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KU basketball press conference notes: Jan. 3

Kansas University basketball coach Bill Self and a couple of KU players will talk to the media at 2:30 p.m. today.

Stay logged in right here for a blow-by-blow account of what Self and the Jayhawks have to say about this weekend's match-up with No. 21 San Diego State — 3:30 p.m. Sunday on CBS — and the current state of the program.


Perry Ellis and Jamari Traylor will talk before Self....

Ellis up first:

Perry Ellis says KU knows that San Diego State is really solid defensively and that one of the big focal points this week has been on handling the press.

Ellis says that KU will get a lot better defensively itself when the young guys don't worry as much about messing up. He went through that his freshman year and he sympathizes.

Ellis said Naadir Tharpe is so critical to this team as a vocal leader and from the standpoint of getting everyone ready every day, every game. Not a lot of people know that.

Ellis says he's much stronger this year than he was last year. That came from hard work during the summer and he said it has brought more confidence because he feels more explosive.

Ellis is 3-of-6 from three-point range this season. He said he's been working a lot on shooting those, especially as a trailer on the break, but that he's easing into the idea and making sure that he doesn't force them up.

Ellis said the team had some great practices over the break and that they've been playing great defense in practice. He's hoping it carries over to what's next on the schedule.

Ellis said he's still a little numb from the blow to the head he took against Georgetown but he's not worried about it because it doesn't impact how he feels or plays.

Ellis said the non-conference portion of the schedule has gone by incredibly fast but that he's really looking forward to the Big 12 games.

Traylor's turn:

Traylor says the biggest key for KU's defense going to the next level is finishing possessions all the way through the box out and the rebound. No fouls, stay down, work hard and finish.

Traylor said KU should use its energy to inspire the crowd to help them create turnovers by their opponents.

Traylor said the past couple of days of practice haven't focused much on offense at all. All defensive drills and a lot of them. He said the split was 80 percent defense, 20 percent offense. And the 20 percent number might be high.

Traylor said Ellis was in the weight room a lot throughout the offseason. Every time he went to the gym Perry was in there and he thinks that might be why Ellis has been so much more effective at the rim this season.

Traylor said he doesn't guard Joel Embiid much in practice and he doesn't mind that one bit.

Traylor said the versatility of KU's bigs is huge for this team and makes it hard on Self to figure out a way to divvy up the minutes.

Traylor, like Ellis, said a lot of good things about SDSU's defense and said they're really, really athletic.

Traylor said the tough non-conference schedule should pay off now that conference play is here.

Now Self:

Self backs up his players' claims that defense has been the focal point lately but added that defense is always an emphasis.

Self also said getting better on defense is not something that you just decide to do and then go up and make it happen in a day or two. It takes time. It's a process. And he's pleased with how KU has handled the process this season.

Self said the players have not really been out of position during defensive breakdowns, more that their mindset and intensity have allowed opponents to get things easier than they should.

Self said he has not gone to drastic measures like practicing without a ball. He's done that before but not this year. "I figured out practices can be more game-like when you use a ball."

Self said SDSU is one of the premier defensive teams in the country and that's where they hang their hat. Largely because they're athletic and well coached.

Speaking of coaching, Self said the tiff between he and SDSU coach Steve Fisher over the recruitment of Kevin Young is water under the bridge and he has nothing but respect and admiration for Fisher, who he says is an outstanding coach who has proven it for a long time. He added: In recruiting, those things happen. You don't always get what you deserve. And the things that happen to you in a negative way often happen in a positive way at some point down the road. Self thinks that's the case with Fisher but says he understands the disappointment because it always hurts when you lose a kid you put so much time into recruiting.

Self said SDSU's defensive switches will be good prep for Oklahoma, which also switches a ton on defense. Reinforces that non-conference schedule is played to prepare teams for conference play so he loves how the timing worked out with this one. KU opens Big 12 play at OU on Jan. 8.

Self said Perry Ellis' strong season down low is due mostly to him being a year older. He said Ellis is stronger and more aggressive than he was as a freshman but added that he's still not quite as aggressive as they'd like him to be.

As for Ellis from three-point land, Self said he's never told Perry that he does or does not have the green light to shoot those but added that he wouldn't mind seeing Ellis average one or two a game because he's a good shooter.

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