Monday, November 11, 2013

Kansas’ Bill Self: ‘We need to win this one’


Tonight’s early-season Kansas University-Duke basketball game is for Jayhawk pride as much as anything else.

“We’re the only team that has not won a game in the Champions Classic. We need to win this one,” KU coach Bill Self said of a 9 p.m. battle between his Jayhawks (1-0) and the Blue Devils (1-0) in Chicago’s United Center.

KU fell to Michigan State, 67-64, last year in Atlanta and 75-65 to Kentucky in 2011 in New York in the one-day doubleheader, which involves the powerhouse programs trading off and playing each other. The Classic has been re-upped for another three seasons starting next year, with KU meeting Kentucky and Duke tangling with Michigan State in Indianapolis.

Duke is 2-0, Kentucky and Michigan State 1-1 in the made-for-ESPN event.

“We’re excited about it, but I do not get too excited about something in early November,” Self said. “Our players should be excited to play, but it’s just a step. A game in February deciding a conference championship, you’d have a whole different mind-set. You can’t make too big a deal out of it. No matter what happens, it’s so early.”

Times like these make Self glad he’s a basketball coach, not coach of another major sport.

“It’s a little different for football coaches. If you lose in football, it could be over for you if you have the high, high plans, BCS plans,” Self said. “Basketball is not like that. We have had it handed to us by Kentucky in the first game and ended up a 2 seed (reaching national title game in 2011-12). We had it handed to us by Michigan State last year and ended up a 1 seed (losing in Sweet 16).

“There’s time to catch up. It’ll be fun. It’ll be a great game for college basketball, at least early in the season. It’ll be terrific.”

The country sees this one as a showcase of two of the top freshmen in the country — KU’s Andrew Wiggins vs. Duke’s Jabari Parker. Parker, 6-foot-8 from Chicago’s Simeon High, had 22 points in Duke’s 111-77 opening win over Davidson. Wiggins, 6-8 from Canada, had 16 in the Jayhawks’ 80-63 win against Louisiana Monroe.

Of course, Duke also has the likes of Rodney Hood, Quinn Cook and Tyler Thornton, and KU has Wayne Selden, Perry Ellis, Naadir Tharpe … the lists go on with these perennial powers.

“It’s a program game to represent Duke,” said Duke’s Cook, who was a teammate of former KU guard Ben McLemore at Oak Hill Academy in Mouth of Wilson, Va. He’s also a longtime friend of KU’s Tharpe, the two playing against each other as youths. Tharpe is from Worcester, Mass., and Cook from Washington, D.C.

“They are a great team. Bill Self is one of the best coaches in my opinion, in basketball, period. He’s going to have them ready,” Cook added.

KU players agree it’s special to go against an opponent wearing “Duke” on the jersey.

“As a kid, I watched games like this: Duke and Kentucky; Duke and North Carolina; Kansas and whoever they played,” Tharpe said. “These are the highlight games of the year, the games that will be able to put us on the map as a team and get everybody to understand we are a top-five team.”

Duke enters ranked No. 4 and KU No. 5.

“We’ll face a coach who is one of the best. Bill is one of the best,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. Self returned the compliment by saying coach K is “a pillar of our profession.”

“I think (Andrew) Wiggins is amazingly talented. They have a huge team,” Krzyzewski added. “A lot of people feel their big kid who comes off the bench (7-footer Joel Embiid) is the top prospect in the country for the pros. They have a lot of guys with NBA talent.”

Self’s opinion of the Blue Devils’ players is just as glowing.

“I told our team he (Hood, 6-8, Meridan, Miss.) is probably as good a 3-man in America as we’ll play against. He is experienced, a 4-year guy,” Self said. “Jabari Parker is as skilled a 6-8 guy as you’ll see, ever. He is a Paul Pierce-, Carmelo Anthony-type player. We recruited Jabari hard until we were told we made the final six, but he only got five visits. I think he’s a terrific talent and one of the best players, without question one of the best freshmen in the country.”

Sweet home, Chicago: KU’s Jamari Traylor returns to his hometown of Chicago for this game.

“I’m excited. I get to play in front of my family, have a good time. It’s a big game for us as far as the season goes. I’m going to go out there and have a good time and play hard in front of my home town,” Traylor said.

The former Julian High player, who finished high school at IMG Academies in Florida, never played in the United Center as a youth.

“Growing up, I never went to too many Bulls games,” Traylor said. “I always was a Bulls fan. I didn’t have a lot of money to go to a game. I went to two, three games my whole life. I always watched them. I never got a chance to play there like with state championship stuff. It’s not about me. It’s about getting the win for Kansas. It’s going to be good.”

As far as possible distractions, Traylor said: “Definitely a lot of people have been coming at me asking for favors. I sat down and talked to my coach. He said it’s not about that. He said, ‘Eliminate all distractions and focus on the game,’’’ Traylor said. “That’s what I’m doing. I’m not really worried (about seeing friends). I’m worried about the scouting report. I’ll see them when I see them. I’ve seen ’em all my life, 21 years. Another day won’t kill me to not see them (friends).”

Snow, glorious snow: KU freshman center Embiid had a funny Tweet after arriving in Chicago, which on Monday experienced a dusting of snow. “I think I love snow so I’m not going back to Africa when winter comes,” the 7-footer from Cameroon wrote.

Decisions coming: No. 1-ranked Jahlil Okafor, a 6-10 center from Chicago’s Whitney Young High who will attend tonight’s game, tweeted Monday that he would announce his college choice at 3 p.m. Friday. His good buddy, No. 5-rated Tyus Jones, 6-1 from Apple Valley (Minn.) High, tweeted about the same time that he would also announce at 3 p.m. Friday. The two are expected to choose either KU or Duke. Meanwhile, No. 4-rated Cliff Alexander, 6-8, from Chicago Curie, also will announce at 3 p.m. Friday. He is down to KU, Illinois, DePaul and Memphis.

“Neither Okafor nor Alexander want to announce before the other. If they do, it ruins ALL the hype leading up to each announcement,” wrote Roy Schmidt of Illinois Prep Bulls-eye.


Chase Johnson 8 years, 6 months ago

For the love of god PLEASE beat Duke! I know so many arrogant Duke fans and I just want to rub it in their faces for once. Maui 2011 was a huge disappointment. This could end up being a huge week too if KU beats Duke AND picks up even 2 of the 3 recruits this Friday. 3 out of 3?!?! I'd faint...

Suzi Marshall 8 years, 6 months ago

I normally don't get too excited about the W or L for Nov/Dec games, so long as we improve for conference play. However, I'm with you about this Duke game. My angst goes back to the '03 championship game when the refs appeared in the Duke tank, insuring their first NC. Playing in Chicago, K's and Parker's hometown, will have the home crowd pulling hard for Duke. Hopefully the refs do not share that sentiment.

Suzi Marshall 8 years, 6 months ago

yikes...'03 was against the Orangemen. I'm having too much of a a case of Duke...itis.

Don Burgundy 8 years, 6 months ago

I'm with Coach Self. I want this W bad. We've beat up on North Carolina the past 3 times but Duke always has our number, dating back all the way to the early 90s. It's time to change that.

Jim Roth 8 years, 6 months ago back to 1986. Thompson, Kellog, Dreiling, Manning, Hunter. Painful ending to the season.

Joe Ross 8 years, 6 months ago

Not dating all the way back to '86. Remember, we beat Duke en route to the NC of '88.

Walter Bridges 8 years, 6 months ago

And in '88 we beat Duke to advance to the NCAA final after losing to them earlier in the season.

But overall, Duke has had our number going back to the mid '80s.

Sandeep Kalburgie 8 years, 6 months ago

I care more about which univ Cliff Alexander, Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones will attend next year.

Walter Bridges 8 years, 6 months ago

In importance, I have to agree. Friday will mean much more to our future success than winning tonight's game but... I have to admit that this is a big game even if in November and looking forward to watching it.

Steve Zimmerman 8 years, 6 months ago

Dear coach Self: good luck on your first win! I'm betting against KU - no offense. Refs are going to be on Dookies side, no matter what. This handcheck rule is going to slow down the game considerably. Expect another 50-60 FTs.

RJ King 8 years, 6 months ago

Can this game possibly start at 9:30ET given the dribble drive of UK and the board crashing and physical play of MSU? Unless the refs bend the new rules a bit, we won't tip off 'til after 10pm. (Hopefully we're somewhere practicing free throws.)

Robert Brock 8 years, 6 months ago

Defense - move your feet. Keep your hands to yourself. Get to the shooters.

Ron Franklin 8 years, 6 months ago

Embiid has GOT to stay planted. That dude goes for every old man shoulder fake thrown his way. Does he not quite realize yet how tall 7ft is with arms stretched 'like the ceiling cant hold him'

Jason Jantz 8 years, 6 months ago

This is all about pride. Defense and rebounding wins. Something tells me Jones and Okafor sign with the winner. Tons on the line

Jeff Mills 8 years, 6 months ago

Winning wouldn't hurt... but to say they are just going to go to the winner is kind of silly. Tharpe could look really good and KU wins and Jones thinks "I'm gonna have trouble starting over him".... I think it's going to be factors like that they consider most.

I really think they're a little smarter than to just say, "ohhh.. this team that won must be the better program for us." I think they already got the gist of who KU and Duke and their coaching staffs are, and this November game isn't going to be a huge deciding factor.

Jason Jantz 8 years, 6 months ago

yeah I agree totally. And I hope PT is a big factor because right now, Quinn is a much better guard than Tharpe. I'm just looking for reasons to justify why they don't come here when we all know they should! We are going to get "Hat Ceremonied" anyway so it really doesn't matter.

Benz Junque 8 years, 6 months ago

Those kids have decided where they are going, winning this game will make ZERO impact on their decision. I'd be shocked if Okafor and Jones come to KU. Of course, I was shocked when Wiggins announced for KU, so there's always a chance.

Honestly, I would be kinda surprised if we got ANY of the three guys announcing on Friday but that doesn't condern me. KU is in on so many elite recruits for their last two spots. Someone good will take them.

Kevin Huffman 8 years, 6 months ago

Not true. After this threesome, it's M.Turner and/or R. Vaughn or total bust.

Kevin Huffman 8 years, 6 months ago

One qualifier...they already got Top 10 Wing, Oubre so definitely NOT total bust.

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