With the 2013-14 exhibition season only a day away, Kansas men's basketball coach Bill Self met with the media Monday afternoon for his first press conference of the year. No. 6 Kansas is slated to host Pittsburg State in an exhibition contest inside historic Allen Fieldhouse, Tuesday, Oct. 29, at 7 p.m.
Kansas Head Coach Bill Self
Q. Andrew Wiggins, how would you assess his progression over the last month or five, six weeks?
COACH SELF: I think he's done really well. He's starting to feel -- well, every day he's a little bit more comfortable, and Andrew, if you know him, he's a very conscientious kid and a pleaser, so he wants to please and not screw up. So it's hard to play that way if you don't really understand yet.
But he's figuring it out fast. He's been really good, and I'm excited because every day he just shows you a little bit more where he can potentially get to. He's pretty exciting to watch.
Q. You always read about how high Wiggins' ceiling could be. How far advanced could he be, I guess, through the exhibition into the season? How much better of a player? Could you let us know where he is and where he could be this year?
COACH SELF: Well, he's obviously a much better player than he was in June and July. He understands more about what we're trying to do. He's always been a guy that could turn it on whenever he wanted to, basically, and he's learned how to be more consistent with that.
But you're right, his ceiling is ridiculously high. Can he get against it this year? I doubt it. He's one of those guys at age 22, he'll be so much better than he is now or even than he will be at age 20 through strength, through a lot of different things.
But the most impressive thing about him, from a basketball standpoint, is he can do some things athletically that nobody else can. His first step and his second jump are as quick as I've ever been around. I think when he learns how to play to his athletic ability consistently, which he's really getting better at, I think you'll start seeing where he can go even as quickly as this year because his ceiling is very high.
Q. With so much young talent on this roster, do you anticipate maybe redshirting anyone this season?
COACH SELF: We could. We can play our freshmen, though, in the exhibition games and decide after the exhibition games if we'll redshirt. Just FYI, Wiggins will not redshirt, in case you were worried about that.
But we do have some good freshmen, and they need to figure it out, all of them. So hopefully we can get everybody a little bit of a chance to play in exhibitions. But also the guys we feel like will be playing the majority of the minutes are so young, they need to play, too, so it's not going to be equal opportunity by any stretch.
I thought initially we'd redshirt at least one, and I'm not even sure about that right now. I really don't have a feel. Hopefully the exhibition games will give us a better feel of that.
Q. How much has Tarik Black helped Joel Embiid get better in practice?
COACH SELF: Well, Tarik is the most mature kid on our team by far, and if you visit with him, you know that. He's helped all our guys, but primarily the bigs. And the big that's probably benefitted the most is Joel. He wants Joel to be good, and Joel is going to be good. When Joel gets really good, they're going to split some time, there's no question about that.
But he knows that's best for our team. I've said this before, but every time Joel hits him, he lets him know, 'hey, that's what you need to be doing; good job.' I don't know if Joel says that to Tarik when Tarik hits him, but certainly Tarik likes that, to see a guy compete against him like that.
Q. Did you like getting to start practice earlier?
COACH SELF: Yeah, starting practice earlier was good. But I don't know if we're any further along from getting stuff in as what we would be this time if we'd started practice Oct. 15 to be honest. We've taken more time to do meat-and-potato stuff, nuts and bolts of who we are and what we like to do, but we went through our list of everything we've got to get in before we play our first game, and I don't see how we can get it all in. But it's that way every year. Every year all coaches worry about the unknown. Until you start playing people and know what to expect from people, you don't really practice -- you know specifically what to practice against, but right now you try to practice everything, and we certainly haven't got everything in.
Q. Are these two exhibition games maybe a little more important than in years past? Do you go into them with any sort of different mindset with your young guys, what you want to get out of it?
COACH SELF: They may be a little bit more important. I hadn't thought of it like that, but it is different in that I'm not trying to make sure certain guys get so many minutes. I want to see how guys react in different situations, and (Wayne) Selden and Joel and Tarik and obviously Andrew and Andrew White III and Jamari (Traylor), even Perry (Ellis) and Naadir (Tharpe), those guys need to get some ample minutes because they haven't played that much. And if you do that, you've still got to get -- obviously Landen (Lucas) hasn't played at all. That still leaves out Conner (Frankamp) and Brannen (Greene) that need to get minutes.
It's probably not going to be an everybody is going to play 17 minutes type deal, but I'll be excited to see how different guys react in different situations.
Q. Are you a different guy in practice? Do you have to coach differently when you have so many youngsters?
COACH SELF: You know what, I probably -- we probably should, but I probably don't. I don't think that I've been totally impatient, but I could probably be a lot more patient than what I've been. Certainly I don't think that you should back off of them at all. I think if you back off of young kids, they'll think that's how it is. I'd rather go too hard and then back off rather than go not hard enough and then try to tough it up.
I think that I've been on the guys pretty good, not in a verbal assault, I'm not saying that, but in a demanding way. And hopefully they'll figure out that there's only one way we do things, only one way we play and only one pace we play at and one toughness level we play. From the looks of things so far, we're not even close to understanding that. So I don't see us backing off of those guys at all, regardless of age.
Q. Can you talk about how Andrew White has progressed?
COACH SELF: Oh, yeah, he's emerged as one of our best performers, without question, in practice. He's always shot it good, but he's more confident shooting it now. He's one of our better rebounders, he's one of our better runners in transition and he just tries so darned hard all the time. Yeah, Andrew White has put him in position to certainly be part of our rotation.
Q. From what you've seen so far, can you make any comparisons with your young 2005-06 team?
COACH SELF: No. You know what, I think we're better. That team couldn't get the ball across half court in Maui, so don't think that team was really good, because we weren't. But when you stop and think about it, it's a little - Julian (Wright) couldn't play until after Christmas to really help us; Mario (Chalmers) wasn't playing until after Christmas to really help us; Micah (Downs) hardly ever played; and then Brandon Rush was the one guy that played. You stop and think about it, we're asking these freshmen to do it from day one.
I think we may be a little bit further along than that group, but at the end, by January, that group was terrific, so I hope that this group can get to the point that group did by January because they were really good by then.
Q. Does Wiggins have that killer instinct, and how important is that to the team as a whole? Isn't it a fine line between aggression and staying within the team concept?
COACH SELF: I think it is until you get comfortable. Like everybody runs an offense, but your offense, when you run it, is still beat your man every chance you can. You still play take them, within what you run, and the whole deal is a lot of people run offense just to run offense as opposed to running offense to score. So every time you catch it you have an opportunity to score, and even if it's just put it down one bounce to force help, which the next pass is open, which allows something on the weak side -- and those are the things that young kids, it takes a while to figure out.
So usually when you tell young kids to be aggressive, they're thinking, well, he wants me to go score, whereas, yeah, I do, but you don't have to score with three guys hanging on you. That's the kind of stuff that we need to get good at is understanding how you're aggressive just to get the ball to the second and third side. So then something can happen, as opposed to just -- he said be aggressive, so I'm supposed to shoot it, and I think all young kids go through that.
Q. A lot of people came out for Late Night in the Phog and you had a big showing for the Saturday morning practice. How excited are you to play your first game in front of the home crowd?
COACH SELF: We're all excited to play in front of the home crowd. The crowd that will come to the game, for the most part, will be a different crowd than what we've seen so far, that's been out to watch us. Yeah, we're always excited, and I think there's certainly anticipation, and hopefully we'll have a good crowd tomorrow night. We tell our players all along that they go through some stuff, we put them through some stuff, and they can't see how much fun it is until they actually get a chance to experience a live setting. They'll know now why they came to school here, after being a part of an atmosphere like we'll have, even for an exhibition game.
Q. In that sense, you've seen guys that have emerged as leaders or whatever, but are you still looking forward to seeing how Tarik and Perry and all them play in a team setting like tomorrow night, for example?
COACH SELF: Yeah, that's what I'm talking about. Practice is different. Even when (Greg) Gurley played at KU, he got a lot of practice time because they really had to play 10 at a time, so that was the only reason he got a lot of practice time because they had to play 10 at a time. So now everybody thinks they're playing. The second team or whoever, they think they're getting a lot of burn because they're always out there in practice. Now you eliminate 50 percent of that, and now the guys that are getting the majority of the minutes are now playing 30, and so now you've got -- well, if the five starters play 30, which they won't, that leaves 50 minutes for the other eight guys on your team that need to get in the game. That's where it's a little bit different.
But yeah, I'm excited to see how they do play together and if guys can handle roles coming off the bench as far as the energy guy, the short-burst guy, that change-of-pace guy, something like that.
For instance, Frank Mason; you're playing an entire practice, a two-and-a-half-hour practice, you play at a pretty high speed, but your body does wear down over time. But Frank is going to play two or three or four minutes at a time. He should change the pace every time he comes in the game, so he should be a little bit different player in games than what we see in practice because his energy level and stuff should be different. I'm excited to see how all that plays out.
Q. How have the guys done with the new rules?
COACH SELF: Knock on wood, we've actually done pretty good, but I was talking to somebody the other day that played a Division II game which there were 71 fouls called in a game, 71. So that will be bad, bad, bad ball. But 71, that means if each team plays 10, that's a lot of fouls. That's three and a half fouls per player each team playing 10.
I think that it'll be different, but I hope it's not something that we -- hopefully we've emphasized it enough where our guys are a little bit more used to it. But certainly it's a common thing to do. You just put your hands on somebody. We try to correct it every time they do it. But the scrimmages so far with officials hasn't been a big deal because maybe we don't get close enough to guard anybody. But we haven't done a lot of fouling in the scrimmages so far.
Q. With the probable starting five, have those five guys kind of clearly separated themselves and made that an easy choice?
COACH SELF: No, not really. Andrew (Wiggins) can start. Andrew White III can start, and Joel (Embiid) has played well enough to start. Jamari (Traylor) some days is one of our best bigs. I would say those eight have separated themselves, not really the five, but those eight probably have thus far.
Q. Can you talk again about the influx of these rules, how it affects defense, how it affects what you want to do?
COACH SELF: Well, you know, the whole thing is as our basketball powers, and obviously coaches, too, there's a concern going on because the scoring is going down, and if the scoring goes down then the entertainment value and the good play obviously goes down, as well. So the NBA came up several years ago to basically put a note, protect the ball. The ball is the hardest thing to guard because kids are so good with the ball, but basically say you have to guard a certain way, and if you touch, it's a foul, and all that stuff.
And the way we've always played in the past is if you're going to guard a ball screen, we usually try to go over. Well, the only way you can go over is to jam the dribbler. Now, if you jam the dribbler, it's a foul. So you've got to kind of adjust maybe how you think about it.
Early in the season the teams that have the most success will be the ones that are the most disciplined, not the ones that adjust to the officiating. Let's not think like that, because it's not the officiating that's calling it different, the officials are calling it by rule now. It's not an emphasis, it's a rule. So that obviously will -- in people's mind will-up scoring because you're going to have guys that can go with the ball where they need to go, which isn't going to up scoring. What we're going to do, we're going to have more scoring because we're going to shoot more free throws, and I don't think that makes for a better game because if you want a better game then get free flow three or four possessions. Well, there's not going to be three or four possessions of free flow, they're going to blow the whistle every possession so therefore it's going to be a fragmented game, and until kids get used to that, I think it could be something that will be -- give the appearance of grind-it-out type games.
But by January hopefully everybody will have adjusted. Players will have adjusted, coaches will have adjusted. Everybody is saying because of the rule change with the no-contact on the perimeter, which totally blows my mind, you should be able to play how you want to play, and if we're going to have rules then just call it. But everybody, the officials that have come in and talked to us say they're going to blow it every time, you're going to foul your whole team out, this, this and that. And so I think you're going to see a lot of teams play zone or at least have a zone in as part of their secondary package, just to try to create a few minutes a game where you can play out of foul trouble.
If you're an offensive player, drive it every time. Just drive it. The guy puts his hands on you, you shoot two free throws or a one-and-one. That's what is going to happen. The teams that can guard the ball are going to be the ones that probably separate themselves because it's going to be hard to guard the ball because the rules won't allow it.
Q. There's a lot of focus on guarding the ball, but what about away from the ball?
COACH SELF: I think away from the ball, yeah, I think it's still going to be the same. I don't understand how you can have no contact. I don't understand that. And scoring will go up, and everybody thinks we've accomplished what we wanted to accomplish, but I'm not sure that's true. If they don't eliminate the rough play in the post -- and hopefully the block charge rule is a good rule. Now if you guys understand the rule, it used to be if the secondary defender is set before the offensive player leaves the floor, obviously it's a charge. Now it's as soon as the offensive player picks the ball up to shoot it. So you could be picking it up before you even plant, so obviously there will be far less charges taken in college basketball. There's going to be more attempts to block shots, which is the way to make the game better. So I'm happy about that.
I still think you want to get more scoring, shorten the clock and do some things differently. But we're going to definitely have more scoring because there are going to be more free throws.
Q. More technicals?
COACH SELF: More technicals? I wouldn't think so, at least not from this perspective. I don't think I'll ever go crazy. But it will be interesting, though; you call it one way the first 30 minutes in a game point, what are you going to do when two top-5 teams or two top-10 teams are playing each other in the last minute? That'll be different.
Q. You compared it to the NBA. Does that change offensively with you or isolation?
COACH SELF: That's what I'm saying. Yeah, you try and create more angles to drive and things like that. So absolutely, that could definitely impact your offensive strategy for sure.
Q. After losing your best shot blocker, maybe the best shot blocker in the whole country last year (Jeff Withey), where is this team defensively and how good do you think they can be by season's end?
COACH SELF: I think we can be terrific defensively. Well, not now; we don't guard anybody now like we should. We don't protect the rim as well and we don't rebound the ball as well as some teams. But I was so excited for this team because we actually have wings that can run through passes, which leads to offense, which leads to highlight plays. I'm so excited for that. But in order to do that, you've got to put heat on the ball. Well, now it's hard to put heat on the ball because you can't pressure because of touch. I don't know if we'll be impacted as positively from our ability to run through passes as what we would have been last year with the rules being a little bit different.
Q. You've dealt with things a lot, but I'm going to ask again, with Wiggins and the Sports Illustrated cover and GQ and different magazines, have you tried your best to temper the hype? If so, why?
COACH SELF: You know what, I probably haven't done a great job because if I wanted to temper it, he couldn't be in GQ and he couldn't be on SI and he couldn't be on the cover of ESPN the Magazine, he couldn't do certain things. Football coaches, they don't even sometimes let freshmen talk until their season is over. I've never been a guy like that. He needs to learn because he's going to be experiencing this whenever he moves on to another level.
I don't know if we've done a good job, but I do think from this point forward, I don't think he needs to do any more media. You guys will be upset with me. I don't see why he needs to -- he can't go anywhere without getting bombarded. It's wearing him down. So I think that we should, from this point forward, remove as much of that as possible. If he plays good in a game, or when he plays good in a game, sure, he can do some post-game stuff, but I don't understand why everybody wants to get a piece of him. We've already done that.
So protecting him from wearing him out is probably what we're trying to do. But all the great players deal with crap and all the great players deal with expectations and deal with time demands and all that stuff. He's doing that at an earlier age, obviously, than most, but it's also preparation, too. He can't live up to the hype. It's impossible. They're comparing him to Wilt Chamberlain, and Chamberlain is the most dominant player that's ever played the game. The kid is 18 years old and he's never made a college basket, but we're going to compare him to Chamberlain? That's impossible. But could he be a great one? Absolutely. Should we expect him to be a great one? Yes, we should.
But we also need to understand that it took Derrick Rose a little time to get into a flow. It's taken some kids some time to get in some flow. I'm hoping it doesn't with him, but if it does, it's certainly not in any way, shape or form a downer or an indication of who he's going to be as a player.
The kid is operating under some pressure right now, and he's handled it beautifully. But I do feel for him, and I've never felt for players in regards to things like that. But I do feel for him because he hasn't asked for one bit of it. Still, the less he wants it, the more he gets, and that's kind of because of the way he's handled everything. He's handled everything like a pro.