Sunday, February 14, 2010


Full-court press gives Kansas lift


Bill Self postgame press conference - Iowa State

Kansas basketball coach Bill Self addresses the media after the Jayhawks' 73-59 victory against Iowa State on Feb. 13.

Reader poll

Which player were you most encouraged by in KU's 73-59 victory over Iowa State?

  • Xavier Henry 69% 1142 votes
  • Tyshawn Taylor 10% 178 votes
  • Elijah Johnson 19% 324 votes

1644 total votes.

Audio clips

KU-ISU basketball

It happens from Miami to Seattle, from Orono, Maine, to San Diego and every college basketball town in between.

Team applies full-court pressure for a short stretch, and it’s wildly effective. Coach takes calls on his weekly radio show from loyal supporters. Maybe it’s the first call, maybe the second. Sometimes it’s not until the third call, though it seldom takes that long.

“Loved your full-court press the other night,” the call starts.

The coach smiles and looks at the radio host. Both men know what’s coming next: “Any chance you could do that for 40 minutes? Seems like every time you do it, it works great.”

Often, the press comes at the end of the game, against a team attempting to protect a lead, which makes it low-risk because the team doesn’t try to attack it to score.

Kansas often presses after made free throws, but the way the Jayhawks did it Saturday for a short stretch had more of a punch to it.

When the full-court pressure was turned up Saturday night in the second half of Kansas University’s 73-59 victory against Iowa State, the Cyclones melted.

It started Kansas on the way to a 14-0 run.

Iowa State coach Greg McDermott called a timeout nine points into the run and no doubt reviewed how to break the pressure, knowing it probably was in vain. Once the press-break is set up, the other coach takes it off, thereby ensuring the reeling coach had just wasted a timeout.

Even after the full-court pressure was scaled back, the run continued, reaching 21-3.

“It’s kind of funny,” KU’s Marcus Morris said of the way that works. “That’s what we look for, try to speed them up a little, try to get a few steals, and then when they think we’re going to continue, just pull it off.”

Kansas was playing sluggishly, and Iowa State had drawn within two points. It was time for a change-up to bring the Jayhawks out of hibernation.

“We work on pressing just in case we want to go to it,” Morris said. “It’s rare we bring it out in games. We do it to try to get a few steals, try to get a few open dunks to get us going.”

The less it’s used, the better it works because of the surprise element.

Marcus and Markieff Morris, Xavier Henry, Tyrel Reed and Tyshawn Taylor were in the lineup when Self ordered his men to put the Cyclones under the heat lamps.

“You can’t give people the same dose of everything all the time,” Self said. “At least I never thought you could. You pick your spots when you have momentum and things. Tonight we did get a couple of steals off it, which led to easy baskets.”

Self has the players to apply full-court pressure and the discipline not to overuse it. That formula has helped him to win 400 times.

“A great time to press is when you get a transition basket, and they just take it out real quick, throw it in, and you hit ’em right then because they’re not prepared in their press offense,” Self said. “The hardest time to press is when they’re set up. Out of a timeout, you know they’re organized, so you can do it, but you don’t want to put yourself in a situation where they break it and they have 3-on-2 behind you. We’re still not a pressing team, but we did do some things tonight to create some tempo.”


Mike Kendall 9 years, 11 months ago

Self disagreed with the charging call where the ISU guy was moving. I said it when it happened, with other posters, that it should have been a blocking call. To me, it was an obvious call.

MDHawk 9 years, 11 months ago

Yeah, it was obvious...I was furious. The refs weren't too bad, though...just made a couple obvious mistakes, and what appeared to be make-up calls. Not atypical.

Sparko 9 years, 11 months ago

Reed played outstandingly during the run. He deserves a lot of praise for his effort. He was giving 100-percent on every possession. There are a lot of little games within a game; but Reed's important minutes buried ISU yesterday. Brackin was starting to feel it when KU shut them down not a moment too soon.

jaybate 9 years, 11 months ago

Sunday in Transition from ISU to TA&M:

} Self came up with a Hall of Fame zinger on Brady in the transition from game to street clothes. Brady was buttering Self about how great a coach Self was and how great it was to be a part of getting Self win number 400, and Self cracked back, "With no help from you out there tonight" in reference to Brady's 0-for shooting performance. Talk about keeping the cubs in line!

} With my obligation nearly fulfilled to dragnslyr to watch Tyshawn digitally and send him telepathic boluses of rock chalk spirit, my restless gaze transitioned to Tyrel. Working through my Ty's this time of season, I guess.

Anyway, Tyrel, much to my surprise, has turned into KU's most interesting strip artist. No, I don't mean the kid moonlights at the Bird. Tyrel, he of the once barely adequate foot speed, now turned adequate, he of the "if he isn't draining treys, he isn't contributing a lot" game, he of the "leave my sister alone or you may wind up face down in John Redmond Reservoir sibling chivalry," the Tyrel of the wheat, by the wheat and for the wheat, the Tyrel of the "I'm making it on the sacred wood when a lot of big city fools said I couldn't, this Tyrel has turned into one of the sneakiest strip artists yet to play "Grand Theft: Bill Ball."

The King of hard wood Strip, of course, in the Bill Ball era, the oil-backed reserve currency of pinch, the US Dept. of Weights and Measures standard of pilfer, would with all due respect to Mario "The Pickpocket" Chalmers, have to be Russell "The Cat Burglar" Robinson.

Russell could not only steal the Mona Lisa from the Louvre mid morning, he could pilfer pocket money from the docent for cab fare for the ride to de Gaulle on the way out. Russsell's hands were so fast, he used to steal quarters from magicians in the middle of their coin tricks and leave them change in nickels. Russell's feet were so quick he would jump into second half passing lanes in the first half. Russell's sense of anticipation was so keen that the Naval Observatory used him to reset the atomic clock to the next ten millionth of a second. Russell was so quick, ah, well, he was so quick that for kicks in blow outs he used to steal the ball from a hapless opposing guard and give it back to the guy before the guy knew it had been stolen. Did I say he was quick?

jaybate 9 years, 11 months ago

And before Bill Ball, and the phenomenon that was Russell Robinson, KU's Pontiff of Poach, its Rabbi of Rustle, its Rajah of Rip Off, its Crimson and Blue Caliph of Clip, had to have been none other than Joseph Henry White aka Jo Jo. No, not the Jo Jo who left his home in Tucson, Arizona, for some California grass, youngsters, but rather the Jo Jo White who was so quick he used to steal the ball from guys before they even knew they had the ball. Jo Jo was so quick he lead the NBA in steals, while he was still playing for KU. Jo Jo remains, even after Russell Robinson, the only player who could get a steal anytime, anywhere he wanted. He was like watching the fastest cat you have ever seen toying with an opposing guard. There would be stalking and playful faints, and, then just like that, the ball was in his hands and the opponent was like, "What happened? I had it a second ago."

So what, you say, does Tyrel Reed have to do with these two amazing guys? What can Tyrel Reed possibly have in common with the two greatest bladder thieves in KU basketball history? jaybate, you gasp, why do you blaspheme against James Naismith and all that is holy by even remotely equating young Tyrel with Russell the Magnificient, or Jo Jo the Great?

I'll tell you why.

Because Tyrel Reed, who is not half as quick as Russell, nor a tenth as quick as Jo Jo, has developed and mastered a trick that neither of them really mastered.

Tyrel has perfected the sneakiest strip of them all. He has perfected the blind spot strip of guys he is not guarding, guys who are in the act of taking the ball to the basket. He strips them after they get offensive rebounds and prepare to stick back. He strips them in transitions, when they are not looking. He strips them when they think they are going in for a slam. He strips them when they are about to eat green eggs and ham. He strips them, Sam I am.

Note, he almost never strips the ball from his own man, as Jo Jo was the unparalled master at. He can't really step into passing lanes and strip, as Russell was the unparalleled master at either. And he doesn't strip with nearly the frequency of great ball thieves.

But what Tyrell is increasingly the master of is what I call the blind side impact strip of someone else's man. He is the master of the strip that occurs at the key moment that turns momentum back to KU, or breaks a stalemate.

Tyrel is, frankly, creeping up under radar and becoming the master of taking the ball from guys guarded by other guys, or from guys who think they are loose, but don't see Tyrel preying on them, at key moments in games.

jaybate 9 years, 11 months ago

Other guys try to do what Tyrel does all the time...and instead of getting the ball they get called for fouling.

Tyrel seems to have mastered the arts not only of sneaking up on guys who think they have shaken open, and on guys who think they only have to worry about the man guarding them, he has also mastered the art of committing the strip with victims strategically positioned between Tyrel and the referee.

Referees can be standing within a few feet of the action, but Tyrell's handy work occurs out of their line of sight.

Tyrel makes these blind side strips standing up, jumping up, standing flat footed, hunched over, even lying on his back on the floor and reaching up. Tyrel is like some kind of Morey Eel lurking in the crevasses of furious action on the floor. He looks to be moving slower than every one on the floor, and at times he is, but then just as the prey passes and it looks like Tyrel is not going to move a muscle, he reaches and swipes the ball in the blink of an eye. And he gets it. And possession is 10/10ths of the law on a basketball court.

Tyrel has done this so many times this year it can no longer be a string of coincidences, no longer a random right tail phenomenon. It is a skill, a knack, or whatever you want to call it.

I suspect Tyrel has been looking to develop some kind of a stripping act since early in the season. When you vy for PT with defensive whizzes like Tyshawn and Brady, you better come up with some kind of edge, or you'll only get to stay in as long as you sink threes.

I can hear Ty and his father, a high school coach, talking on the phone.

"Dad, I got a mean triceratop, I know that, and I know I can beat these guys in a foot race but Quantum T and Brady are just plain light years quicker than me. And this guy Elijah, I mean if he ever figures out a floor game, I could be Conner Teahan with curly hair, ya know?"

"Don't push the panic button, son," Mr. Reed says, "Basketball is a game of give the coach what he wants and then give him something that would hit his hot button that no one else gives him. Then you're in the mix."

"Like what, pop? What the heck can I do that these guys can't do outside of shoot the trey?"

"I can't believe I gotta tell my own kid this trick. Okay, Self is addicted to strips. He's a strip junky. All old guards are. Old guards don't have wet dreams, they have strip dreams. They live for strips the way bigs live for dunks."

"Maybe you didn't notice, pop, but the menu of your genes did not include lightening quickness afoot."

"Yeah, but it did include quick hands, quick reactions, a quick mind and some cleverness."

jaybate 9 years, 11 months ago

"Go ahead, pop, spill it out. I've got be at practice in awhile."

"Tyshawn and Brady are great at jumping passing lanes, but neither one of them has as quick of hands as you have. Hands kid. You've got quick hands. You can probably beat both of them in a game of hand slap."

"Go on."

"Well, son, quit trying jump in passing lanes and start trying to sneak up behind guys. When you're sagging on post men, try to slap the ball out of their hands. It used to work for me. I got one or two steals a game that way back in the dark ages. And it annoys heck out of a big man. Try it."

"Thanks, dad," Tyrel dead pans. "Gotta go." Click.

But like all sons, what their father says slowly seeps in eventually and they give it a try in a way that makes it seem like they are thinking it up themselves. Not until they are married with children do they give their fathers credit for these little tidbits of wisdom.

Tyrel tried some early season stripping on big men during sagging, especially down on the baseline, where the baseline is like a sixth team mate in a double team. But it didn't work very well. He got called for fouling because it is easy for a referee to see the reaching on the baseline.

As the weeks came and went, Tyrel, half in frustration, pawed at a ball in a big man's hands on an offensive rebound, not on the baseline but about two thirds of the way out to the free throw line. There were players on all side of he and the big he pawed at. The ball popped free and feel into his hands. And even though he fouled the big's arm, the ref didn't call it, because he couldn't see it.

So Tyrel, like any creature in a highly competitive environment, let this trick be naturally selected into his survival repertoire. And low and behold, what evolved over the course of the season was increasing ability to find situations, usually situations of some kind of transition, situations where order is breaking down a bit and Tyrel and an opposing player with the ball are surrounded by other players, or at least separated from direct line of sight with referees, and Tyrel can reach and strip.

And each strip is like a gift at a sacred altar to a coach like Bill Self.

jaybate 9 years, 11 months ago

And so, when Self is disatisfied with what is going on with KU perimeter play, or when he sees a stalemate in momentum, or when it is nearing the end of the game, and KU needs some stops, Self looks down the bench and sees jumpers, and shooters, and great onball defenders, and rebounders, and mistake prone impact players, and glue guys who don't make mistakes, but also don't make stops, and so on, and a little voice in the back of Bill Self's head speaks. It says, "The calculus of the right move is too complicated to work through systematically. What the heck, Tyrel sometimes gets lucky with a strip and he doesn't cost me anything at all. And he can shoot FTs and maybe drain a trey. But its the strip we really need. Maybe that sucker'll get lucky again." At that point, Bill Self says, "Tyrel!! Get in there. Now!"

And he increasingly gets one of the "lucky" strips that increasingly don't seem like luck at all.

Opposing coaches are going to have to wake up and start preparing for his Morey Eel act of Tyrels, or they are going to keep having to pay for having watched it.

} I love these games with Turgeon's teams, because it brings out the Larry Brown side of Bill Self. Turg is a creature of LB even though he learned a lot from Roy, too. Turg is at heart an opportunistic hoop strategist like LB, who strives for a system, too.

Self too is partly a creature of LB and partly a creature of another style of play from a another style of man--Eddie Sutton. Watching Self and Turg coach against each other works out kind of like this. The differing systems of Eddie and Roy are shaping the battlefield strategy, while the opportunism of LB is shaping tactics.

It doesn't get any better than this from an Xs and Os stand point in my book.

Lacy Mohler 9 years, 11 months ago

This is not the first game this season where guards other than Collins have lead the game winning run, and the full court press was not used in some of those other games. The line-up that lead the team in yesterday's 9-0 run (Robinson, EJ and CJ also fit in this group) are just faster than the starting five.

KU has a good team this year, but the posibility of an incredibly fast starting line-up is waiting in the wings for next year.

Lacy Mohler 9 years, 11 months ago

Sorry-- "led" not lead. Caught the error just as I clicked the button of no return.

Mike Kendall 9 years, 11 months ago

Jesse or Tom: When will the "CramSession" on A&M be posted? Can't wait, man!!!!!!

Commenting has been disabled for this item.