Monday afternoon Bill Self held what will be a varying weekly press conference where he talked about the upcoming contest against Iona, last weeks win over Duke, the team as it stands today and the future with the Cliff Alexander recruiting win.
Q. How much do you use a game like that Duke game kind of as a barometer early on to see where your team is versus one of the other top teams in the country?
COACH SELF: Well, I think you can use it as a barometer because there's no question Duke will be a top-five team when it's all said and done. To think that we're able to play with a top-five team this early, with this many young kids, I think bodes well for the future, at least I hope it does.
But if teams are going to shoot 50 percent against us, we've got no chance. There's so many things that we've got to do to improve on, and I think we will. We've been fortunate, we've been exposed, but we've also won. And that's probably the best combination you can actually have.
Self touches on a pretty key point in this one when he talks about Duke shooting 50% from the field against Kansas in the win last week. This is pretty uncharacteristic of a Self led team and this was noted even earlier by someone here on the site as it related to the exhibition games. Self has always had teams that held opponents to a very low percentage. This allowed the Jayhawks to win the tough games when things aren't going well and to win games playing in different styles. Whether it be the new rules or the young players, this team will need to improve in that area if Self is ever going to be happy.
Q. What kind of role has Naadir (Tharpe) played in Frank's (Mason's) progress since you've been here?
COACH SELF: Naadir has played a huge role in Frank's progress. Naadir is one of Frank's biggest fans, and he has taken him under his wing and taught him a lot. Frank is an interesting guy because he's never played point guard before, and here we are playing him at point. He's been a guy that, hey, just go get your own shots. That's all he's ever known. So he's made some nice adjustments, and has really done a good job of trying to fit in. And Naadir has played a big role with that, just like Tarik (Black) has played a big role in helping Joel (Embiid), also.
It was talked about after the game and point guard play was definitely one of the pleasant surprises. Healthy competition is good, but it's also good that Tharpe is taking on a leadership role with this team and at his position. I think he's proving to be much more valuable than many ever thought he would, of course that's a story you could tell over and over during Bill Self's tenure. Interesting though that Frank Mason has never truly played point guard, I don't think that was ever really touched on significantly during his recruitment or signing.
Q. What kind of problems does Iona's offense pose?
COACH SELF: Well, we haven't gone against zone yet for the first part. I think Louisiana at Monroe played a few possessions of 1-3-1, so this will be the first time we've played against a team that played predominantly zone. They'll mix it up. They'll play 1-3-1 and 3-2 and kind of a 2-3 match-up, and they play faster than anybody we've played so far. They play faster than Duke as far as wanting to shoot it quick. And they're small, so we'll be having bigs guard on the perimeter.
Obviously they can score the ball, and they definitely pose a threat from a scoring standpoint, and then us -- whether or not we're able to handle their zone and attack it without thinking I think will be something that will be very important.
Should provide a nice test for us with a different look defensively and a good look at another team that will test our defense. This is a opponent that doesn't necessarily bring huge name recognition, but it does you good come March.
Q. Is Perry (Ellis) one of the guys you mentioned about having a little bit better court presence after their performance against Duke?
COACH SELF: Well, I think so. I thought he got a lot of confidence towards the end of last season, and he's been terrific so far. But I do think he needed that game because that game was a game against guys that I think in his mind would give him confidence if he has success.
Perry got 24 but Jabari (Parker) got 27. Perry didn't guard him all the time, but we've definitely got to tighten up a few things. But those were two good players going against each other; there's no question. I bet both those guys definitely have the other one's respect without question on their skill set and how they play because they were both very, very good.
Q. Is this where you thought Perry would be by now?
COACH SELF: Yes. You know, the thing about it is, we've played two games, guys. Where we are is nowhere close to where we need to be, and just because -- I get such a kick out of things. If a guy played good in that game the other day, they're automatically a draft pick. One game. And right now there's 90 guys out there that's been guaranteed he's going to go in the first round. And there's only 30 teams, and that number will go to 120. But I am happy; I'm happy where we're at now with him individually, but I mean, nowhere near where he should be or where he can get is probably the better way to put it.
Perry Ellis deserves mention and every bit of the Big 12 player of the week honor. Button things up defensively on the perimeter and he becomes even more valuable than he already is. Of course it's hard to fault a guy guarding someone like Jabari Parker.
Q. Where would you like to see improvement defensively from your guys?
COACH SELF: Well, you know, if you can guard the ball, that eliminates a lot of rotation type situations, because if you can't guard the ball you force help all the time. I would really like to be able to guard the ball better, and obviously our interior post defense was lacking against Louisiana at Monroe. It wasn't that bad against Duke because Duke didn't throw the ball inside as much. They drove it, their big guys drove it. We've got to get better in that area. I think just as a whole and a mindset of not relaxing during possessions I think will be something that we certainly need to improve on.
Q. How far back do you have to go where players didn't use their hands a lot on defense, when it just wasn't that big a part of the game?
COACH SELF: I don't know. I know when I played, I very rarely ever fouled because I wasn't quick enough to get it up against anybody. I naturally played off the whole time.
I do think, from my standpoint, it's probably going back to our first couple years here at Kansas. We weren't an exceptionally athletic team and not exceptionally quick. We were a good position team, and so we probably didn't pressure as much.
But I still think -- I understand how the game is being called -- it's not anyone's fault because it may end up being the best thing for our game over time. Time will tell. But to me, it's not the stoppages on the ball that have been kind of frustrating; to me it's the touch fouls away from the ball that I didn't know was even an emphasis this year.
I know we're cleaning up off-the-ball contact and chucking cutters and freedom of movement, but it seems like there's been a lot of very ticky-tack things called. I mean, it's like this: How do you tell your team that we're a great finesse team and we're also the most physical team? How do you tell an official we're going to call everything on here but let things go other places? So I think it's an adjustment for everybody to get comfortable with it.
From my vantage point, every foul that was called in that game against Duke, I went back and watched it, you could make a case, hey, that's a foul. Good call, by the rules. But some of the incidental contact off the ball I think will be the thing that I would like to see maybe eliminated to create less stoppages so we can get a little bit more flow during the game because there's not much flow right now.
Defensive adjustments will probably be the biggest challenge for Self under these new rules and with this younger team. The good news is he has the most athletic team he has probably ever experienced, now he just has to figure out how to adjust and get everyone on the same page.
Q. Is Cliff (Alexander) one of the better big men you've signed here?
COACH SELF: Yeah, without a doubt. This guy has a chance to be really, really, really good. He's ceiling is remarkably high, and he's a -- if I say he's a monster, then that'll be the headline, "Alexander a monster." I'll say he plays much more aggressively than what most 18-year-olds play. He really goes after the ball and attacks the basket very hard. He's got a chance to be really good.
Q. How long were you after him?
COACH SELF: We've been recruiting Cliff a long time. (When) I went and saw Cliff, I think he was in ninth grade running the halls. That's what they did there at Curie during conditioning. They'd run the halls when school was out because there was nowhere to run outside and it was too cold, so that's how they conditioned. It was pretty cool, we actually talked about that the other day. We've been recruiting Cliff a long time.
There's been a lot made of who we recruited, but we can never comment on who we recruited, but I'm really, really happy with the two we got. We got two guys, obviously top-10 players in their respective class, and that doesn't happen every year that we get two guys like that.
Q. Are you still recruiting?
COACH SELF: Oh, yeah, we're still recruiting, yes, absolutely. We don't know exactly how our situation will play out, so we'll always be recruiting.
Just a few words on Alexander and recruiting. I would love to see this team still land Myles Turner and Rashad Vaughn. We'll look at recent NBA draft stock reports, but it looks more and more like this team loses at least three, maybe even four or five when all is said and done. Vaughn does seem less 'hot' on Kansas, but who knows where he stands. A recent offer to Jaquan Lyle seems like a good gamble considering his relationship with Alexander and his past statements about wanting to play for Bill Self.