A week removed from his team’s second loss of the season — a poor showing at Temple — Kansas University basketball coach Bill Self hadn’t put the 77-52 “beatdown” behind him yet, when he met with the media Monday afternoon at Allen Fieldhouse.
Self, whose No. 13 Jayhawks (9-2) return to the court Tuesday night against Kent State (8-3), often used the pre-Christmas embarrassment as a reference point while discussing where KU is at right now, with two non-conference games remaining before Big 12 play begins Jan. 7, at Baylor.
Here are the highlights from the Q&A:
• Watching tape of Kent State, they almost won at UTEP. They’re quick on the perimeter and play around a big guy who can score.
• Frank Mason III has been KU’s best player and most consistent player to date. And the sophomore point guard still hasn’t played to his full capabilities. Mason also is KU’s best perimeter defender and because he plays so many minutes he isn’t as turned up on that end as he could be. Self is really pleased with him and his toughness.
• Coming off a one-sided loss at Temple: “Losses suck and you obviously learn from them and get better.” This loss, like the Kentucky setback, was a “beatdown.” The Jayhawks played tired and didn’t come to play in Philadelphia. There are things KU could learn from losing to Temple. Kansas didn’t play at the same level as the Owls.
• KU used to play a cupcake after Christmas, before going into Big 12 play, but they haven’t done that as much lately. It’s probably not the same formula a lot of teams have used… But, in late December/early January, you can’t determine this will be the springboard for the rest of the season. It’s too early to do that. But KU needs to be good these last two non-conference games (Kent State and UNLV, both at Allen Fieldhouse).
• Freshman big Cliff Alexander hasn’t “been active at all” of late. A lot of it is health-related. He has a bone bruise on his shin and turned an ankle, and that is slowing him down. Alexander needs to score off other people’s misses.
• By the end of the year, Alexander could be the guy KU throws it to inside to score. Perry Ellis could be that guy, too. The bottom line: Kansas has good guards, but no backcourt is going to carry you through the Big 12. The Jayhawks need to deliver inside with their big men. … KU scored two baskets on the block at Temple, and neither of those came off back-to-the-basket touches. In all the years Self has coached, his teams have played inside-out.
• On KU’s offensive sets: Basketball is an uncomplicated game. It’s about players. You run stuff and hopefully put them in places where they take advantage of their skillsets. There are a lot of little things to improve, and KU’s timing can become better. They can also tweak some things. But you can’t coach enthusiasm and energy — speaking of the Temple game, only. It’s not like it’s totally busted. KU is No. 2 in RPI. But KU was broke at Temple. Energy finds the ball. That’s where it starts. Teams that win are turned up all the time. “We played like a bunch of duds” at Temple, and the Owls were “really good.”
• Self didn’t take Mason out vs. Temple as a statement to the rest of the guys. That was his way of telling them what he thought of how everyone played. … Wayne Selden Jr. might need to play less with Mason so he can replace him as a point guard. And hopefully they’ll get some good news on Devonté Graham’s toe.
• Kelly Oubre Jr. plays with a swagger and personality even when he isn’t shooting the ball well. He should be as good an offensive rebounder on the wing as there is in the country. Oubre can get confidence on offense by playing with energy and getting deflections on defense.
• Graham can’t do anything in terms of physical activity right now, until doctors re-examine his injured toe. That will happen this week.
• There needs to be something the staff does to promote energy with this team, but the players have to get to a point where they generate that on their own, too. Self said it was his fault they played Temple two days after a game and headed into the holiday break… The thing that bothered Self most about Temple? “They’re no bigger than we are and they blocked eight shots.” And KU blocked two. Self said he has to do a better job coaching them. Kansas has talented kids, but they’re “ridiculously” young. You get off to a rough start and they’re down 11-2. “Now do we have the toughness to come back without a home crowd?” KU came back from a huge deficit vs. Florida, but the crowd won the game. “Individuals aren’t gonna beat a team any day of the week.”
• Young guys don’t remember, that’s a good thing. But coaches don’t forget. The players should be fine now that the Temple game is behind them.
• “My stress level has probably been a little higher this year,” Self said. But that’s not about the kids, that’s on him. He needs to enjoy the process and not worry about the expectations of the team. He has never understood with preseason media polls and picks if that’s where they should be right now or when the season is over. Based on right now, KU isn’t where they should be. The Jayhawks are young and going through some pains. The schedule has exposed them and prepared them for the Big 12, which is important, too.
— Listen to the full press conference here: Bill Self: Jayhawks need to play with more energy
Coming off a tournament championship at the Orlando Classic, and with another top-tier non-conference opponent just around the corner, Kansas University men’s basketball coach Bill Self talked about the Jayhawks’ accomplishments to date and what’s left to be done at a Wednesday afternoon press conference.
While Florida’s Friday visit to Allen Fieldhouse for the SEC/Big 12 Challenge proved to be a hot topic, so were minutes, starting fives, defense, player comparisons and much more.
Here are a few of the highlights from the Q&A:
• KU has rebounded the ball a lot better since that Kentucky loss. The Jayhawks also have improved in moving the ball, looking more organized.
• Frank Mason III was KU’s second most valuable guy at the Orlando Classic. He rebounded and took care of the ball vs. pressure. Didn’t score a lot of points, but didn’t take a lot shots. He was the team’s best defensive rebounder. He “went and got ‘em.” The PG aggressively pursued the ball.
• The Jayhawks haven’t forced turnovers enough yet. They’re not quick and active defensively like they need to be. Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk is the best defensive positioning guy but he isn’t a stealer of the ball. Neither is Wayne Selden Jr. KU is better at this juncture on “D” than it was a year ago. Personnel has a lot to do with how many turnovers they force. Kansas doesn’t yet have great anticipators on defense and the Jayhawks don’t play with their hands enough yet. Most of the opponent turnovers have been guys throwing the ball out of bounds, not KU running through the ball.
• Self likes the current starting five — Mason, Selden, Mykhailiuk, Perry Ellis, Landen Lucas — because it has gotten the team off to better starts. Cliff Alexander, a freshman power forward off the bench, is going to foul quick… The starters aren’t as important as the five who finish, either.
• Selden has leadership abilities: He’s tough, smart, cares a ridiculous amount and is definitely an alpha male. He hasn’t been quite as good a leader yet because he hasn’t played his best. More leadership will show up as he improves. Selden hasn’t shot it well at all, but he struggled shooting early in non-conference last season, too, then picked it up.
• Kelly Oubre Jr. has been better in practices than in games but he’s still not comfortable. He’s a thinker right now, not a reactor. A lot has been made of him not playing to the hype but it’s six games in. He’s never played guard under pressure. He has to impact KU moving forward. It’s just a matter of time before he snaps out and finds his way… He should be a slasher, extra-possession guy who creates havoc defensively.
• With KU’s non-conference schedule, there are numerous quality opponents. It is harder to get guys minutes if they’re figuring out who they are and if they can play. Self knows Oubre can play. He hasn’t had much of an opportunity to play through mistakes. He just needs to go and make something good happen for himself. … Not thinking too much is possible, because he has a good enough understanding. Self would rather a guy play with reckless abandon and screw up than play slower because he’s thinking too much. You can’t play to “not screw up.”
• Based on KU’s personnel, Selden needs to be the top perimeter defender. The Jayhawks don’t have a guy as skilled as Andrew Wiggins anymore. Self also would like Oubre or Devonté Graham to develop into that kind of stopper, too.
• Florida has played a difficult schedule and the Gators were beat up when they lost to Miami (Florida). They lost a one-possession game in overtime to a good Georgetown team and another to a very good North Carolina team in the Bahamas. Florida will be a high seed in the tournament eventually.
• Kansas can win without a 7-footer. KU has had teams with this size before. They weren’t big when they won it all in 2008. It’s a nice luxury to have someone up front who can block shots and correct mistakes. The Jayhawks are big enough to win… Self was joking with Georges Niang this past summer and the Iowa State star forward said the Cyclones beat KU in the Big 12 Tournament because that “monster” Joel Embiid wasn’t out there. Sure, KU would like to have that but they can be good without a 7-footer.
• Florida’s Kasey Hill and Chris Walker were two supremely talented players coming out of high school and Michael Frazier II can really shoot it. They have a lot of talent.
• Rock Chalk Video does a great job for KU in producing quality videos — many unseen by the public, recruiting videos and that sort of thing — and it’s an important part of the program.
• Graham is doing fine with his shoulder and is practicing full speed. It was good they only had to use him limited minutes in Orlando.
• Sherron Collins is “the baddest boy we’ve had here,” so Self hesitates to compare Mason to Collins. The coach thinks Mason is more athletic than Collins. That would be a great goal for Mason to get to the point where he could play at Collins’ level.
• Alexander has a tendency to put his hands on guys in other jerseys, which leads to a whistle. That is why Self likes bringing him off the bench. Alexander also gets to watch some of the game from the bench. … Alexander will end up starting, most likely. But it’s more about minutes played.
• More than likely, Mykhailiuk will be around at KU for just two years. He just has some things to tighten up. He’s a legit 6-7 and 1/2 and he’s going to fill out and get stronger. He should be playing against Olathe North or Free State High or Lawrence High. “Svi” projects out as high as anyone on the team four years from now. He’ll be 21 and a “bad boy.”
• UF coach Billy Donovan is as good as the college hoops profession has. He won a national title when no one thought they were any good and another one when everyone expected them to win it all. Self knew the Gators were good last year, but they ended up being one of the best teams in the country, maybe the best, before losing at the Final Four.
— Listen to the complete press conference: Bill Self on importance of starting five
— Hear from Kansas big men Landen Lucas and Jamari Traylor: Lucas and Traylor discuss KU's improving rebounding and how Mason factors into that
Thursday marked the very unofficial start of the college basketball season at Kansas University, where Bill Self and the Jayhawks went through media day at Allen Fieldhouse.
Self provided some insight on what’s to come in the months ahead for KU, as well as some of the shortcomings that impacted last season, and what he, the coaching staff and the players learned from those experiences.
• KU has three smaller point guards. He doesn’t know yet what the norm will be. Kansas needs more ball-handling and play-making from its lead guards. That position didn’t play as he hoped in 2013-14. Wayne Selden, a bigger option, could play point with two big wings or Frank Mason or Conner Frankamp or Devonté Graham could be out there running things.
• The Jayhawks could be very versatile this season. Self sees them playing small a lot, but could play Kelly Oubre or a bigger wing player at the power forward.
• Junior forward Hunter Mickelson is a “prototypical” four-man. He faces up. The challenge will be for him to play bigger than he is. Self can’t see anybody beating Perry Ellis out for power forward minutes. With Mickelson’s skills, he’ll have to do some more things to see playing time. He is the team’s best shot-blocker. Mickelson blocked more shots than Joel Embiid did last year in his last season at Arkansas.
• Self likes who Ellis is. He doesn’t want to get him too much out of his comfort zone in some aspects. Ellis won’t be a vocal leader. Leading by example involves doing your job. If Ellis adds a little leadership to his repertoire, it will make KU a lot better. Self wants Ellis to go score. That’s who he is.
• Brannen Greene has really improved. He was very talented last year, too, and didn’t play much. He is in a loaded position, with Selden and Oubre and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk. Greene is arguably as good a shooter as Kansas has. He still has to buy into guarding on the other end.
• So far Mykhailiuk is transitioning great. "Svi" understands the language maybe less than Joel Embiid did when he first arrived. The only knock on Svi is he is young. He is going to be really good. His youth could be a factor in how much he plays. A defender could knock him off his line pretty quickly. He may have played against the strongest competition, among current KU players, in his international experience.
• Alexander can be a physical player. He will have to learn how to guard and pick his spots. Self sees some similarities with Thomas Robinson and Alexander. Alexander has to get where he goes after every ball. If he plays his best and everyone else does, too, Alexander should be their most physical player.
• Without seeing this team going up and down a lot yet, Self doesn’t know for sure what the team and some young individuals will look like. But Devonté Graham is a well liked guy that pushes the ball up the floor and is certainly capable of challenging for starting minutes. Graham reminds him of Aaron Miles. He is a leader and can make a shot. His intangibles will probably allow him to play more immediately. The Marines who worked with the Jayhawks picked Graham as the best leader. But Oubre and Selden will be leaders, too.
• The Jayhawks need to be better defensively than last year. They “stunk” last season on defense. Embiid could cover up mistakes. They don’t have that this year. But Self expects KU to be better defensively.
• KU has a lot of things that will be good for recruiting, with the DeBruce Center and McCarthy apartments and new locker room renovations.
• Self used to do more micro-managing when he was young. Now that he is older he doesn’t think as much about things that don’t impact wins and losses, such as where guys sit in a locker room and things like that.
• Mason didn’t guard last year like he can. Graham can pressure the ball. Svi can slide his feet and anticipate defensively, he is so quick and athletic. Jamari Traylor does some things with pressure and running the floor, as well. Self isn’t a big press-defense advocate. You play a style that gives you the best chance to win in the postseason. When you play good teams they have good guards, and good guards often love to see a press. Full-court pressure won’t be a staple.
• Landen Lucas might have had as good an offseason as anyone. He is fighting for major minutes.
• Frankamp, in high school, was a volume shooter, as most high school stars are. Then he only got a few looks as a freshman and he felt like he had to make them. His whole play was based on whether he made a shot. Strength has been a factor for him some in the past, but he can help the team in other ways, besides shooting the ball. He had to make shots for minutes the way it played out last season. … Frankamp has to get stronger. Everybody has something they have to get better at. Strength and shooting are key for Frankamp becoming great.
• Self learned something through “The Program” they went through with Marines. KU has some guys who are really good at what they do and they don’t want to take away from who they are. Kansas needs Graham and Selden to be leaders.
• Selden, Self thinks, needs to play more consistently and knock down more shots from three-point range.
• It is hard for Self to make a complete evaluation of Oubre yet. And Oubre is good enough that he won’t be at KU very long. He can do some things that a lot of wings don’t typically do. He is a talented player.
• You always think about a starting five before the season begins. Whether he will tell anybody publicly right now is another thing. Guys have to earn it. By Big 12 play, Self has a team in mind but a lot has to do with how fast the young guys pick stuff up.
• Top to bottom, this Kansas team reminds him a little bit of the 2008 team. That team’s best player was Brandon Rush and he went in the NBA lottery. That team had pros. This is a team like that, there isn’t a top-three pick right now, but KU has a whole bunch of good players and depth. There isn’t much size, but they are skilled and deep. A lot of balance.
• There isn’t hoopla this year like they had with Andrew Wiggins, who handled it well. But KU has players that will be as good at the college level as Wiggins and Embiid. Kansas has more guys who can impact the college game this year.
• Self doesn’t know who would be a candidate to red-shirt this season. Right now he doesn’t think it will be a possibility.
• Late Night is always big for recruiting. It is big for the players, too. Guys look forward to it. Last year there were some issues with getting people in and those have been resolved. Only twice has KU had to turn people away, Self’s first year and last season.
• Self may talk about last year’s NCAA Tournament performance with this year's players. But that team wasn’t truly who the Jayhawks were. That team on the floor wasn’t a No. 2 seed. They didn’t have Embiid. That could be their motivation, to not let that happen again this coming postseason. But sometimes unexpected things just happen in sports. They didn’t have a lot of margin for error last season.
• Looking at the All-Big 12 preseason team, Self was surprised that not one of KU’s players got a vote other than Ellis. “That may be something that we tell our guys.”
• KU might be picked to win the Big 12 when those predictions come out. But Texas could be a top-5 team nationally and plenty of other teams appear to have top-25 talent.
• With the personnel KU had last year, the Jayhawks weren’t as tough as a typical Kansas team. The staff didn’t do a good enough job fixing that. Coaches will emphasize toughness this year. Personalities and youth probably had a lot to do with that last season.
• Just a bit off topic, on the Kansas City Royals… It’s awfully cool to watch. It’s fun to see guys having the time of their lives. They had the fastest guy in baseball (Jarrod Dyson) dancing at third base in extra innings on Tuesday and he hadn’t even scored yet. That’s cool. Self gets a kick out of all the strategy, too. The Royals are really good.
— Listen to the complete press conference: Self talks 2014-15 expectations at media day