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UNIVERSITY OF KANSAS BASKETBALL MEDIA CONFERENCE
November 30, 2015
THE MODERATOR: Okay. Stations, Coach Self is here, so the Kansas Basketball Media Session will begin at this time.
COACH SELF: Good afternoon, all.
Q. This is an obvious, Coach, but what do you expect on the first game from Diallo? What do you expect effort-wise? What do you expect?
COACH SELF: I think he'll try real hard. I think he'll be nervous. I think -- he says he probably will be able to handle the situation, but I think our crowd is going to go nuts whenever he's first checking in the game. But, I don't know. I hadn't really given it a lot of thought. I think it's -- I think it may be easier in some ways to play your first game at home because you won't feel the pressure of all of the crowd expecting so much. But Cheick is going be a really good player. I mean, I've done this with everybody, and I do this with most freshman. I mean, I don't -- I think that we should temper expectations a little bit, because he's going be terrific, but he's very, very raw, and he's just starting to figure it out, so -- but he'll do fine. And -- but he'll be active and energetic, and somewhat confused, maybe, from time to time, because he'll be so excited.
Q. When you first found out, was there more of a sense of relief than anything knowing that he'd get to play?
COACH SELF: I would say probably not. When I first found out, it was more of a -- of a sense of frustration, anger, because he should have been playing all along. So -- and you really think about it, and you think about, you know, the NCAA, which they have their reasons for doing what they do, nobody's doubting that, but we had a chance, collectively, to do the right thing and make this right for months, as opposed to putting the kid in limbo like that, so, I don't feel like anything that was done with the NCAA was done in the best interest of the student athlete at all. And, to me, that was what was frustrating, because we knew all along, we knew all along what the deal was, and we couldn't get them to hear us, or to be -- go into partnership with us, to talk about it. So, I was -- I don't think I was relieved at all. I think it was more like, it's about time, rather than relieved.
Q. Have you noticed the positive commentary about your stance nationally?
COACH SELF: No.
Q. Have other coaches said good stuff to you?
COACH SELF: I've had several coaches call me saying they've had kids in similar situations. The thing about it is, with our situation -- and there are more important things going on in life than what's going on with one eligibility case at one university. But to that particular youngster, that is the most important thing going on. So, from -- from our standpoint, I think that it was -- it was just frustrating, because, you know, people don't -- don't, probably don't understand, these are these kids' lives. I mean, this is what they came to school to do. This is their chance to do something -- to go beyond. I mean, you look at a young person like Cheick, whose family's never been out of Mali, and I don't know what the annual income is of their family, or things like that, but this is his opportunity to do some special things for people that have done a lot for him and raised him and his family. The sacrifices that he's made -- think about, you can't talk to your mother or father by phone, because it's too expensive to talk by phone, whereas we take that stuff for granted. You know, the way we're able to utilize our cellular devices. We take stuff like that for granted. And to see that he was able -- you know, if he had not done what needed to be done to be cleared, then that's fine. That's the rules. But if he had done what he needed to do to be cleared, and they keep saying that you haven't, I think that's where the frustration came in.
So, fortunately for us, our administration felt the same way that we did, and they fought like hell and weren't going be denied. So, I know that I applaud our administration. They deserve -- they are the ones that deserve for fighting for our student athletes, because they had to put the money behind it to do so. And certainly, with the thought of, they're not going recoup that money. Not that it's significant in the big picture, but it's pretty significant, and -- but, you know, people do know that we'll fight, though, that's for sure.
Q. Coach, is there -- just, leave it be and walk away from it, now that -- or do you want to see many so changes made down the road, or --
COACH SELF: Do I want to see changes? Oh, yeah. I think a lot of coaches -- what does what?
Q. What can K.U. do now?
COACH SELF: I don't know that K.U. does anything. I think the ball has gotten rolling to the point that certain things have been exposed that would make one look at it to see how can we do things better. You know, to me, if I'm a business person, and I am, you know, even if we win a game, you watch the tape to say, hey, how can we improve, or how can we get better. I think any business would do that. So, if the NCAA were to look at something and say, you know what, we have some holes in this and maybe a policy here, a policy there. Now would be a great time to, at least through the initial eligibility center, to, you know, self-evaluate to say, how can we improve and how do we do some things better. I think if the end result was that there was some improvement that came from that, then I think everybody would be happy. I think all coach, administrators, presidents, and NCAA would be happy, knowing that the -- the policies, and the structure, actually works for student athletes as opposed to not work for the good of the student athlete.
Q. Given that he's not from this country, do you have any concern that he will generalize and not trust our culture, or -- you know what I mean?
COACH SELF: You know what? I haven't thought -- I guess that's a possibility, but I don't feel that, because he knows that the people around here, the people that he knows and trusts, fought hard for him. So, I think he would trust that situation more. I think if somebody were to go to Cheick and say, hey, don't worry about it. I'll figure this out. I think he would trust that more now than what he would if it wasn't figured out. So, that may be true in general, Tom, but I don't think it is. I don't think it is locally with the people that he's around every day.
Q. What is the plan for Cheick tomorrow night? Is it, ease into action, or --
COACH SELF: I'm not smart enough to have a set plan what we're going to do. We're going to put him in. He won't start. We'll put him in and play the game just like we normally would. But it would be great to have him get ample minutes and have a chance to play through some mistakes like everybody else has had a chance to. He hasn't.
Q. How much of a head-scratcher was this for Diallo, him being new to this whole NCAA situation? How new was it to him that he doesn't understand what was going on?
COACH SELF: "Head-scratcher" is a good word. He didn't have a clue. But the whole thing is, we didn't have a clue to tell him. That was what was so frustrating. "Hey, give us a reason why," and then when they finally gave us a reason, we were able to disprove that within days. So, the -- but it was a head-scratcher to him. He found out in late April that his school was under review by Kansas. Okay. We told him, after we signed him, that the school was under review by Kansas. We found out the first of September, that he did not qualify, based on the course evaluations of his classes. And, of course, from that point is, Cheick, you're classes aren't good. Well, why aren't they good. I did the same thing everybody else I went to school with, and they're playing at other schools. I made good grades. I didn't do anything wrong. Why are mine not good?
We're trying to get that information. We're trying to get that information. And then in November, when they finally showed their hand and showed us that information, that's when I told Cheick, I said, Cheick, you know, just set tight here, bud, I think everything is going to be just fine, and certainly, it played out to be that way.
Q. Is his -- is he a guy to develop into a go-to guy or is he able to help out in other ways?
COACH SELF: No, I don't think he's -- he's not Jo, now, he's not Joel, from an offensive standpoint at all. He's not nearly as big. And certainly Joel had gifts that, you know, there's only been a few people that have gifts like Jo. If he's healthy. He's going be an NBA All-Star. I mean, he's that good. Cheick is a guy that's very, very, very raw offensively. So, he would impact the game differently by being active, activity, energy, shot-blocking, protecting the rim. Those are the ways that he'll impact the game the most. So, you will not see a domination from a scoring standpoint with Cheick at all, like you could potentially with some other guys. That's not who he is. That's not what he does yet. That doesn't mean he can't develop into somebody like that, but right now, he's a runner, jumper, defender, rebounder, and scoring off other misses, and then he can obviously make shots himself. I'm not saying that. But that's not what comes natural to him right now.
Q. Bill, before all of this eligibility stuff, when you signed Cheick, did you see him as being sort of a solution to some of the issues you had last year?
COACH SELF: Absolutely. Yeah.
Q. As far as finishing at the rim?
COACH SELF: Finishing at the rim, that was obviously something that we did a terrible job of, and -- last year, then we did a terrible job of in Chicago this year. We were actually better out in Hawaii, but the first half, obviously, their length, Vande's length bothered us, but we saw that a little bit the second half. I envision Cheick of being a guy that brought something that we did not have last year: rim protector, energy, great athlete, that would give us more of an inside physical presence, even though he's not physical in stature, but he can be an intimidating presence, because he's 7'5" this way, and he's quick off his feet and those sorts of things that we really didn't have last year. But, you know, our guys from last year have all improved, and Carlton is a good player. It's not like there's just 30 minutes a game to give somebody. He's going to have to earn it like everybody else is going to have to earn it. But he does give us an element that I think by January or February could be pretty important down the stretch.
Q. Do you think there's a lot of competition in the front court now?
COACH SELF: I think there's competition before but I think there's a lot of competition, yeah. I think Carlton Bragg, to me, he was our best big against Vanderbilt. Even though I didn't play him a ton of minutes, but we won the game with Carlton in the game. So, I think there's a lot of competition in the fore court.
Q. During practice with Cheick, did he practice as if he was playing in games?
COACH SELF: No. He practiced as if he's playing in games until about, I'd say October 25th, maybe November 1, and then after that, we practiced him strictly as a scout team or second team guy, and we felt that was only fair to the rest of the guys to try to get our team as good as we could be.
Q. The offensive rebounding, would that be somewhere -- I think your numbers, offensive rebounding, are down a little bit this year. Is that an area he can help you guys?
COACH SELF: Yeah. How are you going? By percentage of misses?
COACH SELF: Yeah. He should be able to help us in that area, and I really thought that with Wayne at the three, we'd be a little bit better rebounding team and that hasn't taken place yet so far, but I don't think we're a bad rebounding team by any stretch. But, I do think that's an area we can certainly improve on.
Q. The Michigan State game, did you think your team had lost a little confidence with Cheick back in Mali?
COACH SELF: You know what, Michigan State, we didn't play very well the entire game, but if you really dissect that tape, we played better than the outcome. Michigan State's good, and we had an 11-point lead on a really great team late, and they made all of the plays. Obviously, it's really important to make plays the last five minutes than the first five, because they're magnified then. You know, you go back, we're up 13, we filed three possessions when they're in the bonus, going for the offensive rebound on the free-throw. So they don't have to run offense to score six points. I mean, we had several thing like that that kept the lead from inflating, so to speak, and then, of course, they played so much better down the stretch. But, I don't know if a lack of confidence was the right word, but I do think that we needed something good to happen. And certainly, I thought we were good against Chaminade, even though that didn't really count. We were great -- we haven't had teams like that here, play like that the first half against UCLA, offensively, in a long time, if ever. And then, and then against Vande, that second half against Vande, we played really well. I mean, we did a lot of good things in the second half and that's missing lot of our free-throws late. So, I think it did give us some confidence. Of course, you know, you look at -- hey, we beat Duke in the champions deal, and then we go and lay an egg in Atlantis, we get hammered by Kentucky last year, then we go win over Orlando. I think there's so much dif -- so much differentiation between teams every one to two weeks now, more so than what will be in January or February that we can still take steps backwards. But I do think we're on an upward tick right now.
Q. For Diallo to do as well as he did in the two all-star games, those aren't games you think of as hustle play games. Is that the reason why he did so well?
COACH SELF: That -- I'm happy for him that he did well. But if you go back and study the tape why he did well. It's because he tried so hard. Because a lot of times in those games not everybody tries hard. He's one of those guys that tries hard every time. So, that, to me, is a reason why he could set himself apart from some others just because of his effort level. Now, at this level, everybody's effort level will be comparable to his. So it will be a lot hard to dominate and play well, unless you have a skill set, and, you know, you run things through, or whatnot, to put you in position to score 20 a game. We're not going to do that. But he can dominate -- I'm telling you. He can dominate a game and score six points. He's one of those guys. He can score sit points, get eight rebounds, block four shots and totally change the complexion of the game. And people may look at it like he didn't do much. No, that's what he does. So, I'm excited -- I'm real excited for him. I'm excited for us but more so for him just to see what he can do when he gets out there.
Q. Can you talk about Devonte's improvement and what he means to the team?
COACH SELF: Well, he's probably -- you know, if he hadn't shot the ball great, going into Hawaii, obviously, I think he's 4 and 20 going into the first two games. Hey, the kid can play. He's a point guard playing off the ball a lot. I don't know how you guys feel, but I love watching he and Frank playing together. To me, it adds a dimension we haven't had in the last two years as far as having two little playmakers out there. He's not quite as fearless as Frank, but he's not far off as far as making big people guard him and trying to make big plays over big guys. He's probably become our best perimeter defender and maybe as solid a kid as we have. I'm real pleased with Devonte' and his progress so far.
Q. Anybody playing better than Denzel Valentine of Michigan State that you've seen?
COACH SELF: Not that I've seen. You can make a case that Ben Simmons is the most talented kid in the country. I've watched tape on him. He's -- whoa, but I think as far as actually playing the game, nobody's played better than Val. He's had three, four games of 29 already and a couple of triple doubles against real competition. I mean, he's really, really playing well. There's a reason why Michigan State's so good right now.
Q. Do you know Tubby Smith's son real well?
COACH SELF: I know G.G., I don't know about real well, but he was obviously a kid in school when I was coaching Oral Roberts and Tubby was at Tulsa. I've known G.G. for a long time but not on a real personal level. He was a good player and obviously had a great career at Georgia playing there and has been in the business ever since.
Q. Did you schedule it to help out his program?
COACH SELF: No, I don't think so. We wouldn't want to hurt his program by playing the game. But I don't think that's ever our intention to try to, hey, let's be sure to play Loyola because it really helps them. We want to do what we want to do. But, I like playing guys like G.G. that has a chance to help their program by playing here, and, of course, you know, his dad is one of the pillars in our profession, and certainly -- and a friend. So, certainly, I hope that G.G. and his team gets something out of coming here. I just hope it's not at our expense, so --
Q. What of your thoughts on Loyola?
COACH SELF: From a record-wise, they are not off to a great start, obviously, but they've got guys that can score the ball and they can get 30 in a night. So, you know, it's -- with us, we'll certainly scout them just like we do every opponent, but this has been a unique last three or four days. Our team's been really tired, and yesterday is the first day that we've shown any signs of life at all from a competitive spirit standpoint and that kind of stuff. That trip is a hard trip, and so -- I'm excited to see our guys -- we'll worry about Loyola, don't get me wrong. But I'm excited to see our guys getting back to playing the way we need to be playing, because we haven't yet since we've been back.
Q. Bill, your teams in the past have kind of owned the category of field goal percentage defense and subjective category of toughness. What's your early thought on this year's team?
COACH SELF: I think field goal percentage defense isn't very good. You stop and think about it, we had -- I think it's like 41%, and, you know, UCLA, we go the heck out them in the first half, they shoot 69 in the second half. I think we've taken our foot off the gas in some things. But Michigan State second half shot over 50%, well over 50% against us. I'd say that's average at best. Toughness has been average at best because in the game, you think your toughness elements would show more in the second half of games. Pretty easy to be tough when you're fresh and everything in the first half. I think that's an area we can certainly improve on as well.
Q. Is Brandon in practice?
COACH SELF: Brandon's practicing, yeah. He's practicing. He won't play but he's definitely practicing.
Q. How do you think Svi played in the tournament?
COACH SELF: I thought Svi had a good tournament. I wouldn't go so far as to say great, because he had a terrible start against Vande. I thought he was aggressive. I thought he took shots as they came. I think he's totally bought into the "we" concept, instead of "me." You know, he, like against UCLA, he had nine wide-open looks and made two. That could easily be a six for nine or seven for nine game for him. Against Chaminade, I think he was 6-11 from three and that could have even be better. I mean, he's that good of a shooter. He can shoot better than that. So I'm excited for him. I thought it was a big step for him, but I wouldn't think a great tournament. He was close to having a great tournament, he just couldn't get shots to fall.
Q. This is another question that's early. You guys had limited turnovers pretty good so far, and you're getting more steals. Is that Frank and Devonte' playing together, kind of how you envisioned?
COACH SELF: Yeah. I think our assisted turnover ratio obviously could be better. That's also, look at last year's team, you're replacing Devonte' for Kelly. So, Kelly gives you 6'8" length, loose ball, offensive rebounding, things like that. Devonte' doesn't give you that, but Devonte' gives you other things for play making. Obviously, if you play two more guards your assisted ratio should be better. I think they're, if I'm not mistaken they're 47-8 now combined, something like that. And I could be off a little bit. But that's pretty good for a group of guards to have a 5-1 or 6-1 turnover ratio. So, I'm real pleased with those guys. And I think from a steal standpoint, you play two little guys that create a little more havoc, I think you should run through some more passes and do some more things like that.
We're playing so much faster. I mean, we're playing so much faster than what we've ever had since I've been here. I mean, it seems like to me, this is one of the best from defense, from securing the ball defense, to pushing it down the floor of anybody that we've ever had.
Q. Has Cheick stopped texting you since he got --
COACH SELF: No, he texted last night. He wanted to know how he practiced. I said not any good at all, you got to get better. No, we was great yesterday in practice. Obviously, guys like positive enforcement, so they -- a lot of times kids ask questions when they know how you're going to answer it. If they don't like your answer, they'll never ask you. So, he knew how I was going to answer. So he was definitely smart so ask it that yesterday.
Q. Do you have a lot of players do that or does he just like to --
COACH SELF: No. Cheick's the only one. I have players that text me and stuff, but no, Cheick is the only one. And - but it's a little different. Cheick doesn't have -- he has buddies on the team, but for the most part he doesn't have somebody else to go talk to. He doesn't have a girlfriend, at least that I know of, and he doesn't have buddies to hang out in fraternity houses he can go hang with. He doesn't have that. He's got his boys on his team and he got his coaches. So, naturally, we get a little more discussion with him than probably what we would if it was one of the other players that's been here two or three years.
Q. I don't want to embarrass Mr. Davis, here. I know he's sitting over here. Your thoughts of him retiring after the end of the season. He's been behind the mike a long time.
COACH SELF: Well, the way everybody played it up, I though his last game was just the other day. Geez, I didn't know we'd have a farewell deal for a whole year. He and Kobe Bryant I guess had -- Kobe probably got that idea from you, Bob, how to handle that. In all sincerity, nobody is better at their craft than what Bob is. There's a lot of competent employees that work at, you know, a lot of different organizations. Of course, at K.U., we have our very fair share of guys or ladies that are really good at their craft within our department. But nobody is better at his job, nobody, than what Bob is at his.
So -- yeah, he's a better guy than he is an announcer, and certainly got a great heart, and he'll be missed. He'll be missed. I applaud him that he can now spend time with the grandkids and do those sorts of things, but I really -- I think it's too young for him to do this, but, four or five years of Greg Gurley would drive me into retirement, too. So, I certainly understand it. I certainly understand can t.
THE MODERATOR: Anything else?
COACH SELF: All right, guys, thanks.
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