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October 13, 2016

Bill Self

Lawrence, Kansas

BILL SELF: And we're going to have one voice talking to him about it, and I like his shot. To me it's a little bit different getting to the -- you know, setting it before he shoots it, but once he gets there, it's as good as anybody else's.

I like his shot. It's soft, and certainly he has improved it, but that's going to be the question on him by a lot of people is can he be consistent. But I think he's mechanically sound enough that he can be consistent.

Q. Have you talked to him about trying to manage expectations of this team going 40-0?
BILL SELF: There you go again. You know what, I think this is a great point. We don't talk like that, okay. And also, young kids, not having been through it enough, they don't know how hard it is to win in Ames. They don't know how hard it is to win in Morgantown or Manhattan and the other places, without question.

But I will say this: I really think that this team's goal should be when they play that night, their goal is to win every game. I don't think that's an unrealistic goal to try to win every game.

Now, the reality of it is being good every night when you have to be good every night at other places that are tough to play at have really good teams, you know, that remains to be seen if we can do that. But I think it could be a goal that on the night that we play to be the better team that night.

But I think making a bold prediction -- I don't think he made that prediction, I think that was a goal, right? There's nothing wrong with goals. That's good. But I don't think that would be a realistic prediction, no.

Q. Along those lines, how much do you think having a veteran presence but having your younger guys be the most talented guys, what works about that?
BILL SELF: Well, usually -- it doesn't always happen this way because we went to the National Championship game in '12 with a bunch of veterans, so it doesn't always happen this way, but usually if you look at perennial top-five type teams, not necessarily National Championship teams because Jay's team won it last year with some vets, but usually your foundation is your older kids, but your most talented players are your younger ones. And that was even the way it was when we won our National Championship in '08. You had five great seniors and you had Mario and Brandon as juniors, but you can make a case Sherron and Shady may have been our two most talented guys in our program at that time, too, but everybody was so good on that team, they kind of traded turns being who was the best that night.

But I do think having old guys that can teach young guys, having talented guys that the young guys all respect, but then having kind of an unknown X factor that may could rise to the level and take your team maybe to a place that it wasn't capable of going the year before are the best combination, and we certainly have that, I believe, with Josh, and maybe by the end of the season with Udoka, and then certainly with Frank and Landen and Devonte' and those guys, Svi. It's a pretty experienced team.

Q. Is it too early to tell how that all blends basketball-wise?
BILL SELF: I think they like each other. I think they share it pretty good. Losing Wayne -- you know, Wayne, I said this yesterday, we're going to lose -- we're going to miss Perry, there's no question about that. Perry was Mr. Consistency. But if you go back and look at -- we watch highlights and all these things. There's a lot of games we're down six with five minutes left and Wayne makes plays. You look at the Kentucky game last year, and he made some big plays in Oklahoma. Florida the year before, he puts us on his back and wins that game for us.

There's been a lot of games where Wayne was by far the best player in the game, and we're going to miss that without question. We're going to miss two key starters and of course some depth behind that, but I do think the pieces have potential to fit. Last year the pieces fit as well as they could fit in my opinion, and we still came up short, but the pieces fit great.

This year, if the pieces fit as well, then I think you may have a little bit more talented group that may give you a chance maybe to play better when it counts the most. But certainly it remains to be seen if the pieces can get there yet.

Q. Is there some mystery in the backcourt?
BILL SELF: Oh, yeah. You know, it may not be. It may not be because you can play four guards. With Josh and Lagerald and Svi, you're big enough to play two of those three at the 3 and the 4. It's not as much of a mystery if you're just going to play one big, but if you're going to play two bigs, Landen, Carlton, Udoka, those would be the three that you would think obviously would be your three guys in your rotation and then kind of waiting to see on Mitch or Dwight who would fill in as your fourth big.

But I see us playing small quite a bit. And it's really not small, Josh is 6'8", and we're not going to play him as a forward, we're still going to play him as a guard, but I think we'd be a hard team to guard if you can spread the floor with those four guards out there.

Q. Is it more common in today's college game than it's ever been?
BILL SELF: I think the game is getting smaller. You know, it used to be 4s wanted to be 3s. Well, they still do, but coaches are making 3s 4s, which if you think about it is really smart because now if the other team plays big, if you've got a 3 man playing the 4 spot, that puts a big guy guarding him, and if he can shoot, it's a hard matchup. They talk about it all the time, stretch 4s really make teams hard to guard. We've always been a conventional three out, two in team, but I think this year we're going to get away from that a little bit.

Q. Has that been where you've wanted to go or is it just personnel dictated?
BILL SELF: Yeah, personnel dictated. I think it would be great to play two seven-footers and one of them be a guard, one of them can really shoot. That's the way I really want to go, but we don't quite have that luxury this year to do that.

Q. Do you like that as a challenge coaching-wise, you've got a guy that's 6'8" in Josh Jackson playing the guard versus a power forward position? Do you like that as a coaching challenge, matchup?
BILL SELF: I do. The way I look at our guys, though, I don't look at 1s, 2s, and 3s, I look at guards, and I don't look at 4s and 5s, I look at bigs. Now, if we play four guards, I look at four guards and one big. I won't look at moving Josh to a big spot.

But there are some things that you can do to post him and things like that that I think would be advantageous that we haven't done a ton of in the past because we've always had two big guys that played pretty close to the basket. I think that will be challenging, and that's something that we have not figured out yet as a staff on how we want to do that. We will do it, but we're still trying to tinker with what mode we want to play to make it where it's easy for our guys where we don't have to change how we play and don't have to make them think.

Q. Would you have an idea, let's say you've got a game tomorrow, who the starting five would be?
BILL SELF: Oh, yeah. I mean, sure, I have -- Frank has got a good chance to start, and Devonte' is probably a little bit ahead, but you would think Landen and Carlton and Josh, to go along with them. But it's still early, and Lagerald Vick is putting pressure on everybody because he's played so well.

Q. I know there's turnover every off-season, but do you as a coach ever look at things in terms of National Championship windows, and do you kind of get that sense that this is maybe the final year of a great window that you have?
BILL SELF: No, I used to think that way. I don't think that way here anymore because when we lost Marcus and Markieff and Brady and Tyrell and Selby, we lost our window, and we went to the finals the next year. I don't think you think like that at certain places. I think the goal every year is to be in the game, to have a chance to do that. Last year I probably didn't know if our window was such where we could be in the game, and we were. This year, I'll be disappointed if we're not in the game. But no matter who we lose after this year, I'll be disappointed next year if we're not in the game, too. I don't quite look at it that way.

Q. Throughout basketball history you've seen some big names stunt their own development by trying to prove they're guards. Do you like that Udoka doesn't seem to be that kind of a guy?
BILL SELF: Well, I can promise you Udoka will not try to be a guard. That is a given. You bank it, write it down. He is a -- his skill set be get better as he gets older, but he knows exactly who he is, and even though he'll play away from the basket some, that's not where his -- that's not where he's going to make a living, so to speak. He's going to get close to the basket.

You know, Landen is the same way. Landen knows who he is. Udoka knows who he is. And it is nice to have a couple of bigs that don't feel like they have to show everybody what they can do away from the basket because in their mind they feel like that's maybe what the NBA people want to see. Udoka, the NBA people are going to want to see what he can do close to the basket.

Q. Udoka has a background in soccer, which he thinks might have helped him with his footwork. Do you see any kind of parallels with that?
BILL SELF: I see parallels of kids that play soccer having better footwork. Comparing anybody to Joel, because I don't think anybody here really knows how good he is. I mean, he's comical how good he is or how good he was, and hopefully if he stays healthy this year, you'll see it in the NBA. But there are some similarities. You know, if I'm not mistaken, Udoka is three years younger than Joel was when Joel was here, so when you're trying to project out, where will Udoka be three years from now, that remains to be seen. He'll never be as skilled as Joe, and I would have said at the time, but he may end up being bigger and strong than Joe, but you look at Joe now, he's 7'2", 260 pounds. But I do think Udoka has a chance to be a dominant collegian, but it's not going to happen immediately, though.

Q. Since Joe, how good has your team health been? It seems like it's been pretty good of late.
BILL SELF: Yeah, even when -- we've had some rough stretches where it's probably cost us. We had two years in a row where you lost Joe who in my opinion was without question the best big man in the country, and then next year, even though he tried to play, Perry was at 50 percent, and we had to have Perry to score the ball. We had two years where we took a -- had maybe some misfortune, but if you look back over time, I mean, when Langford went down last game of the regular season, that kind of destroyed that team. We've had some things that have been unfortunate, but for the most part, I'm not going to -- knock on wood, I think our health over time has been pretty good.

And certainly you brought up a good point. I'm trying to think, last year we had maybe a few starters miss games, maybe a few the year before, but for the most part we've been healthy, and we won a few leagues in a row, and that plays a big role in it. When Blake Griffin gets a concussion and is out three games, we haven't had to deal with that quite as much with the exception of Joel, so we've been pretty fortunate in that regard.

Q. It took a little while for Lucas to settle in last year into that starting lineup, finish that out. When you talk about this year's possible or likely starting lineup, how far ahead does that put you if that's how it does play out?
BILL SELF: It may put you ahead early in the season, but I'm not sure that knowing who you're going to start now helps you win games in February. Maybe it does, I don't know. I think establishing roles early is positive. But sometimes you want there to be changes in your starting lineup. Sometimes you want to give -- make the young kid earn it, and then once he earns it and plays to his potential, you want him to actually outplay somebody.

So I think sometimes changes in your starting lineup is good for your team, and then you've got to figure out who's better coming off the bench, you've got to figure out whose ego allows you to do certain things, but I'd say going in when you're having Indiana and Duke right off the bat that if we're able to stay healthy, having those guys pretty much know what their role will be going in I think is probably a positive.

Q. Landen talks a lot about the angles and little things that he likes to do well. Is it atypical for a guy to take so much pride in things like angles or ceiling die-off?
BILL SELF: I think Landen has figured out that's how he plays. I think it's good that he takes pride in it because he probably wouldn't play as much if he didn't.

To go a step further than that, Landen Lucas can affect more positions positively that nobody will see other than coaches or teammates because he's very, very bright. He's one of the smarter players we've had come through here, and he takes great pride in little things, whether it be a late clock play. He just knows, go set a fade screen for a shooter in the corner. There's certain things that he's able -- why would I post? They don't have time to swing and get it to me, so at late clock I know I can go get somebody a shot off a fake, so he does little things like that that you only get to -- you try to teach that, but it's really something you learn over time, and he's kind of figured it out.

Q. Is that something you're hoping he passes on to Udoka?
BILL SELF: You know what, I don't know if I really hope that. I think with Udoka it's a little bit different. There's the ball, go get it. You know, here's the ball, score it. He's different. They're a totally different skill set than Landen, but what Landen has been so good with him is trying to teach him the very basic principles we have to give him a chance to be successful, and if he can teach it to him, then he'll be playing instead of thinking, and right now he's thinking instead of playing.

But Landen will speed up that process for him. But they're totally different, totally different.

Q. A couple years ago you were pretty critical of how much transferring was going on in college basketball, and I think we're at the point, 600 kids transferring this year --
BILL SELF: Are you sure on that number? I thought it was 800. Yeah, I thought it was 800.

Q. Are we at a tipping point where something has to change, like this is really starting to affect college basketball?
BILL SELF: Well, it's affecting college basketball. There's a lot of things with transferring that's positive such as if a youngster wants to play and it's not set up for him to play at that place, sometimes a change of scenery is good. Sometimes if you have a different academic program you want to pursue, sometimes change of scenery is good. If there's health issues with a family member close to home, sometimes a change of scenery is good. There's a lot of things like that.

But what has become so negative isn't coaches running off players. What's become negative is that whenever things don't go the way you have it scripted in your mind, the first thing you want to do a lot of times is switch locations because that will solve the problem. It's the same principle; you're enrolled in a hard class and you take your first test and you do poorly on your first test, the first thing you want to do is drop the class, as opposed to meeting with the teacher, okay, how do I make this up. You know you've got to grind, and I think there's so much impatience out there because we're an immediate-satisfaction society right now, that sometimes players don't understand that the grind is actually what may make them as a player and what may make them as a person over time.

I do think it's a big-time problem in college basketball. I think it's a problem in college athletics. But I also think it's a societal problem because how many kids now if you don't play on your high school team, what's the first thing you do, you switch schools. You know, if you don't like the offense -- you're a quarterback and you're second string and a sophomore beats you out and you're a junior, what do you do? You go to another school. I'm not going to back up an underclassman for two years. So it's not just basketball, it's the way kind of the things have come up. So it is a problem, and certainly in basketball with the fifth-year senior situation becoming -- I mean, the graduate transfer becoming eligible immediately, we've benefitted from that with Tarik, obviously, but 100 percent of all coaches would say that's a very, very bad rule because it puts you in a position where, depending on your situation where you could actually look to recruit kids off somebody else's campus, and that per se is not legal, but through third parties or whatnot, obviously there can be contact made and things like that.

There's some negative things going on. It's still a great game and everything, but that's something that we have to tighten up. But I don't know if there's an answer for that because, you look at it, you go to Kansas and you're a beta and you don't like it, what do you do? Switch schools. I mean, it's not just an athletics situation; it's a campus situation. But we'd like for it to be tightened up where there's less transfers and hopefully that will be the case, but I don't know if there's an immediate answer for that.

Q. What did you think of today's poll, and do you want to reveal who you voted for?
BILL SELF: How could they not -- did somebody not get one first-place vote? They didn't show it? Perfect, so I don't have to say. I gave four teams a quarter vote, so I don't have to say.

You know, I don't know that it's a huge surprise that they picked the guys first, but what is said now and what actually happens are totally two different things, and one is important and one is not, and this certainly isn't important.

Our league will be good again. It always is. The appearance is we lost so many upperclassmen, whether it be Perry or George or Buddy or whoever, you think the league is going to take a step backwards, but we've said that a lot of years about our league, and it hasn't happened yet, and it won't happen again this year.

Q. Can you make a general comment about your schedule? Too easy?
BILL SELF: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, I don't know what we were thinking about. I would really like our schedule if we didn't open up against Indiana in Honolulu. Seriously, I mean, it's hard, you play national traditional powers, the league will be great, all these things. But when it was brought to me to have a chance to play in kind of the 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor and what that could mean from an educational standpoint with our guys and everything, I think that was something like, yeah, emotionally we've got to do that.

But looking at it now, I just -- we're taking three planes over there. We've got to take three planes back to New York. We can't even travel together. And to think about that stretch, we'll find out a lot about ourselves, but I think I'm going to be probably more relaxed that stretch to be real candid with you because it is huge because we obviously want to go do as well as we possibly can, but it's not easy making that trip to play there, and it's certainly not easy coming back to play after that trip, and all we did was set ourselves up to have a tough opening start.

But I think our guys will rally around that, and certainly if they are fatigued, they won't play fatigued.

Q. You talked about your lineup and how it would be great to find roles early. Is the biggest question mark lineup as far as roles go Carlton, or what do you think it is?
BILL SELF: I don't know. I'd say Carlton and Josh and Udoka and Lagerald and Svi would probably be the guys that I would say would be the biggest question marks because I feel like you know for sure what you'll get in Landen, Frank and Devonte', without question. The other guys, Svi has got to be better than he has been, Lagerald has got to be better than he was, Carlton has got to be better than he was, and they're all capable of doing that, but they haven't done it yet, so I'd say -- and Josh and Udoka are newcomers, so I wouldn't put it just on Carlton, but I would say that all those guys need to be a little bit better.

Q. Two day in, you said you stunk. How has it been since then?
BILL SELF: We've gotten better. I think everybody -- nobody looks good two practices in, but I think that we got -- we're pretty athletic when we've got our most athletic team out there. We're pretty athletic, and we've got good guards. It's still going to be a struggle whether or not we can score consistently inside. That's not saying anything negative. You lose Perry, even though he wasn't a great inside scorer, he's a great scorer, and replace him with Carlton, who is the same type of scorer, outside-in type scorer, so we've got to figure out a way to get the ball to the rim, score in tight. But I do think we have potential to be very good defensively.

We have depth in the perimeter positions, and I think we can play different. Last year I never felt like we could probably play different because certain guys were kind of locked in their position, and I think this year we'll probably be a little bit more versatile moving guys around.

Q. What do you think about -- you're real close with Scott Ward. How has that affected the team, and are you proud of the way he's battling and all that?
BILL SELF: Yeah, I'm glad you brought that up. You know, as a coach on our team, I think that -- I think of Andrea and I think of Bill Cowgill, and of course I think of Scooter as being an assistant coach, and the players all know, and when you look at it, people don't -- we were laughing about this earlier. Sometimes when teams aren't winning, they start talking about how good they're doing academically. That's not always a good sign with the fan base.

But when you talk about us academically, it's not talked about. I think we've only had one or two seniors not graduate since Scoot has been working with our guys, and that's since I've been here, and he's a remarkable human being. He's the best role model the guys can have. He's as tough a human being as I've ever been around. He's been through more than most all of us will ever go through, and to throw a torn aorta on top of everything else, it's remarkable that he's doing as well as he's doing. It's a miracle. But it's also a sign of his toughness, too.

We went to see him on Saturday as a group, and he can only see four guys, two at a time, and we sent the four oldest guys in there, and they were all very moved and saddened to see him in such a tough position. But I was over there last night, and the guy's got a sense of humor, he's talking, he's moving, he's sitting up. He watched the volleyball girls play last night. He was excited about that. Short-term memory seems pretty good. Long-term memory seems excellent. He's totally amazing everybody over there. Prayers have been answered. He's not out of the dark yet or out of the woods yet, but certainly he's well on his way to recovery, which is great news for all of us.

Can you make sure Scooter gets that because I promised him I'd say something about him today.

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