Tuesday, January 15, 2013


Opinion: After victory, KU’s ‘scout’ deserves honor

Kansas forward Perry Ellis gets up to block a shot by Baylor center Isaiah Austin during the first half on Monday, Jan. 14, 2013 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Perry Ellis gets up to block a shot by Baylor center Isaiah Austin during the first half on Monday, Jan. 14, 2013 at Allen Fieldhouse.


Podcast episode

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

KU coach Bill Self talks after win over Baylor

Kansas coach Bill Self talks after his team's 61-44 win over Baylor on Jan. 14, 2013.

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Podcast episode

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

Baylor coach Scott Drew

Baylor coach Scott Drew talks after his team's 61-44 loss to Kansas on Jan. 14, 2013.

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Podcast episode

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

Jeff Withey, Travis Releford, Elijah Johnson

Kansas seniors Jeff Withey, Travis Releford and Elijah Johnson talk to reporters following the Jayhawks' 61-44 victory on Jan. 14, 2013.

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Box score


On another one of those nights in which the Baylor basketball team looked more like a collection of all-stars thrown together at the last minute than like a squad that tries to build chemistry 365 days a year, Kansas University played defense in a way that made it seem as if its players were reading minds.

Baylor called a play, and Kansas looked more sure about the moving parts than the guys running it. Kansas made it that difficult on the visiting team Monday night in a 61-44 victory.

The perimeter was such an uncomfortable place for Baylor that Kansas limited the Bears to .286 three-point shooting and totaled 10 steals, and the paint was defended even more vigorously. Baylor made just nine of 42 two-point field goals, a .214 shooting percentage. Five KU players had multiple shot-block totals, and a sixth contributed to the final tally of 13 blocks.

Kansas has a long body anchored by quick feet at every position, so it should play strong defense. But more than that enters the equation. Travis Releford, KU’s best perimeter defender, offered insight on another factor that had more to do with preparation and alert minds than with physical attributes.

“First of all, you’ve got to give credit to our assistant coaches for doing a great job on our scouting report on their plays and play-calling,” Releford said. “We did a lot of work on that in practice. Once they called a play, we were all in tune. We knew who was trying to get the ball on certain plays.”

That knowledge led to Kansas making steals in the passing lanes and knocking the ball away in the lane for steals. It also resulted in purposeful help defense arriving on time.

College basketball coaches armed with three chief assistants assign one man to scout each opponent on a rotating basis. Most programs have each assistant do every third game. Kansas coach Bill Self has his assistants assigned to the same schools year in and year out, regardless of how the schedule falls.

Kurtis Townsend always scouts Baylor.

“The thing about it is, when you’ve been in the league a long time, over the years you get a pretty good feel for the teams, and I think they had a pretty good feel for us,” Self said.

It didn’t look as if Baylor knew what was coming. The different levels of discipline in the program extend to all areas, and it’s obvious when they play each other.

“I think that’s pretty important when you’re playing a team on an hour of practice, 40 minutes of practice, because those Saturday-Monday games, there’s not much time for guys to work on it on the court,” Self said of scouting. “Most of the stuff’s done through talking and through film.”

Self and Baylor coach Scott Drew are in their 10th seasons at their schools. Drew has elevated the Baylor program a great deal by bringing in far better athletes than the school used to land. But that seldom seems to matter when the Bears face Kansas.

“The one good thing is, I’ve been here so long, and I’ve had Baylor the whole time, and he (Drew) has been here the whole time,” Townsend said of sharing his Baylor scouting report with the players on such a quick turnaround.

Townsend said his last scouting report was American, two weeks ago, and he started working on Baylor right after that game, studying film of the Bears’ most recent 10 games.

“You try to pick out calls and see if they’re doing anything different,” Townsend said.

The short turnaround results in a less extensive report shared with the players.

“You really simplify it,” Townsend said. “Coach is the best at saying, ‘Pick seven or eight of the actions they do most, and let’s just make sure our guys know those pretty well.’ Luckily, we had play calls on them so we would call out what they were running, and our guys knew where their shots were coming from.”

Having four seniors in the starting lineup helps.

“The veterans are better,” Townsend said. “The younger guys don’t pick it up as quickly, but they’re starting to listen to the scout better. Perry (Ellis) and Jamari (Traylor), they’re both getting better. Naadir (Tharpe) was here last year, so he’s getting it. The older guys, they know exactly what’s coming, and they’ve done a great job of bringing the young kids along.”

Having a strong contingent of veterans who as younger players see upperclassmen pay such close attention to scouting reports helps sustain the defensive success that always has been a staple of Self’s programs. Stability on the coaching staff helps for a variety of reasons as well. For one thing, as Townsend referenced, it makes each coach more familiar with his schools, at least until a coaching turnover takes place. Townsend is in his eighth season at Kansas under Self, Joe Dooley his ninth. Norm Roberts has worked for Self at Oral Roberts, Tulsa, Illinois and twice at Kansas, his stints interrupted by a head-coaching assignment at St. John’s.

“Joe’s had the biggest games so far this year,” Townsend said of Dooley, who didn’t look as if he enjoyed watching Tharpe have an atypical night of decision-making Monday. “He had Ohio State, Temple and Michigan State because he’s scouted them before and is familiar with them.”

What happens when the same assistant is responsible for preparing the scouting report back-to-back games?

“We just start working on them ahead of time,” Townsend said.

Self’s system works. Kansas has held opponents to .342 shooting and .312 three-point shooting.


jaybate 8 years, 3 months ago

It appeared KU had been preparing the players for Baylor for a week or so, while simultaneously preparing for Temple and ISU only briefly before each game.

actorman 8 years, 3 months ago

Keegan's on a roll, with another excellent column.

kerbyd 8 years, 3 months ago

Nice to see the assistant coaches get some credit for the great job they do.

hawk316 8 years, 3 months ago

I was thinking the same thing, kerbyd. Coach Self appears to be surrounded by an excellent staff, and it's nice to see them get a little ink.

Andy Tweedy 8 years, 3 months ago

I'd go one step further. Most of the time Self's teams play Baylor, it appears more like Drew is doing the scout for Kansas. When I watch a game like that, I just can't understand how Drew could ever get a recruit that Self wants. Maybe I'm all wet, but to me Self (and staff) is one hundred times the coach Drew is and maybe that's not giving Self enough credit!

jaybate 8 years, 3 months ago

• Coach Townsend is having a great season scouting, recruiting, and bringing Doc up to dress code!

• Maybe Doc is not coaching per se, but there are some games where he seems massively engaged. And this team's offense and defense seem to have some hard to label new, additional characteristics. I believe Doc, who had to scheme against Self for many years, may be scheming for him to fix a few chinks in the defense, and remove some predictability from the offense. Doc got a lot out of a little at NU. KU must seem like candy store. If he can just develop some consistency in avoiding getting rumpled, he is ready for another head job for sure!

• Landen Lucas by this time would likely have become as good as either of Baylor's footers were last night. Landen moves better than either of them. He just needs some muscle on top to match up. We are going to be in good shape inside by mid December next year, what with Perry and Jam Tray starting to piece it together. Justin looking for a crease. And with Embiid to swat&alter occasionally. Next year could be special inside rather than fearful. You read it here first.

David Brown 8 years, 3 months ago

Give Hudy some time with Landen. She will 'pump you up', just like Hanz 'und Franz.

FearlessJayhawk 8 years, 3 months ago

Congratulations to the whole coaching staff! You're the best! Keep up the good work!

Scott Smetana 8 years, 3 months ago

Self would have Baylor's talent in the top 10. I don't get the Scott Drew thing.

Hard to believe that we're losing out starting 5 this year. Lots of unknowns, but it looks like on paper that Self will have us in the top 10 again in no time.

Phil Leister 8 years, 3 months ago

Good to know you actually read the comments Tom...if only to promote your stories. :)

Chris Shaw 8 years, 3 months ago

Look, I am not a Scott Drew fan simply from his off-season recruiting antics mostly, but I respect what the guy has done at Baylor in his tenure. You have to remember what Scott Drew took over at Baylor. I don't like Drew's antics, but I do respect what he has done to Baylor since he's taken over considering the circumstances he was left when he did take over.

I mean, Baylor was coming off a murder cover-up within it's program with Bliss and Drew took the program over with only 6 or 7 scholarship players, and the death penalty. As recently as the 2005-2006 season Baylor and Drew only played 17 games in a season and those were only conference games because of the death penalty under Coach Bliss.

JayHawkFanToo 8 years, 3 months ago

You have to consider that Baylor could not go any lower and the only way to go was up. It is no secret that he is not liked in the Big 12 coaching fraternity and we can all agree that with all that talent, any of the better coaches in the sport would have Baylor as a perennial top 4; he obviously does not.

Also, have you ever wondered why top prospects would go to God-forsaken Waco to play for an at best, average coach? Apparently a lot of coaches think he is following on Calipari's footsteps.

jaybate 8 years, 3 months ago

Hypothesis: Baylor and Drew are what they are, because Nike selected them as their designated B12 talent sink, once KU went Addidas and Barnes decided to join the "right way" vanguard and take a hit in his recruiting.

Ron Prichard 8 years, 3 months ago

Ummm...maybe I'm missing the point here jaybate, but Baylor wears Adidas.

jaybate 8 years, 3 months ago




texashawk10 8 years, 3 months ago

Men's basketball wears Adidas. Football and women's basketball wear Nike.

Ron Prichard 8 years, 3 months ago

texashawk, thanks, I didn't realize Baylor didn't have a single uniform provider. I just remembered they were one of three schools last year that wore those horrible day-glo, semi-camo uniforms in the Big XII and NCAA tourney. I think Cincy was another one. I can't remember the third. UConn maybe?

Curtis Stutz 8 years, 3 months ago

Great job thus far by the entire staff, also great to read a few comments from Townsend.

Jeff Coffman 8 years, 3 months ago

It'd be interesting to see over the past 4-5 years the losses, and which assistant was scouting them.

It'd also be interesting to see win by 10, 20, 30. Or offensive above 60, 70, 80, or defense below 50, 60, 70.

Sometimes I think we see a great performance, a decent performance, or a bad performance, but somehow escape.

I know sometimes it depends on prep time, etc., but I would like to see how the scouts are working.

Just something to think about for the Newell Report or one of those statistical analyst articles.

I think we have been on borrowed time with Townsend, but for some reason no one wants him as a Head Coach, and I hope for a long time we can keep him.

Ron Prichard 8 years, 3 months ago

Last night I was watching EJ play D in the second half. His player ran from the outside wing down into the lane. EJ just turned and took a few steps over to the top of the free throw line watching his player. I almost came out of my seat because Baylor could have just thrown the ball over a couple of guys toward the hoop for an easy basket. However, as soon as his guy went down into the lane, he turned and came right back up--through two potential screeners who had no one to screen--and almost ran right into EJ who was waiting for him on the other side of the screeners. It was crystal clear that EJ knew exactly where his man was going to go and he just met him at that point. Absolutely ridiculous scouting. Our assistants are outstanding!

FLAjayhawker 8 years, 3 months ago

I too watched that exact play the same way you did!

Freedman Moor 8 years, 3 months ago

I've FINALLY figured it out. Just ignore the first paragraph of every article and I won't have to worry about being irritated by any asinine references to "Kansas University".

jaybate 8 years, 3 months ago

Kruger and Self are going to have some serious Okie Ball battles. Good call on your part, ralster.

HawkitToEm 8 years, 2 months ago

.214 percentage. this isn't baseball. outside the world of baseball stats, a .214 percentage would be 9 out of 4200 shots.

i would add though that your journalism has improved lately. so i had to work to find something to complain about this time :)

just havin fun.

Joe Baker 8 years, 2 months ago

I'm really glad we have Norm and maybe even Sadler on the coaching staff. We are on some barrowed time with Dooley and Townsend. They could take a coaching position spot anytime with their experience. Sadler gives you B12 coaching experience and could scout any team at this point in the B12. Norm gives you all around coaching experience particularly with the East coast teams.

KU is fortunate, but we should be fine if Dooley and Townsend decide to take the head coaching challenge like Manning with Tulsa.

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