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UNIVERSITY OF KANSAS BASKETBALL MEDIA CONFERENCE
November 12, 2015
COACH SELF: Good afternoon, all. Okay, fire away.
Q. What do you think of Northern Colorado's talent?
COACH SELF: Obviously I think it's pretty good. It's hard to tell a lot considering they haven't played an exhibition game. But we got some scrimmages-type work where we've been able to evaluate some.
They return multiple starters and are well-coached, well-drilled. That's very evident.
I think it will be a good first game. But I also think it will be a hard game because we don't know what they're going to do. I mean, I always feel that way because I think everybody knows what we'll do for the most part, but certainly we don't know what they'll throw at us that will be different from what we've seen, and certainly maybe something we haven't worked against at all.
Q. Does this group feel more ahead of things compared to last year or teams of the past because you are a little bit veteran?
COACH SELF: I think we should. The one thing that gives me a little bit of an idea, if we're going to do things that we've done in the past, it doesn't take them long to pick up on different things. Like we haven't put in a lot of sets or anything like that. We put in several here in the last week. Seems to me the veteran guys pick that stuff up quicker obviously because they've done it before. So I think that's a positive.
But we haven't done near enough situational work at all. No matter how much of a veteran team you have, you always want to go over situations, the so-called two-minute drill, whatever it is, that football uses on a daily basis, special situations.
I don't know if any team's had the time to do it the way they want to do it. Certainly that's one area that I feel like we're behind in.
Q. Where do you spend your time?
COACH SELF: Meat and potatoes: transition, transition defense, halfcourt offense, whether it be against different types of zones, our halfcourt defense, how to play defense and offense in the last 10 seconds of the shot clock, how to get it in in certain situations.
But not as much of a situation that you would say, Okay, two seconds left side out of bounds. There's all kind of things we'll put in, but we haven't put in everything. Or real short-clock plays that are unique. That's fine if you have a timeout that you can definitely address, but without the timeout you may not be as prepared. There's a lot of things like that that we haven't got in yet.
Q. Do you think the freshmen will be nervous?
COACH SELF: Will they be nervous? Yeah. But I think Perry will be nervous. I think Frank will be nervous. I think they should be a little nervous.
Even though the exhibition games have been good, we were exposed in the first exhibition game on a lot of things, second one we were a little bit better. But this will be a whole different ballgame starting Friday, and certainly a totally different feel come Tuesday.
Q. Do you prepare the same for exhibition games as you do for other games?
COACH SELF: No. Exhibition games, there was no preparation. That's not being negative. We didn't prepare on how to guard actions, we didn't prepare on how to do anything other than what we wanted to do that particular game.
We didn't show anything really to warrant preparing for it. Like in the last exhibition game, I wanted to see how we could listen during timeouts. It may have looked like, even though it wasn't great, looked like we ran some plays, we didn't do one thing we do. I was drawing stuff at timeouts to say, Hey, can we go execute, just to see if we could listen. Even if it worked or didn't work, that was almost irrelevant. Just being able to carry out assignments, freshmen doing that. We didn't always do it right.
That would be the kind of stuff that once you get into the season, I don't think you're really doing that kind of stuff, you're locked in on just having a great possession and giving your team the best chance to win.
Q. Where are you with your front court guys now?
COACH SELF: Based on how things went the other night, I would think right now, unless something changes, to start Jamari next to Perry. I think that Landen and Hunter and Jamari and Carlton all have shown signs of being really good in the last couple weeks.
Carlton, the first exhibition game may have been our best performer. Wasn't as good in the second one. Hunter was really good in the first one, wasn't quite as good in the second. Landen was better in the second one than he was the first one. I thought Jamari played well in both of them.
Just trying to kind of feel it out right now, but that's probably the direction we'll go going into practice today.
Q. Do you think Greene will be healthy this year?
COACH SELF: Well, I mean, I hope he's healthy this year. He was fine yesterday. He was fine Tuesday at shoot-around, then couldn't go, then was fine Wednesday practicing. We didn't do hardly much at all yesterday.
I mean, it's going to be one of those things that our doctors and trainers tell us. It's going to take a year for him to probably be 100%. Even though there's not anything structural, he'll experience tightness, soreness, that type of stuff. But I anticipate him being fine.
Q. The first two exhibition games, how would you assess how your team's handled some of the new rule changes, especially with fouling?
COACH SELF: I thought actually better than I thought we would. We've always been a bad screening team from a legal standpoint. But I'm not sure there's a good screening team in America from a legal standpoint.
Used to be if there's not an unbelievable major advantage or an obvious moving-type situation, then teams were able to get by with illegal screening.
So to me that's one that we have to emphasize. You got to come to a jump stop every single screen, regardless of what it is, which would prove that you're not moving if you're able to do that. That would be an emphasis on offense.
From a defensive standpoint, you have to obviously play your man before he catches it. Then as soon as he puts it down, the tendency is to one wide hand and jam him with the other arm. That's how we've done for it years. That's how everybody has taught it. That's how everybody plays. Now as soon as he puts it down, both hands have to be wide.
There's some differences. But I actually think we've done a decent job. I was surprised. There were obviously fouls called. Regardless of who gets the benefit of what call, that's not to me really important in our exhibition games. But the number of fouls called, I thought it would be closer to 30 both halves, 25 at least, 50 total. I think it was well under that.
I think players are getting it. But that doesn't mean there's not going to be 50 fouls called on Friday or 60 on Tuesday. But certainly I think our players are at least buying into, This is how we have to play. It's becoming more of a habit.
Q. (Indiscernible) any lingering concerns in your mind?
COACH SELF: I would say from my standpoint, you're always concerned are you prepared. Can somebody do something to you that you're not prepared for? The answer is yes. That can obviously happen.
From my standpoint, this is who we are, this is how we're going to play. We're not going to do something to try to really screw somebody up early in the season if that's not who we are. This sends a bad message. This is who we are, but this game let's play this way because it will work better. That sends a bad message to your guys. If it works better, why aren't we doing it all the time?
I think there are things that a lot of coaches feel we have an early advantage on, but a lot of coaches feel like with that advantage, it doesn't really help us in the long-term of defining what we want to be.
We could be a better zone team right now than we have been without question because we obviously don't slide as well in some positions that we'd hoped to. But, okay, let's (indiscernible) them out and play zone till we get a better man. That sounds good in theory and smart. But it's not college football. If you lose early, it's over. It's one of those things you continually want to get better throughout the deal.
I wouldn't want to send our guys a message saying, We can always play zone if we're not any good at man. That's not who we are. That's not what I want our identity to be.
Q. We haven't seen Cheick play in a game yet. How has he been in practice?
COACH SELF: He has been pretty good. Who knows if he will. I'm confident that we will, that you will. But that obviously hasn't been the consensus with everybody making decisions, at least to this point. But it's still ongoing.
But yeah, he's a defensive presence. He's a runner, jumper, offensive guy. His shooting has improved tremendously. But he's very raw. He's very raw. He's one of those guys that every outing that he misses will impact him more than what it would if somebody had been acclimated and probably grew up playing in the situation where maybe his skill level and things like this were a little bit more advanced.
I mean, he's raw. He's really raw. Raw is good. You can mold raw. But there's some things he can do you can't teach. But he needs repetition. Every day that he's out it obviously is a negative because he needs the repetition far more than Landen would, let's say, because Landen already has repetition. Yeah, it's a big loss not having him.
Q. How is he handling this? Is he coming to you with questions?
COACH SELF: Every day. Every night, I hope it's before he goes to bed, 10:00, 10:30, it's certainly right when I'm going, but he texts me, Coach, what's up? What are you doing today? Every morning, Coach, what's up?
That's his way of saying, I'm not going to ask about the situation. But I'll give him some information. I haven't had a lot to give him.
He's been great. We haven't made him really available to you guys to give his opinion on things. But he's been great in that he respects what's going on. He respects people trying to help him. He's frustrated beyond measure because it's something that if we can't understand it, certainly he can't understand it.
All he knows is, I grew up in Mali. I left my family to come over here to live out a dream. I went to where it was a good school. Now they're saying I can't play because of the school I went to.
It's hard for us to understand that, but it's even harder for him if you stop and think about it. I left my family for three and a half years and it was too expensive even for them to call, so I lost contact with them in a lot of ways because we couldn't afford the phone calls, to come over here, to live out a dream, and I can't do it?
That's frustrating to him. Even from a bigger picture than that, there's obviously been a lot of good things that's happened to him since he's been here. Of course, he's benefited our university by being here. I think we've benefited him by being here.
As far as us, it's been good collectively for both parties. But it's one that he'll just look at you and say, I don't understand. I don't understand.
He hasn't been involved with the legal fights or anything like that, but I think he's got some pretty legitimate concerns.
Q. You said you have benefited from him. How has the team benefited from him?
COACH SELF: First of all, he changes practice every day because he tries so hard. If other guys don't try, they can't keep up from an effort standpoint. He's one of the best role models we've had because nobody, nobody, since I've been here for 13 years tries harder academically than he does. Nobody.
Scooter would tell you the same thing. Our guys see that. Our guys see, He's not even playing, and he's everywhere 20 minutes early, he's everywhere 30 minutes early. Nobody tries harder in the weight room.
So he's been a leader for us without question. We've benefited by his presence because he's been so good for others to see what real work is, what trying really is.
We all say we try. Granted, our guys do try, they try hard. But he's actually taking it to a whole different level of trying.
Then we've benefited from him being here, without question. Of course, he's benefited from all the resources that we've had to give him once he's been here, whether it be through strength and conditioning, whether it be through ball, whether it be through academics, whatever. He's a guy that wants to absorb. He's like a sponge, he wants to absorb as much as possible.
This is shallow thinking probably. But let's say you're going to go travel abroad for a semester in school. You're going to go to Paris, wherever you're going to go, travel abroad. Are you going to sit in your room every night and not do anything, not see the sights? Is that how you would do it if you were traveling abroad?
You would say I have an opportunity to do this, try to soak up as much. That's the attitude he has here at Kansas. I want to soak up as much of this as I possibly can. I think it's been good both ways.
Q. Do you think talks could speed up now that the attorneys have said it was a witch-hunt?
COACH SELF: I'm not going to get into what his guardian's representation says. I will tell you this. I'll find it very interesting to wake up and read it on a daily basis because, without going into any detail at all, because I don't know the detail, what he and his attorney talk about, that's attorney-client privilege, I don't understand that. I can understand what they talk about doesn't necessarily affect us in some ways because he's no longer fighting for KU, he's fighting for his client. So that's a totally different thing.
We've tried to do it from KU's standpoint, which we have, and fight for our university and the kid. Now it's something totally different. He's been retained to fight for individuals, not our institution.
I'll find it very interesting what is said and what comes up because I guess it can affect us, but more importantly he's not hired to represent KU's point of view. He's hired to represent the client's point of view.
I think it is going to be interesting to read these things moving forward.
Q. Do you have any concerns about working with the rest of the team, dealing with the potential of a disappointing ruling?
COACH SELF: No, no, no. We got young guys, veteran guys, even though they're young. Kids don't look at it quite the same way. To Cheick or any individual that's going through it, it's the world to them. To all the other individuals, yeah, we really want that for him, but still they're kind of focused on what's going on with them as much as anything else.
So I don't think it will be a terribly negative distraction at all. At least I hope it won't. But I do know it would be a big positive boost. It wouldn't be a positive boost because of what he can do for us. That's not it. It would be a positive boost what this would do for an individual.
It's not about whether Cheick makes us better. I know people think I'm nuts. It's not about that. Yeah, would he? Yeah, sure, he would, over time. That's great. But what it's about is about an individual.
The way we look at this, if it was your son or daughter, they were going to be in any situation, whatever it is, or let's say you're denied admittance to a college, or controversially denied an opportunity for some reason. To that entity that deals with a thousand applicants, it may not seem like it's quite as big a deal. To that family, it's a huge deal. It affects a lot of different things. You start thinking about goals, dreams, visions, sacrifices that are made.
This would be good for KU, but it wouldn't be near as good for us as it would be for him because we're going to move on. Life goes on. We're going to move on. For him life will move on if it doesn't come out right, at least the way we think it should. Life will move on, but it's not the same way. It's not the same way.
When something bad or something harmful happens to an individual, it affects the families a lot more than it affects people and masses that read the story and say, That's too bad. Then they move on to the next day of life. In this situation, we got to look at it like that, as a parent or like somebody is really, really trying hard and done everything that they've been asked to do, then be denied the opportunity to live out a dream.
So I think it will be bigger for Cheick than it will be for us, even though it would be great for both.
Q. Understanding you know you can't do much about it, the final ruling, do you get tired of this?
COACH SELF: You know what, this is true. I'll basically defend the NCAA on this. We have had it happen. We had a young man, Braden Anderson, that we signed that was denied because of a Big 12 rule. But now the kid's graduating in law school. He's in law school now. At that time, Is he qualified because he went to a bad high school? Rules and policies, that's fine.
Jamari, believe it or not, by rules should not have been eligible. Qualifying score, first take on the SAT, qualifying grades, made it within the minimal requirements by a landslide. He was a good high school student. But Jamari was homeless for a year. So by rule, the year that you start high school, you have eight semesters to complete. If he's homeless for a year, he only had six semesters completed, so he needed the other two semesters. Didn't make it.
Went through a similar case where the reality of it is, after the NCAA doing their due diligence, they were right, they made the right call. There's no doubt about that.
Hey, we went through a long time with the twins. I mean, it was one of those deals with the twins, it was guilty till you prove that everything was done. When it was proven everything was done, it was an immediate, You're eligible, no problem.
We've experienced good results, we've experienced bad results on this. This one doesn't fall into those criteria, in my opinion. But you have to have rules and policy. We understand that. The whole thing is, if you come to the conclusion after reviewing everything that this is the way it's got to be, then we'll fight it. But we understand that.
It's just frustrating when maybe all the things that needed to be done haven't been done to maybe have a true evaluation of the situation because of policies. That's what's frustrating.
There's no bad people. Nobody's done anything wrong by trying to say we're out to get somebody. Nobody believes that. But still, it needs to be addressed, though.
Q. When you went into the Big Ten, did Izzo help you?
COACH SELF: In what way?
Q. You probably respected him because of his defense.
COACH SELF: When we went to the Big Ten, that was when Michigan State went to three straight Final Fours. They won the national championship the year before we got there. Played them at Tulsa the year before that when Mateen was a sophomore, went to the Final Four. The year we were in the Big Ten together, we tied for the championship, we were both one seeds, then we get beat in the Elite 8, then he advances he advances to go to the Final Four, to play the team that beat us, Arizona.
Tom and I have known each other a while. He's a great guy, a great coach. His post-season success, with the exception of Coach K, has almost been unmatched without question. He's terrific. He'll have his guys champing at the bit to play, just like our guys will be champing at the bit to play.
Q. Do you like playing them so often?
COACH SELF: I don't dislike it because I think it's great preparation for later on. Last year when we played them, they weren't as good early, we weren't very good yet. I remember we shook hands after the game. He said, Well, you won, but you're probably just as mad as I am. That was basically his reply. If they'd have won, I would said, Good win, but you'll like watching that tape, too.
He's a very, very honest guy, will definitely say what he feels as opposed to coach speak all the time.
Q. He was the first one to talk to you when you got the Illinois job, is that right?
COACH SELF: Probably, but I can't remember. He always told me when I took the Illinois job that he thought I had one of the best jobs. He thought that was a job that had a chance to be great. He was right. It's obviously a fantastic job.
Q. Did you know anything about Michigan State and that program when you went to the Big Ten?
COACH SELF: We played them when I was at Tulsa. We played them in Hawaii. I think they beat us by about 10. We tried hard. I was so impressed. Norm will remember this. We played a game. It's halftime. They don't guard at action right at the end of the half. Let's say they're switching ball screens or they don't switch, trapping ball screens, one guy doesn't trap, they score. I walk in the locker room. Mateen Cleaves was mounting everybody on their team, like, Hey, you want some, come and get it, that type of deal, to everybody on their team. Over two points in a game in which they were up double figures.
I thought, Hey, these guys are pretty good. It meant something to them not just to win, but it meant something to them to do it right. That's all a reflection of Coach Izzo.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports