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UNIVERSITY OF KANSAS BASKETBALL MEDIA CONFERENCE
October 13, 2017
Q. Can you update us on a possible exhibition game next weekend?
BILL SELF: Yeah, I can update you that it's going to happen. It's going to happen next Sunday, and that was the best time for everything to come together and create a situation where we encountered the fewest amount of expenses, and certainly I think it's a great opportunity for us to -- for two schools to do something together for the better of the masses and be able to send a significant amount of money to people that are suffering right now. So that is going to come to fruition, and we're real happy about it.
Q. How did that even come about? I know you've been on record in the past about not being real anxious to play --
BILL SELF: It doesn't have anything to do with playing Missouri. This does not have not one thing to do about playing Missouri. We approached this subject with Hurricane Katrina with the NCAA a decade ago, and then we brought it up again in our August meetings with the NABC board and with the NCAA in the room, and they thought that there could be a possible avenue where something like this could happen, and we were talking about for every school, every school in America to play an extra exhibition or do something to be able to send funds to those that are in need, and the NCAA, which I totally understand, in a short amount of time, you can't just make a blanket deal because who knows who will use it for a competitive advantage or financial advantage, and so they're doing it case-by-case and presenting waivers to those that have come up with the right ways to do something for others.
My whole thing when I called Cuonzo, it didn't have anything to do with us wanting to play Mizzou. It had everything to do with how can we send the most money to those victims, and there was no doubt, no disrespect to Washburn, but I think the Missouri game will probably draw a little bit more interest and be able to create some more funds.
Q. What will people see there? What kind of game will it be? What sort of dollars do you think you'll raise?
BILL SELF: Certainly plan on north of a million. But I think they'll see just a regular game. We'll have officials and we'll throw it up and guys will commit fouls and we'll shoot free throws. But it won't be any different than any other exhibition game. Cuonzo and I talked about that. He won't have his stuff in, we won't have our stuff in, none of that stuff, but it'll still be good for -- it'll be good for the fans probably to be able to see their young product. Obviously they've got a lot to sell and those sorts of things, and I think it'll be good for our guys to do it, but that's not -- that's not why I have any interest in doing it. The only interest is because we have an opportunity through NCAA approval to do something for others that we wouldn't have had a chance to do at this level if we didn't play Mizzou.
Q. What made you think of the idea? When did it pop into your head to raise money?
BILL SELF: We discussed it at our August meetings. When we had our August meetings, I could be wrong on this, but the only hurricane that had hit land at that time was Harvey, and Irma and Maria hadn't. We were talking about doing it for that catastrophic event, and since then we've obviously had five or four others with Irma, Maria, and then with Las Vegas and the fires in California. Who knows what direction people will want to take to do different things, but we chose hurricane relief.
Q. Social media blew up yesterday with the talk of MU/KU playing this game. Talk about the fans; I know you're doing it for charity, but again, the fans, just the buildup for it, the anticipation, they've waited for this for a long period of time. I know they have the Michael Porter kid at MU, they want to see these two teams play each other. I know it's for charity, it's an exhibition, but for the fans, how big is this game?
BILL SELF: I would say it's not that big from a fan standpoint. This is not a regular season game. You don't have your stuff in, that kind of standpoint. But there is enough interest that you can put 19,000 people in a building. That's the reason why we're doing it. And that's the sole reason why.
Q. Would you have done this -- I hear you saying Mizzou, this has nothing to do with them. If they didn't have Porter, would there be this kind of interest around this program?
BILL SELF: Well, we would have tried to do whatever we could to raise as much money as we can, so I still think a game with them would have been good. I don't think there's anybody else -- when you start thinking about it, okay, there can be no expenses or very few expenses. Well, how many people are in your area that you can have very little expenses? You're very limited on what you can do. So yeah, that was a no-brainer for me.
Q. Do you think this could open up discussions for the future?
BILL SELF: I guess you could always say open up, but I haven't changed how I feel about that at all, and you know, who knows what'll happen in the future. But this does not have any -- the thing about it is, and from my perspective, and we talked about it as a staff, could we get hit by some saying, well, you'll play us in an exhibition, why don't you play us in a regular season game or whatever. It doesn't have anything to do with that. It has something to do with how can we raise money to send to others, and to me that trumped everything else that we could possibly do. That's how I'm seeing that, and that's how I think they're looking at it, too. Cuonzo and I talked about that.
Q. Have you sensed your players have the same passion for helping all these people that have been hit with tragedy over the last couple months? Do you sense their drive to want to help people?
BILL SELF: I would like to say yes, but they didn't know -- somebody across state lines leaked it yesterday, so they didn't even know about it. They found out -- our players found out about it, as you said, by reading about it on social media. So it was leaked before it was approved. I hadn't told our guys. I wasn't going to tell them until today, but obviously we did yesterday.
Q. How much do these guys know about what that rivalry was?
BILL SELF: None of them played in it. They don't know. They'll get excited because I'm sure there will be enough people around here that will get excited for them to play in the game, just like their people will, too, but we don't talk about that as a group. But you know, I'm sure there will be some things mentioned between now and then, but that's -- our focus and I'm sure their focus, too, is getting their team ready for the season. But this is a good opportunity to help prepare your team for the season because you'll see some different things.
Q. To that end, that's a bonus, right?
BILL SELF: Yeah.
Q. Better than what normal exhibition competition is?
BILL SELF: Oh, absolutely, yeah. I can't believe it's not a bonus, getting a chance to do that. I don't see any potential negatives in that. I don't see how it can help your team. But even with that being said, you know, we all want to do things -- the byproduct of playing a game is it can possibly help both teams. The actual reason why we're playing it doesn't have anything to do with that, though.
Q. Did you see this kind of being a template for future schools for other charitable games?
BILL SELF: Possibly. That would be an NCAA question, but I do think it could be. We're not going to be the only ones to do it now. But I think we'll probably be the most publicized one to start it off.
Q. Your team progress report on where you think you are now as you prepare for the season?
BILL SELF: I think we're obviously in pretty good shape on the perimeter. I love our guards. I think we've got five good guards. We're thin inside, and we're young, and we don't know what we're doing yet inside. But I do think potential that can come around.
But I like our talent. I'm not sure we have the fourth pick in the draft or the National Player of the Year, but we do have some guys, I think, that are good college players that if things go well they'll have a chance to play at the next level. But right now we're a long ways away. We've only been practicing a week, but certainly attitudes are good and they're trying hard and we'll relatively healthy, so there's a lot of good things.
Q. You always like to get easy buckets and had Frank and Josh driving in, did that last year. How is this team going to get easy buckets? How is that coming along?
BILL SELF: That's actually a good question because last year we got easy buckets because we didn't score the ball inside. This year we've got a guy that can score the ball inside, so hopefully we can get some by creating angles for Dok. But I still think we've got guards, primarily Devonte' and Lagerald that can get the ball downhill, but not like Frank could. We were spoiled last year watching him. But there's some things that Devonte' can do that's different than Frank that may be better than Frank in some ways, but certainly we're going to miss those two, and you also are going to miss arguably as good a post defender as there was in the country. Landon wasn't a great scorer but he was a great 5 man and could defend just about anybody else's big.
Q. What are your expectations for those that are at all affected (indiscernible)?
BILL SELF: I think last year hurt him, Kevin, set him back quite a bit because he was just so young and didn't know the game, so he didn't get a chance to get a lot better because he missed those six months. But I have expectations for him to be an all-league type performer this year. I think he can be. He's certainly got to get in better shape, even though he's in good shape but he's got to get in great shape because he'll foul, you know, every possession or every other possession right now. But he can run, he can jump, he should be able to defend his position, and he can certainly score in tight.
But he's a very raw player right now, and we saw that last year. If he got it within two feet he was pretty good. But he's improved in other areas, and I think he's ready to take the next step to becoming a very good offensive player.
Q. A lot of times he'll be surrounded by four good shooters --
BILL SELF: Yeah, hopefully.
Q. -- which has a really high ceiling for scoring for you. How does he have to get better as a scorer and a passer?
BILL SELF: Well, he's probably a better scorer than he is passer right now and you've watched him you probably know that, but he's really improved in that area. At least last year he was a better scorer than passer, and he wasn't a prolific scorer, but he's become a better passer and certainly a better scorer, and the thing about it is, if like you're saying, if you just look at it in theory, if you have Lagerald, Svi, Malik and Devonte' around him, there's not going to be a lot of help that's going to be offered because those guys can all knock it down, so you would hope they'd isolate him on the post, which would make him look like a much better scorer than if teams can run and double him.
Q. When Billy is playing the way he's capable of, I don't know if there's five better freshmen. How important is he to you guys this year and how big is consistency with him right now?
BILL SELF: I think his most consistent thing that he does is that he's inconsistent. I mean, he'll have one great day and then one day that's not quite as good. But he's actually gaining on it. I mean, it's not from an attitude or effort standpoint, it's just sometimes the motor doesn't always run like it should. And a lot of people equate that to effort. I equate it more to habits. I think that he could be one of the better freshmen we have from a talent standpoint if he's at that peak ceiling where the motor runs and he's playing to his athleticism and playing inside-out rather than just playing outside. There's a lot of things that he needs to improve on, but certainly you can't deny his talent. He's a very talented kid.
Q. It's been about three weeks since all this federal investigation stuff first hit. You know Jim Gatto well, known him for a while. Have you had a chance to talk to him, and are you surprised that his name got mixed up in all this stuff?
BILL SELF: Well, I do know Jim. We've been with Adidas for 10 years or whatever, so you know most of those guys within the company. But it was very disappointing and disheartening and obviously a dark cloud for our profession and everything. But to answer your question, no, I've had zero contact, zero.
Q. The allegations with possible six-figure payments from Adidas and whatever sources to get someone to go to a school, does that surprise you those things are out there?
BILL SELF: That surprises me, yeah. That does surprise me. Now, I'm not going to go into a lot of detail. What's not surprising is third parties' involvement who are recruiting. Everybody should know that. That's prevalent everywhere.
Q. What can they do about that?
BILL SELF: Well, it hadn't been illegal. People can assume that certain things -- there's nothing illegal about agents talking to kids and their families in ninth or tenth grade the way the rules are today. There's nothing illegal about shoe companies funding AAU programs. That's what's been encouraged and that's what's been done and that's what's been said legal, so it shouldn't come as a total surprise that you could have influence coming from third parties when those things are prevalent.
You know, obviously the things that were reported were bad, very disturbing, those sorts of things, but to answer your question, what can be done, I think we have to maybe take a look at it from really 30,000 feet and say, well, what can -- not only what can be done but what do we want to accomplish with this. People say they have all the answers, and well, let's just pay players or let's allow them to sign with agents or let's let them go out of high school or let's put in the baseball rule or let's pay them for their likeness and image, and all these things. These things all sound very simple in theory, which I'm not saying some of them or all of them couldn't work, but this has to be a long, vetted-out process to determine do we want amateurism to be.
The Olympics made a lot of changes decades ago but recent memory for most of us when no pros could participate in the Olympics. Isn't that right? And now professional athletes can participate in the Olympics, and things like that.
I don't know how the college landscape will change, but I think it'll change not only for basketball but for everybody.
Q. From knowing Jim Gatto, knowing these guys, do you think that there's a fear out there that when whistle blowers start going, there will be people turning over on other schools and things like that? Knowing what you know about him, is he someone --
BILL SELF: I'm not going to get into that because I've never, ever visited with him in regards to anything that would be remotely associated with how he would react in a situation like this. Nothing. So yeah, I can't answer that question at all.
Q. Hearing all this and listening to what you're saying, the conversation has been said that it needs to be had, and we've been doing this for a number of years, is it time for athletes at the college level, at least basketball and football, to start getting paid or getting some sort of --
BILL SELF: Now, see, that's a great point, but do you think that'll hold up in a court of law that those are the only two sports where athletes can get paid? So there's all kinds of things that have to be thought out. This is bigger than us just coming up with ideas. It's coming up with ideas that will also be able to withhold all the headwind that's going to be coming towards it, and those aren't questions I can answer. You should ask NCAA legal counsel on those sorts of things.
But do I think it needs to be fixed and changed? Absolutely. And hopefully what has transpired will definitely create some positive things moving forward that would be better for not only our sport but be better for all collegiate athletics moving forward.
Q. With you guys in the news off the court, does that affect you guys recruiting and are you concerned about your relationships with prospects?
BILL SELF: I would say that I don't know that it's affected us. I know that there is -- whenever in recruiting there could be something out there that has been reported, whether it's reliable, unreliable, total myth, whatever, there's usually competitors that will make sure that information gets to people. I mean, that's how -- unfortunately that's how it works. You can say that's negative recruiting. I'm not sure if it's reported and you forward an article, I'm not sure if that's negative recruiting. I think that's -- but a lot of times the things that are reported are so inaccurate that it puts you on the defense. And I would be lying if I wouldn't have to tell you that we have addressed these issues with everyone that we're recruiting.
And has it hurt us to date? No, I don't think it has. But I don't know -- it's not signing date yet, either. I know that we spent plenty of time making sure we explained the position of what's transpired so far based on what we know. But as of this point, I don't think it's been a big deterrent.
Q. (Indiscernible) not quite official yet. Are you confident of that moving forward?
BILL SELF: Well, you'd have to ask my superiors that. That would probably be Sheahon or maybe our chancellor even involved with that. I don't know anything about the contract moving forward or the dates or if it's signed yet. I really don't know that.
Q. There was a fair amount of information from a paper trying to get stuff, and the FBI sent a letter back to them. Have you seen that letter, and what is your assurance level that you guys don't have any issues?
BILL SELF: Well, I don't think that we do. I don't think that we do. But I could be mistaken on this, okay, so bear with me on this. What was reported was accurate, but it was incomplete, because if I'm not mistaken, the Kansas City Star and the Journal World ran something right after that that says that would have been our standard answer if anybody from any school would have FOI'd the FBI regarding anything going on with this investigation. If that's the fact, which I believe it is based on the way it's been reported, it certainly wasn't part of the initial bang. So when Bleacher Report or Yahoo or ESPN get it, they don't get the full thing, they get the partial thing.
You know, that's the kind of stuff I'm talking about, so that could potentially put you on the defensive on recruiting saying, let me send you the full scope of the article as opposed to the partial one. And based on what I have been told and what I have seen is it was very clear that it was a standard answer that would be responded to by anybody that would have questions about any school that FOI'd that could potentially be having any type of -- not involvement but any type of connection in what way, shape or form with what the FBI is trying to do. That's the way it was explained to me. That's the way I understood it. I don't think our fans at this point in time have anything to worry about.
I'm much more concerned about our sport than I am Kansas.
Q. Theoretically, I guess if you look at this from 30,000 feet, a shoe company could do this without a school even knowing, try to pay kids some money. You wouldn't think it could, but it could. Are there fears of things happening out there that you guys wouldn't know about?
BILL SELF: I would say that there's -- fears might not be the right word, but I think there is obviously things going on in recruiting that a lot of times coaches would not know about, because you don't know what agents and families talk about when they meet. You don't know about that stuff. You know, you'd like to know as much as possible, but I think that would probably be impossible to know every little thing.
Would there be concerns? Yeah, that would be concerns for anybody I would say, that there could be some things out there that's gone on in recruiting that doesn't involve just the school and the family and the recruit. But I'm not saying that's prevalent. I don't believe it is, but who knows, I guess it could be the case.
Q. Are you encouraged by the commission that the NCAA formed this week?
BILL SELF: I am. I don't see -- first of all, I thought in a short amount of time, because the NCAA was probably -- I don't want to say blindsided, but I'm not sure they're aware of everything that was going on because I think the indictments that were passed down three weeks ago basically surprised everybody based on what I know. Of course I'm not in the know, but I do think that's a positive step, that we have to do something to evaluate where we are and where we want to go, because I think the model the way we see it now will not exist in the near future. There may be tweaks, but I also think there could potentially be some major changes.
Q. The 76ers practiced here yesterday. Did you talk to Joel Embiid or any of the players specifically, and what was said?
BILL SELF: Yeah, we talked to Joe. He did play here, so we're going to talk to him. I was really impressed with their practice, and our players came and watched it, too. The thing that impressed me the most, these guys are pros and there's some guys fighting to make the team, and Joe wasn't the only one here that we knew, obviously. We know a lot of them, but Jacob Pullen obviously is on the team right now, as well. But what impressed me arriving at 4:00 a.m. that they went as hard as they did at 1:30. That was impressive to me.
But the one thing that stood out more, and you guys saw it that were here, that stood out more than anything, is that is a bad man that we knew was good back then, but he's taken it to a whole new level.
Q. He mentioned yesterday, too, he maybe didn't want to leave Kansas after his freshman year; is that something that he'll have much stay in or were you prepared for him to stay longer?
BILL SELF: I would have preferred for him to stay all four years. So no, Joe had to go. He had to go. But Joe was going through a phase, if you guys remember, he was hurt, he had hurt his back, didn't finish the season. He was emotional, and he loves it here, and he did express -- I don't remember all the details, but he did express that he would like to return. But the reality of it is that was not in his best interest over time.
And his family and people close to him, within his family scope, convinced him otherwise. It did not disappoint me that he left. I shouldn't say that. It probably disappointed me, but I knew it was best for him. He needed to go.
Q. Guys like Devonte' and Svi and really everybody, they've accomplished all they can minus the last weekend in March or first weekend in April. This year with this team, how do you do that and really how difficult is it?
BILL SELF: Well, I think it's -- I think everything is hard. It's hard to win a league, but that's something that we've been pretty good at, and then it's hard to get to the Final Four because that's -- obviously we've lost in the first weekend before, there's no question, but in recent memory for the most part, other than a couple years, we've had pretty good success getting to the weekend before the Final Four. How do you play maybe what will take maybe the two best games of the season to get there? Last year we played arguably as good a game as we played all year long against Purdue and then we laid an egg against Oregon, and Oregon probably had -- if you look at the game before against Michigan, Oregon didn't play great. They were lucky to get through that game, and they played their best game the second game.
I don't know the exact answer at this juncture to say how we can do that, but I think we'll have the toughness and the mindset, and if we're put in that position to be in that game again, I think that if we're not successful, it won't be because we weren't tough enough, we weren't prepared to be there. Maybe it's just because the other team was better.
Unfortunately in athletics, both teams try really hard, and you get to that eight game, everybody in that eight game is probably capable of winning the National Championship, so you'd better be your best that day, and we obviously haven't been the last two years.
Q. You said that 70 percent you were going to try to play big. How do you see that working with three big men or is that --
BILL SELF: That was really before we started practicing, so I think that number has gone down a little bit to about 50, but I think we've got to play big at least 20 minutes a game, at least. You look at it over time, teams can play small. We can play small, all these things. But you know, you look at the finals last year, maybe the two biggest teams in America were Gonzaga and North Carolina. You've got to be able to control the paint and get easy baskets and you're shooting in domes and you may not shoot as good a three-point percentage -- there's a lot of factors that go on that there's such an advantage to have multiple bigs, and we need to get to the point we can play 6'10", 6'10", and if we're able to do that for 50 or 70 percent of the game, I think our chances will elevate quite a bit on us being a great team by February.
Q. When you can, though, how much of an advantage is it for your guys this year to know going small worked last year?
BILL SELF: Yeah, I think that could be a little bit of advantage, because you've also got to look at, I mean, we had -- we say we played small last year, but we had a 6'8" guard that could rebound and block shots and defend, and he wasn't a normal guy. So you're looking at this year if you play small, you're playing small because you're going to play four guards, where Josh was -- he was a guard, but he could do anything. And he was a match-up nightmare for others.
So how will we defend the post if we did that? That's the question. But the reality of it is how do they match up with us on the other end, too. I think last year does give us confidence that we can play small and play a little faster.
Q. The league itself, I saw the preseason team come out yesterday and there wasn't a whole lot of household names except your guy and Jevon Carter. What are your thoughts about where the Big 12 is?
BILL SELF: You know what, I would say on paper we lost a lot. But you know, I think we said on paper we lost a lot the year before. You're losing George, you're losing Perry, you're losing all these veteran guys, and somehow the league just always seems to replenish and replace those guys. I would say that I would be totally shocked if our league isn't as competitive as what it has been in recent memory, but I don't really know who the best teams are. I don't know how good we'll be yet. People can say, well, Kansas has got this and got that. Well, yeah, we did, but you can't tell me you lose a No. 4 pick and the National Player of the Year and automatically you got better. I mean, that's not how it works.
I remember when I took the job, when we took the job here, Kansas math amazed me. You lose Carlson and you lose Heinrich but we're supposed to win it all the next year because that's the mindset. But I also think that's positive, too, because the mindset with these players are that, we're going to miss those guys but somebody is going to step up and do it, and I think every team in the league has that. I don't know on paper who would be right there, but I think West Virginia obviously is always going to be good as long as Huggs is there, and they obviously have some terrific guards coming back and guys inside. You look at Oklahoma would be one of the most improved teams. I think Texas will be terrific.
But to me they're not a sleeper, and to me -- and I'm not leaving out anybody because I totally respect everybody, but I think every coach in the league would say, well, TCU returns five starters and two recruits that probably start? You would say, well, they could be the team to beat in our league.
It'll be competitive. I don't know that we're as top heavy as what we have been. Maybe, but I know there's no bottom-heavy teams.
Q. How has Lagerald done so far in practice, and will he be the one --
BILL SELF: He'll have to. Lagerald has been great, but we've to convince Lagerald that when we go small he's got to be more than a guard. But I think Marcus Garrett can also do that, too. I think Lagerald and Marcus Garrett would be the two guys that's tough enough that can probably defend a 4 man in those situations, but Lagerald has been really good so far.
Q. What are the challenges Devonte' is facing this year in terms of facing a team after such strong leadership on the front? Does he just need to be his own man this year?
BILL SELF: I think Devonte' has been his own man since he's been here for the most part. I think last year he deferred because it was best for our team to put the ball in Frank's hands more. But he won't defer to anybody this year. This is his squad. This is his team. More so than anybody else. Svi and him -- Svi has been terrific so far, but Devonte' to me from a vocal standpoint and by example, I mean, he's going to have a lot of fun this year, and if he has a lot of fun, then obviously he'll be a great leader for us because he's got personality like very few that we've ever had here.
Q. In terms of game players, there's a decision expected tonight from Dotson. A lot of people have a good feeling about that. What is your reaction so far to the progress you're making with this recruiting class in comparison to years past?
BILL SELF: Yeah, I can't talk about specifics, but I think we're off to a decent start, above-average start with a chance maybe to close strong. We need to have a good class because obviously there's a lot of potential out there for us to lose guys after this year.
Q. Talk about Billy Preston's versatility, and do you see him really playing much small ball 5 this year?
BILL SELF: Yeah, I do. Well, he'll have to. If Dok is in, Dok fouls, and if Dok is not in the game -- let's say Dok does an unbelievable job of staying out of foul trouble and gets in great shape, so he's able to play between 25 and 30 minutes a game. Well, that still leaves 10 to 15 minutes a game somebody else is going to have to defend the 5. So Billy, that would be real small ball, but that's certainly something that would have to happen.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports