Yesterday Bill Self and the 2011-2012 edition of the Kansas Jayhawks met with the media at Allen Fieldhouse just one day before kicking off practice with "Late Night in the Phog". Bill Self talked about the new faces, being preseason #1 in the conference and defense.
Head Coach Bill Self
On if he is surprised they are picked preseason number one in the conference:
"Yeah, I'm surprised. I always say that the coaches know more than the media but I'm not sure that's the case in our league right now. Last year we had the twins and (Brady) Morningstar, Tyrel Reed and (Josh) Selby and I think the coaches picked us third. Well now, we don't have any of those guys, but that doesn't bother me. We've kind of gone into the season with tempered expectations to be honest with you and I've tried to do that with our fans a little bit. I think it's fine and we're kind of used to being in the situation where people expect us to be decent and we won't shy away from that."
On if defense is the key to a really good team:
"I looked up something the other day; I think in the last seven years the worst team we've had defensively in America was ranked 11th, and that was last year. We have to be not good, but great defensively and if we are able to accomplish that then that's going to be something that will give us a chance to have a really good season. If we're not great defensively then I don't see that we'll have the fire power to outscore opponents night in and night out. I think we have the potential to be very good defensively."
On who will fill the defensive role this year:
"I think Tyshawn (Taylor) can be as good as any guard defensively and Travis (Releford) has the potential to be as good a wing guard that we have in our league. Those two are going to have to play at that level to give us the best chance at winning this season."
On what makes Travis Releford equipped to be a great defender:
"There are a lot of things but one is he's a great athlete. He's strong, he can slide and he's a good anticipator. He's been around long enough that he gets certain things. The biggest thing is I think he's tough. People say all the time that it takes talent to play offense but anybody can play defense and that's not necessarily true. Travis is one of those guys that has the talent to be a really good defender and potentially a great defender."
On what he thinks the season will be like without Nebraska and Colorado:
"No disrespect to those schools but I don't think anyone in our league is going to talk about Nebraska or Colorado moving forward. It's not because we're mad but it's just because I don't think you deal with the ‘what ifs' or ‘I thinks.' It's a whole different ball game now.
Both coaches are really good friends of mine but we don't look at our league race and say it's going to be much different because two schools aren't in it. We're going to look at our league race and say it's probably the most competitive that it's ever been because we're playing everybody twice. I think our conference is tougher now because it's a round robin and it doesn't have anything to do with Nebraska and Colorado, it's just the way the new setup is.
I know Texas A&M is going to be good and personally I picked Baylor to finish first in league and I think I picked A&M, too. What I picked and what anyone else picked this time of year doesn't mean anything."
Senior Guard Tyshawn Taylor
On the newcomers:
"They've all been working hard so far. They all came in with great attitudes and ready to play. They understand the situation that a lot of them are going to have to play, so I think they've all been coming in and working hard. We're ready to see what they can do."
On being picked preseason co-champion with Texas A&M by the league coaches:
"I didn't actually see that, but Coach (Bill Self) mentioned it in the locker room. That's pretty cool. I think we were all actually surprised. I mean, it's a compliment so we're excited about it. We're going to take that and run with it."
On what he learned from Sherron Collins and the Morris twins about being a leader:
"I definitely had good leaders in the past. I've learned and taken bits and pieces from some really great players. You just have to be vocal and learn how to talk to people; that's big. You can't just scream at everybody and get mad when things aren't right. You have to talk to people, and you have to be able to lead by example. It's something that I've been trying to do a lot. I think I have to come out here and work hard everyday. If I do that, they're going to watch me and see that."
Junior Forward Thomas Robinson
On the being in the spotlight this season and how he has prepared for it:
"I wouldn't say it's my time in the spotlight. It's my turn to step up and produce more for my team. I think you put it in your mind that you want to get better. If you want to get better, then playing should be the easy part. I just instilled it in my mind that I wanted to be a better player this year. By me being a better player, then taking on the role of being the leader of this team should be no problem."
On the coaches picking Kansas to win the Big 12 in a tie with Texas A&M:
"It's just talk; we still have to play. It's a good thing to know that people think about us when it comes to stuff like that. At the same time, it's the preseason. Nobody has touched the floor yet, so it's all expectations. We still have to play."
On if he will need to pace his energy level when he plays more minutes:
"I (need to) get in better shape than I ever was before. At the same time, it's mental. I'm going to play more, but I know that once I'm into the game, I'm into the game. How long I'm out there is not going to affect me. I'm a competitor. I want to win. No matter how long I'm out there, I want to win. To be winning, you can't have any time to think about being tired, so that's not going to be a factor."
Senior Guard Jordan Juenemann
On being picked to win the Big 12 title in a tie with Texas A&M:
"I'm surprised, but with returners like Tyshawn (Taylor), Elijah (Johnson) and our coaching staff, you can't rule us out. It doesn't mean anything. All that matters is wins and losses at the end, and it's a long time until March when the conference wraps up. I'm excited about (conference play). It's a new look for the Big 12. We travel to every place, so it's an exciting new change."
On if this team will need more time to develop than recent KU teams:
"It's wonderful that we have Tyshawn as our backbone. He's played the most college minutes of anybody. With that, (we should have) great leadership. He can score whenever he wants to. We might plateau at a different time (compared to previous teams). We'll have to see. We have a tough non-conference schedule, and it's going to be exciting. We're all looking forward to it. We know that people are going to be expecting to beat us, but we're going to be prepared."
On if he will is looking forward to the trip to Hawaii for the Maui Invitational:
"I am. It's going to be my first time there. It will be nice to have all of the family down there over Thanksgiving break. It will be an exciting trip. Growing up, I watched the Maui tournament all the time, so it's cool (that I will get to play in it)."
Freshman forward Jamari Traylor
On what he thinks his role will be on the team this year:
"I know I'm going to be a hustle guy. I'm going to work hard. I'm a hard-nosed guy and a high-energy guy. I won't have a lot of pressure on me, so I'm going to play off of everybody else."
On if he models his game after any past KU players:
"I don't really compare myself to anybody. I just try to be Jamari."
On who has stood out in pick-up games so far:
"I watch Thomas (Robinson) a lot. I see myself as a player like him. I also watch the Morris twins (Marcus and Markieff Morris) because they have been in town a lot. I try to pick up a little something from them. The thing they tell me is to just take my time. They tell me that Coach (Danny) Manning is going to be an awesome coach to help me work on my skills and everything. They tell me not to rush anything and everything will just come to me."
Junior center Jeff Withey
On if he feels pressure coming into this season:
"It's more excitement. I think I'm ready for it. I've been sitting for two years, so I think now is the time to really step into my element and just play."
On his favorite moment as a player so far:
"When I started against Ohio was probably the best moment at KU. Being able to start is a big deal, especially at a place like Kansas. That was probably my favorite memory so far. It was a fun time."
On if he hopes to start this season:
"That's the goal. I don't know what's going to happen because it's up to the coaches. It's a definite goal for me, though. It's all about practice. If you do what (Head) Coach (Bill Self) wants you to do in practice, you'll play. It's the little things like running up and down the court and not taking plays off. That's what I think Coach is looking for."
Junior guard Elijah Johnson
On his relationship with Tyshawn Taylor:
"We can feed off of each other. We spent a lot of time together over the summer and we played a lot together. We learned a lot about each other. I learned what he liked to do on the court and I know how he loves to be on the court. I know how he likes to catch the ball and where he likes to drive. Just knowing that makes it easier to play with him and vice versa. We always wanted to play together since I was in high school. We've talked about it and I felt like we'd be a good combination, so we're just running off of that and trying to keep up the pace."
On if he and Taylor are similar on the court:
"We're similar in a lot of ways, which is another reason it makes it so easy for us. When I think about where I would be at the end of a move, that's usually where he is. It's sort of like the twins last year."
On the youth of this team:
"I look at it every day when we go in the locker room. Our freshman class and the newcomers will catch on fast enough because they have no choice. The Morris twins and Tyshawn had to learn fast the year they came in because they had no choice. I doubt Coach Self will let youth be the reason we slow down this year."
Sophomore forward Justin Wesley
On his role for the team:
"Just to be the athlete that I am, just being an extra possessions rebounder. Roles change over time but for right now I'm just focusing on playing hard and being the athlete that I am."
On talking to his brother (Keith Langford):
"I talk to him about three or four times a week. He just tells me to keep working hard, never stop and keep trying to get better by always being in the gym."
On how excited he is to play this year:
"There really aren't any words. Staying away from the game and not being able to play for a year was tough. It went by fast but at the same time I wanted to play every game and get a chance to go out and show my skills."
On being picked with Texas A&M to win the conference:
"It's a compliment to be ranked that high in preseason rankings, but we don't look at it or put too much thought into it. Every day we have to work hard and have no wasted days. Our emphasis is on how we finish and not paying attention to the rankings."
Freshman guard Merv Lindsay
On what his experience at Kansas has been so far:
"It's been great. The Legends of the Phog game was my first experience because I have never been to Late Night or to a game. I've been to a Kansas game but it was at UCLA, so this is my first Allen Fieldhouse experience. It's been crazy; the fans were so loud at the Legends game doing the alma mater and the Rock Chalk Chant. Just to hear how loud it was, I'm pretty sure it's going to be louder when K-State or anybody else is playing here. I can't wait for Late Night tomorrow to see how loud it can really be, and I'm playing, so the nerves are already there."
On the process that led him to Kansas:
"It definitely came together fast. I was originally committed to Texas Tech in the spring. Once I de-committed there I went back on the AAU circuit. Next thing I knew, Coach (Kurtis) Townsend was calling me. It finally just got real because this is Kansas and now I'm here."
On what his summer has been like:
"My summer has been great just working with (Strength and Conditioning) Coach (Andrea) Hudy doing agility drills. I was kicking stuff over and falling all over the place at first but now I'm able to do it. I feel like I'm stronger and a lot better. She's definitely helped me a lot, and I've put on some weight."
On if the 2011-12 freshman class has something to prove this season:
"I definitely think we have something to prove because we have the underdog mentality. Kansas always gets players that some other people might not see, but they find the ‘diamonds in the rough' and pick them up. Some are in the NBA, and others are overseas, so I think our class should be pretty good."