University of Kansas Athletics
LAWRENCE, Kan. – They’ve been practicing since Oct. 1 and Thursday afternoon the Kansas men’s basketball team met with members of the media in Allen Fieldhouse to preview the upcoming 2016-17 campaign.
KU student-athletes gathered for photos with local and regional websites and newspapers then the writers and videographers interviewed the 15-member squad on the floor of Allen Fieldhouse. Entering his 14th season at Kansas, head coach Bill Self then previewed the team with the media in the Allen Fieldhouse Media Room.
Preseason-ranked in the top five by numerous national outlets, Kansas returns three starters from last season’s 33-5 team which won its 12th-straight Big 12 regular-season title, the Big 12 postseason championship and advanced to the NCAA Tournament Elite Eight.
Senior Frank Mason III and junior Devonte’ Graham return in the backcourt as starters, as does senior forward Landen Lucas. Led by No. 1 overall recruit Josh Jackson, Kansas’ newcomers rank as one of the highest recruiting classes in the nation entering 2016-17. Joining Jackson in the rookie class are center Udoka Azubuike and forward Mitch Lightfoot
Q. Along those lines, how much do you think having a veteran presence but having your younger guys be the most talented guys, what works about that?
SELF: It doesn’t always happen this way because we went to the National Championship game in ’12 with a bunch of veterans, so it doesn’t always happen this way, but usually if you look at perennial top-five type teams, not necessarily National Championship teams because Jay’s (Wright) team won it last year with some vets, but usually your foundation is your older kids. Your most talented players are your younger ones. And that was even the way it was when we won our National Championship in ’08. You had five great seniors and you had Mario (Chalmers) and Brandon (Rush) as juniors, but you can make a case Sherron (Collins) and Shady (Darrell Arthur) may have been the two most talented guys in our program at that time. Everybody was so good on that team, they kind of traded turns being who was the best that night.
I do think having old guys that can teach young guys, having talented guys that the young guys all respect. Then having kind of an unknown X factor that may, could rise to the level and take your team maybe to a place that it wasn’t capable of going the year before are the best combination. We certainly have that with Josh (Jackson), and maybe by the end of the season with Udoka (Azubuike), and then with Frank (Mason) and Landen (Lucas) and Devonte’ (Graham) and those guys. It’s a pretty experienced team.
Q. Is it too early to tell how that all blends basketball-wise?
SELF: I think they like each other. I think they share it pretty good. We’re going to miss Perry (Ellis), there’s no question about that. Perry was Mr. Consistency. But if you go back and look at it, there’s a lot of games we’re down six with five minutes left and Wayne (Selden Jr.) makes plays. You look at the Kentucky game last year, and he made some big plays in Oklahoma. Florida the year before, he puts us on his back and wins that game for us.
There’s been a lot of games where Wayne was by far the best player in the game, and we’re going to miss that without question. We’re going to miss two key starters and of course some depth behind that, but I do think the pieces have potential to fit. Last year the pieces fit as well as they could fit, and we still came up short, but the pieces fit great.
This year, if the pieces fit as well, then I think you may have a little bit more talented group that may give you a chance maybe to play better when it counts the most. But certainly it remains to be seen if the pieces can get there yet.
Q. Is there some mystery in the backcourt?
SELF: Oh, yeah. You know, it may not be. It may not be because you can play four guards. With Josh and Lagerald (Vick) and Svi (Mykhailiuk), you’re big enough to play two of those three at the 3 and the 4. It’s not as much of a mystery if you’re just going to play one big, but if you’re going to play two bigs, Landen, Carlton (Bragg Jr.), Udoka, those would be the three that you would think obviously would be your three guys in your rotation and then kind of waiting to see on Mitch (Lightfoot) or Dwight (Coleby) who would fill in as your fourth big.
I see us playing small quite a bit. And it’s really not small, Josh is 6’8″, and we’re not going to play him as a forward, we’re still going to play him as a guard, but I think we’d be a hard team to guard if you can spread the floor with those four guards out there.
Q. Is it more common in today’s college game than it’s ever been?
SELF: I think the game is getting smaller. You know, it used to be 4s wanted to be 3s. Well, they still do, but coaches are making 3s 4s, which if you think about it is really smart because now if the other team plays big. If you’ve got a 3 man playing the 4 spot, that puts a big guy guarding him, and if he can shoot, it’s a hard matchup. They talk about it all the time, stretch 4s really make teams hard to guard. We’ve always been a conventional three-out, two-in team, but I think this year we’re going to get away from that a little bit.
Q. Has that been where you’ve wanted to go or is it just personnel dictated?
SELF: Yeah, personnel dictated. I think it would be great to play two seven-footers and one of them be a guard, one of them can really shoot. That’s the way I really want to go, but we don’t quite have that luxury this year to do that.
Q. Do you like that as a challenge coaching-wise, you’ve got a guy that’s 6’8″ in Josh Jackson playing the guard versus a power forward position? Do you like that as a coaching challenge, matchup?
SELF: I do. The way I look at our guys, though, I don’t look at 1s, 2s, and 3s. I look at guards, and I don’t look at 4s and 5s, I look at them as bigs. Now, if we play four guards, I look at four guards and one big. I won’t look at moving Josh to a big spot.
But there are some things that you can do to post him and things like that that I think would be advantageous that we haven’t done a ton of in the past because we’ve always had two big guys that played pretty close to the basket. I think that will be challenging, and that’s something that we have not figured out yet as a staff on how we want to do that. We will do it, but we’re still trying to tinker with what mode we want to play to make it where it’s easy for our guys where we don’t have to change how we play and don’t have to make them think.
Q. Would you have an idea, let’s say you’ve got a game tomorrow, who the starting five would be?
SELF: Frank has got a good chance to start, and Devonte’ is probably a little bit ahead, but you would think Landen and Carlton and Josh, to go along with them. But it’s still early, and Lagerald Vick is putting pressure on everybody because he’s played so well.
Q. I know there’s turnover every off-season, but do you as a coach ever look at things in terms of National Championship windows, and do you kind of get that sense that this is maybe the final year of a great window that you have?
SELF: No, I used to think that way. I don’t think that way here anymore because when we lost Marcus (Morris) and Markieff (Morris) and Brady (Morningstar) and Tyrel (Reed) and (Josh) Selby, we lost our window, and we went to the finals the next year. I don’t think you think like that at certain places. I think the goal every year is to be in the game, to have a chance to do that. Last year I probably didn’t know if our window was such where we could be in the game, and we were. This year, I’ll be disappointed if we’re not in the game. But no matter who we lose after this year, I’ll be disappointed next year if we’re not in the game, too. I don’t quite look at it that way.
Q. Throughout basketball history you’ve seen some big names stunt their own development by trying to prove they’re guards. Do you like that Udoka doesn’t seem to be that kind of a guy?
SELF: Well, I can promise you Udoka will not try to be a guard. That is a given. You bank it, write it down. He is a — his skill set be get better as he gets older, but he knows exactly who he is, and even though he’ll play away from the basket some, that’s not where his — that’s not where he’s going to make a living, so to speak. He’s going to get close to the basket.
You know, Landen is the same way. Landen knows who he is. Udoka knows who he is. And it is nice to have a couple of bigs that don’t feel like they have to show everybody what they can do away from the basket because in their mind they feel like that’s maybe what the NBA people want to see. Udoka, the NBA people are going to want to see what he can do close to the basket.
Q. Udoka has a background in soccer, which he thinks might have helped him with his footwork. Do you see any kind of parallels with that?
SELF: I see parallels of kids that play soccer having better footwork. Comparing anybody to Joel (Embiid), because I don’t think anybody here really knows how good he is. I mean, he’s comical how good he is or how good he was, and hopefully if he stays healthy this year, you’ll see it in the NBA. But there are some similarities. You know, if I’m not mistaken, Udoka is three years younger than Joel was when Joel was here, so when you’re trying to project out, where will Udoka be three years from now, that remains to be seen. He’ll never be as skilled as Joe, and I would have said at the time, but he may end up being bigger and strong than Joe, but you look at Joe now, he’s 7’2″, 260 pounds. But I do think Udoka has a chance to be a dominant collegian, but it’s not going to happen immediately, though.
Q. Since Joel, how good has your team health been? It seems like it’s been pretty good of late.
SELF: We’ve had some rough stretches where it’s probably cost us. We had two years in a row where you lost Joel, who in my opinion was without question the best big man in the country, and then next year, even though he tried to play, Perry was at 50 percent, and we had to have Perry to score the ball. We had two years where we took a — had maybe some misfortune, but if you look back over time, I mean, when (Keith) Langford went down last game of the regular season, that kind of destroyed that team. We’ve had some things that have been unfortunate, but for the most part, I’m not going to knock on wood, I think our health over time has been pretty good.
And certainly you brought up a good point. I’m trying to think, last year we had maybe a few starters miss games, maybe a few the year before, but for the most part we’ve been healthy, and we won a few leagues in a row, and that plays a big role in it. When Blake Griffin gets a concussion and is out three games, we haven’t had to deal with that quite as much with the exception of Joel, so we’ve been pretty fortunate in that regard.
Q. It took a little while for Lucas to settle in last year into that starting lineup, finish that out. When you talk about this year’s possible or likely starting lineup, how far ahead does that put you if that’s how it does play out?
SELF: It may put you ahead early in the season, but I’m not sure that knowing who you’re going to start now helps you win games in February. Maybe it does, I don’t know. I think establishing roles early is positive. But sometimes you want there to be changes in your starting lineup. Sometimes you want to give — make the young kid earn it, and then once he earns it and plays to his potential, you want him to actually outplay somebody.
So I think sometimes changes in your starting lineup is good for your team, and then you’ve got to figure out who’s better coming off the bench. You’ve got to figure out whose ego allows you to do certain things, but I’d say going in when you’re having Indiana and Duke right off the bat that if we’re able to stay healthy, having those guys pretty much know what their role will be going in I think is probably a positive.
Q. Landen talks a lot about the angles and little things that he likes to do well. Is it atypical for a guy to take so much pride in things like angles or ceiling die-off?
SELF: I think Landen has figured out that’s how he plays. I think it’s good that he takes pride in it because he probably wouldn’t play as much if he didn’t.
To go a step further than that, Landen Lucas can affect more positions positively that nobody will see other than coaches or teammates because he’s very, very bright. He’s one of the smarter players we’ve had come through here, and he takes great pride in little things, whether it be a late clock play. He just knows, go set a fade screen for a shooter in the corner. There’s certain things that he’s able — why would I post? They don’t have time to swing and get it to me, so at late clock I know I can go get somebody a shot off a fake, so he does little things like that that you only get to — you try to teach that, but it’s really something you learn over time, and he’s kind of figured it out.
Q. Is that something you’re hoping he passes on to Udoka?
SELF: You know what, I don’t know if I really hope that. I think with Udoka it’s a little bit different. There’s the ball, go get it. You know, here’s the ball, score it. He’s different. They’re a totally different skill set than Landen, but what Landen has been so good with him is trying to teach him the very basic principles. We have to give him a chance to be successful, and if he can teach it to him, then he’ll be playing instead of thinking, and right now he’s thinking instead of playing.
Landen will speed up that process for him but they’re totally different, totally different.
Q. Are we at a tipping point where something (regarding transfers) has to change, like this is really starting to affect college basketball?
SELF: Well, it’s affecting college basketball. There’s a lot of things with transferring that’s positive such as if a youngster wants to play and it’s not set up for him to play at that place. Sometimes a change of scenery is good. Sometimes if you have a different academic program you want to pursue. Sometimes change of scenery is good. If there’s health issues with a family member close to home. Sometimes a change of scenery is good. There’s a lot of things like that.
But what has become so negative isn’t coaches running off players. What’s become negative is that whenever things don’t go the way you have it scripted in your mind. The first thing you want to do a lot of times is switch locations because that will solve the problem. It’s the same principle; you’re enrolled in a hard class and you take your first test and you do poorly on your first test. The first thing you want to do is drop the class, as opposed to meeting with the teacher, okay, how do I make this up. You know you’ve got to grind. I think there’s so much impatience out there because we’re an immediate-satisfaction society right now, that sometimes players don’t understand that the grind is actually what may make them as a player and what may make them as a person over time.
I do think it’s a big-time problem in college basketball. I think it’s a problem in college athletics. I also think it’s a societal problem because how many kids now if you don’t play on your high school team, what’s the first thing you do? You switch schools. You know, if you don’t like the offense — you’re a quarterback and you’re second string and a sophomore beats you out and you’re a junior, what do you do? You go to another school. I’m not going to back up an underclassman for two years. So it’s not just basketball, it’s the way kind of the things have come up. So it is a problem, and in basketball with the fifth-year senior situation becoming — the graduate transfer becoming eligible immediately. We’ve benefitted from that with Tarik (Black), obviously, but 100 percent of all coaches would say that’s a very, very bad rule because it puts you in a position where, depending on your situation where you could actually look to recruit kids off somebody else’s campus, and that per se is not legal, but through third parties or whatnot, obviously there can be contact made and things like that.
There’s some negative things going on. It’s still a great game and everything, but that’s something that we have to tighten up. I don’t know if there’s an answer for that because, you look at it, you go to Kansas and you’re a beta and you don’t like it, what do you do? Switch schools. It’s not just an athletics situation; it’s a campus situation. But we’d like for it to be tightened up where there’s less transfers and hopefully that will be the case, but I don’t know if there’s an immediate answer for that.
Q. What did you think of today’s poll, and do you want to reveal who you voted for?
SELF: You know, I don’t know that it’s a huge surprise that they picked the guys first, but what is said now and what actually happens are totally two different things. One is important and one is not, and this certainly isn’t important.
Our league will be good again. It always is. The appearance is we lost so many upperclassmen, whether it be Perry or George (Niang) or Buddy (Hield) or whoever. You think the league is going to take a step backwards, but we’ve said that a lot of years about our league, and it hasn’t happened yet. It won’t happen again this year.
Q. Can you make a general comment about your schedule? Too easy?
SELF: I don’t know what we were thinking about. I would really like our schedule if we didn’t open up against Indiana in Honolulu. Seriously, I mean, it’s hard, you play national traditional powers, the league will be great, all these things. But when it was brought to me to have a chance to play in kind of the 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor and what that could mean from an educational standpoint with our guys and everything, I think that was something like, yeah, emotionally we’ve got to do that.
But looking at it now, I just — we’re taking three planes over there. We’ve got to take three planes back to New York. We can’t even travel together. And to think about that stretch, we’ll find out a lot about ourselves. I think I’m going to be probably more relaxed that stretch because it is huge because we obviously want to go do as well as we possibly can, but it’s not easy making that trip to play there. And it’s certainly not easy coming back to play after that trip. All we did was set ourselves up to have a tough opening start.
But I think our guys will rally around that. If they are fatigued, they won’t play fatigued.
Q. You talked about your lineup and how it would be great to find roles early. Is the biggest question mark lineup as far as roles go Carlton, or what do you think it is?
SELF: I don’t know. I’d say Carlton and Josh and Udoka and Lagerald and Svi would probably be the guys that I would say would be the biggest question marks. I feel like you know for sure what you’ll get in Landen, Frank and Devonte’, without question. The other guys, Svi has got to be better than he has been, Lagerald has got to be better than he was. Carlton has got to be better than he was, and they’re all capable of doing that, but they haven’t done it yet. I’d say Josh and Udoka are newcomers, so I wouldn’t put it just on Carlton. I would say that all those guys need to be a little bit better.
Q. Two days in, you said you stunk. How has it been since then?
SELF: We’ve gotten better. I think everybody — nobody looks good two practices in, but I think that we got — we’re pretty athletic when we’ve got our most athletic team out there. We’re pretty athletic and we’ve got good guards. It’s still going to be a struggle whether or not we can score consistently inside. That’s not saying anything negative. You lose Perry, even though he wasn’t a great inside scorer, he’s a great scorer, and replace him with Carlton, who is the same type of scorer, outside-in type scorer. We’ve got to figure out a way to get the ball to the rim, score in tight. But I do think we have potential to be very good defensively.
We have depth in the perimeter positions, and I think we can play different. Last year I never felt like we could probably play different because certain guys were kind of locked in their position, and I think this year we’ll probably be a little bit more versatile moving guys around.
Q. What do you think about — you’re real close with Scott Ward (Scooter). How has that affected the team, and are you proud of the way he’s battling and all that?
SELF: Yeah, I’m glad you brought that up. You know, as a coach on our team, I think that — I think of Andrea (Hudy) and I think of Bill Cowgill, and of course I think of Scooter as being an assistant coach, and the players all know, and when you look at it, people don’t — we were laughing about this earlier. Sometimes when teams aren’t winning, they start talking about how good they’re doing academically. That’s not always a good sign with the fan base.
But when you talk about us academically, it’s not talked about. I think we’ve only had one or two seniors not graduate since Scoot has been working with our guys, and that’s since I’ve been here, and he’s a remarkable human being. He’s the best role model the guys can have. He’s as tough a human being as I’ve ever been around. He’s been through more than most all of us will ever go through, and to throw a torn aorta on top of everything else. It’s remarkable that he’s doing as well as he’s doing. It’s a miracle. But it’s also a sign of his toughness, too.
We went to see him on Saturday as a group, and he can only see four guys, two at a time, and we sent the four oldest guys in there, and they were all very moved and saddened to see him in such a tough position. But I was over there last night, and the guy’s got a sense of humor, he’s talking, he’s moving, he’s sitting up. He watched the volleyball team play last night. He was excited about that. Short-term memory seems pretty good. Long-term memory seems excellent. He’s totally amazing everybody over there. Prayers have been answered. He’s not out of the dark yet or out of the woods yet, but certainly he’s well on his way to recovery, which is great news for all of us.
Senior forward Landen Lucas
On being a veteran and leader of the team:
“It’s a good feeling, being able to come out and help the young guys. I’ve been through a lot in my time here. I’m looking forward to bringing them along with some of the other seniors and leading the team to a successful season.”
On being one of three returning starters from last year’s team and his breakout junior campaign:
“It was a big confidence builder. The one thing that made me feel at ease last year was just knowing that I could go out there and play my role and do it well. I’m very comfortable with defense and rebounding and that’s what this team needs. There are other areas I could help the team out in, but I know that in every game I can come out and contribute to the team, no matter what the circumstances are, just by doing those two things. It’s just feeling comfortable and I enjoy doing those things and helping the team out.”
On Coach Self’s expectations for him in order to solidify his role at center this year:
“He has, and we’ve had conversations. I think it makes it a lot easier for myself to know where I stand and where things are with this team. Moving forward, I can work on myself and also help bring the other guys along. I kind of know where everything is at going into the season. If I go out there and continue to play my role, I know I’ll be able to contribute to this team.”
On the first week of practice:
“It’s been great. The young guys have come out here eager to learn. There’s that adjustment phase that they all go through, but because we’ve all been able to get up and down a little bit during the summer, they’ve gotten past that. Now, when we start throwing some plays at them, we’ll see how they react to it. With the way the schedule is set up, we need them to come along a lot quicker than most schools do. So, hopefully they’ll be ready to learn right away.”
On the team’s identity, or if it’s too early to tell:
“I wouldn’t say it’s too early because of the core we have coming back. We should have a very defensive mindset going into every game. If the other team can’t score, we’ve got a good chance to win. We need to bring along every person that comes into the game. Defense comes first; we’ll build off of that. That’s how we’ll win games, especially early in the year. That’s the most important thing because our offense isn’t going to be very good in those first couple of weeks of the season. But we know we can always guard.”
On the schedule at the start of the season:
“I love it. That’s why you come to a school like this; to start off with Indiana and Duke, it’s awesome. Those are two big-time programs and we’re coming off of an Elite Eight run where we played some big-time schools. Now, we’re coming right back into it. I’m excited for it, I love those kind of games. They’re awesome to play in. We’re going to learn a lot in those first couple of weeks.”
Senior guard Frank Mason III
On his senior leadership:
“I lead in so many ways, whether that’s drills, off the court, in the dormitory and things like that. I play a lot of leadership roles. It’s fun and exciting, I’m ready to get the season started now.”
On Kansas’ heritage and tradition:
“I didn’t know much about it, besides Kansas basketball. But when I got here, I started to learn more about it and it’s a pretty good state.”
On playing for this program:
“It means a lot. Just the energy that they bring every night. It doesn’t matter who we play, the fans bring the same energy every night. I think that’s great to have that support system and to be able to do that every single game. The tradition, it’s just different [than other schools].”
On the feeling of coming out of the tunnel:
“It’s an amazing feeling. (It’s) Something that I’m not ready for to end, but eventually it’ll have to. It’s a great feeling and I know every one of my teammates feels the same way and we’re excited to be able to do that here in a few weeks.”
On his plan for having a great senior year:
“I think to be the best that I can be. Everyone just has to work hard and give themselves up and do exactly what Coach (Self) wants. He’s obviously been there and he knows what it takes. I think everyone is just focusing in on what he says and what he wants. Doing that, we have a good chance to be the best that we can be.”
Sophomore forward Carlton Bragg Jr.
On his assertiveness:
“I try to bring it out, it’s kind of hard, yeah. But I just have to get into the mindset of helping us win. So if that’s what it takes to win, then I’m going to do it.”
On the team’s Late Night scrimmage performance and Coach Self’s reaction:
“I suspected him to be critical of it. We just need to get better. I didn’t play a lot of defense, but it was a scrimmage. I think I did pretty well, but we’re looking at bigger picture.”
On his role within the team:
“Everybody just needs to play their roles and be good at them. My role is being the energy guy. (And also) Being the physical presence that we need.”
On the freshmen challenges:
“When I came here last year it was just preparing for the transfer from high school to college. You know how fast the game is in college, but they’re picking up really well.”
On mentoring the freshmen:
“When we’re on the court and there are bad plays I just tell them to get through it. Smile. Everybody’s going to make mistakes, you just have to learn from it and take it in.”
Junior guard Devonte’ Graham
On if it takes a while for newcomers to figure out their role(s) on the team:
“It definitely takes a while, because when you first come in as a freshman, you don’t really know your role. During practice, you’ve just kind of got to figure it out on your own. A lot of the older guys; me, Frank (Mason III), Lando (Landen Lucas) kind of help the guys. We just put them situations where they know what to do.”
On how the freshmen have looked in practice so far:
“They look really good. They’re picking up on the offense pretty well; it’s not easy, we’ve got a lot of plays, so we’ve been going over a lot of stuff. They’re picking it up really well.”
On how he’s grown as a leader on this team:
“That’s one of the main things I’ve focused on since I stepped foot on campus. A lot of that is because of Coach Self. From day one, he told me I was going to be a leader and I think I’ve just grown a whole bunch, just watching guys like Jamari (Traylor), Perry (Ellis), Frank (Mason III) – all those guys teaching me has helped me grow a lot.”
On how he and Frank Mason III differ in their leadership roles:
“Frank is the pit bull-type, he gets on guys a lot. That’s one of his ways (of showing leadership); making them mad to make them play harder. I just kind of try to coach guys. A lot of the freshmen we have don’t know certain things and I just try to help them out.”
On the keys to his 3-point shooting success:
“(It’s) Just putting up shots, getting in the gym. Coach T (Kurtis Townsend) challenged us to make 250 NBA 3s every day during the summer. That was the biggest thing for me, just getting in the gym and putting up shots.”
On his 3-point shooting improvement over the past few seasons:
“A lot of it was because of my teammates; it was all Frank and Perry and Wayne (Selden Jr.) being defended that left me open and I was just knocking down shots.”
On how hard it is for freshmen to pick up on the team’s defensive mentality, a huge point of emphasis by Coach Self:
“It’s definitely hard because a lot of the things we do, and terminology that we use on defense, you never use it in high school. The places you’re supposed to be on the court; just helping the helper, then if somebody drives baseline you’ve got to help him and it’s just different stuff like that which can be hard to pick up on, but they’re doing a good job.”
On what is the hardest for newcomers to understand: the system, the terminology or the constant effort, at such a high level, that Self demands:
“I think that’s the hardest thing, the constant effort; competing on every play; not taking a play off is one of the biggest things. In high school, All-Americans don’t play a lot of defense but you can’t do that here.”
On how hard that was for him to pick up:
“It wasn’t hard for me because I wasn’t an All-American [laughter]. I played defense in high school.”
On comparing the highly-touted newcomers to his own situation:
“Not as much as I used to. I used to, when I first got there, because I was coming in with Wayne and Cliff (Alexander) and Kelly (Oubre Jr.), all of them were McDonald’s All-Americans, I was just overwhelmed with all of it at first. I don’t do it anymore.”
On being the team’s ‘sparkplug’ and that role:
“I just have to be an even more vocal leader. I’ve got to play the same as I’ve been playing, but at a higher level now because we don’t have as many guys as we did last year. The freshmen are going to step up and we’ve got people that didn’t play as much last year who are going to step up for us as well. I’ve just got to keep doing what I’m doing.”
Sophomore guard Lagerald Vick
On the differences from this year compared to last year:
“The expectations for me, being a sophomore and what I bring to the table.”
On his improvement in the offseason:
“Shooting the ball, taking a thousand jumpers a day. Not taking any off days in the summer and just working and working.”
On who he’s been battling against in practice:
“Josh (Jackson), sometimes I’ll switch it up and hold Devonte’ (Graham).”
On what will surprise people this year:
“The leadership from Frank. He and Devonte stepping up, taking responsibility and teaching the freshmen. Sometimes he (Frank) is vocal and sometimes he’s active.”
On Frank’s patience with mistakes:
“Yeah, kind of, but Frank’s hard on me.”
On how his game has changed while at KU:
“In high school it was kind of all about me, so coming here the change is that you’re playing with a lot of good players. Just little things.”
On last year’s Elite Eight loss and moving on from it:
“We talk about it a lot, but we just (have to) move on; it’s in the past. We’re working hard to get out of that situation better next time.”
Freshman guard Josh Jackson
On his first Late Night at the Phog experience:
“I think I was more nervous to dance than I was to actually play, but I had a really good time out there. Seeing Coach (Brennan) Bechard hit the shot for $10,000; that was crazy.”
On why he chose Kansas:
“I felt like this place was special. I felt like I could get the most out of being here, on and off the court. I felt like Coach Self really cared about me — more than just a basketball player. I really felt a family feeling here and I still feel that today. I think that’s one of the most amazing parts about the University of Kansas.”
On his mom’s influence:
“Her input was always the same; she wouldn’t make the decision for me, but she wanted me to end up somewhere where she knew that they cared about me more than just (for) basketball, more than just me dribbling the ball. I feel like I made the right decision.”
On playing with senior guard Frank Mason III and junior guard Devonte’ Graham:
“The best thing for me is coming to practice everyday knowing that those two are going to go at me really hard. It’s not really going to do anything but make me better and make them better.”
On aiming to go 40-0 this season:
“That’s our goal. We know it’s going to be really hard and kind of unlikely, but that’s what we’re shooting for.”
On where his competitive nature came from:
“My mom and dad. As a kid I played against both of them a lot in the backyard, one-on-one. They would never take it easy on me. They would always foul me kind of hard, block my shot all the time. They would beat me all the time. It really made me mad sometimes because I always wanted to win. I think that’s where I really got it from.”
On when he first beat his mom in one-on-one:
“I think I first beat my mom in a one-on-one game when I was 13, 14 years old. She held her own.”
On his first “welcome to college” moment:
“(It was) My first week of summer school here. We were all here working out everyday and prior to coming here I didn’t really lift weights as much. So lifting weights and then going to practice really took a toll on my body. I got through it and it’s coming really easy now.”
On the adjustment of the game to the college level:
“There have definitely been a couple of times where Landen (Lucas) has set a couple screens on me and hit me really hard. A couple times trying to guard Frank and running as fast I can and he’s still a mile ahead of me. They’re just really far ahead of me right now, but I think I’m catching up a little bit.”
On taking on a leadership role, even in his freshman season:
“It’s pretty natural for me, especially when I see small things that can be improved. I’m definitely going to speak up no matter who it is. Frank and Devonte’ are definitely the two leaders of this team and they teach me a lot.”
On the history of Kansas basketball:
“Kansas has an amazing history, (it’s) really hard to live up to. The thing I really like about it is that a lot of players still come back here and they visit, they hang out with us, they play pickup with us. That was one of the biggest reasons that I came here, because it just feels like such a family environment. When players come back, it feels like a passing of the torch kind of thing. If I was to ever leave here, I would definitely come back and do the same thing for the players who were here.”