Kansas Basketball: Bill Self Talks Colorado

Jamie Squire

Kansas Basketball: Bill Self Talks Colorado

Kansas head coach Bill Self

On Colorado leaving the Big 12.

"Well, you know, they left the league because they had to. I mean with the league potentially breaking up they had to jump and take what was available. So we certainly understand that. We primarily did it (scheduled Colorado) for our fans that live in Western Kansas or in the Denver area."

Describe your point guard situation right now. Are you happy with the way it's progressed?

"I don't know if I'm happy. It's not really Elijah (Johnson) as much as it is the pieces around Elijah. We haven't played with a true point guard here in a while. Sherron (Collins) is the closest thing to a true point that we've had and he was a scoring point. We had Mario (Chalmers) and Russell (Robinson) and whoever got it brought it. (Last year) With Ty (Tyshawn Taylor) or Elijah, whoever got it brought it, mainly Ty. Even with Sherron or Ty, whoever got it brought it. To me that's the best way to play. The way we play now is Elijah brings it. We just don't have anybody else yet to complement him the way we played in the past. And so that puts more pressure on him to make the pass, to finish plays and to be the primary handler. He's played okay. He hasn't played great yet. I think there's another big step he'll take. And he's done this in years past too. This is not anything unusual about him starting out maybe a little slow and then kind of getting his feet under him and then kicking it in. It's just different than the way it's looked in the past because he's the only handler we have. If we had somebody else we'd put back there and play two guards at once and everybody would be talking about how good our point guard play is."

Is Elijah still trying to figure out how to be - being a handler and scorer at the same time?

"I would say yes. He's not as aggressive trying to score the ball because he's trying to get everybody into offense. I think that's going to come. I really do. I think that's going to come but the biggest thing with him is I could be wrong. He's either shot seven or nine free throws so far this year. And a guy that handles it that much has got to get fouled. You looked around the country at point guards, in late game situations, they're shooting six or eight a game, and he's shooting one a game basically. So we got to improve in that area."

On the offense.

"Once we initiate offense, all the positions are totally interchangeable. When the offense breaks down, then you just go make a play. If you really study it, most teams don't score out of their offense. They score out of broken plays. They score out of loose balls. They score out of bad closeouts. They score out of I beat my man off the bounce, which can be designed in your offense but a lot of times it's not. Where it probably is more apparent than anything else is that out of plays that aren't really your offensive plays, we're not getting into the paint and forcing as much help as what we have in the past."

Are you going to Tad (Boyle) at all about what life's been like in the Pac-12. What's your perception now that it's been formed?

"I've talked to Tad. I'll text him after games and that kind of stuff. I haven't asked him that question. I'd have to believe Tad's pretty happy. The guy grows up in Greely, Colorado, and has a chance to coach at his state school and he's got the thing turned in a big way. I mean he's got it turned and there's excitement and enthusiasm. They'll be better next year than they are this year. I would think Tad would be very happy with the direction the programs going. And he's a great guy."

Are practices going well?

"Practices are good, I mean they're good. We've been pretty competitive the last few days. I would say that we're probably not in a mode that we probably come to practice with the same intensity every day or the same focus or the same concentration that you should, but we're young too. I think the guys are trying pretty hard. I think they're doing pretty good."

"We played harder in practice than we do the games. That's what blows my mind. I haven't seen that. When you talk about diving on the floor for loose balls, we'll have a possession in practice, seven guys on the floor diving for a loose ball. And we'll go through a whole half and not have anybody dive. So it's kind of a weird deal. If we keep practicing the way we've been practicing, I know it's going to click and become a habit. It just hasn't quite clicked in yet."

Jeff's blocked shots to foul ratio (six fouls and forty-one blocked shots)...

"Yeah, that's pretty good. I've never heard of a big guy fouling that few of times. I don't know if he's not being aggressive or his timing's just uncanny but I think it's probably a combination of both. He can probably be a little bit more aggressive at times but his timing on blocking shots s unbelievable, just unbelievable. He has more blocked shots than all but thirteen teams in college basketball, which is just unbelievable to me."

What's a normal ratio for a shot blocker?

"I don't know. I've never studied that. Cole (Aldrich) is the best shot blocker we've had since I've been here. And I would say with Cole it would probably have to be one to three or something like that, because he fouled. I remember taking Cole out a lot for fouling. But with Jeff (Withey), I mean that's, what is that one to seven? I mean that's unheard of that a guy could be that good at basically not putting himself in situations where it hurts the team from a foul perspective. I talk all the time about, hey, you're going to give Jeff a second foul because he can't guard the ball or we're going to force help and it's going to put Jeff in a bad way. But so far he's been able to respond pretty well to that."

His rebounding average is pretty good too. Was there ever a time when his blocked shots affected his positioning or how he rebounded or...?

"Jeff's a pretty good rebounder. I think he can be better. From an offensive rebound standpoint he should be better at doing that than what he is but he's a pretty good defensive rebounder. He's had some possessions where he's hedging the ball screen or he's trying to attempt to block the shot and he's the only guy in there fighting for the rebound. That is one reason why I would almost hope that his numbers would go down a little bit, if that means that everybody else picks it up. Travis (Releford) hadn't rebounded the ball yet like he's capable of. I don't think that Jamari (Traylor) and Perry (Ellis) have either. We got three really good rebounders out there that haven't, at least numbers-wise, done enough maybe to take some pressure off of Jeff."

With a guy like Jeff can you coach defense any different?

"You can make a mistake and get beat. This is where it's frustrating for me, you can pressure, really pressure, and get after people and get beat, but because they have to go so hard to beat you or because they feel rushed and put a shot blocker like Jeff more into play. Okay, and then that's the first shot. That's the first pass to your fast break. But what we do - we're not pressuring him and we're getting beat. To me it's like guys are sizing us up and being able to survey the situation as opposed to us making him feel rushed. And we got to better job of making him feel rushed because Jeff will block more shots if we get to that point. I do think you can pressure more when you got a shot blocker behind you."

On if anyone else is ready to assist at the point guard?

"You know you would think that maybe Rio (Adams) would have that potential more so than anybody but maybe we're looking at it wrong. Maybe we should play Rio but maybe take some pressure off of him and play Travis (Releford) at the point. There's some different things that we can do. We just haven't found the one guy that says, `hey, you're his backup.' We practiced Kevin Young back there, believe it or not, because he actually passes it pretty good; and it only lasted about 10 minutes but we've looked at some different things to try to get some guys back there. We haven't just got a comfort level with that yet. But you would think that Rio would be the guy that would have the best chance."

It's still pretty early, I bet you don't look at a lot of conference scores early in the season but do you think the Big 12 can be one of the stronger conferences?

"We could be one of the stronger (conferences). We haven't got off to a good start. You know what amazes me about leagues, if you don't play good in November and December then your league is going to have the appearance of not being very strong. If you play great in those leagues and have the appearance of being great even if it's not in January and February and March because your RPI from the league standpoint is determined, obviously in a nonconference because everybody splits once we get into the league play. So I think that we've gotten off to a rough start. We've contributed that. Losing Michigan State wasn't a great loss from a national perspective. Oklahoma State probably has the best win on the resume so far. Texas, obviously, struggled some and Maui but Texas doesn't have all their pieces together and they're ridiculously young and they are going to get better as we move forward. We've been a top three RPI league the last five years in a row. I think there's a chance we can get there but we're going to have to play really well from this point forward as far as a non-conference games because there's some big non-conference games left for some teams."

Travis (Releford) has always been known as a great defender, and obviously he could score more. What does that scoring add to the team in general?

"I think Travis (Releford) should be penciled is as double finger score but it's certainly a boost when he makes a shot, no question. He can become a better defender and he'll be the first to tell you that. There's a lot of ways that Travis can help a team win. And he needs to become, not a good lock down defender but a great lock down defender for us. Ben (McLemore) is going to be a good defender but Ben's still trying to figure it out. Travis has it figured out. He's just got to go do it consistently."

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