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October 24, 2018

Shaka Smart

Kansas City, Missouri

THE MODERATOR: We are now joined by the University of Texas coach, Shaka Smart. Coach?

SHAKA SMART: Great to be here in Kansas City, excited about having Matt Coleman, Dylan Osetkowski and Kerwin Roach here on his birthday with me. It's always great to have some experienced players to come with you to Media Day. Excited about those guys. Our guys have worked extremely hard in practice. We have not scrimmaged against anyone else yet so we're looking forward to doing that soon, getting to test ourselves against somebody in a different uniform.

For us, this month, it's been about consolidating good habits and trying to gain consistency and doing things that go into winning, whether it's on offense or defense. We have five new guys that when they first started practice knew nothing about college basketball and are slowly but surely learning. They've got a long way to go.

Thankfully we've got guys that have been around in the Big 12 for a while and can teach them the ropes. I like our blends of returning guys and new guys and our job now is to put them together and go win a lot of games.

Q. Shaka, obviously Andrew Jones has been one of the better stories in college basketball, his comeback. What's it been like to watch his progress and with the toe injury what are the realistic chances that we might see him back on the court this season?
SHAKA SMART: Well, first of all, his progress is as you mentioned, one of the best things that's happened in recent memory. He's come so far from early January when he was first diagnosed and he had to immediately go to the hospital and it seemed like just a matter of days and he was losing weight, had to get on treatment right away. His attitude throughout has been phenomenal. He's a fighter. He's got a great level of toughness about him. He's been through a lot of challenging days, challenging times as has his family and they're as strong as anyone I've been around.

He fought his way all the way back to coming back to being a full-time student at the University of Texas and being a student-athlete who has been competing with our guys in workouts and practices and lifting weights. As you mentioned a few weeks ago he broke his toe which was a temporary setback. Thankfully it's not something that will have him out for too long. We're hopeful by the end of the week that he will be back on the court being able to play and do some things in practice. Probably won't be able to go fully live by the end of the week but hopefully very soon.

In terms of him playing this year, our number one goal all along has been to help him get back to full strength. We knew that was going to take time. He literally got done with his treatment in the summer in late August and then a week later enrolled as a full-time student-athlete. It's only been a couple of months, really, since he's been back in school and has been training full-time with us.

But he's done a really good job. He's gained a lot of strength back and gained some of his explosiveness back. He'll be the first to tell you he's not all the way where he was physically as a player yet, but the guy's work ethic is phenomenal and I certainly wouldn't put it past him to be able to work his way back to where he was as a player. So we're just going to see what makes the most sense for him and for our team.

Obviously when we go out there for games at all times with all of our players we want to put them and our team in a position to be successful but overall we're just super excited to have him back.

Q. With Dylan Osetkowski, he stepped up for your squad offensively and defensively this last season. What have you seen as far as his development this off-season and what are you looking from him for an on-court leader this season?
SHAKA SMART: The biggest thing with Dylan as opposed to last year is he has a year under his belt playing at Texas and playing in the Big 12. I think that's incredibly valuable for someone that was last year really feeling his way around as someone who sat out the year before and who transferred from Tulane previous to that. He's done a terrific job in the off-season on his game and his body. He's been diligent about his diet and his exercise. All of our guys don't necessarily have the exact same regimen. He's on a very, very different approach in terms of strength and conditioning compared to other guys. For instance, he was up at 6:30 this morning on the bike in the hotel just getting his workout in to make sure his training load is where it needs to be. He's been very mature about that. The good thing for him is that he's been through it before. He's made a lot of progress. He knows some of the twists and turns that are coming and I think he can be a terrific leader first and foremost by example, and secondly vocally with his teammates because the guys really, really respect him.

Q. The preseason poll, Kansas number one, K-State two, you guys tied for fourth. Anything about that surprises you?
SHAKA SMART: No. Did you want me to elaborate on that?

Q. Just the fact that Kansas again number 1 and K-State up to number two and you guys tied for fourth.
SHAKA SMART: K-State went to the Elite Eight last year and had a terrific team and has almost everybody back so it makes a lot of sense. I think in a lot of conferences they might get picked first, but Kansas has won the Big 12 so many years in a row that it sure makes sense to pick them. Plus, when you look at who they have back and who they recruited, a lot of people are picking them number 1 in the country let alone the Big 12.

As for the rest of the league I think there's a ton of great teams in our conference; it's not much different than previous years. The one thing about the Big 12 that's different is every program has had a lot of success at different times, even in the last three years. Every team has been in the NCAA tournament, every team other than Kansas and West Virginia has not been in the NCAA tournament at least once in the last three years. So there is a lot of parity and a lot of people that beat up on each other in our conference. That preseason poll. I know it's a big deal right now but it doesn't matter. Once the games start because it's going to be decided on the court.

Q. They announced today they are extending the Big 12 Tournament here in Kansas City until 2024. What do you think about that? Do you like that?
SHAKA SMART: I think it's a great location for the Big 12 with all things considered, when you factor in the venue, the way that the folks in Kansas City embrace this conference tournament, the professionalism with which this tournament is treated. Obviously, you have some very, very passionate fan bases that are tremendously actively close so that impacts attendance. So I think when you factor all those things in, it makes a lot of sense.

THE MODERATOR: Coach, best of luck for the season.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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