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January 4, 2013

Kansas Basketball Notebook

With the start of conference play looming, Bill Self answered a number of questions during his weekly press conference on Friday.



Self on whether or not he's surprised at how consistently freshman guard Ben McLemore has played

"He's been very consistent. He's getting more aggressive. But it's still kind of early to hit a wall, as we're only 12 games in. Usually the wall-hitting doesn't occur until you're midway through your conference season. He's been very consistent. The last game (vs. American, Dec. 29), he didn't get a chance to play a lot but he was fine with that and didn't score a lot because he only played 18 minutes. He's been more than what we thought, from a consistency-basis."

Self On if he's glad that Temple beat Syracuse, so his players know how good Temple really is

"Yeah; nothing against Jim (Boeheim), he's got enough wins. It was a great win for Temple on a neutral court and I think it does, and will, get our guys' attention. From a selfish standpoint, it gives us a better strength of schedule, which does nothing but help us later on down the road."

Self on what Temple did well against Syracuse

"They attacked their zone really good. They flooded the high post and did a great job of getting the ball inside their zone. They played very, very well. Wyatt (Khalif Wyatt) went nuts, too. Any time that a guy on your team goes for 30-plus (points) against a good defensive team like Syracuse has, it's going to give your team a good chance to win and he obviously did that."

Self on whether the way Syracuse defended Temple will help in scouting the Owls

"Probably not; when I watch tape, if a team plays a lot of zone, a lot of times I'll just fast forward through that because I can't see us playing a lot of zone unless we put it in during one of the timeouts. We haven't done much of that at all. That's not a true indication, but you can still probably get personnel tendencies by watching something you're not going to do, but I'd much rather watch a team play man-to-man against them."

Self on what Temple did not do as well in its game prior to the Syracuse contest

"Against Canisius (Dec. 19) they did not play as well. Even with that being said, it's a tie game late and they didn't make any plays down the stretch like Canisius did. The one thing that I found out, the longer I do this, (is that) you can't really compare scores or you really can't compare as much `we'll have to attack them the way Canisius did' because as of three weeks ago, (Temple head coach) Fran (Dunphy) adjusted and corrected and (has since) done some different things. (We) just try to tweak what we do or try to get principles involved; this is how they guard ball screens or this is how we want to attack them or this is how we want to guard ball screens based on how they attack. It's probably not as much of a definite thing like `we'll just go play the way Canisius did'. We're not Canisius. They have different expertise and attacked them a certain way that might not fit on how we want to attack."

Self on if he's gotten what he wanted out of the non-conference schedule

"Probably, going into the Ohio State game, I wouldn't know. We've played a lot of seasons here where we've played just one or two true road games during the non-conference (season) and you probably want to see how your team will react in certain situations before you go into league (play). I think the one true road game we had was great for us because we played with a lead, we played from behind, didn't panic in certain situations; I think that gives me a better feel going into conference play even though it's just one game."

Self on if he still believes that the best combination for a team is a group of veterans with the most talented players being young guys

"I still think if you're going to rate our best players, three out of four or four out of five, it would be seniors still. So maybe it (the theory) doesn't quite fit. The way college basketball is normally, your foundation, or your rocks, are your older guys; but your most talented guys, if you're going to have a great team, are your younger kids because your younger kids don't get a chance to be older kids. Sure, you like to have a team full of your best players, that are all potential draft picks, be juniors or seniors but that doesn't happen in college basketball the way it's set up. Russell Robinson, Sasha Kaun and Darnell Jackson were not our most talented guys but they were the foundation of the great teams we had a few years ago, without question. Still, it was nice to have Sherron (Collins) and `Shady' (Darrell Arthur) and some of those other guys that were a little younger, that we knew their potential and knew their talent level. Those older guys made sure that they fit in well. We've kind of got that right now with Ben (McLemore), obviously, with our older guys."

Self on the older senior class being helpful to younger players

"Absolutely, that's why you redshirt. You're going to be better at age 23 than you are at 18 or 19. I saw a stat about Gonzaga that said Mark (Few) has redshirted like 27 guys since 2000. That averages out to 2.7 redshirts a year. You wonder why they win? They may not be the projected lottery-pick types so they say `hey, let's stay in college and have as good of a career as we can,' which also prepares you for the professional level. I think if you're Kevin (Young), Travis (Releford) or Jeff (Withey), I don't think they'd ever trade sitting out a year to get the chance to experience what they're going through right now."

Self On how to convince a player to redshirt

"I don't know that it takes much convincing. I've never told a kid that `you have to do this.' I've told them that here's where we are in the rotation and this is how I see it. I see him ahead of you and in order for you to get minutes that you actually deserve then you're going to have to beat one or two of those guys out, and if the deck's stacked against you then I don't see why it would be such a hard decision. The national statistics, I think and I could be wrong on this, but it takes 4.6 years for a normal student to graduate from a four-year university and we're asking our guys to do it in 4.0. Athletes that are pretty busy to do it in 4.0. There's so many great things about sitting out. If you go to college to get in and get out, then redshirting probably isn't an option, but there are a lot of guys who've helped themselves out by sitting out a year. I think a redshirt is positive."

Self On what it's been like to play so few games over the last month

"We have had several weeks off. I think we had a week off before Colorado, a week off before Belmont, a week off over Christmas and then a week off before Temple. That's not good, but it's ok. The way the conference schedule is set up, we will not get a bye week like most people will because our bye week is playing Temple. Most conference games start this Saturday, which means they will get a Wednesday off throughout the course of the year, but that's ok. I think we all read into that a little too much."

Self On Elijah Johnson developing as a leader

"He's still growing into it, but I think he's done well. I think the guys listen to him. It's amazing to me that you can have a great leader that's a big guy or an unbelievable talker that's a four-man, or a guy that everyone follows his lead and he's a three man - but if you were to ask any coach who they would want to be their leader, they would say `I want my quarterback or I want my point guard to be that.' Elijah's grown into that and he's done a great job. He's doing it by example in practice and trying to do it more vocally and he's getting more comfortable doing it."

Self on his expectations of Elijah Johnson's leadership

"I probably didn't know, but I certainly expected (him to step up as a leader). If a guy cares, and Elijah does, he'll force himself out of his comfort zone a little bit and then it becomes more natural. Elijah has to become an extension of the coaching staff and of me and I think he's done a pretty good job of doing that. He's a very bright kid and has been around a lot, has played in big games and he gets it."

Self on coaches spending more time talking to their point guards than anyone else

"I don't know if I'm great at that. You hear all these things about coaches having private conversations and a coach coming in and watching tape with a guard - but I don't do that much. When I talk to our guys, I'll talk to them individually, obviously, but it's usually with the group. I want everybody to know exactly how we think each individual can improve. No embarrassment, but you guys all agree with me that he needs to do this and he needs to do that. I want everyone to have the same feeling that this is what we need out of this certain guy or that certain guy, because that puts a subtle pressure on them to do it rather than me just telling them all the time. I talk to them a lot, but probably not in the way people would envision."

Self on if that works as a policing method for the players amongst each other

"Maybe. If I've got a problem, then of course I'm not going to do it amongst the group. But if it's a situation on how to make our team better, then I have no problem doing it as a group. Not from an embarrassment standpoint, but just so that everyone knows that this is what we need in order to give us the best chance. Then I do think the guys in the locker room will tell him when he's not doing it."

Self on Perry Ellis carving out a bigger role for himself in the top-seven rotating players

"Well, top eight. I think there's been times where Jamari (Traylor) has been pretty good. You could make a case where Perry and Jamari have been the two best bigs we have in practice. Then you could make a case where Jeff (Withey) and Kevin (Young) are the two best bigs we have in practice. The one thing that is very obvious to everyone is that Jeff is so valuable that he's going to play his minutes barring any unseen things like injuries or foul problems, so really you have three guys fighting for minutes. There are many times when we're a much better team when Kevin's in the game, and there's times where the other two are playing better than Kevin. I think that makes for great competition and fun. The great thing about Kevin is that he's an unbelievable kid, he coaches those guys to try and get them better. He knows the better they get, it will cut into his minutes, not necessarily cut him out but cut into his minutes because it means we're getting deeper and getting better as a team. He gets that. It's kind of fun to see, but I've been really pleased with Kevin on how he's utilized his maturity to really help the young guys."


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