The start of the 2013-14 school year had Bill Self beaming bright and early on a sunny Monday morning.
“I’m real excited about this year, this team, the entire athletic department, the prospects of everybody,” said Self, starting his 11th season as head men’s basketball coach at Kansas University.
“I’m probably as excited to get started coaching my guys as I have been at any point in time,” added Self, speaking before his 16th-annual Boy Scout Classic golf tournament at Lawrence Country Club.
The man who has led KU to nine straight conference championships, an NCAA championship and a runner-up finish, said he’s raring to see what his young team can accomplish. He brings in seven new players expected to battle for spots in the rotation and offset the loss of five starters off a 31-6 team.
“Yes, it will be competitive,” Self said of practices.
The Jayhawks, who welcome back rotation players Perry Ellis, Naadir Tharpe and Jamari Traylor to go with the Andrew Wiggins-led class of newcomers, will work out with coaches two hours a week (in accordance with NCAA rules) in anticipation of the new, early start of the season on Sept. 27.
In past years, the season began the Friday closest to Oct. 15.
“I think for a young team, you’ve got to be careful, because starting Sept. 27 as opposed to Oct. 18, which is what it’d have been this year, that’s a lot more wear and tear,” said Self, who will hold Late Night 2013 on Oct. 4.
“I think practices will probably be shorter. I also believe you have to take two days off a week if you start that early, so we’ll rest our guys. I think it will be good for us. To have a young team, we can get a lot accomplished hopefully before the start of the season maybe where we couldn’t have in the past.”
Playing time will be up for grabs with such a deep roster.
“Competition can be a negative because if guys don’t produce, they may not play as much,” he said. “Of course, it’s great if you have injuries. It’s great for sharpening each others’ skills in practice sessions so you can’t help but get better. The other thing it does ... if guys maybe don’t do the things that you expect out of them they could find themselves seated behind somebody else. That’s motivation that way, too. I think it’s going to be great.”
On a personal note, Self said he’s happy as can be as he begins his second decade at KU. He was reminded that he was well-traveled during the first 10 years of his 21-year head-coaching career.
“Yes, we stayed four, three and three (years at Oral Roberts, Tulsa and Illinois respectively), and we’re in Year 11 now. Hopefully we can figure out a way to stay here a little longer — a lot longer. We love it here,” Self said.
“Cindy (wife) is very happy. Of course, having Tyler (son) on the team, I think, is great for me, but also great for her. She gets a chance to be part of that as well. It’s pretty good for us right now.”
Emergency point: The starting point-guard position figures to be a battle between returnee Naadir Tharpe and newcomer Frank Mason, with freshman Conner Frankamp playing both shooting guard and lead guard. Self was asked if 6-foot-5 freshman Wayne Selden could play point as well.
“I think Wayne could maybe be an emergency point, maybe in certain situations,” Self said. “I think Andrew (Wiggins) could be a guy who could eliminate pressure by bringing the ball up too. Those guys are pretty gifted as far as handling the ball goes. Those two are natural wings. We use them to initiate maybe every now and then.”
Fore: Self said he loved lending his support to the Boy Scout Classic, which benefits the Heart of America Council of the Boy Scouts of America serving northeast Kansas and northwest Missouri. Proceeds go to camp scholarships and outreach support for the Boy Scouts in the area.
“It’s grown,” Self said of the tourney first started by former KU football great John Hadl. “It’s sold out for a good cause. A lot of people come out to support it (more than 100 golfers). They’ve made it a first-class tournament.”