What do you hope to take away from this first exhibition game? What are your priorities?
"I really haven't thought about it at all until today, be real candid with you. They (Emporia State played Tulsa the other night and I think Danny (Manning) won by 11 if I'm not mistaken, but I like to see how our guys react guarding different actions. I like to see how they react to the scouting report, because we'll have at least a little scouting report, because we're so young everything is going to be new. I'd like to see how Ben (McLemore), Jamari (Traylor), Perry (Ellis) and Andrew (White) and other freshmen react under the
lightsfor the first time. It is one thing to get after each other in practice, but I'd like to see us get after somebody to see what that's like. We only scrimmaged once and that's not a good dealusually going into your first game and you only had one scrimmage and that one was cut short. So just to kind of see how they react in scrimmage type situations or game type situations."
Last year Thomas (Robinson) and Tyshawn (Taylor) carried a majority of the load I think for most of the season. Now you've got four seniors and really a bunch of young guys. Do you like the mix or the blend of your team?
"I've got to say yes, because if I say no then I'm being negative. I mean it's the hand we've been dealt, but I like the hand. It's a good hand and there are a lot of people that would like to have our hand. I like having talented young kids with
good leadership, that's a pretty good combination and we do have those two things without question."
How much do you like the scrimmage by this point and the reason you haven't scrimmaged so much is just getting guys acclimated?
"We've gone a little slower. We scrimmage some in practice every day. I'm talk about with officials, so probably going a little slower than what maybe I thought we would be going and the other thing is, the games are happening sooner. I mean, we're in October still. I can't remember the last time or if we've ever played a game or scrimmage game in October. So it's not that we're off schedule; it's just everything has kind of been sped up I would say."
I think you called it a weird dynamic to this team, have you looked...is this the first time you've had that many freshmen and seniors and what are the challenges of the weird dynamic?
"I haven't looked back, but I can't remember having a situation like this. But it's a good situation. If you're going to have freshman you might as well have some old guys that can teach them and we've got that. Our seniors aren't seniors, three of them are fifth-year seniors, so we're experienced in that area. The thing about our freshmen...freshmen that are a little bit unique to Kansas is that, most freshmen that we've depended on to play immediately, have been guys that come from really exposed situations where they've played in state championships and they've played big time on the AAU circuit and they've been in games before and that kind of stuff. Perry's (Ellis) won state championships, but Perry really hasn't been exposed as a lot of other good players out there have been exposed and Ben hasn't been exposed at all and Jamari doesn't know anything as far as how to react in the lights and that kind of stuff and the same with Andrew."
"We've got a good freshmen class, but they're kind of unheralded and lack the star power. When we had Mario (Chalmers) and Julian (Wright) and Brandon (Rush), they came here, because they knew they would've come here if they didn't think they could start as freshmen and these guys just want to be part of the team and fit in. We have to kind of amp it up with them to get them to understand that their performance and their roles are such that, we're not going to be real good unless you're real aggressive and we have to improve in that area."
What could Jamari (Traylor) show you over the next week or two with some open minutes at the core spoke, what do you want to see from him?
"Well, Jamari's going to start tomorrow barring any unforeseen things happening. He's played the hardest and in the last week he's played the best of the other guys, so he's going to start tomorrow and then Perry will be our first guy off the bench. But what I want to see Jamari do is be able to do it in the game and not just practice. There's no pressure in practice. If you miss a shot it's no big deal. That kind of situation...he's never been in a game. Jamari's just played one year of basketball really ever and so we talk about kids from overseas coming over and only been playing two or three years. He's played less than those kids. And so I just want to see how he reacts to a game type situation as much as anything."
You said this team has pretty good defensive potential. What do you see that leads you to thinking on that?
"I always thought it's easier to get guys to guard than it is to score. So that should be our job to get them to guard. Ben's not yet, but he should be, he will be. Travis should be as good a defender is there is. Elijah's solid, Jeff's as good a rim protector as there is in the country and at the four spot, I know Thomas (Robinson) put up some big numbers, but he did guard the other teams worst player every game to, so there were reasons for that. And so I think...because we needed him for offense, but I think that there's going to be a situation through committee, there is no reason why Jamari and Perry and Kevin (Young) can give us more things and Justin. There's no reason why we can't have a presence defensively as well and Rio Adams should be a great defender in time. He doesn't know what he's doing yet, but he'll be a great defender in time, because he's so long."
When you mention being aggressive, were you talking more on the offense end, your defensive end...
"Everything. Mindset, mindset like, this is my deal. I asked Travis, has anybody told you that hey, don't get hurt, because if you get hurt you may not get your spot back. Nobody's told Travis that. Nobody's told or walked up to Elijah and said ‘hey, I know you're the guy now, but don't sleep on me.' We don't have that yet and we have nice kids and nice kids are great, but we certainly need that aggressiveness, that mindset that ‘hey, wake up every morning and I'm going to do whatever to take his spot, so just don't stub your toe.' And I don't say that to be mean or belligerent or anything like that, but that's good for the old guys. The old guys want that. So that is what I'm talking about, just that attitude to blend in. We don't need blenders. We need guys to take charge. So that's what I mean by that, the whole thing from an aggressive standpoint from a mindset."
Is Perry one of those guys whose tough to break of the habit of just blending in?
"I don't know that he's tough to break; I just think they're young, we're just young. Hey, we're ranked preseason seven, which we don't deserve to be and the only reason we are is because of past good players. So we're ranked preseason seven and Ellis and Traylor and McLemore and White have to keep us there and they have never made a basket. The seniors have to do their job. The seniors have to play well and drag them along, but at some point and time the lights have to click on and say hey, I belong. This is my deal and it just hasn't quite done that yet."
Coach, any update on Zach (Peters)?
"Apparently (he is) doing better with exercises and all that stuff but I asked him the other the day if he could shoot and he said it hurts to bad. So I don't see any immediate resolution on that at all. He gets his arm in a certain position and it still bothers him a lot."
With Jamari, what's the biggest thing he's doing in practice?
"Competing hard, playing to his athletic ability. I've said that a lot. I'd like to have our team play to their athletic ability. This team's fairly athletic, so playing to their athletic ability will definitely show up on the defensive end as much as anything in rebounding, because he is relentless now, he'll go after the ball."
"Jamari guarded Thomas every possession and Ben guarded Tyshawn every possession. Tyshawn loved it, because he would actually take it personal if Ben made him look bad and Thomas loved it because Jamari did make him look bad some. And if they played four days, Jamari might get the best out of him one out of four and then the other three Thomas let him know that he was still not quite there yet. But that's good for him and we did see him as a competitor last year without question."
How big is the separation between Ben and the other guys that might see some time at that point spot?
"I'd say it's pretty large. The first perimeter guy off the bench will be Andrew White and Naadir (Tharpe) could be to, but Andrew would be the first guy. And Ben and Travis has separated themselves pretty good."
You think have a lot more natural scorers on this team than last year, because they relied on Tyshawn and Thomas...guys that can put the ball in the hole?
"I'd say last year in all honesty, you may think I'm crazy, Thomas, Ty were our only two natural scorers, but Elijah was capable of getting 20 any night. Jeff got 25 and Conner can make five threes in a game and Travis was Big 12 Player of the Week and had 26 or whatever. Without question our best scorers on the team are the guys that I just mentioned and that's not good, because they were the third, fourth, fifth and sixth best scorers last year. So we have more guys that can get the ball in the basket, but more guys doesn't necessarily equate to 35 a game, so really maybe more balance than last year. I don't know if we have more scoring punch than last year. We might before it's all said and done."
Elijah's hit some big shots in his career obviously, but when you recruited him did you feel he had that capability of hitting the big shots?
"Well, yeah. I didn't recruit (him) because I thought he'd make big shots, I thought he'd be about as good an all-around guard as there was. He's not a percentage shooter yet but there's no reason why he can't shoot 40 (percent) from three. And he's strong and he can slide and he's got bounce and he's got vision. He may not be a jack of all trades...or he's kind of a jack of all trades master of none kind of guy as a point guard. They're will be guys that are faster and maybe guys that have better vision and maybe guys that shoot it better and maybe guys who jump a little higher and maybe this or that, but I don't know if there's very many out there when you add it all together that do all the things combined better. He's very important to us obviously."
Does he (Elijah) need to get to the free throw line more this year?
"Yeah, yeah, yeah, but he will he will because he'll be more aggressive. He won't shoot as many as Tyshawn probably did last year, but he needs to shoot four or five free throws a game without question."
How well is the team taking care of the ball at practice turnover this year?
"We have some issues. We've got some turnover issues without question and we'll continue to have those issues for a period of time but it is getting gradually better."
On Cole Aldrich going to Houston?
"He said it was a good opportunity for him. He's got the best attitude. If they would have traded him to Toronto, ‘hey this is the perfect spot.' He's the best but he needs to get a new contract and this is a very important year. He needs to get on the floor in order to get that and he really believes this is a good move for him. So he thinks he'll have more opportunities there. He had a pretty good preseason. He had a couple of double-doubles and did some things. Oklahoma City's pretty loaded up front. He can't beat those guys out right now, so you might as well go somewhere where you can play."
On the Nov. 1 Assist Foundation function (assistyouth.org):
"One other thing, if you guys would give us a plug on this and I know some of you already have them and we appreciate that, but Thursday we're having our deal out of Crown (Toyota) Pavilion. It's the "Courtside View" with (Jay) Bilas and (Fran) Fraschilla and (Mike) DeCourcy and (Blair) Kerkhoff and myself. It starts at 6:00 (p.m.) and we have 10 restaurants and beverages. We'll have a cocktail hour from 6-7 and then they actually discussion will start at seven. It's going to be a great event and we're anticipating about 400. We think it'll be a pretty good turnout but there's still plenty of tickets available and we can take as many as 500."