Archive for Friday, December 22, 2006

Arthur starting to make strides on defense

December 22, 2006

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Darrell Arthur dominated on the defensive end - without fouling - during his four years at Dallas' South Oak Cliff High.

"It used to be, 'Just stay behind your man, then block every shot,''' Kansas University coach Bill Self said.

"It's not like that now," Self added of defending on the major-college level.

KU's 6-foot-9, 230-pound McDonald's All-America selection has had no problems scoring (13.7 ppg), rebounding (5.7) and shot-blocking (2.4) during the nonconference portion of his freshman season.

"He's done just about everything well," Self said, pointing to just two negatives - an assist-to-turnover mark of 3 to 15, to go with the much-publicized foul woes.

Arthur is second on the team with 28 fouls in 236 minutes.

"I think he's becoming a smarter defender," Self said. "The whole thing about defense is playing your man before he catches it (ball). If you do that, it's a lot easier to guard him after he's got it. Darrell's doing a better job adjusting, being where he's supposed to be."

In an attempt to cut down on his tendency to foul early, Arthur recently asked Self if he could come off the bench instead of start.

So far the results have been positive. Arthur has committed just three fouls in the two games he has played as KU's sixth man since making that request.

"We are a lot better team if he is not sitting 16 minutes of a half," Self said. "If he feels more comfortable sitting there and watching and coming in at the first break, I'm all for that.

"If it gives him a better chance to be in the game the last five minutes, it's something we need to seriously look at. It's not who starts, but who finishes."

Arthur - who will be counted on to slow Boston College big men Sean Williams (6-10) and John Oates (6-10) during Saturday's 1 p.m. nonconference clash at Allen Fieldhouse - has been happy to come off the pine lately.

"When I was starting, I'd get two fouls quick and sit the bench the whole first half," said Arthur, who has started seven of KU's 11 games. "We've made adjustments for me to come off the bench. I play more minutes when I come off the bench anyway. I see how they call the game, see how the other team is playing so I can come in and not make the same mistakes."

Arthur has been working on ways to avoid the silly fouls at practice.

"I spend time moving my feet and not reaching," he said. "I had a lot of reaching problems when I first started."

Self said he's been pleased with Arthur's progress on the defensive end.

"His approach is, 'Teach me. I want to learn,''' Self said. "All guys hate to screw up, but he really hates to mess up. He is getting it. He will become a very, very smart basketball player real soon. He's well on the way. He studies it. He is getting it."

Self rarely has to stop practice to chew out Arthur, who knows when he's erred.

"I hate making mistakes. I hate for people to say I make mistakes. I just try to not make the same mistakes over and over," said Arthur, who has impressed his teammates in a short period of time.

"He's getting better every day," sophomore Julian Wright noted. "He's pretty good at challenging everybody and in return we're challenging him - not just the big men, but just everyone. Everyone's just trying to just keep encouraging him. And he's also just a guy that's competing. He wants to get better and you can tell he's gotten better since the season started."

¢ Chances are junior center Sasha Kaun, who started 29 of 33 games a year ago, will open his second straight game Saturday versus B.C.

That is, as long as he's healthy. Kaun missed the first three games of the season with a knee injury and is not 100 percent recovered from a left ankle sprain.

"I'm probably not completely where I want to be now," Kaun said Thursday after receiving treatment on the ankle after practice. "So I'm trying to get the rhythm back to start, but I'm definitely better than I felt a couple of weeks ago. It could be a little frustrating, but I'm trying not to be (frustrated). I'm just trying to get better every day and work hard."

¢ Self talked to his mentor - former KU coach Larry Brown - on the phone Thursday morning. Brown, who is rumored to be headed to a front-office job with the Philadelphia 76ers, has been trying to find time to travel to Lawrence to observe some KU practices.

"Coach Brown and also Jerry Tarkanian ... They'd say, 'Never pass up a chance to get better,''' Self said. "I don't believe in walk-through shootarounds. I don't believe in going light the day before a game. You may go short, you never go light. You've got to ingrain in minds the pace you need to play at and always execute at that pace.

"Coach (Brown) was big on, 'It's not what the scoreboard says. It's whether we are getting better.' Are we getting the shots we want, are we defending? He believes practice is important. Coach (Eddie) Sutton was big on that, too. If you practice well you have so much more confidence in the games."

¢ Saturday's 1 p.m. game (not 12:30 p.m. as reported on some schedules) will be televised on CBS. The announcers will be Don Criqui and Bill Raftery.

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