Tuesday, January 20, 2015


Column: Predictably, Alexander gives Kansas just what it needs

Kansas forward Cliff Alexander (2) throws down a dunk against Oklahoma during the second half on Monday, Jan. 19, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Cliff Alexander (2) throws down a dunk against Oklahoma during the second half on Monday, Jan. 19, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.


Podcast episode

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

Self: KU needs pace from all five players; Alexander showed improved energy

After his Kansas basketball team beat Oklahoma 85-78 on Big Monday, coach Bill Self meets the media and says KU needs as much pace as it can get from all five players on the floor. Plus, Self says freshman Cliff Alexander played with great energy against OU.

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Podcast episode

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

Alexander, Ellis and Greene discuss KU's Big Monday win over OU

Kansas basketball players Cliff Alexander, Perry Ellis and Brannen Greene meet with the media following the Jayhawks' 85-78 win over Oklahoma on Big Monday. Alexander discusses playing with more of a "motor," Ellis says KU has a team full of players who can score and Greene says he is constantly ...

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Box score

The sun came up in the East, set in the West, Allen Fieldhouse didn’t have an empty seat and the player singled out by Kansas University basketball coach Bill Self with a second-half benching two nights earlier bounced back with a terrific effort.

Those four Monday events were equally predictable.

Self knew the only shot Kansas had to win an 11th consecutive Big 12 title was for freshman center Cliff Alexander to play the entire game gushing sweat. So he limited him to two-second half minutes in a loss to Iowa State in Ames, Iowa, and Alexander responded with 13 points and 13 rebounds in Monday night’s tension-packed, 85-78, thriller of a victory over Oklahoma.

“Yeah, yeah, it got through,” Alexander said of the message in the form of a second-half benching. “Most definitely, it got through.”

Alexander said he didn’t think the motivational tactic was unjust.

“Most definitely, I din’t play with that motor at all,” he said of his Iowa State performance. “I wasn’t running the floor. I didn’t alternate any shots I could have alternated and I didn’t get some rebounds I should have.”

Why not?

“It’s a mental thing,” Alexander said.

Self did a nice job of explaining why calling it lack of effort when his center doesn’t play with his motor running hot is accurate.

“There are people who are very close to him agree that he’s not playing with the motor he’s capable of playing with,” Self said. “You might think of that as he’s not trying or he’s not playing hard. That’s not necessarily true. 

“When your brain hesitates and you’re thinking, all the sudden you lose that motor. Can you imagine a sprinter if his mind’s cluttered? He’d have no chance. He hasn’t been playing with that free mind because he is conscientious and he wants to do it. We need to say, ‘Hey, screw up. That’s fine. Screw up. Just make sure you do it 100 miles per hour.’ And we would be a much better team.”

Kansas had Frank Mason III, Brannen Greene, Kelly Oubre Jr., Perry Ellis and Alexander on the floor when it did its Lazarus act late in a game the Jayhawks led by 20 points in the first half and trailed by four in the second. All five players made memorable contributions late.

Alexander hit big shots and dunks, crashed the boards and took a big charge.

Self had hoped Alexander would bring similar energy that Thomas Robinson brought. That’s why Alexander watches so much video of the former KU All-American.

“He shows me T-Rob, most definitely. T-Rob, all the time,” Alexander said. “He runs the floor, blocking shots, catching everything, dunking everything.”

Alexander did his share of all that Monday, when he picked up seven offensive rebounds.

“Let’s be honest, hey, Perry and Jamari (Traylor) are great but they don’t give us a physical presence like Cliff potentially does,” Self said. "We need that. We need that. It changes our team. Regardless of who starts moving forward, everybody needs a rim protector. Everybody needs somebody who can get rebounds in traffic and has really strong hands. I mean, there are so many good teams that have a physical presence that really we haven't had consistently this year. It's not a knock on Cliff. It's taken half his freshman year to kind of figure it out. Hopefully, from this point forward, we'll see a turned-up guy." 

Sounds as if Self is ready to let him play through his mistakes, probably start soon, and see what his most powerful big man can do to make Kansas tougher inside.

More news and notes from Kansas vs. Oklahoma

By the Numbers: Kansas beats Oklahoma, 85-78

By the Numbers: Kansas beats Oklahoma, 85-78


Reggie Flenory 5 years, 4 months ago

cliff is going to have to add about 15 or 20 pounds of muscle in order to play power forward in college and the NBA at 6 foot 8 inches but the stronger he gets and more experience he gets man he is going to be near unstoppable

Nathan Scholl 5 years, 4 months ago

See the other article response. Love your passion Reggie. Rock Chalk.

Steve Zimmerman 5 years, 4 months ago

Cliff had 6 pts (3/3), 6 rebounds, 0 Asst, 1 TO, 0 Fouls in 14 minutes vs ISU. Tonight: 13 pts (5/7), 13 rebounds, 3 Asst, 2 TO, 4 Fouls in 23 minutes.

I still don't get why benching him vs ISU. Motor vs contribution? Cliff can make things happen. I trust myself this time.

Nathan Scholl 5 years, 4 months ago

I trust Bill Self more. No disrespect, but watch the Hawks win their 11th straight and tell me Coach didn't know what he was doing. Huge win tonight. Rock Chalk Steve.

Jory Collins 5 years, 4 months ago

That's because you base everything off the stat sheet. There's a lot of basketball plays made or not made that don't show up in the stats. I'm assuming Coach Self saw some plays against Iowa State that he should have made and didn't. Whether that's contesting a shot, boxing out, sprinting back on defense, etc.....

Cameron Cederlind 5 years, 4 months ago

I'm guessing Self saw that we were up 19 points at half and was less critical on him. OU went on a 32-9 run starting the 2nd half. I can't imagine he was doing anything better defensively this game vs the ISU game that got him 2 minutes of playing time.

Micky Baker 5 years, 4 months ago

Except for you know, the double the double.

Cameron Cederlind 5 years, 4 months ago

That's the exact point we're making, he would have had a double double at ISU had he played the same amount of minutes. He got pulled and played 2 minutes the 2nd half. He had 6 and 6 the first half of ISU in 12 minutes.

Steve Zimmerman 5 years, 4 months ago

K, Jory. But I don't see him defending 3s vs OU either. He extended his arm but way too far instead of trying to take a quick step & leap with straight arm.

Andy Tweedy 5 years, 4 months ago

Coach sees the game from court level, studies the film, sees the things that don't go into the stat sheet, all with decades of experience, and has a pretty good track record of raising guy's games, see Kelly Oubre. I, too, will respectfully side with coach on this one.

Mike Riches 5 years, 4 months ago

I definitely think Cliff should play starter's minutes, but I don't think it hurts him to spend the first few minutes on the bench, getting a feel for the game and especially how it's being called. Coming off the bench, Cliff has done an excellent job this season staying out of foul trouble (he's only gotten over three fouls one time). I'm certainly not saying he doesn't deserve to be a starter, but if it ain't broke...

Eliott Reeder 5 years, 4 months ago

I feel the same way about Brannen Greene's comments from the other article: “I have to improve on the defensive end. I’m working on that. I’m not a great defensive player. It’s all about improvement and it’s what I’m trying to do. The important thing is we’re on the same page." I love this. I know a lot of us have been frustrated with Brannen and think he may transfer but the humility and self-awareness (if genuine) exhibited in these comments is great. Stick around and learn to play solid D, Brannen, and you'll be great!!!

RJ King 5 years, 4 months ago

I loved Greene's comments as well.

He has been criticized for pouting on the bench and outbursts in the locker room. I agree that there shouldn't be slamming doors, and sitting instead of vocally cheering on the team, but who are we to assume what's in his head (that he is being selfish, or p-off at coach)?

Maybe he is just extremely MAD AT HIMSELF, and it takes awhile for him to cool off? As you said, his comments give a little insight.

Armen Kurdian 5 years, 4 months ago

You could tell CA was having more fun too. Movement is life, he definitely seemed to be in the right place much more often last night than the other when more than once I saw him at the top of the key. I hope HCBS convinces him to stay a second year to get stronger and continue to work on his defense. If he develops into a real shot blocker with 4-5 per game on average, he'll be playing in the big show for a really long time.

Eliott Reeder 5 years, 4 months ago

Average 4-5 blocks per game!?! Yes, that would be impressive. Like, player of the year, best Kansas shot-blocker since Wilt impressive... don't hold your breath on that one.

Terrence Cernech 5 years, 4 months ago

This version of the Jayhawks continues to under-perform for one reason .....TRUST. They are not cohesive because of it. IMHO their formula is really pretty simple. They are a group of mixed talents that need to compliment each other. Only Oubre and Mason can create their own shots. Everyone else needs someone else to facilitate their offense. However they all are capable of doing a sufficient job on the defensive end. I mean they are all Big XII athletes, so what is missing is their TRUST that if they extend themselves that Coach will reward them for that effort on the D side. If they can TRUST and then exhaust themselves on the D end, TRUST that the next men in will do the same; they can become special. Having Graham back changes their dynamics. Ellis and Selden need to set the example. Chase every loose ball, every rebound, dive on the floor, show that exhausting themselves is what is needed, then they have a chance because they will be tested.

Nathan Varvis 5 years, 4 months ago

Looks like Self pushed the right buttons...AGAIN. If Alexander continues to develop his skill set, we could make a good run in March (Given we also tighten up defensively. If he could stick around like T-Rob did too I won't complain...but I'm not holding my breath on that one. Terrence, It does seem that these kids have yet to find true cohesiveness and trust, but it is coming along. The crudible that is the Big XII will help in a big way. RCJ

Darren McSweeney 5 years, 4 months ago

I think Cliff's challenge is always going to be that he has the girth and game of a center and the height of a power forward. Coach Self can try to turn him into T-Rob but I'm not sure that's quite what he is. He seems to have more power and less athleticism. Can Hudy put 2" on the guy?

Michael Bennett 5 years, 4 months ago

People always mention Cliff's lack of elite height for a center, but he still has the size to potentially dominate at the college level at least. He's a similar height to Jared Sullinger, who was physically dominating center for Ohio State for two years. Sullinger was a little heavier (I think his weight fluctuated between 260-280), and his post moves were much more polished (like a shorter Okafor). That being said, he wasn't as vertically powerful as Cliff. I think 15 lbs and another year of development would make him much more effective down low.

Aaron Paisley 5 years, 4 months ago

Why the hell do people keep trying to call Cliff a center? He is a POWER FORWARD and a traditional one at that. Hunter Mickelson is the only 5 on the roster.

Michael Bennett 5 years, 4 months ago

Yeah he'll be a PF in the pros. And if Embiid was still here and healthy he'd play more at the 4. But he currently plays plain ol' back-to-the-basket center, so that's what he is right now.

It doesn't matter what you call it, he's the defensive anchor in the low post and he plays closest to the basket on offense. I'm just comparing him to other players that do the same.

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