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Tuesday, April 22, 2003

KU players tickled with selection

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Kansas University's returning basketball players waited a week for official word on a new coach.

Monday, they said the wait was worth it.

"It's good to close the chapter and know who we have coming in," KU sophomore Wayne Simien said. "It's good to know that we've got one of the best guys around, and we are looking toward next year."

Several Jayhawks said they felt comfortable with Self immediately.

"I look at him different from coach (Roy) Williams," junior Jeff Graves said. "With Coach Williams, I thought I was in trouble every time I looked at him. Coach Self is a laid-back guy. I think we'll be a lot closer."

Graves and Keith Langford were recruited by Self to play for Illinois.

"I think the situation will work itself out fine," Langford said. "We will take no steps back. Coach Self will show us an even better way to get there. We have a coach now, and a good coach at that. We have a coach that recruited me out of high school and a guy I know."

Self had a jab for Graves after Graves tapped KU over Illinois.

"When I told him I was going to KU," Graves said, "he was like, 'I will double-team your butt every time we play you.'

"He was real cool and funny, cracking jokes like that."

But Monday wasn't all about jokes. Several KU players put themselves in the position of Illini players.

"I couldn't help but think about what it was like watching coach Williams' press conference when coach Self was up there talking and thinking about the Illinois players," Simien said.

"It's tough to think about them in the same situation we were in last week. But it's a tough situation, and you've just got to realize it's more of a business up here now."

Aaron Miles agreed and said Self's decision was in his best interest.

"Sometimes you got to do what's best for your family," Miles said. "Feelings are going to get hurt ... whatever you do. I'm sure the Illinois players are hurting, and I feel for them, because I know what they're going through."

The Jayhawks said they thought the adjustment period would be much smoother than they initially thought last week when Williams said he was heading to North Carolina.

"In a lot of ways he is like coach Williams, a player's coach," Langford said. "He wants to play fast, so there won't be too many adjustments. He shares the same desires to win that we have, so I think the transition should be pretty smooth."

Self said the Jayhawks of 2003-04 wouldn't look much different than last year's team.

"I think NBA coaches tailor their style to fit personnel," Self said. "I think that anybody that has a guy that can really shoot or a guy that can really seal in the post ... you've got to do some things to make sure that they can catch the ball and give them the best chance. Certainly we'll tweak it, but these guys fit our style.

"We will run high-lows. We'll do some different things, because that's what I know and I believe. But as far as simply watching this team play, you're not going to see a lot of difference."

Simien liked hearing that.

"We definitely asked him about his style of play and what he is going to bring in," Simien said. "We've got a good group of guys coming in, and he said he is definitely going to have to cater to us for a little bit, until he can get his own group of guys in.

"That is definitely something we all wanted to hear."

Miles said even though the last week had been a roller coaster, the Jayhawks might be stronger in the end.

"It was an unfortunate situation that occurred," Miles said. "But what doesn't kill you will only make you stronger. We looked at it as we just had to join together, become tighter, keep everybody on the team together, keep our recruits together, and just stay strong. That's what we did.

"It might be a blessing in disguise."

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