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Kansas Basketball: Bill Self Talks Elijah Johnson, TCU

Kansas Basketball: Bill Self Talks Elijah Johnson, TCU


Head coach Bill Self
On offensive rebounding versus Oklahoma State:
"I think (Marcus) Smart had one the first half, and seven in the second half. It may have been two and six, but he dominated the game physically. Not very often does a point guard score 25 points and make one shot outside of two feet, and that is what he did. He made a turnaround jumper on Elijah (Johnson) when he posted him in the short corner, but other than that, I don't think he made a shot outside of two feet because he just whipped us going after the ball. We were actually pretty good on the offensive glass the first half. We were up 29-20 on the glass in the first half, I had to tell our guys that. We actually did a pretty good job and OSU is statistically, by far, the best defensive rebounding team in our league. They get 79 percent of their misses back in conference play so we did a really good job there, and then the second half we faded. But there wasn't really a lot of opportunities to rebound the ball offensively in the second half like there was in the first half because we shot 55 percent from the field, 6-9 from three, and 16-18 from the free throw line, so there wasn't as many opportunities. When you turn the ball over, you don't get a chance to rebound offensively."

On if he believes Oklahoma State is the second-best team in the conference:
"I think it is too early to say. I think talent-wise, and from the scheduling standpoint, they have by far played the hardest schedule so far. So they put themselves in a good position. They have already been to Baylor, K-State, Oklahoma and Kansas. They have Iowa State left of the teams that have three or less losses whereas we have to go to four of the team's places. I would say they probably have the best schedule finishing the year than what anybody else does. And athletically, you all saw firsthand - it didn't take a keen eye for talent to realize - they have got some guys that can play. I think there are a lot of good teams and I think we saw a very good team play us Saturday. I'll reserve judgment on making that statement until we get a little further down the road."

On whether or not Elijah Johnson is still his starting point guard:
"I coach Elijah, and I've been on him pretty good because Elijah hasn't played as well as what he can play. I have done this with him, and told him about it. Last year at this particular date, he was shooting 40.9 percent, this year he is shooting 39percent. Last year he shot 30 percent from three, this year he is shooting 33 percent. Last year he shot 70 percent from the line, this year he is shooting 75 percent. Last year he had 85 assists, 80, or whatever it was; this year he has 102. Last year he played a few more minutes per game than he does this year. I'm not pleased with how he has played. He is not pleased with how he's played. He hasn't played as good as he is capable of playing. But I think most quarterbacks are judged by their record more so than their stats, and I think in our situation, we should judge our point guard more by their record than we do his stats. And I do know this: for us to have any chance of being a national contender and competing at the highest level, your best players have to play good, and he is without question one of our best players. He is my guy. I'm going to ride him and it doesn't make any difference what happens, statistically, as long as I know he is trying and cares. He is my guy and will remain my guy, period."

On having other senior guards experience a lull:
"It is a different type of personality, but let's just draw from Elijah's experiences. Do we have a chance to go to the national championship game on February 1 if we would have said you know what, Elijah's just not producing, we have got to get somebody else in there? Zero! I'm banking on the same thing happening this year, I'm not saying go that far, but I'm banking on the same thing happening this year. I know what gives us the best chance to win is not to be emotional about doing something because I'm disappointed in a certain situation; I really don't know what we'd do that would be better for the team in the long haul. You can say well if you do this, or do that, but you have maybe the two biggest games this week, and the K-State gaming coming up in the next six days. Is this the time to try to do something? I don't think it is. We may do something from playing time and other spots and some things like that we think can give our team a better chance, but Elijah is the guy. Period."

On if Johnson pressing and/or shooting is the way for him to work his way out of his slump:
"I don't think it is. I think when you worry about shooting, it lets everything else kind of go haywire and I kind of think we are at that stage right now. When he starts caring about the right things - and don't misquote me on this - but when he starts caring about, `ok, I could care less what my shooting percentage is, I have to make sure we get a good shot each possession. This is what the team needs me to do offensively to guarantee a good shot each possession.' You know he is not a natural point guard, you guys know that. He is thinking instead of reacting. If he would worry about blocking out all those things, he'll shoot the ball better because he is caring about the right things. I think sometimes he puts too much pressure on himself to make shots. That's what happened last year. If your whole being as a player is only whether a ball goes in the whole or not, then you are not a player, you are a shooter. And he is not a shooter, he is a player. He just has to focus on being a complete player. And then he'll make shots; that's the way it always works. You score more when you don't think about it."

On Andrew White III's brief playing time increasing his confidence:
"I hope so. You knew I was mad at Elijah, or I wouldn't be putting Andrew White III in with 54 seconds left. He made one shot, got a steal which was great and then they fouled him. He didn't make a play the last time they fouled him, they just fouled him because he was in that position. But I think, without question, that should give him some confidence moving forward."

On Jeff Withey's play being consistent:
"His stats are fine. Trust me, our guys know. You could go down the list of our guys and `Jeff, where was your play, considering where your ceiling is?' Elijah. Kevin. Ben. Travis. Naadir. [Makes hand motion that play was below the players' ceiling level of ability]. That was just a game in which we had a lot of guys probably not play as well as what we had hoped they would have played. But as far as Jeff goes, Jeff has done pretty good. It's a long season. It's a physical season for a guy who has a lot of guys laying on him. And he's not the most physical guy. But Jeff has done terrific. He's done absolutely terrific."

On Withey's development over the course of his KU career:
"We've had a lot of guys come far. Travis Releford or certainly, Thomas Robinson. Or Cole Aldrich. We've had some guys come a long ways. But Jeff has probably surprised me, pleasantly, as much as anybody we've had. He's just been terrific."

On the key to Withey's development:
"I would say he is stronger, which breeds confidence. But the biggest thing is that he's fallen in love with basketball. When you're not in love with it and you play because you're tall or whatever, then you go through it and start seeing some success. He's fallen in love with that. And I think that has as much to do with it as anything."

On the comeback versus Oklahoma State not being enough, as compared to comebacks versus other teams:
"I think `run away with it' would be a stretch. `Not able to close the game out' would probably be a better way to say it. I think the biggest thing is our ineptness at handling the basketball. It totally just ruins momentum when you're up four with the ball and can't get a shot. A lot of that is based on guard play. We've got to have better guard play, I know that. We've got to help our guards more. When the other team is playing with a free mind and nothing-to-lose mindset, then you have a team that maybe knows we're not very good that day and they're trying to protect it instead of trying to take it; that's what happens in games like that. We've been in other games where we've embraced that moment, where we've enjoyed it. We enjoy it when it's hard, usually. Even in that game, we enjoyed it even though we weren't very good. We get up four, it may have been under six - I could be wrong - up four with the ball maybe once or twice and then the plays we make, they were soft plays. Guys just take our ball. It was just their guy wanting the ball more than our guy in a couple of situations. That's the competitive spirit that we have to improve on. We've always been a team that kind of thrives in those situations. We got our butt kicked in that situation the other day and every one of our players would agree with that."

On if he challenged his players to be tougher:
"We haven't practiced yet, so there's a chance that I may mention that word today. I may do a little something like that. The thing about it is, I'm upset because I thought we sat there and took it the other day. We took a step back and allowed it to happen. It's ok to lose; we allowed that to happen. Even though Oklahoma State was better than us, they took it. But we allowed them to take it. That is what is so frustrating. Then, when things were going bad, body language wasn't good, things like that. It was almost like a mindset - what's the best way to put it without being too critical - it was almost a mindset that maybe you take for granted that other teams can beat you. Or you believe that that can't happen and you act spoiled. I thought we were a spoiled team Saturday. Trust me, that has, and will be talked about some more, moving forward. The things that we do poorly, I think are correctable, but there's not as much margin for errors as in years past, which is fine. We didn't have as much margin for error last year as we had two years before when we get knocked out before the Final Four. It's one of those things that's not broken, it's not panic time, but it is a wake-up call to say we need to fix some things.

I look at the Ravens; how many games did they lose this year? Seven or six? They lost three in a row and they didn't bench (QB Joe) Flacco. You look at the Giants last year, they lost seven; they were 9-7 and win the Super Bowl and I don't think (head coach Tom) Coughlin was benching (QB) Eli (Manning). I think sometimes through losses, at least I hope - and we've been decent at this in the past - that we get better through them. Losses are ok as long as you get better through them. I think losing at home, to be honest, was good for us. If I was going to pick to lose on the road or at home, I would pick at home because it would definitely be more of a humbling experience than it would be if it didn't happen at home. I don't want to lose - don't get me wrong - but I think for our team, our mindset and psyche, I think it was probably good for us to be humbled."

On his impression of TCU's program:
"They're going to be competitive. (Head coach) Trent (Johnson) is in his first year and during that transition period, you always have some situations that don't go smoothly. He's building for the future, and they've actually recruited very well thus far. His teams will guard you, they don't give up a lot of points. They'll be much better moving forward. It wasn't that long ago that Trent built the Nevada program up, the same Nevada program that went to the Sweet 16. He certainly did a great job at Stanford, following a legend in Mike Montgomery, and did a great job there. He knows what he's doing, it's just a matter of time."

On if TCU being in a metropolitan area is good for Kansas and the conference in general:
"I think TCU is good for our league. Selfishly, I think it's good for us from a recruiting standpoint."

On if he expects a big KU crowd at the TCU game:
"I don't know. We played down there, I think it was my first year here. I know Hawk (Jeff Hawkins) made five threes. We went down there, and I think it was a pretty good turnout. That's when Neil (Dougherty) was coaching, obviously. I think it was a pretty good turnout (then) and I hope it is. I know, or at least I believe, our guys will be very excited to get back on the court and play."

On Andrew White III being solely a shooter and what else he's seen out of him:
"He's getting tougher. Andrew's going to be ok. You look at our team and does Andrew deserve - from a talent standpoint - to play more? Absolutely, no question. But you look at our team and what's our biggest need? Ball handling and passing. So now, you're putting in a guy that doesn't do that as well as some other guys. To be real candid, if we were more consistent handling and passing the ball, Andrew White would be playing more. But, that's not really Travis' (Releford) forte and that's not really Ben's (McLemore) forte. We've always had a team here in the past - and all teams are different - but we've never played with a true point guard here. We've always had two or three point guards. When we had Russell (Robinson), Sherron (Collins) and Mario (Chalmers), whoever gets it brings (the ball up the court), or Ty (Tyshawn Taylor) or Elijah (Johnson) together; we've always played with multiple guards. We're not doing that this year because we need Ben and Travis to be in the game almost all the time."

On women's basketball ACL injuries compared to men's basketball ACL injuries and what his team does for prevention:
"Well knock on wood. It's terrible for (Kansas women's basketball coach) Bonnie (Henrickson) and Natalie Knight is the young lady you're speaking of and it's awful. I think statistically, and I don't know the numbers but our trainers would, but I think women are more apt to have ACL injuries than the men are. I think a lot of it is done through strength training. Strengthening certain muscles and stuff like that from a preventative standpoint. It is hard and it's sad. Brandon Rush is a great example. Historically, if you tear one then there is a good chance you'll tear the other. Danny (Manning) had three. With modern medicine and our doctors - Jeff Randall and his crew - and the rehab we have, and based on Angel (Goodrich) having two (ACL operations), we certainly know what we're doing from a medical standpoint to get the ladies or the guys back as quickly as possible. That's sad for Natalie, but hopefully she'll be back at full speed by October."