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Monday, January 3, 2011

Keegan

Bill Self uses holiday break to teach Morris twins a lesson

In this sequence of images, Kansas forward Marcus Morris finishes a high-flying dunk and gets the foul from Miami (Ohio) University guard Antonio Ballard during the first half, Sunday, Jan. 2, 2011 at Allen Fieldhouse.

In this sequence of images, Kansas forward Marcus Morris finishes a high-flying dunk and gets the foul from Miami (Ohio) University guard Antonio Ballard during the first half, Sunday, Jan. 2, 2011 at Allen Fieldhouse.

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Podcast episode

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

KU coach Bill Self

Kansas coach Bill Self talks to reporters following the Jayhawks' 83-56 victory over Miami (Ohio) on Jan. 2, 2011.

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Bill Self post-game press conference: Miami (Ohio)

Bill Self addresses the media following the Jayhawks' victory against Miami (Ohio).

Ah, the holidays. A time to slip into your comfort zone, do whatever it is that makes you happiest, relieves you of stress, puts a smile on your face.

Unless, that is, you happen to play for Kansas University basketball coach Bill Self, in which case it’s time to get pulled out of your comfort zone by whatever means necessary and begin growing on the path he has chosen for you.

Marcus and to a lesser degree Markieff Morris, KU’s two most talented post players, had triggered public words of displeasure from the coach in recent weeks for settling into a comfort zone well beneath the height of their potential. If Self was down on them publicly, it’s a safe bet the king’s speech behind closed practice doors colored the air blue.

Neither twin started Sunday’s game against Miami of Ohio, those assignments going instead to Jeff Withey and Thomas Robinson.

Fire lit, the overmatched Miami players had no shot at putting it out.

The twins took out their anger on the rim, attacking it with dunks off put-backs, pick-and-rolls and fast breaks. Later, they drifted outside and showcased their beautiful shooting touches. They even defended the interior more aggressively.

Reminded of how well they could perform by their coach, who did so by letting them know in every way possible they weren’t performing up to their abilities, Marcus and Markieff proved him right by combining for 38 points and 15 rebounds (eight offensive) in Sunday night’s 83-56 bullying of the RedHawks from the Mid-American Conference.

Markieff made nine of 11 field goals and contributed 20 points and 10 rebounds. Marcus totaled 18 points and five boards.

With Markieff (16 points, seven rebounds) and Marcus (13 points) fueling them, the Jayhawks took a 47-21 halftime lead, by which time KU had a 25-8 advantage on the boards.

Not surprisingly, Self put them back in the starting lineup for the second half, rewarding them for doing what he wanted them to do after a grueling week of double-session practices.

“The toughest practices I’ve ever been through here,” Marcus said. “We did a lot of running. We did a lot of defense. We did a lot of sliding on the floor. We did a lot of diving after balls. It just was a very tough practice (week). I guess it showed why we played so hard, so we don’t have those practices any more.”

One of the flame-fanners feeding him questions pointed out that the practices sounded “terrible.”

“It was very terrible,” Marcus said.

While he was running, jumping and rebounding, shooting and scoring, Marcus was thinking about the potential ramifications of his hustle.

“I was thinking when I was playing, if we play hard like that, ‘Will he do that to us again?’ You can’t beat him,” he said. “So it’s almost impossible. You don’t know what to do, you know what I mean? If we play hard, will we do this again? Or should we play tired, because we practiced so much? It’s just something you’ve got to ask coach. I just hope we don’t practice like that again. Ever again.”

He’s a stubborn fellow, and it finally seems to be dawning on him that his coach not only is every bit as stubborn, but also holds the hammer. You can’t beat Self, and in trying to do so, you just end up beating yourself, so you might as well stop trying to beat Self.

“No,” Marcus said. “You can’t win. He’ll tell you that, too. You can’t beat coach, you know what I mean? He always has the last word on everything. I just hope we don’t practice like that again. Ever.”

How did it compare to Boot Camp?

“No, it was way harder than Boot Camp,” he said. “See, Boot Camp is not punishment. Boot Camp is to get in shape. So you go in with a different mind-set. It was way tougher than Boot Camp to me.”

Markieff agreed with his brother on the severity of the practices. They nearly always agree on everything, which stands to reason since they have identical brains.

“Man,” Markieff said. “Toughest practice I’ve ever had since I’ve been here, the last couple days. I think we deserved it. We didn’t play. I think if we don’t play like we played tonight every game, I think we deserve to practice like that.”

Here’s what the twins are beginning to grasp that Self’s players always eventually get, seldom as freshmen, often as sophomores: The harder you play for him in practice and in games, the less hard he’ll be on you. He’s not going to change, so you might as well change and give him what he wants, becoming a much better basketball player in the process.

Comments

jaybate 3 years, 10 months ago

Keegs,

This is your new best story.

You got to the heart of it here and stayed out of the way in the process.

Congratulations.

NJHAWK 3 years, 10 months ago

I disagree. I think that Keegan (and many fans) may have mis-interpreted Self's strategy. The title should have been, "Bill Self uses holiday break to teach TEAM a lesson". Self used Twins as an example to teach the team a lesson. Why would Twins need any motivation? These are the same players who for the past two summers have been working diligently to improve their game and body strength. I have been following KU BB for the past thirty+ years and have never seen such perseverance (except Danny) from any players. These guys were practicing 500-1000 shots in AFH every day during summer (sometimes with lights-off).

They are the leaders of the team and Self being a very smart coach did not waste any opportunity to make an example out of Marcus (after the cal game). He wanted the team to get its focus back. Last night there were 24 assists. Other than 10 rebounds by Kieff, everyone rebounded well. Perimeter defense was very good. Everyone was more aggressive than the previous few games. The entire team played well and that helped the three best players on the team (Cus, Josh, and Kieff).

If I am wrong in interpreting Self's strategy, then he may have a different set of rules for the Twins than his past players.

waywardJay 3 years, 10 months ago

Indeed, As I often Criticize your work. this is definetely fine work. Thanks for contributing this.

kcglowboy 3 years, 10 months ago

Ditto. When a story or column the next day goes right to heart of the question I (and surely other fans) was thinking during the game, it makes for an enjoyable morning of reading. Excellent column.

I saw this same quote ("If we play hard, will we do this again? Or should we play tired, because we practiced so much?") in other local media without any accompanying analysis from the reporter, so it left me wondering, does Marcus REALLY get it? But thanks to Keegan's column (along with the remainder of the quote), it does sound like Marcus (and brother) are getting the message, albeit begrudgingly.

Dirk Medema 3 years, 10 months ago

Good reporting, but those comments are the story. Just classic!

The over/under question though is how long til they relax?

ancient_hawk 3 years, 10 months ago

And that's why coaches have gray hair...

hawk316 3 years, 10 months ago

How many times did Marcus say, "I never want to practice like that again"? Ha! Funny stuff.

Worse than boot camp? Those practices must have been pure torture.

YuCoJayHawk 3 years, 10 months ago

How many board rats did a double take when they saw that Withey was starting on Sunday night? He goes from not even getting into the game vs. California to starting vs. Miami(OH)? Very weird. I might understand it if it were Senior night, but still very bizarro. Not sure if Jeff was sick vs. Cal, or if he just really practiced his ass off this past week, but I thought Withey earned a grade of B for his 17 min last night. Solid contributions Jeff, keep it up!

kcglowboy 3 years, 10 months ago

YuCoJayHawk, count me among those who are annoyed by people who call themselves fan yet bash members of the team they supposedly support, and the Withey bashing really irks me. So I, too, was glad to see him start and get playing time. But I don't think the start was strictly about him. Coach's comments afterward made it sound like he was intentionally starting someone who's pretty far down the bench as part of the message-sending to The Twins. The good news, though, whether he truly earned the start, or if it was merely to send a message, I'm thrilled that he had a good game and hope to see more of him.

oldalum 3 years, 10 months ago

In his interview after the game, Coach said he liked Jeff's aggressiveness, and "he must be feeling better." So it's possible that, besides his injury, he wasn't feeling well and maybe that contributed to his 23-lb weight loss. Glad to see him doing better.

Mike Bratisax 3 years, 10 months ago

Withey earned a 'B' against a 'C-" school.

jaybate 3 years, 10 months ago

The incredible thing was that Withey looked adequate; like a guy who is no longer sick. He's not quite back to where he was when he first started this season, but he is near it, but without the weight. This makes him very easy to bump around.

What puzzles me most is what has happened to his shot.

Last season, when rarely we saw him he had a nice touch. His high school you tube feeds showed a nice touch, too. Now he looks like a guy who never had a touch. And he's down their in the whole with TRob on FT shooting. Whomever is teaching the shooting mechanics needs to remember that it is better to have a funky shot, than no shot.

Matt1958 3 years, 10 months ago

Maybe I should take a page from HCBS when it comes to my Grandsons and school work.

Martin Rosenblum 3 years, 10 months ago

Conversely, Withey didn't play to his potential being given a chance to start a game, regardless of the reason he was in the starting lineup. Will HCBS put him through "terrible" practices for not fulfilling his potential? He had flashes of his potential. But, continued to look like an extra toe on a foot! (or tits on a boar hog for you guys outside the city)

Jonathan Allison 3 years, 10 months ago

I believe that everyone was able to experience the same intensity during the week of practice.

NotWiller 3 years, 10 months ago

Gotta disagree, memhawk-

The Withey I saw last night was a vast improvement, w/ quicker, more confident hands and feet and a willingness/desire to turn to the basket after a rebound. He still has a ways to go (and it's not bashing to say that), but last night, IMHO, was a HUGE step in the right direction for our 7-footer.

There's lots to like about this team, but I think we need more quality minutes from Withey to go deep in March, especially on defense.

Whatever you were doing in practice last week, Jeff....keep it up!!!

And is it bashing to ask why Marcus just doesn't seem to get the rebounding numbers? Five against Miami of Ohio? Someone more savvy should explain to me why he doesn't seem to be crashing the boards- averaging only 6 rebounds per night so far. 'Kieff seems to be the more aggressive rebounder, and T-Rob has more rebounds w/ 7 less minutes, on average. Maybe that's Marcus' role- to hang back while the two bigger bigs go after it?

I digress. The main point is that I saw several reasons to cheer for a much improved Withey last night.

NJHAWK 3 years, 10 months ago

One simple reason for Marcus's low rebounding numbers: He blocks his man from getting an offensive rebound there by making it easier for his teammate to grab it. Check out his defensive positioning during the game and you will start appreciating his skills. Its not always the numbers.........

yovoy 3 years, 10 months ago

Anything Withey can bring in the (limited) time he's in, is going to be gravy. Granted, he looked better than he has, but that's not saying that much. I WANT him to be something other than a "project", but from how he started to where he looks to be right now, that's what he's looking like - sick or otherwise. I can tell that D-Manning has been working with him with on ONE move that can be his "go-to" for right now. It looked like that move was turn-to-his-right-shoulder-and-fade a bit. It looked good, and like it was something that he's capable of doing. I remember him doing something good on the defensive end of the floor, and I told the watch party that he was going to go to the other end and do something good. It happened that exact way. He's looking like a project for now, but he's going to be worth the wait.

Nicholas Cederlind 3 years, 10 months ago

I just don't get it. The game against Arlington was not the first time Coach has commented on the lack of energy/aggressiveness so why lean on the twins, now? Why not earlier? Maybe Coach used up the last of his patience, last week...

KEITHMILES05 3 years, 10 months ago

The twins looked much improved with more energy,etc. However on defense they are still somewhat lazy and don't move their feet hardly at all. They have much room for improvement. I am convinced this team plays to their opponent every game.

KEITHMILES05 3 years, 10 months ago

The twins looked much improved with more energy,etc. However on defense they are still somewhat lazy and don't move their feet hardly at all. They have much room for improvement. I am convinced this team plays to their opponent every game.

KEITHMILES05 3 years, 10 months ago

The twins looked much improved with more energy,etc. However on defense they are still somewhat lazy and don't move their feet hardly at all. They have much room for improvement. I am convinced this team plays to their opponent every game.

jaybate 3 years, 10 months ago

slayr,

Each player (or in this case 2 players) is raised in a different home that emphasizes different values, and so has different strengths and different things to learn from Coach Self about how to play college basketball.

I believe Mother Morris taught her children two of the bed rock values: honesty and hard work. I believe she did not ask them to grow up too fast. I believe she did not surrender them to the hustlers in the game, as she easily could have, and as nearly occurred when they were bound for Memphis.

No parent is perfect, or all seeing. No child is perfect either. Each has some inherent deficiencies they battle. Each has some inherent advantages they battle. Mother Morris probably was not raising her children from the beginning to be Division One basketball players and she probably was not aware first hand of just how brutally competitive it is in any field of activity at the high levels of that activity. The fact is that most people live down on a more humble, live and let live, struggle to get by realm than those who attain high levels of accomplishment, and so have to deal not just with the evils of human nature, but with the double edged nature of its virtues--the savageness of its competition to be the best, or among the best.

For a person to be highly successful in any field, he has to at some point check certain aspects of his decency at the door, so that his competitive greatness can achieve its fullest flowering. It is not pretty. No highly accomplished, hugely admirable person is pretty when seen up closes and personal. They are intensely driven. They are unbendingly hard in pursuit of what they believe and want in the narrow realm where they compete, while compensating with do gooding and the dispensing of compassion and amiability outside that realm.

Mother Morris does not appear to have raised her sons with the value of unbridled competitiveness, as she has honesty and hard work. They do not seem young men blooded from an early age to crush the opponent mercilessly. Is this so bad?

I have seen many signs that Marcus and Markieff came to KU with little idea of just how ferociously you had compete to excell in D1.

But I have seen no signs of inauthenticity in them, or of not being able to do the hard work that is ask of them.

jaybate 3 years, 10 months ago

What they have been slow to acquire is competitive ferocity, what Wooden politely called competitive greatness--the desire to crush whomever stands in your way--within the written (and unwritten) rules of the game, no matter what it takes.

But there is no reason to think they cannot acquire it from coaches like Self and Manning. They just may not be able to have it triggered yet this year. Sometimes such triggering requires something more than the shocks that a coach can deliver. Sometimes it takes devastating losses that lead one to look into the abyss to trigger a player's high seriousness about his game and his competitive greatness.

Did Brandon Rush really have high seriousness and competitive greatness before he wrecked his knee and had to come face to face with the abyss?

Did Mario Chalmers really have competitive greatness before he was bounced off the international team for having an inadequate outside shot?

Do you recall the Self quote about Sasha Kahn late in his junior year, or early in his senior season? Self said something like Sasha's so nice, he's the only guy on this team I would let near my daughter. It was not long after that quote that Sasha began to mature into a big man with a serious territorial instinct in the paint, even though he only played about 15 mpg his senior season. When he came in, the nice big Russian kid transformed into, not the hard worker he had been in previous seasons, but the guy who was all business and who meant to crush whomever got near him in the paint.

Competitive greatness is not always admirable either.

Coach Consonants has competitive greatness. When it came to a choice between losing to Butler and cheap shotting Butler all game long for a ring, he chose cheap shotting without hesitation and never apologize for it either.

Competitive greatness is the will to do whatever it takes to crush an opponent.

jaybate 3 years, 10 months ago

The Twins may well not have it yet, but as juniors, and on this team, they are hardly alone. Right now Selby, Reed and Mario Little are the only guys that for sure have it and Little is collecting splinters, because he acted territorial about a woman, not just about the paint. Tyshawn may have it, because of his time in the toughening box last season. He is close to having it, but it is not yet bottled and available on demand, as it is with Selby, Reed and Little. It is too bad with Little, because his injuries and numbers, and teaching, have never allowed him to show case the fire and hardness that is in him...yet.

The Twins?

They have more of it than they had when they arrived. Frankly, they have about what Cole had before he got his nose busted and had to soul search a few games about whether he wanted to be a lead dog, or keep being a good guy.

They may well stay till next year in order to acquire it. And they may well have to get something broken to go to the next level of competitive fire.

Wooden always said he would rather have a guy with fire in his belly than have to kindle a fire in the belly of someone who did not have it, but he still kindled plenty of fires, when he had to.

I would not be surprised if Mother Morris and Coach Self want The Twins back for precisely this reason: they are slowly, steadily building toward complete players, but her babies are still not competitively great and someone as astute and experienced as yourself has recognized this from the beginning.

But while Mother Morris may not know everything (and no parent does), she seems to have very, very, very good instincts and reason about what is bedrock and what can be acquired, and who can teach it, and when her babies are ready to learn it.

And in the interim, the Twins shooting is delivering KU to a nation leading FG% and an undefeated season, and they have survived some applications of muscle, too; this is not bad for a green team with a nucleus of impact players--The Twins and Tyshawn--that have never played the anchor roles they are playing now.

It is no coincidence that Self scheduled the monster schedule next season. He expects the Twins to be back. He expects them to be ready for total war next year.

This year he at most hopes they might be ready by March.

hawk_of_ages 3 years, 10 months ago

Ha ha, right. No one on these message boards EVER criticizes the 'Hawks.

jaybate 3 years, 10 months ago

I probably have a record of being one of Keeg's most demanding critics. I called it as I saw it. The truth is the truth.

He wrote a good story.

ancient_hawk 3 years, 10 months ago

Offered in the same spirit: Your skirt is very attractive. Now, go cook me some supper. ;^)

KU_FanSince75 3 years, 10 months ago

Jaybate-----you are a good judge of journalism at its best! I concur. Nice article, Mr. Keegan. I enjoyed it.

DDDHawk 3 years, 10 months ago

Thanks for the article. It gave me quite a chuckle. I can just hear the Morris twins talking about how tough practice was this past week!

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