Yesterday Kansas head coach met with the media. Self talked about his teams ceiling, where Tyshawn Taylor ranks nationally in terms of guard play, Thomas Robinson as a person and a player, and of course the Texas Longhorns.
Head coach Bill Self
On this year's team getting the most out of its potential:
"They have pleased me as of late. I didn't really like them much and they didn't really care for me much, up until after Christmas. They have pleased me with their effort and their toughness for the most part. We're a big-time work in progress, but to say they've reached their potential, that's one thing I don't agree with. I think this team can play better and I think we've got some guys who still haven't made shots consistently. You look at Thomas (Robinson) and Tyshawn (Taylor); they aren't going to play much better than what they are playing right now. I think other guys can even play a little bit better and the better they play, the more confidence they get.
I will add this though, to me, more so than any other team we've had here, I think our energy keys us more than anything else. Before, the common denominator was talent or depth. Here, it's got to be energy because when we're turned up, we're pretty athletic and we play defense so much better."
On if Robinson and Taylor create the most energy:
"I think that's part of it, but I would say Travis (Releford) probably plays with as much energy as anybody. Thomas (Robinson) keys everything though. When Thomas (Robinson) is energized, usually people follow."
On if he thinks Taylor has done anything different his last two games:
"He's scoring the ball, obviously, but I don't know if he's doing anything much different other than the fact the basket is a little bit bigger and he's more confident. He's been pretty aggressive. He's been in attack mode pretty much all year long and sometimes that gets us into a little bit of trouble, but most of the time it's really good for us. I don't think there are many guards out there that attack the paint any better than he does. He made a great play the other day (against Baylor). He went 4-for-6 from three, so he's shooting the ball well and he gets the ball in the corner and he's wide open for three seconds. He just waits and waits and waits and ends up getting a layup out of it. He's showing good patience too."
On if Taylor is one of the best guards in the country:
"I do, but I'm biased. I've said all along he's one of the best. I think talent-wise he's one of the top five guards in the country. He doesn't always play to his talent, but when he does, his ceiling is way up and we've seen that the last couple games."
On comparing this year's team to some of the best defensive teams he has coached:
"I don't think we do it as good as the '08 or the '07 team as far as scoring off our defense. Those teams were relentless. They took pride in being the best defensive team in the country, which in my opinion we were in '08. I think it's hard to keep it turned up for 40 minutes if you don't sub much, so it's kind of become a spurt team. I think this team has become a very good defensive spurt team. There are times when we don't get any steals, but it's maybe some of the best defense we play because we're solid. It seems to me the last few games we've got a lot in a short amount of time because we've been a good spurt team."
On if not having much depth allows the main five on the floor to build better chemistry:
"I wouldn't get into that. I think it's hard to develop chemistry when you're playing nine, but I don't think seven. That '08 team we played seven a ton of minutes. If you look at that team, we had seven starters. I don't quite feel that way this year. I feel like we have six, but I do think the guys that play a majority of the minutes have the best chemistry. Then again, if you look at it, we've played some of our best ball when our main guys weren't in the game. I think that's a sign of good things to come."
On recruiting Robinson:
"He was a very raw, energetic and an active guy when we recruited him and we thought he had a chance to be really good. I think a couple things we didn't know at the time that turned out to be as good as it is, are his hands. If he gets his mitt on a ball, more than likely he's going to get it. Also, you don't know that his body is going to continue to develop like it has. He has a want-to inside of him and a focus right now that's about as good as anybody that we've had since I've been here. Right now he's pretty driven and pretty focused. Coaches get way too much credit when they come to a place and do good because you can't help but get better if you have a ball in your hands every day for three hours a day. I think the real testimony should be going to the players that want to get better and he's a guy that wants to get better."
On Robinson's maturation from this point last year when he was faced with tragedy:
"It's amazing. I couldn't have handled the situation he's been through nearly as well as what he has. He's a remarkable kid and he deserves the things that are coming his way. This weekend I'm sure will be emotional for him. If you look at the similarities, it's the one-year anniversary and we're playing Texas. I am amazed at how well he's done. He's got a lot of support around him and he'd probably be the first to say that. To go through what he's gone through and he's playing with a smile on his face. He seems like a happy kid, but we all know he's carrying a much bigger burden than anyone is carrying at his age, for the most part."
On what it says about the program and how KU handled Robinson's situation:
"I was so proud of our administration and the NCAA for allowing us to do some things for him. She (Lisa Robinson) might not have had a funeral. The things you take for granted like buying a casket and a dress to wear. I was really happy things like that were allowed to be legal because we would do whatever was legal, obviously. The thing I'm most proud of, winning ballgames is obviously what coaches are judged on over time, but it is and should be bigger than that and that was a prime example of a group of guys actually becoming a family. It was cool to watch. Teams always want to be families and they'll say that, but I really think it's hard to become a family unless you actually go through a crisis-type situation and that was a crisis-type situation. At the same time, nobody felt sorry for anybody. They were still coachable and they wanted to be coached. It was a unique deal. I asked them, ‘do you even want to look at this (basketball)? Do you even want to talk about this (basketball)? Do we want to talk about anything other than Thomas' situation and how we all feel about it? Because we can just do that or do we want to talk about that and do we want to try to get better?' They said, ‘Coach, we have to do both.' The world doesn't stop. It keeps moving, so you have to do both and I thought they handled that extremely well. That's a tribute to the players more so than anybody else. And our fans who made Thomas feel like he had family here and I don't think there are very many places in America, some might try it, but I don't there is anywhere else that could actually get it done like KU fans did last year."
On how to slow down J'Covan Brown:
"Well if he was playing against Kansas every game, he'd be national player of the year the last two years; he's killed us. We've got to do a good job with him; they're very athletic and very young other than J'Covan, (Clint) Chapman and Alexis (Wangmene) is a senior too but they're very young and very talented. I thought they played great last night; it was a game they could have won but both teams played great last night and both played so hard. One thing we'll have to combat is their speed."
On playing spurts of good defense against Texas:
"I don't think when you play guys a large number of minutes and play man, I don't think you can have a defensive team that anticipates going out and trying to steal the ball every possession. There has to be a soundness to you in which you make them take a bad shot, block out, make them take one or less shots, block out; just be sound. I think what we've done here is: OU, average the whole game except for 10 minutes, you look at Texas Tech and we were average at best early and then the defense keyed us, Iowa State we were average at best and then defense keyed us for a six-minute spurt. Really to be honest with you, against Baylor we were average at best and then the last four minutes of the first half our defense keyed a 13-0 spurt.
I don't think you can be a spurt team for 40 minutes and I think we've done a decent job of getting back but not missing an opportunity to be sound. Whenever you play good teams, there aren't as many spurts because the other team has good players too. So whenever you can get a 10-0 or 12-4 run then that can usually be a difference in winning or losing a game."
On if (Myck) Kabongo has the same potential as the other players:
"Yeah, Kabongo will be a pro. He's fast and he had 10 assists last night and his numbers have been really good assist-wise. Myck is really good - we recruited him - he's got a great personality and he's a good leader."
On if they try to recruit someone who is driven and a hard worker or someone who will figure it out once they get into the culture:
"If they're really talented then yeah we go that direction and if they're not then we really want them to be driven. I think you can pre-judge inaccurately - and we have done this before - because well he doesn't play hard or he doesn't do this or that until you put him in a culture where that's the only way. A ton of other places have the same culture and until you put them in that culture, you don't know how good they're going to be.
You made a good point a couple weeks ago that you take a kid out of his environment, put him in a different environment and how that can change him and I feel that's the same way from a workout standpoint. Take the twins (Marcus and Markieff Morris) - oh my gosh - Joe (Dooley) goes up and watches them workout and I told him to rate them on a scale 1-10 how hard do they work? He said minus three. He told them that they would never make it through a practice and they almost didn't early on but then they got in the mindset and saw what their bodies could do and how better they get. Give me an athlete who can shoot and is tough and I think we can get them to work hard."
On Texas starting to recruit in Canada:
"Well it's all from the same program and players in that area have gotten a lot better, there's no question. There was an AAU program that had a real hot stretch there for awhile, no question."
On if they will try to limit J'Covan's touches or shots:
"Well last night he took 27 but he still ended up getting 25 points or whatever he got last night. I don't think you can limit his touches to be honest with you. I think you can limit his good touches a little bit and his shot off the catch, but it's hard to keep guards from catching the ball. We've got to do a real good job on him and how we're going to guard ball screens and things like that."
On if Texas feels like a rivalry game, similar to Missouri or Kansas State:
"I wouldn't go that far, but I think it feels like a big rivalry game to us and I think it will get more that way when we play twice a year. But if you look back in our league - I exaggerate because I'm biased and don't remember all of the other games - but if you were going to pick the best five games of the year in the league, Texas and Kansas would take up one or two of those spots.
They've done a great job recruiting and have had really good guys and last year they beat us in our place, obviously and then we got them back in the Big 12 Tournament. I anticipate a big-time game. They're young and people say we're not quite the same team we've been in the past but I think when we play each other, both teams will definitely respect the fact that there have been a lot of good players who've played in those previous games and really want to duplicate that."