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Archive for Wednesday, August 20, 2008

New year, new faces motivate KU’s Self

It sounds weird to say, but the Kansas basketball team will play its first game of the 2008 season on the same day the Kansas football team hosts its opener with Florida International.

August 20, 2008

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Nolan Richardson, who coached the University of Arkansas to an NCAA basketball championship in 1994, visited with the 2008 national title coach on Sunday at an auction to benefit the College Basketball Experience in downtown Kansas City, Mo.

Richardson told Kansas University's Bill Self what he should expect in leading the Jayhawks the season after winning it all.

"Nolan said to me, 'You've got a hall pass until you are behind at the first TV timeout of the first game, then that hall pass will be gone,'" Self said.

"That's the way it should be, to be honest with you. It's one of those things you have to keep striving to get better."

Self, who said he's become a lot more recognizable on road trips since KU's NCAA title victory over Memphis last April, said he's truly looking forward to Thursday - the first day of the 2008-09 school year, which happens to be the start of KU's hoops season this year.

KU will hold two practices Thursday and practice nine days in all in preparation for a three-game Labor Day weekend trip to Canada. The NCAA allows such foreign trips every four years.

"I wouldn't think it would ... maybe ... I don't know. I've never been in this situation," Self said when asked if his coaching style will change now that he's a member of the national title coaches' fraternity.

He'll have his work cut out Thursday in welcoming seven newcomers and eight returnees to the court.

"I know my approach with this team needs to be different, not because we won, but because we're so young," he said. "I need to be tough on them, but also need to be very patient, whereas the last couple years I haven't had to be quite as patient. I need to adjust to our personnel and our inexperience, but it should also be a lot of fun."

Successful coaches love challenges and losing all five starters constitutes a big challenge for Self, beginning his sixth season at KU and 16th overall as a head coach.

"Our team will not be easier to coach because obviously we lost talented guys," Self said of five seniors as well as NBA early entry draft picks Darrell Arthur, Mario Chalmers and Brandon Rush.

"But Cole (Aldrich, sophomore) and Sherron (Collins, junior) were the only two that remotely had anything to do from an on-the-court standpoint last year to help us win down the stretch. It shouldn't be a spoiled group. We should be hungry. The newcomers have something to try to live up to. I think from that standpoint it will be easy to motivate them."

Self stressed he "wished those guys (Arthur, Chalmers, Rush) would have come back.

"That would have been a challenge to have everybody on the same page and be hungry because the natural tendency is maybe to let up a little bit. Hopefully these guys won't be like that."

Self said he would be treating the Canada practices and exhibitions against McGill University and Carleton University (Aug. 30) and University of Ottawa (Aug. 31) as tools to prepare his team for the start of official practice on Oct. 17.

Self enters camp with the status of point guard Collins in question.

"Don't know," Self said, asked if Collins would be able to practice and play coming off April 22 arthroscopic left knee surgery. The question is how much weight the 5-11, 205-pounder is carrying after the layoff and the last 2 1/2 weeks back home in Chicago. If he's packing too many pounds on the knee, he won't be able to go.

Thus the lead guard position will be shared by many.

"It could be Tyrone's, Tyshawn's, Tyrel's - one thing about it is there's a good chance it'll start with a 'T' if it's between those guys," Self said of newcomer guards Tyrone Appleton and Tyshawn Taylor as well as sophomore Tyrel Reed.

"We'll have to wait and see. I think our young guys are better than a lot project them to be."

Self said the practices will not all be about newcomers Appleton, Taylor, Mario Little, Travis Releford, Quintrell Thomas and Marcus and Markieff Morris. Self reiterated he is soon expecting a favorable ruling from the NCAA clearinghouse on the twins' academic eligibility.

"They asked for some paperwork today and that was delivered," Self said Tuesday, noting he hoped a final ruling would come before Thursday's practice. The twins cannot practice unless deemed eligible. The NCAA traditionally tries to speed up the certification process when teams like the Jayhawks are close to beginning practice.

"I think this is about Cole seeing if he can anchor a front line, about Sherron seeing if he is capable of leading and certainly it's about Brady (Morningstar), Tyrel and Conner (Teahan) seeing how well they fit and what level they can play at. I think they can play at a high level, but they've got to do it," said Self.

He won't overwork the team.

"We'll go short most of the days. We don't want to push them too much physically. I don't know if their bodies can take long, grinding workouts right now," Self said. "A lot will be teaching the mindset, how you need to focus, listen and be prepared to practice."

¢ Recruiting: Harrison Barnes, a 6-6 junior from Ames, Iowa and Ray McCallum, a 6-1 junior from Detroit, tell Rivals.com they will make unofficial visits to KU for the Oct. 17 Late Night in the Phog.

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