Big 12 Media Day: KU aims for 12th straight conference title

Courtesy: KU Athletics

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Kansas men’s basketball seniors Perry Ellis and Hunter Mickelson along with junior Frank Mason III and head coach Bill Self met the Big 12 media Tuesday morning at Sprint Center.

The KU contingent spent the event with numerous stops with Big 12 and national media, including many social media platforms. Self was the first of the 10 coaches on the dais. Below is the transcript.

Kansas is the preseason favorite to win the 2016 Big 12 regular-season. The Jayhawks have won an unprecedented 11 straight Big 12 titles. KU returns 11 letterwinners, including four starters, from last season’s 27-9 team which went 13-5 in conference play.

Bill Self on the Big 12 Media Day Dais (10.20.15)
THE MODERATOR: Coach, welcome, and your thoughts about the upcoming season?

COACH SELF: Good morning, all. We’re excited. I think everybody’s excited this time of year. Everybody’s undefeated and everybody has high hopes and expectations, and certainly we do as well.

So I like our team. I thought we got off to a pretty good start this past summer in South Korea and the World University Games and hopefully developed some valuable experience and gave some guys some minutes that will definitely be beneficial moving forward. But it should be a fun time. We’ve got a group of competitive guys, quite a bit of balance. It will be an unbelievable league again, just like it has been. Maybe as good this year as it ever has been.

So certainly whoever is fortunate enough to be the last one standing will have to be very consistent and play well for a long time.

Q. How do you think the World Games experience will carry over into this season?
COACH SELF: I think the biggest thing that we probably got out of it, we didn’t take Cheick and Sviat, because obviously they’re international players and Brannen Greene and Devonte’ didn’t play because of injuries, so we weren’t whole over there.

But Wayne Selden, I think emerged as not a good college player, as a great college player over there. He was terrific.

I think Hunter Mickelson got minutes that will make him a viable player in our league. So there were some key players that I think needed to get developed and get minutes that did. And I think that will probably help those guys as much as anybody else.

Frank and Perry, it was fun and all those things, and they played in big games and had success, but those other guys needed that.

Q. How much do you perceive playing Devonte’ Graham and Frank Mason together this year, and what are the potential benefits of that?
COACH SELF: If you really studied our team, the last two years we were very, very big on the wing. You play Wiggs at 6’8 at the three, you play Kelly at 6’8 at the three, and then Wayne is your big two guard. And that was great in some ways, but we lost a lot of play-making playing that way.

So I plan on playing — I’m not saying that it will for sure happen, but as of now, Devonte’ and Frank will start next to each other, and then we’ll play our big guard at the three, whether it be Wayne or Sviat, probably Wayne if he’s able to get healthy with his ankle. But I think he gives us more play making. I think it gives us more speed, and we’ll create more easy baskets for our big guys because we’ll have better passers in the game.

Q. Tell us a little about the new non-conference scheduling. How do you all work to balance out going and playing road games, neutral site games especially and your home games? What’s been your philosophy and mentality with that?
COACH SELF: Well, Larry Keating does our scheduling, and he’s terrific at it. But you get an opportunity to play 13 non-league games, and for budget reasons or whatnot, we know we need to play at least eight at home. So we’ll start with that.

Then there are several games that are scheduled for us before we even get started, whether it be the SEC-Big XII Challenge, whether it be the Champion’s Classic, whether it be Maui. There are several games scheduled for us before we get started. So we kind of look at big picture and then go backwards.

One thing I think we’ve done is we’ve tried to play a nationally competitive schedule, and one in which even the games you look at as guaranteed games or bye games, it’s against teams that are the best teams in their respective leagues. So it’s been really good for us and that’s one thing that we’ll always try to do, especially for trying to build up our strength of schedule.

Q. When you take these trips like the World Games trips, outside of practices and games, what are you wanting to get out of the players off the floor in terms of team building and all that stuff? And how do you judge whether it was a success?
COACH SELF: I have — the thing that was great about this trip, more so than anything, people in Gwangju were nice. Can’t say quite the same about the food. But, no, I’m sure it was good if you had that taste. But it was a 17-day trip. It was too long. There was actually — not once did guys complain. I trusted them.

I was just telling a group earlier, coaches micro manage, we all do, and over there, there was none of that going on. I trusted them. They did their job, and it was one of those times that I think our guys were probably as close as they’d been since I’d been at Kansas as far as kind of rallying around the cause and having fun doing it.

So I think I learned a lot as a coach, not only with the rule changes, with the short clock, with all these things going on basketball-wise, but also maybe how to treat your guys and how to give them more freedom as long as they don’t abuse it and things like that, which I think in turn made them probably “happy” is probably not the right word, but more energetic to do their job when it was time to do their job.

Q. I know you mentioned about the rules changes. One of the big rules changes is that the shot clock goes from 35 to 30 seconds. How does that dictate what you guys do out there on the court, getting in your sets? Are there any changes that you guys are doing specifically with that?
COACH SELF: I don’t think there’s a lot of difference. I think if we’d have taken 30 seconds to get a shot off, the last several years, I think all our fans would say we’re playing ridiculously slow. I think that 35 to 30 is going to be a real factor in the last five minutes of the game.

You see very little shot clock violations in the first 35 minutes of the game. You do in the last five to seven minutes because teams are milking the clock. So they’re not trying to score until the last ten seconds of the shot clock, and then, of course, sometimes you struggle getting a look when you’re only trying to score in the last ten seconds of the shot clock. I think that will still be the same.

But I don’t think it’s going to be a big difference. Some coaches do. I’m one that I think coaches and players will adjust and figure out how to move the ball a little quicker and get the ball to the second or third side faster, so that way we can still do what we’re trying to do.

I think the emphasis on how the game will be officiated will play a much bigger factor in the look of our game rather than the shot clock.

Q. You always are looking for that point guard to be that bulldog. It seemed like Frank really took that on toward the end of last year and even here at The Sprint Center and South Korea. Where he came from, are you shocked at all how much he’s changed over a year and how much command he’s taken over this team?
COACH SELF: I don’t think shocked. I’m real pleased with him, but I thought all along when we got Frank and after he’s been in practice two or three weeks I thought that this would be what he would become. It took him a little while to get comfortable enough to do it. But Frank’s a much better player than he was last year. He’s going to continue to get better because the understanding of the game is going to get better. But I’m real pleased with him.

I think what Frank is, he’s not a true point guard. People think he’s a point guard because he’s not very tall. But Devonte’ and him together, I think you’ll see Frank playing a lot off the ball. Devonte’ in a lot of ways is more of a true point than Frank, and I think that will free Frank up to even score more.

Q. Back on the rule changes, I know officiating is going to determine it, but there were a lot of rule changes beyond just the shot clock. Have you done anything throughout the summer or practice to teach the guys some of the other changes?
COACH SELF: Not really as much as what you’d think. I think the biggest thing that we’re going to struggle with is having players actually call the timeouts as opposed to coaches calling it from the sideline. That’s something that I think is going to need to be practiced.

I think the four-foot arc instead of three-foot arc is a great change. But we don’t emphasize taking charges anyway as much as what we probably should. But that’s never been an emphasis of ours. So that’s obviously going to be a factor.

And the one that nobody talks about that I think is a big deal is the closely guarded call. Theoretically, if you have a strong point guard and it’s a delay of game situation, you can dribble out the clock. There’s no five-second call anymore. So I think that will be one that coaches will have to adjust to in how they defend those situations because everything’s now going to have to be trapping and doing things like that as opposed to just trying to play pressure defense.

It’s going to be interesting, but I probably have done a poor job with it because the first three weeks of practice, we’ve emphasized the physicality and how to play different post defense and things like that. But we haven’t really emphasized all the other changes as we go moving forward.

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