Jayhawks stress defense in lead-up to Aztecs

Kansas players Jamari Traylor (31) and Andrew Wiggins battle in the paint for a rebound with Toledo center Nathan Boothe during the second half on Monday, Dec. 30, 2013 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas players Jamari Traylor (31) and Andrew Wiggins battle in the paint for a rebound with Toledo center Nathan Boothe during the second half on Monday, Dec. 30, 2013 at Allen Fieldhouse.

January 4, 2014


Defense, as one might expect, has been the focus of Kansas University basketball coach Bill Self since Toledo torched KU for 83 points Monday night in Allen Fieldhouse.

“It’s been all defensive drills in practice the last couple days,” KU forward Jamari Traylor said before Friday afternoon’s workout.

Well, perhaps that’s a slight exaggeration.

“Ten percent, maybe 15, 20 at the most,” Traylor said, estimating the time the Jayhawks have spent on offense since allowing the most points in a nonconference game since January of 2009, when Siena hit for 84. “(It’s been) 80 percent defense at practice.”

Traylor gave an example of a popular defensive drill.

“We’ve got ‘shell drill’ — four guys out there on offense, four on defense,” the 6-8, 220-pound sophomore explained. “We guard pick-and-rolls, handoffs, fade screens, back screens … about every offensive set you can probably throw at us. (When) we get used to that, there’s not too much teams can throw at us we wouldn’t be ready for.”

The No. 16-ranked Jayhawks (9-3) on Sunday face a No. 21-ranked San Diego State team (11-1) that averages 76.7 points a game while allowing 53.3. Tipoff is 3:30 p.m. in Allen Fieldhouse.

“We’ve emphasized it (defense) all along. We’ve probably put more an emphasis on it the last several days,” Self said. “The emphasis has been defense for sure.

“There are a lot of things that are correctable that we can do. I don’t think it’s as much from a positioning standpoint as it is a reckless-abandon standpoint.”

Of KU’s defense, sophomore forward Perry Ellis said: “When we are playing freely defensively, I feel like we’ll have it (down). It’s what I went through my freshman year, being worried about messing up. When you don’t worry about that, you press through that, and good things will happen.”

Free to shoot?: The 6-8, 225-pound Ellis has made three of six threes this season after making two of three his freshman year.

“I never told him whether it’s green or not,” Self said, asked if Ellis has the green light to fire away. “I do want him to shoot because he can shoot, but I don’t want him to think that’s how he needs to earn his money, so to speak. I think he needs to pick and choose. It wouldn’t disappoint me if he starts averaging a three or two a game.”

Home and home: KU will return the game to San Diego State in the 2015-16 season. Self was asked by a San Diego writer if he scheduled the series as part of “reconciliation” for KU’s landing Kevin Young in recruiting in the summer of 2011. Young changed his mind and played for the Jayhawks after committing to Steve Fisher’s S.D. State program.

“I would not schedule a guy, and he (Fisher) would not schedule a guy to try to kiss and make up nor because you feel sorry for the other guy,” Self said. “Everybody does what’s in the best interest of their program. Certainly we both feel that’s the case with this.

“I think our fans will enjoy a trip to California. He (Fisher) has done such a great job there. It’s obviously a good game that brings national attention. It would not be on CBS if it wasn’t (that type of game).”

Self indicated KU did not start recruiting Young until he had decommitted from S.D. State.

“If you are in the business long enough, things like that happen inevitably,” Self said. “Certainly it happened between him (Fisher) and me. That does not in the least way, shape or form affect our relationship. If it does, then obviously we didn’t care much for each other to begin with. I think he’s a first-class guy. He’s an unbelievable coach, done an unbelievable job at San Diego State.

“I’m not saying that at all ‘cause I’m trying to get back in good, so to speak,” Self added, with a smile. “It’s a fact the guy is good and been doing a great job a long time.”

Besides ... “They got Malik Pope this year, so everything is fine,” Self added.

Pope, a 6-8 forward from Laguna Creek, Calif., who is ranked No. 17 nationally in the Class of 2014, chose S.D. State over KU and others.

Praise: Fisher at his Friday news conference returned compliments to KU coach Self.

“What about Bill Self’s record? This is unbelievable stuff,” Fisher told the California media. “How long has he been at Kansas? Eleven years. How many conference championships does he have? Nine. How many home losses does he have? Eight ... eight home losses in his career,” Fisher exclaimed. “He’s won more conference championships than his home losses. He’s 166-8 at home. That’s pretty impressive.”

Asked about highly publicized KU freshman Andrew Wiggins, Fisher said: “If (Wiggins) was the only person I had to worry about, I think I’d be OK. How about (center Joel) Embiid? He’s not too bad, either. Or (sophomore forward) Perry Ellis? I thought that was just a clothing line or something else. He’s tremendous.”

Here before: S.D. State’s Winston Shepard, a 6-8 sophomore forward from Houston, was asked if he had been to Kansas.

“Numerous times. I actually took a (recruiting) visit to Kansas. What a lot of people don’t know is my mother signed to play basketball at Kansas, but unfortunately my grandfather passed away, so she played at Texas,” Shepard said. “So I’ve been to Kansas a lot. I know the atmosphere, so it won’t be anything new for me. It’s a great facility. They’ve got numerous NBA players and hall of famers that have come from there. It’s pretty much like a basketball heaven. I’m looking forward to going in there.”

Senior guard Xavier Thames, 6-3 from Sacramento, Calif., has played in Allen before.

“Yes, I went there for an AAU tournament, the Jayhawk Classic. I’ve seen the facilities and the campus and everything like that. I just haven’t played there when it was packed, so that will be nice,” he said.


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