Kansas Basketball: Bill Self Previews Iowa State

Thursday afternoon Bill Self held his weekly press conference where he talked about Jeff Withey, Thomas Robinson, winning on the road in the Big 12 and of course Iowa State.

In addition Jeff Withey, Tyshawn Taylor and Connor Teahan all sat in from the player side.


Kansas Head Coach Bill Self

On Jeff Withey's development this season compared to other players:

"I think he's probably well ahead of most. Thomas (Robinson) has really developed a lot this year, from the beginning. But Jeff has developed as much as anybody for us. He's become quite a presence in there, defensively. We need him to be active and play well, and when he does, I think he keys our success about as much as anybody. He makes it awfully hard to score on us inside when he's blocking and altering (shots) like he is right now."

On if back-to-the-basket guys are a rare or dying breed:

"There's not as many big guys in college basketball. Let's just face it. Most big guys now are four-men that can play facing and do some things. There's not that many true five-men out there. You look at Kentucky; their dominant center is a four-man. You look at Ohio State; their dominant center is a four-man. (North) Carolina is playing with two four-men. I just don't think there's a ton of anchors out there that are legitimate five-men. I think the schools that can get those guys definitely have an advantage in some ways, if those kids are talented, without question. But I think most offensives are designed to create space and open up driving angles and things like that, rather than just play with your back to the basket."

On if Thomas Robinson is a good example of the ‘new breed' of post guys:

"Yeah, but Thomas is not a post guy. Thomas is not even a tall four-man. Whatever we list him at, you can probably knock it down an inch and a half or so. He's a six-foot-8 1/2, six-foot-9, prototypical four guy. I think with that size, it is, for most guys that size, hard to score over serious length. I think teams that have serious length have an advantage. Baylor has great length, Kentucky has off-the-charts length and with Withey in there, we obviously have great length."

On why Iowa State had so much success against Kansas on the boards in the teams' first meeting:

"I thought that Royce White-even with the ball being in his hands as much as anybody-I thought he controlled the game, without question. I thought we played a little-‘soft' is not the right word, I'm not saying that, but I didn't think we were as active or as energetic (as we could have been). We're not a great rebounding team unless we're turned way up. Our guards have to do a better job of getting in there and cleaning stuff up. I don't remember stats off the top of my head, but I would anticipate that we didn't have big numbers from our guards rebounding. Long shots mean long rebounds and they shoot a ton of threes. So I think that's one advantage that an offensive team has; a lot of times when bigs are rooting for position, they are not in position to rebound long shots because of long bounces.

On if the next stretch of Big 12 Conference games (four of six on the road) is the gauntlet stretch of the season:

"Yeah, I think so. I don't think there's any question that this is the toughest stretch of our season starting out right now. You've got Iowa State, Missouri, Baylor, K-State as our next four road games and, statistically, those are the four teams that are the best in the league. As a matter of fact, I think they are the only four teams in the league with winning records, if I'm not mistaken. I could be wrong on that. Besides us. So yes, without question, this is the toughest part of the season."

On liking what he's seen of his team on the road so far:

"I do. We didn't play great against USC, but we guarded. And we didn't play unbelievably well against Oklahoma, but we guarded for a stretch. And we didn't play well against Texas, but the first half we guarded so unbelievably well that we got a cushion. It still wasn't enough, but we made some plays late. So we've done some good things on the road, but I don't think we've had a performance on the road that would guarantee us winning at any of those four places yet. I think we've got to get better."

On if there is a different road mentality:

"I think foxhole, tight huddle, blinders on; I think those things are very important when going away from home to play."

On making sure his team takes Iowa State seriously:

"Trust me, Iowa State should have our full attention after the way they handled us for 25 minutes, or whatever it was, at our place. I think we'll go up there and Hilton Coliseum will be rocking pretty good and we're going to have to play the best road game we've played all year, I would think, to have success. I did like some things we did against Texas though. I thought we did some good things against Texas, although we went through a stretch where we didn't make shots and they did make some shots, and things like that, that usually happen. When you go on the road, it's going to go down to the last few possessions, usually, if you play well. Certainly, I hope we're in that position again Saturday."

On if he expects Iowa State to ‘dare' the Jayhawks to shoot again:

"I think coaches can change it up based on if they are playing at home or away. I don't know that they ‘dared' us to shoot, but they backed off our high post big-time. So, hopefully, we'll handle that better this time."

On if the strategy for covering Iowa State's Royce White will be different:

"I don't know if the game plan will be a ton different. He's such a good passer, he's hard to trap. The thing about it is, when a five-man-well he's not your five-man, he's your four-man that plays point-brings it up, it's really hard to have a different strategy because you can't leave shooters to go guard him if you're a man-to-man team. We don't play a lot of zone, and they're a good shooting team. So I'm not sure it'd be real smart for us to do that. I would just like to see us play better. I thought he just whipped us physically and I'd like to see us challenge him more, at least from a physicality standpoint."

On if junior center Jeff Withey's 15-foot shot is inconsistent:

"I don't know that he does struggle in that area. Of the 15-foot shots he's taken this year, he's probably taken six and made two. It's not bad. (Former Jayhawk) Cole (Aldrich) got really good at that shot. He will too, because he's a terrific free throw shooter. I'm not going to buy into the fact that he's struggled with that. It's hard to tell if a guy is struggling if he's only taken six shots or maybe less than that. We have to get him to where he is looking from that area. Our offense will flow better if they have to guard us at all five spots."

On senior guard Tyshawn Taylor's scoring run beginning against Iowa State:

"I think in that particular game, we were really laboring. Thomas (Robinson) wasn't having a particularly good game, so (Taylor) just took the game over. He got confidence from that. I do think he is taking good shots, and him getting to the basket sets up his game. He is playing better. I'm not sure it has anything to do with shot selection as much as the confidence and feel for how he needs to play to give us the best chance."

On if the loud atmosphere in Allen Fieldhouse helps prepare the team for road games:

"We don't communicate very well at home. It does help if you're used to it, though. I don't know how we will react in a really hostile place. I thought Texas got loud a few times, but Hilton Coliseum is a place that, if they're playing well, gets rocking pretty well. I anticipate it being a great atmosphere."

On Taylor's efficiency from behind the arc:

"I never put numbers on guys, but I thought he could potentially be a 40 percent three-point shooter, which I think is pretty good. He has shot it much better than that. If you take away a stretch at the beginning of Big 12 play, he's probably shooting well about 50 percent for the year. He has done a good job with his shot; it has gotten a lot better. Still, the best thing he does is get to the basket."

On Withey guarding Iowa State forward Royce White last game:

"I don't know if he (Withey) totally figured it out because he (White) got 18 (points) and 17 (rebounds) on us. I don't think we figured him out by any stretch, and Jeff didn't guard him all the time. Justin (Wesley) did some and Thomas did late. Jeff's length hopefully can bother him, but his ball skills and his quickness are things they are going to say can bother Jeff a lot. We'll see how much he is matched up on him, but he'll definitely guard him some though."

On junior guard Elijah Johnson's year so far:

"Elijah has played better than his numbers. I thought he really struggled last game (against Texas A&M). He is really a good player. His numbers shooting the basketball haven't been very good at all. It's going to happen, and if it's going to happen, now would be a good time because we definitely need him to be a double-figure scorer for us from this point forward."

On what Johnson can improve:

"He can become a better defender. There was an article about him not too long ago about what pride he takes in his defense, and he should have read that article before the last game. He can become a much more solid defender for us because there have been times that he has been really good in that area. If you worry about your shot, you're not going to shoot it well. You have to worry about all the other things and not about your shot, and it will come more naturally to you. That is something that in shooters' minds, they get to the point where they focus their success about whether the ball goes in or not. That's a bad way to think. If you have to make shots to play well, then you're not a complete player. Of course, it is part of the game and teams have to make shots over time, but I just want him focusing on being a guard."

On if Johnson has progressed since the beginning of the season about worrying about previous shots:

"Obviously, the way he was clipping them off the other day, he wasn't too worried about what happened on the previous shot. That's a positive from that standpoint. I think his shot selection wasn't great, though. It was almost like he was pressing, just trying to make one. I think he has progressed a lot in a lot of ways. He had a bad game against Texas A&M, but he also made the biggest shot of the game against Texas. He has done a lot of really good things, he just hasn't shot the ball consistently from behind the arc."

On the development of Iowa State's program under head coach Fred Hoiberg:

"They're good. They are an NCAA Tournament team, and that is pretty good in two years. He went the transfer route (in getting players), and it looks like it's paying off big time. I like his guys a lot. I don't know Fred well, but it seems like he is the perfect guy for that job."

On if he makes any major changes to a player's shot:

"I think you can make minor ones. I'm not a big guy to mess with shots. Your release point can be too low or your follow-through too flat. There are minor things we can do. With some, in order to change their shot, you should almost redshirt them, then just break it down and change it totally. Sometimes, that doesn't even work. No matter what, if you're a golfer or a basketball player, it makes no difference. When things don't go well, you naturally go back to the way you've always done it. When things are going well, it's easy to have that rhythm, but when things aren't going well, you start pressing a little bit and you can go back to the way you've done it. So much of shooting is between your ears. You can have poor form, but if your follow-through is good, which is probably the most important thing, you can have a chance to put the ball in the hole. I think tweaking is the most I like to do on a guy that is playing. Jamari Traylor, we can work on his shot everyday and if he shoots it badly for the next week, who cares? These other guys, we can't afford to do that so we may tweak something minor, but that is the most I would do at this time of year."

Senior guard Conner Teahan

On Iowa State:

"It's going to be a tough game. It was a tough home game, and that place is, with Hilton Magic, is going to be a tough place to play. They are a good team, so we are going to have to come ready to play."

On the "Hilton Magic":

"Every year that I've been there, it just seems like no matter how many fans are in the stands, it gets exciting. I think we've had a couple games where we pulled away, but just a couple buckets or one run can really put the fans back in the game. You have to be able to limit that."

On what he took away from playing Iowa State at home already this season:

"We saw how difficult it is to guard them and how well they can stretch the floor. That's something that we're going to have to make sure we are able to address on Saturday. We have to be able to guard Royce White and keep him off the glass. He had 17 rebounds last game. We have to keep their shooters from getting open looks."

On what it takes to win on the road:

"It takes a tight huddle and having everyone on the same page out there understanding their responsibilities and taking care of them. For the most part, we have been pretty good at that. The second half against Texas wasn't as good. You have to understand that it's a long game and if a team goes on a run then you can get back from that."

On being two games ahead in the Big 12 Conference standings:

"It definitely takes a lot of pressure off. If we can keep taking care of business, especially on the road, that's really going to help us out. A two-game lead can be squandered quickly in this league, so you still have to go out there and take every game seriously. I think that is what we'll do on Saturday."

Senior guard Tyshawn Taylor

On KU's two game lead in the Big 12:

"Our toughest part of the conference schedule is about to come up. We haven't played our toughest part yet so it's good to be up, but it doesn't really matter right now. We just have to keep taking care of business, and keep working hard and getting better."

On Iowa State being the toughest Big 12 game so far:

"It probably is to date. I'm sure they're going to get tougher, but this is a tough game. Iowa State is a good team, and they played us really good at home. I'm sure it's going to be an even tougher game at their place. They have confidence going into this game because they played us so close last time. I think it's going to be a good atmosphere. I'm actually excited about this game. We had a long week off, and we're ready to play."

On playing in Hilton Coliseum:

"It's tough up there. We always have tough matchups against them. They're always a good team. They play hard at home. Just playing on the road in this conference is tough anywhere. They're going to have the crowd into it, and they're going to be excited about playing us."

On the importance of his three-point shooting ability:

"I was actually just talking to Elijah (Johnson) about this yesterday. My threes aren't that important because that's not really my game. I think it opens up my game when I'm making them. It's good that they're falling for me, but I'm at my best when I'm attacking. That's what I'm looking to do. If the threes fall, that's good, but if not, we just have to keep playing. We can't live and die by that."

Junior center Jeff Withey

On his game style changing when a smaller player guards him:

"I try playing the same no matter how somebody is guarding me. If someone is bigger, I usually try to be faster than them. If the guy is smaller, I just try making smarter shots or shooting right over the guy because I'm seven foot (tall)."

On the difficulty playing against smaller, faster players:

"I would say it's easier because they're usually smaller so it's easier to back them down. You can just turn right over and shoot right over them."

On Iowa State guarding him the same way as the first game:

"I think that they're going to do the same thing, and kind of focus on T-Rob (Thomas Robinson). I've been working on my jump shot. I missed three or four of them last game. I think they're going to play the same way that they did. We're going to have to hit shots."

On Iowa State's Royce White:

"He's a great player. It's going to be tough guarding him. He's quick, and he can handle the ball. I think I know what to expect more this time. It's hard to believe that somebody that tall and strong could be kind of like a point guard. The first time it kind of shocked me. Now I know, and we'll see what happens. I've been preparing with everybody on our practice squad and going against them, so I'll be ready."

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