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UNIVERSITY OF KANSAS BASKETBALL MEDIA CONFERENCE


December 3, 2014


Bill Self


Q.  What's something you've been most pleased about since the Kentucky game to now, a few games later?
COACH SELF:  I think we've rebounded the ball better.  That's been pretty evident.  At least it was in Orlando.  (We’ve) Probably shared the ball, moved it a little better.  (We) Still haven't shot very well yet.  I just think we look a little bit more organized than what we were, obviously, playing Kentucky.

Q.  Perry Ellis was MVP down in Orlando, but how well did Frank Mason III show?
COACH SELF:  Perry was our best player down there, but Frank was, without question, our second-most valuable guy.  He played great.  He rebounded the ball.  He took care of it against pressure.  I think against Tennessee they kind of pressed and did some different things and he just handled it the whole time, (as the) primary handler, and didn't turn it over.  (He) Didn't score a whole lot of points because he didn't take a lot of shots, but I thought he managed the game pretty well.

Q.  Frank’s rebounding -- is that just long rebounds and long shots?
COACH SELF:  No, to be honest with you, it wasn't.  He was just best defensive rebounder.  I mean he went and got them better than anybody else did.  They were two‑foot jumps and they were two‑handed. He was, without question, the most aggressive going after the ball.

Q.  You talked about your first shot defense having been pretty good, but how do you feel about your ability to force turnovers so far?
COACH SELF:  We've done a bad job of it.  We're kind of long, but we're not as active defensively as what I thought we would be.  We're not quick in that regard.
If you put Devonte' (Graham) and Frank out there together, you could probably do some more things.  But you know, Svi's (Sviotslav Mykhailiuk) not a stealer of the ball.  He's our best position defender, without question, but he's not a stealer of the ball.  Wayne's (Selden Jr.) not a stealer of the ball.  Frank could be better.  Devonte' is pretty good at it.  But Brannen (Greene) is not.  Kelly is really not, not yet.
So it's a little bit less as far as us creating havoc than what I thought we would be.  We're better defensively than we were a year ago at the same juncture, but we certainly didn't create a lot of havoc last year. To date, we haven't done much of that either, especially away from home.  It’s a lot easier to do it at home, but we haven't done it much away from home.

Q.  You guys didn't do that a ton last year either.  Is it personnel?
COACH SELF:  I think it's personnel. Now, could we trap the first pass and do some things like that?  Yeah, we could.  But we're doing more trapping balls, we're doing some things to try to create some pace and stuff like that. We actually have been decent from a positioning standpoint, but our guys are not yet great anticipators at all, and we don't play with our hands nearly enough, as far as being active and getting deflections and steals. It’s something that we've emphasized more this year than we ever have.
And we could do some things.  Most of the turnovers that we create are people throwing the ball out of bounds.  It's not us running through passes.  Maybe we could do some more things to try to trap, to try to create some more havoc or some more turnovers, but for the most part, I think it's just what the skill set of our players are, which isn't bad at all.  It's a good skill set, but we don't have great anticipators defensively like some people do.

Q.  You've had the same starting lineup out there the last few games.  What is it that you like about that mix?
COACH SELF:  We've gotten off to better starts.  That’s it. It doesn't matter who starts.  It's a lot more important who finishes.
But I think Cliff's (Alexander) going to foul quick.  We probably need a big guy to defend other teams’ bigs.  Svi, without question, has played the best of the perimeter guys other than Frank.  He's been really solid.  So I think it's just gotten us off to a better start mainly.

Q.  I believe you said last year that Wayne could be one of the best leaders you've had.  What makes him such a good leader?
COACH SELF:  Well, I think that he’s tough, he's smart.  He cares a ridiculous amount.  I mean he's got a lot of qualities to make himself a good leader.  He's kind of an “alpha dog” type male and definitely an alpha male.
But you know, he hasn't been quite as good of a leader yet because he probably hasn't played like he's capable of playing yet.  Usually when guys play better, they feel more comfort being that (a leader).  And he's done a nice job with that, but I think as he plays better, which he obviously will, that you'll see more and more leadership show up from him.

Q.  What do you make of Wayne’s shooting starts?  Just unlucky? Or what do you think?
COACH SELF:  He hasn't shot it well at all.  He's been inconsistent, but last year he was inconsistent early, too.  I don't know what he was (shooting) going into league play, but last year his three‑point percentage was not good at all going into league play and then he goes and makes five or whatever it was at OU.  So, he's capable.  He'll make shots.  He can't think about it.  He's just got to go do it.
But when you worry about the right things, you make shots.  That's the whole thing.  You worry about guarding and rebounding and executing and carrying out assignments and things like that, then naturally you're thinking about the right things, so it's a lot easier to make shots. But when you put pressure on yourself to make shots, that's when you don't make shots.

Q.  Do you see a different Kelly Oubre, Jr., during practice?  He's pretty nervous in the games.
COACH SELF:  He's been better in practice than he has been in the games, but he's still not comfortable yet.  He's a thinker and not a reactor yet.  He hasn't played to his athletic ability in practice like he will.  He's just trying to figure it out.
And a lot's been made of it, unfortunately, by people saying that he hasn't played to the hype and this and that, but it's six games in.  And he's playing guard for the first time really.  People say he's a guard, but he's never played guard under pressure and things like that.
But he's getting better.  He had a good day yesterday and he's got to impact us moving forward.  He just really hasn't had a ton of opportunities, but he probably hadn't made the most of the opportunities when he's had them.  And you’ve got to win games, without question, but it's just a matter of time before he snaps out and goes and has a big game and he's on his way.

Q.  How does he shoot in practice?
COACH SELF:  He's a pretty good shooter. That's not what he should hang his hat on though.  He should be a slasher, extra‑possession guy, a loose‑ball guy, a guy to create havoc defensively, make plays attacking the rim, things like that, more so than he would be a stand‑still shooter.  But he can make shots, there's no doubt about that.

Q.  You put him in there to guard Michigan State’s Denzel Valentine.  Did he do an okay job when he went in that game?
COACH SELF:  Yeah, he played six minutes.  He played okay.  He did fine.  Valentine was three or four from the three (point line) first half, and I think only one of those was on Wayne.  The other was off of broken plays and he scored two points, I think, the second half or made one basket, and that was in transition that wasn't on anybody.  Wayne did a really good job on him. 

Q.  You talked about last year.  You guys played such a tough schedule that it was difficult to get some of your freshmen experience.  You guys have a tough stretch of schedule coming up.  Do you almost wish it wasn't so tough so it would be maybe easier to get Kelly in there?
COACH SELF:  We played a hard schedule.  Even our so‑called not‑hard games have been more difficult than most people's not‑hard games, without question.
But you bring up a good point.  You look at it (the schedule): Rhode Island, Tennessee, Michigan State, Florida, Georgetown, Utah all in a row. I think six or seven games in a row like that would probably be as tough as anybody in America would play over the same stretch.
It would be harder getting guys minutes if they're looking to just figure out who they are and if they can play.  I know Kelly can play.  He just needs to get in there and play well and just let him ride it out.
So I know it makes a big difference when you can play through mistakes and everything, and he's had an opportunity to do that some, but not as much as maybe some of the other guys that have started and played in major minutes.  But he just needs to get in there and have something good happen -- make something good happen -- by making an easy play and just carrying out assignments. Yesterday he was really good in practice and it's just a matter of time before he gets really good.

Q.  Did you tell him to quit thinking? Is that possible?
COACH SELF:  Yeah.  You know what? I think it's possible only after you know what you're doing.  I think it's really hard to tell somebody to just go play if they don't know what they're doing.
He's at the point now where he has a good enough understanding offensively; but defensively, he's got some understanding that he's still got to pick up.  But I would rather a guy play with reckless abandon and screw up than a guy play slow and think.  But there is a fine line that if you play with reckless abandon and screw up, then your athletic ability has a chance to make up for your screw‑up.  When you play the other way, it doesn't, and we all know when you think, you get slow.  He's just one of those guys who is very conscientious, wants to do what's right.
But to answer your question, I wish that all our guys, not just him, but all our guys, would let it go as opposed to trying to not screw up, because when you play not to screw up, that's when you really screw up the most.

Q.  You mentioned Wayne's defense. He's drawn some pretty decent assignments recently.  Is that what you envisioned for him? 
COACH SELF:  Well, based on who we have out there, he needs to be the guy.  Last year, without question, Wiggs (Andrew Wiggins) was our best perimeter defender.  I mean, hands down by far,  but we don't have him.
And Frank's an improved defender.  Frank did a great job on Trice (Michigan State’s Travis Trice) late in the game.  He did a great job, but we want Frank to be our best defensive rebounder and handle the ball 80 percent of the time.  And that's a lot to ask a guy.
We need somebody to take pride to be that lock‑down defender, and it very easily could be Wayne. But I'd like for Kelly to kind of emerge into something like that or Devonte', even if it's for limited minutes. But when you put them in, you know you can take out the other team's best perimeter guy, and we haven't quite developed that yet.

Q.  Are you surprised at Florida's struggles so far this year?
COACH SELF:  No, not really, because they played a hard schedule.  They were so beat up when they lost to Miami at home, so beat up.  If you saw the shots that Angel (Rodriguez of Miami) made to win the game, it was a joke.  It looked like Sherron (Collins) against OU several years ago, just making some hard plays.
And then you go over there and Georgetown is really good and they lose a one‑possession game in overtime; and (North) Carolina is really talented and they got off to a bad start and actually played pretty well after that.
When you play good people/teams, you sometimes lose, especially when you're beat up; and they've been beat up, but they're healthy now. I've watched tape from last year and even though the game ended up being respectable from a score standpoint, I think (we lost by) six, but they totally dominated us. We played awful.  They were the best defensive team in the country last year and they're very good defensively again. They're definitely a team that will be a high seed in the tournament.

Q.  With your team not having a seven‑footer this year, how important is having a big guy like Joel Embiid in the paint?  How has your team adjusted to the absence of a big guy like that?
COACH SELF:  We had (Jeff) Withey, and we had Joel (Embiid), but we won a National Championship and started 6-8, 6-8 guys.  You know, the twins (Marcus and Markieff Morris) were 6-7, 6-8 or 6-8, 6-9 maybe.  But we've had teams this size before.
It's always a nice luxury to have somebody back there to block shots and correct mistakes, but not every team has those.  Kentucky obviously has three or four of them, but not every team has those.
Do I wish we had a big guy like that?  Under most circumstances, yes, but we're big enough to win.  We just have to work hard at scoring over length and things like that.
I was messing with Georges Niang (of Iowa State) this summer and he was talking about how they beat us in the (Big 12) tournament, and I reminded him how we beat them twice before they beat us in the tournament, and we were kind of going back and forth.  I asked him, “What was the difference?” He said, “You didn't have that monster (Embiid) I was shooting over.”  And it's true.  You go from seven foot and long to 6-6.5 and not long guarding you and you can play your butt off, but still there's a comfort level being able to score over that.  Doesn't mean you're playing worse defense.
You know, in football, if you have 4th and 1 and your running back weighs 150 pounds, it’ kind of hard maybe to get him to make that extra yard after he gets hit, where if you had a 240‑pound guy back there, it would be easier.  It's just a personnel deal.  Sure, we'd like to have that, but we don't and we're plenty big enough to win and be good at it defensively.

Q.  What do you think of their backcourt?
COACH SELF:  Well, (Kasey) Hill and (DeVon) Walker were two of the most talented guys coming out of high school.  They both were maybe top-10 guys, maybe even higher than that. They're really talented.
But Frazier (Michael Frazier II) can score.  He was their designated shooter last year.  He can really shoot the ball.  He hasn't shot as great yet.  He hasn't shot it poorly, but he hadn't shot it great yet like he's capable of.  They have really good players.

Q.  I'm working on a piece about the Rock Chalk Video group.  Could you comment about, especially the introduction video, what that does to the energy level in the building and then the whole atmosphere that's developed here?
COACH SELF:  Well, you know, (Mike) Lickert gets a lot of credit, but it’s everybody that works in there, including one of them that's right here in front of me right now.
But Rock Chalk Video does an unbelievable job.  I can't imagine, with the exception of CBS or something like that, maybe ESPN, that anybody out there would do a better job at taking pride and producing quality. Of course, the video that we show before the game is great, but that is not what makes them good.  It's the videos that you guys don't see.  It's the pump‑up stuff.  It's things like that that they do all the time that I think really lends them to be a part of our staff, recruiting videos that we take in the homes.
But the best video that they've done, in my opinion, is the video they did for the 60th (anniversary of Allen Fieldhouse).  They captured all the coaches, they captured the history, the tradition, the modernness of what's going on, and also the old‑timers.  I thought that was probably as special of a video as I've ever seen from an athletic standpoint.  But they're really good.  There's not too many out there, if any, that has a team like we have in that regard.

Q.  What is Devonte’ Graham's status?
COACH SELF:  Devonte' is fine.  Yeah, he wears a yellow shirt in practice. I don't know what that means.  But football does it, so I guess we should try to copy football.
But he's doing fine. He's practicing full speed.  I think it was good that we only had to use him limited minutes, though, to try to reduce the exposure that he had out there.  But, it's been over two weeks and I think he's doing really well.

Q.  Does Frank Mason III remind you of Sherron Collins, with his penetration and toughness?
COACH SELF:  There are some similarities.  Sherron is the baddest boy we've had here.  It's hard to say that anybody is Sherron.  I mean, you know, Wiggs (Andrew Wiggins) was great last year.  There are a lot of guys we had that great.  There's nobody that came in here that was a better basketball player than Sherron Collins, period.
The thing about it is, Frank's more athletic than Sherron, because as Sherron got older, I don't think he was quite as explosive as he was when he was young.
But I love Frank, but that would be a great goal, for him to get to the point where he can play like Sherron, because that guy was a special college player.

Q.  You briefly touched on this, but what are the benefits of starting Landen Lucas over Cliff Alexander in your eyes?
COACH SELF:  I don't know if there's a ton of benefits.  It's just we got off to better starts, and we started Cliff the second half and had to sub immediately because we didn't get off to a great start.
I don't know if you noticed this, but Cliff has a tendency sometimes to put his hands on others wearing a different jersey that would lead to a whistle.  And at least this way, if he gets two quick fouls, he's not going to get it at the 14 or 13‑minute mark as opposed to getting it at the 18‑minute mark.  I also think there's an advantage of having a chance to watch from his perspective.
I know you guys get this, but when I was at Illinois, or Tulsa or Oral Roberts, nobody ever gave a crap who started.  No media ever did.  And here it's a big deal.  I mean, why the big deal? I don't know.
I didn't start Frank Williams the second half like six times.  He was the Big Ten Player of the Year because of various reasons.  But that's a coach's prerogative to do that, and I think sometimes we get caught up as this or that, and it doesn't make any difference who starts.  It's far more important who finishes, and whether Cliff starts or not‑‑ and he probably will end up starting eventually without question -- but if he starts or not, it wouldn't affect the number of minutes he plays. Foul problems will dictate the number of minutes he plays regardless, just like it has basically every game so far.  So I wouldn't put too much stock in that.

Q.  Svi Mykhailiuk has been very impressive so far this season.  How good can he be by the time he leaves Kansas?
COACH SELF:  Well, if he leaves after two years, because that's what we'll have him for more than likely is two years.  He could be terrific.  He could be as good a basketball player as we've had here.  Not the best athlete, but as good of a basketball player as we've had here.
You know, he's still got so many things to tighten up, but we measured him today because I don't believe his height.  I think he's a short whatever-he-says.  He's a legit 6-7.5 and he's going to fill out and he's going to get stronger. He's got range and he's got vision.
He doesn't always make great decisions, but you stop and think about it, he should be playing against an Olathe North or Free State or Lawrence High.  I mean that's who he would be playing against if he lived here and maybe being a junior doing it.  So I think he's done remarkably well, but there's still such room for improvement.
But what I would say is a lot of freshmen come in here and they're 19 years old or they're maybe 20 years old and you say, “Oh, they're so much more advanced and this or that.”  Some freshmen come in here, this one comes in at age 17 and what you have to do (is that) you have to project where they would be at age 21. And he projects out, you know, as high as anybody on our team without question, I think, at age 21.
You know, think of him four years from now, that's going to be a bad boy and he's still going to be ridiculously young.  So he's got a bright future.

Q.  You get along with Florida head coach Billy Donovan, and what do you think of his two national titles?
COACH SELF:  No, I don't at all. [Laughter] I mean, of course, he's as good as our profession has.  He's a great coach, he's a good guy and they do it the right way.  He's won two and what's great about his two (national championships) is that he won one when nobody thought they were any good and he won one when everybody expected them to go undefeated.  So he's been able to handle the pressures of both of those situations. They were the best team in America last year and ended up losing in the Final Four, but over time they were the best team.
You know, we played them last year.  They were ranked like 19th or 20th in the country, and of course, they handled us quite easily. I knew that they were good.  I didn't know they would be that good, but they improved and got tougher and harder defensively and he and his staff have done a great job. 

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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