post because another guy can get angles and get easy baskets.
The reality is, Hunter with his skill set will probably have to do some more things in order to see playing time just because of what our needs are based on our other personnel.  But you're right, he's our best shot‑blocker.  Cliff's going to be a good one, but Hunter is a guy that people don't realize this, Hunter blocked more shots than Joe did his last year at Arkansas than Joe did last year in less minutes.  So he's naturally a pretty good shot‑blocker.

Q.  What do you need to see from Perry in terms of his leadership?  He's such a quiet guy; do you want to see some maturation in those areas?
COACH SELF:  I would like for him to be a little bit more vocal but I don't think we're going to change Perry on who he is.  I like who he is, and I think in the past I've done a poor job with some of the guys betting them outside their comfort zone so much that they forgot about playing.
I think I did that with Frank last year, wanting to be a true point guard and be a leader and understand and this and that, and I think I took away some aggressiveness because he was always thinking.
With Perry, he's never going to be your vocal leader.  I mean, he's not going to be.  And leaders by example, as we learned with the Marines the other day, I'm not sure that's a fair term. Because leaders by example, basically meaning they work hard, they are on time and they are responsible and that kind of stuff; meaning they just do their job.  That's what a leader by example, just does his job, and I don't think he should get bonus points for doing your job.
But I do think that they can be recognized in a way that definitely give our team the best chance to be good and Perry is one of those guys that if he can just add a little bit of the leadership things vocally or whatever to his repertoire, then I think it will make our team a lot better.
But I'm not looking to have Perry be the vocal guy, game point where he's telling everybody what to do.  I want Perry to go score.  That's who he is, he's a scorer, so let's him go be who he is and just improve in those other areas a little bit.

Q.  How has Brannen improved?
COACH SELF:  He's really improved.  Of course, last year he was one of our most talented guys and didn't play much, and this year he's in a dogfight for playing time because that's a loaded house, crowded house back there with Wayne and with Kelly and Svia and with Brannen.  That's four really good, tall perimeter players.
So you know, Brannen is going to have to do some more things on the defensive end and learn how to make others better.  But you know, Brannen Greene is a very talented guy.  I mean, he's arguably as good a shooter as we have.  He can run all day, he can do a lot of different things athletically, he's gotten stronger but he's still got to buy into guarding on the other end.

Q.  How has Svia handled the transition here?
COACH SELF:  So far, great.  He doesn't speak the language as well as he understands it.  You know, Joe understood it perfectly, but he always acted like he didn't.  He was a master of that.
Svia isn't as bright as Joe in that regard as far as being a con.  Joe was great at it.  You know, when things are going good, Joe understood every word.  When things were going bad, "Oh, Coach, I don't understand at all."  (Speaking with heavy accent inflection).
But Svia isn't like that.  I think Svia gets it and he understands.  But he's a really talented guy.  You'll see how impressive he is athletically and skill set and all those things.  The only knock on him right now, he's young.  He should be a high school junior or senior, as opposed to a college freshman.  But he's going to be really good.

Q.  As young as he is, is that a factor in how much he'll play?
COACH SELF:  Could be.  Everybody says strength.  I'm not sure it's strength as much.  I like his body.  I think he'll get stronger and stuff.
But I still think, you know, he can‑‑ a guy could knock him off his line pretty easy and being physical with him and stuff like that.  He's going to have to learn how to become more physical.
One thing about him, we haven't been in a practice situation yet but when you stop and think about who has played against the best competition?  He may have.  And who has played against the strongest men?  He may have.
So we talk about the things he may be lacking with because of his age.  Well, he's the only one that's been out there playing against 28‑ and 30‑year‑olds consistently.  So it may not be as much of a factor as we might think.

Q.  Alexander is more physically developed than most guys that age and comes from a physical league.  Is he a real physical player?
COACH SELF:  I think Cliff can be a physical player.  I'm not sure that he knows how yet because his idea of being physical would be getting three fouls in the first five minutes.  So he's going to have to learn how to guard and move his feet and pick his spots, that kind of stuff.
But I see some similarities with Cliff and Thomas, you know, that kind of stuff.  Cliff is probably a little bigger at the same stage, about the same athletically.  Offensively about the same.  There's a lot of similarities in him.  Cliff has to get where he goes after every ball, and he did that in high school, so hopefully that will translate to college.
But I think he, without question, if he were to play his best and everybody else would play their best, I think that he would be our most physical player, though.

Q.  What do you see in Devonte', and does there have to be some kind of natural progression for him?
COACH SELF:  Yeah, I think there needs to be but I'll be honest with you, you know, without seeing him really go up and down a lot, that kind of stuff, he's going to be a hard guy to keep out of the lineup.  He's a little bit older.  He's a great leader.  He's probably as popular as any student is on campus.  I mean, everybody knows him.  Everybody likes him.  He's got potential to be a great leader, and he's really a good basketball player.
So he'll definitely fight for starting minutes, there's no question about that.  And I mean from day one.

Q.  How much do those qualities help you as a point guard?
COACH SELF:  Well, I think they are invaluable.  Without throwing anybody under the bus last year, because last year's team was totally different and last year's team was long and we had explosive athletes on the wing and this and that and there's a lot of things that we could‑‑ and Naadir was a good shooter from a point guard position.
To me, Devonte' is, you know, remind me of Aaron Miles.  You know, just a guy that would do whatever it takes to give the team the best chance and be a good leader in all areas.  You know, he can make a shot, too.
So I think that his intangibles will probably allow him to play more early on because if you look at our team, that's what our team needs as much as anything else are those intangibles.

Q.  Were you impressed that the Marines named him the best teammate?
COACH SELF:  Named him the best leader, yeah, leader/teammate.  But no, not really.  There were three guys it came down to.  It was Kelly and Wayne and Devonte', and those guys picked Devonte', which I think was pretty good for a freshman.
You know, Kelly Oubre is going to be a good leader, too.  Those three are probably our most three natural leaders I would think.

Q.  Do you think this will be a better defensive team than last year?
COACH SELF:  I hope so, because we stunk last year defensively.
We didn't put pressure on the ball.  We never cut the head off.  Teams got comfortable.  When I say we stunk; we were probably still the best or second best defensive team in our league, but that's not who we've been for years, and we've been better than that.
And so we don't have a shot‑blocker behind us‑‑ if it were not for Joe last year, there's no tell how bad we looked at times defensively, because people got the ball where they wanted to get it, and he covered up mistakes.
This year, we don't have a guy to cover mistakes like that, seven‑foot tall.  But I do think we are going to be able to pressure the ball, deny one pass away, and I think you're going to see a pretty good defensive team.

Q.  How are the new locker rooms?
COACH SELF:  The new locker room?  It's awesome.  Matter of fact‑‑ no, Chris won't give everybody a tour, but still, though, they are really, really good.
We had a nice locker room before, but what's been done here recently is tremendous.  And Chris, I'm trying to think, what was the name of the company‑‑ but you guys remember, somebody wrote an article, I know.  What is it?
Yeah, Dimensional Innovations, they did a great job coming in.  They took our ideas and incorporated their own and kept the history intact and yet still some modern amenities.  Hopefully it will help recruiting.
We've got a lot of stuff going on now with the DeBruce Center and McCarthy Hall and Late Nights coming up and you have the 60th year anniversary, which to me will be arguably as cool a non‑basketball event that the building has had, bringing back Roy and Larry and Ted and players from each era.  I think that will be something that every fan that's a true fan who wouldn't to be a part of that.  So there's a lot of neat things going on right now.

Q.  When you have the locker room, do you decide who sits where?  How much thought goes into that?
COACH SELF:  No.  I don't have as much say‑so on stuff like that.
I used to be a micromanager when I was young and I would spend more time worrying about stuff that had absolutely nothing to do with whether we won or lost and I think coaches do that when they are young.  When they get a little bit more experienced, they realize, does it really matters if a guy sits to your left or to your right, or things like that.
The players pick that stuff out.  But if somebody is being a jerk and that particular day they were forced to not be a part of an activity, and then I let everybody else pick and they just take what's left, and that's happened before.  Because we've had a couple of really key players have the worst seating locations possible in large part just because that particular day, maybe they had some outside assignments they were doing.

Q.  Talk about pressuring defensively, who are some guys you are looking forward to seeing get out and guard people like that?
COACH SELF:  Frank can guard last year like he can.  Devonte' can really pressure.  Kelly Oubre is so long; he can get out.  You'll be sure advised, Svia maybe slides his feet as well as anybody we have.  He's a terrific, quick athlete.
Mike Fratello called me after he had him with the Ukraine National Team, and he said, "Bill, this may seem kind of weird but he would be great in a full court pressing defense," because he anticipates so well and he's so quick and athletic.  And of course Jamari showed glimpses last year being able to do some things in transition defense or pressing that nobody else can do.
So I think that we could put a pretty good defensive team out there.

Q.  Is pressing an option then?
COACH SELF:  Pressure is an option.  But pressing could be, too.  I'm not a big press guy, as you guys know, because I think you can win games when you have superior talent a lot of times against teams.
But Coach Sutton always taught me or told me:  So we can beat a team 70‑59, or somebody else could beat them 105‑70, so who is better?  And the answer is, who knows.
You play a style that gives you the best chance to win in the postseason because that's when you'll be playing against good guards.  And a lot of times good guards love it when teams press.
So I don't want to be a pressing team against certain teams and a non‑pressing team against the really good teams.  I want to develop an identity that this is who we are and it will work against whoever we are playing against.  And that doesn't mean you can't press some.  And certainly, I would anticipate us doing so, but I don't think it will be a staple of everything that we do defensively.

Q.  What do you expect out of Landen?  Landen?
COACH SELF:  Landen?  Landen may have had the best spring and summer of anybody.  He's had a good fall, too.  He's going to play.  He's fighting for major minutes.  He and Cliff are probably right now based on what I've seen going to head‑to‑head for a lot of major minutes.

Q.  Connor was an incredible shooter in high school, and some of that struggle is making the transition to this level and maybe not being so strong against stronger guys.  But was there anything else good, open shots‑‑
COACH SELF:  I think in high school, every high school kid that's a good player, is basically a volume shooter.  I mean, you can shoot 30 times and make 15 or 13 or 17 or whatever.  When you get to college‑‑ it's the same thing if you're an unbelievable player in college and you get to the next level, you go from being a volume shooter, now, okay, I'm going to get three looks or two looks and I've got to make one.
And with the minutes that he played, the minimal minutes that he played last year, it probably wasn't fair to him to put a great shooter out there knowing that every time it left, everybody hoped it went in and his whole play was based on whether he made a shot or not rather than based on if he was actually playing the game.
So I think he's a better player.  I think he's a terrific shooter.  I do think strength has been a factor with him some, and bigger guards and things like that, getting it off.
I think that he can help the team in many ways other than just shooting the ball, and I tell him this all the time; is that what you want to be known as, as a shooter or do you want to be known as a player.  And hopefully if he gets enough minutes this year, he'll feel more comfortable shooting the ball.
But that's a lot of pressure:  Hey, get in the game; if you make a shot, you stay, and if you don't make a shot, you come out.  Although that was never said to him, that was kind of the unknown, the message or the silent message that he received from us because that's basically honestly how it kind of played out.  And we need to give him more of an opportunity to give him more minutes, so there for he'll become a better shooter because he'll be more comfortable with less pressure.

Q.  What has Connor been working on in the off‑season?
COACH SELF:  He's got to get stronger, he's got so.  And the thing about it is, as good a shooter as he is, he's not good enough.  And as strong as Wayne is, he's not strong enough.
Everybody has got something they can get better at but the way that he could really help the team as much as possible is obviously with his strength and with his shooting ability.
So I think that those are the things that to me are still the key to him becoming a great college basketball player.

Q.  Talking about Perry being who he is, is that something you learned last year after Andrew‑‑
COACH SELF:  No, no, I don't think so.  I think I learned something through the program we just had, too.  We had a lot of counseling sessions with those Marines and how their platoon leaders and things like that, you know, handled each of their prospects and that kind of stuff.
The whole thing is, we have some guys that are really good at what they do.  We don't want to take away from that by making them to think to be something that they are not comfortable being.  But on the flip side, they need to get out of their comfort zone some, but probably not to the point that I wanted Frank to be out of his last year.
I don't think it was much of a factor with Perry, but with Frank I do.  Everybody, is Perry going to be the leader because he's obviously the most experienced guy.  Well, yeah, he's a leader but he's not go be the vocal guy.  He's not going to be the guy that people turn to and say, what do we do.  Not going to be like that kind of guy.
But he can certainly be more of a guy that makes more of a role with that, but we really need Wayne and Devonte', to be candid with you, to step up and be a lot more of that.  And Jamari is good at it, too.

Q.  What do you look for in Wayne's shooting?
COACH SELF:  Last year, he was great at times and last year he was, you know, obviously very streaky at times.  I would love for him to become more consistent.  That would be the thing.  He didn't have to shoot 40 percent from three but if he can get that above 35, I this I that would do wonders to help our team.

Q.  You mentioned Kelly, too.  What are your expectations for him?
COACH SELF:  He's probably the guy that it's harder for me to make a true evaluation on right now because, I mean, the guy is really good.  He's good enough; he's not going to be at Kansas for a long time.
But we've got to be able to plug him in to take advantage of what he does.  He can score the ball but he's so good around the rim, he's so good defensive getting out in passing lanes, he's such a good offensive rebounder.  There's a lot of things they can do well that's not your typical two or three‑guard type things.
So we have to find a way to post him and do some stuff like that that's a little bit different than what we've been doing.  But he's a talented player.

Q.  Have you thought about a starting five at this point possibly?  I know it's only October.
COACH SELF:  I guess you could say you always think about it.  But whether or not I'll tell you, that's a different story.
But yeah, I thought about some things, what I think will be best for our team, but what I think will be best for our team won't be who we start with to start the season, because guys have to learn and get comfortable and things like that.
But by conference play, I think in my mind, I have a team in mind that I would like to see kind of become that.  But a lot depends on how quick the young kids pick stuff up, though.

Q.  Top to bottom, how would you assess the talent of this team compared to your other team?
COACH SELF:  I will say that it reminds me a little bit of the 2008 team.  You know, the 2008 team, our best player was Brandon Rush.  Obviously he went in the lottery.  Mario was a second‑round pick.  Shady was a 27 pick.  Sherron was undrafted.  Cole ended up going 12 or 13 I guess.  Sasha went like 39.  Darnell went like 42 or whatever it was.
But this is a team like that in that there's not a first, second or third pick, right now.  I mean, I'm not saying somebody couldn't become that eventually but right now there's not, I wouldn't think.  But God, we've got a whole bunch of good players and I'm excited about that because we do have good basketball players.  We've got depth.  We don't have much size.
But we are pretty deep and pretty skilled at most of the positions, and so you know, whether or not that translates to better teams, because a lot of teams, they give me two studs and three average guys and we'll go play anybody, and I'm not sure we're quite like that.  I think we've got a whole bunch of really good players, a lot of balance.

Q.  Given all the hoopla you had last year with Wiggins, I know he handled it well.
COACH SELF:  He was great.  He was great and how he handled it.  But I would‑‑ you know, we don't have anybody like Wiggs or Joe, but we don't have‑‑ we've got guys that may end up being as good of college players as those guys.
When you talk about Wiggs and Joe, what everybody talked about was their upside more so than what they actually did in the college game because they weren't there long enough.  I mean, Joe only played like 25 games.
But I think we have more players that can impact the college game than what we had last year, which to me is exciting.  Now, do we have anybody that can get 41 at West Virginia?  I don't know about that.  But I think we've got some guys that are all capable of going out and getting 15 to 25 in a college game this year.

Q.  Do you ever go into the season with guys in mind possible sitting out the year?
COACH SELF:  Red shirts, I don't know would be a candidate this year.  Landen is not a candidate obviously.  Hunter is not a candidate obviously.  Jamari is not a candidate obviously because they have already sat out years.  So I don't know who else would be a candidate right now.
Right now I'm not thinking‑‑ that's one question you guys can remove from your list because I don't think red‑shirting will be a possibility with anybody.

Q.  How big is Late Night for recruiting this year compared to others?
COACH SELF:  Late Night's always big.  I can't talk about specific recruits and everything, but you know, it's not only big from a recruiting standpoint, it's big from our players' standpoint.  A lot of our players that we signed come to Late Night and then that's something that they always look forward to would be being a part of this.
And so we actually, we look forward to it and hopefully our fans will continue to support it.  I know last year we had a few issues on getting people in and those issues have been resolved.
So anybody that wants to come, they can get in.  They just need to make sure they get here in the time slot in which‑‑ you know, before the fire marshall or whatever closes the door, and we hope that's the case.  We hope that's a problem.  But we haven't really had a‑‑ there's only been two years we had an issue.
My first year here, we had to turn some people away and last year we had to turn some people away.  Every other year, everyone has gotten in the building.  So I certainly hope that doesn't deter anybody from coming.

Q.  In a program with such high expectations that center on the Tournament, does last year's disappointment have any influence on what happens this year?  Do you want your players to use that as motivation or just let it go?
COACH SELF:  We may talk about it.  I'm not going to defend last year's exit.  But I mean, that wasn't our team out there playing last year, either.  That team that was out there at the end last year was not a 2‑seed.  We didn't have Joe.
Joe was the best big man in the country, and you take the best big man in the country off any team, your team is not going to be as good.  And we played a team in which we didn't play well, they played better than us, they were bigger, their size bothered us, stuff like that.
So I'm not sure that‑‑ I think it can be motivation that, hey, we don't want to allow that to happen again, but sometimes in sports, stuff just happens.  Some things you just can't control.
And could we have won that game easily?  Absolutely.  Could we have advanced and played, possibly played Florida in the Elite 8 game or whatever it would be?  Absolutely.  I mean, we were in the game and we were good enough to do that but we didn't have near as much margin for error last year as what a lot of people thought.
I thought, to be candid with you, up until Joe got hurt, I thought that team did a great job.  I thought we won a lot of games with a bunch of young kids, and they kind of figured it out as they went.  But obviously after he went down, we weren't the same team after that.

Q.  Do you have any surprises on the all Big12 team?  Are you surprised Wayne didn't make it?
COACH SELF:  No, I'm not surprised.  The way they do the league selections with the coaches, which is fine, is you can't vote for your own guys.
So the one thing I was really surprised at is not one of our players got a vote, a vote, other than Perry.  I mean, we didn't even have an honorable mention guy other than Perry made the first team.
So that may be something that we tell our guys.  Because we have got plenty good enough players that, you know, they could at least receive some consideration, I think.  I haven't seen the polls.  Have the polls come out yet?  So when do they come out?
See, I don't understand that either.  Two weeks before media day, and I don't understand that.  But certainly we may be picked to win it, we may not.  I've seen several magazine things and some people have us in the top five.  Others have Texas in the top five.
So people have Iowa State in the Top‑10.  No question about that.  And of course OU is well thought of.  I saw Vital still had them as high as 19, I believe.  K‑State is right around the Top‑25.  So this year on paper, if last year is the best year the league ever had, this year on paper it appears to be just as good.  It will be tough to win the league.  Whoever wins it will deserve it.

Q.  You mentioned trying to take some guys out their comfort zonelast year.  Do you feel you got out of your comfort zone at all?
COACH SELF:  In what way?

Q.  Maybe changing some styles?
COACH SELF:  Probably not.  Probably not.
But‑‑ I don't think so.  I think that if anything last year with the type of team and with the personnel that we had, the one thing I would tell you is:  I don't think we were as hard and as tough as what a Kansas team typically is.
So we didn't do enough job as a staff of getting them that way.  And that's something that, you know, we may not play very well this year but that will be a point of emphasis with our staff each and every day to make sure that that does not happen again.  Now, that doesn't mean that it won't happen, but we're going to definitely emphasize it that it won't.

Q.  Why was that?
COACH SELF:  I think personalities.  Young, youth; I think there's a lot of reasons, without going into much detail.  But I don't think we were as tough and as hard as what our other teams have been, and I think we have recruited some tough, hard kids now.

Q.  Any motivational words for the Royals?
COACH SELF:  I'm sure they are all listening.  Hosmer is thinking right now:  I wonder what's going on at the KU basketball press conference. (Laughs).
No, I think those guys are doing great on their own and it's awfully cool to watch.  I'm a big fan, I don't go to near as many games as I should‑‑ to me, it's so cool to see a bunch of young kids out there that are men having the time of their life.  I mean, they are down‑‑ if I'm not mistaken, 8‑7 with two outs in the bottom of the 12th, and they have got a pinch runner in the game that's the fastest guy in baseball‑‑ is that is right?  And he's dancing at third base and he hasn't even scored yet.  You just don't see that with other‑‑ I mean, to me, that's cool.  I think it's great.  I think it's great.
And I don't understand‑‑ this is something else, and not that I understand this, but basketball coaches, obviously, can be‑‑ their work could be dissected a lot but baseball is a lot easy to dissect because there's a strategy on every pitch.  Every pitch there's a strategy.  It blows my mind that in baseball you could put up a poor hitter to pinch‑hit for a guy and the opposing pitcher throws a bad ball over the plate, and he hits it to left for a single.
The same pitcher throws a perfect pitch to your best hitter and strikes him out and all of a sudden the manager is an idiot because you had the best‑‑ it's unbelievable.  It's all about where the pitcher throws the ball and I don't think a manager can control that, that's on the other team.
So I get such a kick out of it because there's so much strategy involved and everybody thinks it's so easy.  But that guy over there has done an unbelievable job.  And the other thing that amazes me is, you know, they have to manufacture runs because they don't have power hitters, where everybody else, you get two people on, you play for a big inning or whatever and we play‑‑ every inning is played trying to get one run for the most part.
I think it's pretty cool.  I this it's so cool to see what those guys have done because they are really good.  They are really good.

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