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Big 12 basketball media day: Bill Self, Tyshawn Taylor, Thomas Robinson praise Jeff Withey


2:30 p.m. update

One last note from today: KU is ranked 13th in the ESPN/USA Today coaches poll that was just released.

With that, we're going to wrap up our coverage from Big 12 media days at Sprint Center.

Be sure to check back later to KUsports.com for additional coverage, including videos from the event and also a wrap of the day from Journal-World KU basketball guru Gary Bedore.

1:35 p.m. update

Just wrapped up interviews with players. Here are a few more things of note:

Gary Bedore, who was at the KU table for the duration, said Self, Tyshawn Taylor and Thomas Robinson all talked glowingly about Jeff Withey.

"You'll see a new Jeff Withey," Robinson said.

Robinson also said Withey had been working hard after practice to improve his game.

Gary also said that Self indicated that KU would try to sign about five players in recruiting this year.

Here's KU coach Bill Self's direct quote about Missouri from earlier, courtesy of ASAP Sports:

"I think our league is probably stronger today than it ever has been because you have key players in our league that seem to be on the same page more than they ever have been.

"So it's not like Missouri's putting our league in jeopardy. I don't feel that at all. But it is something that I think we'd all agree to maintain what's been going on for 100 years, I think, is something that's pretty special."

Tyshawn Taylor talked about what it was like to play with Thomas Robinson:

"It's exciting, man. He's a high-energy guy who likes to run. That fits me perfectly, because I like to run. I threw, like, five lobs to him at practice yesterday, so I think we're going to see a lot of that this year."

12:16 p.m. update

I stood next to KU coach Bill Self's table for about 10 minutes. Here are some of the highlights from what he had to say:

Self said six guys have separated themselves in practices as ahead of the others: Tyshawn Taylor, Thomas Robinson, Elijah Johnson, Travis Releford, Jeff Withey and Conner Teahan. Self said Teahan had done a great job, and if KU played today, he'd be the first guy off the bench.

Self likes freshman guard Naadir Tharpe's potential to lead. He takes charge and is a vocal guy.

Self on Missouri: "If they leave, they leave. Big deal." He came back quickly with, "We don't want them to (leave the conference)," and, "I want to make it clear: I want Missouri to stay."

He also made mention of Texas making a bold statement when it declared it wouldn't play Texas A&M in non-conference.

When it came to scheduling, though, Self was adamant.

"What we do will not be based on what other people want us to do," he said.

• Self said he thought the fact that Sprint Center was in the state of Missouri was overrated when it came to discussions for it being a potential host for the Big 12 Tournament if Missouri leaves.

"I think it's Kansas City," Self said, emphasizing the "Kansas."

Self said which state the building is shouldn't matter. He also emphasized that KC was a good location for schools like Kansas State and Iowa State, who had been known to bring big crowds.

• Self said he heard from others that Thomas Robinson "out-tried" others during camps over the summer.

In the past, Self said there were times he hoped his big guys drew some fouls just so he could play all of his big men. Obviously, with KU's depth issues, he won't hope for that this season. Still, Self said at Tulsa one year his starting four-man was 6-foot-4, and his backup was 6-4 also. So being successful with a smaller lineup can be done.

Self was impressed with how much Paul Pierce talked to the guys about working hard when he came back for Legends of the Phog. He believed that had an impact on his players.

11:03 a.m. update

Quickly, here is KU coach Bill Self's audio from his time at the main table. The Missouri comments are at the very end.

10:52 a.m. update

There will be a bit of a lull here in the blog, as one-on-ones begin at 11 a.m. with coaches and noon with players. It's best to make the most of the time with that access, but hopefully I'll get back for an update or two anyway.

In the meantime, even though I know this is a KU basketball blog, The Gridiron is definitely worth checking out this week. If nothing else, fast forward to the middle for inspirational speeches from boxer Victor Ortiz and linebacker Steven Johnson. Serious goosebump material.

10:38 a.m. update

While at the main table, Missouri coach Frank Haith commented on what he knew about the KU-MU rivalry.

"I know it's a big rivalry. No doubt about it. I spent some time in the state of Texas at Texas A&M and at Texas. Seeing that game being played, and the interest in that game and the enthusiasm in that game, I'm excited about that opportunity. ...

"Being a part of a rivalry is exciting, and I've been at places where we've had that opportunity, but I hear there's no game like this game."

10 a.m. update

KSU coach Frank Martin elaborated more on his team's media guide cover (discussed at the bottom of this blog).

He said the photos were shot in the spring, and the original concept came from the Kansas State sports information directors.

"Credit to people at K-State," Martin said. "They come up with some great ideas."

Through emails and phone calls and Twitter, Martin has heard nothing but positive response about the media guide cover.

He said his players were killing him about it, though.

9:51 a.m. update

Kansas State coach Frank Martin made a quick joke while waiting for the Big 12 to fix a microphone problem while he was at the lead table.

"Did this happen when Bill Self was up here?" he deadpanned.

9:43 a.m. update

Bad camera work by me, but this attempt at a panorama still should give you a bit of an idea of what the coaches are looking at when they're answering questions at Sprint Center today.

9:26 a.m. update

The Big 12 media guide shows that 12 of Texas Tech's 16 players are newcomers.

Also, here are the class breakdowns for the Red Raiders' players:

• 11 freshmen
• 2 sophomores
• 2 juniors
• 1 senior

I don't think I've ever seen a more inexperienced roster at the Div. I level

9 p.m. update

Texas coach Rick Barnes was asked about playing Kansas twice this season.

Here's what he said:

"What makes rivalries is a consistently competitive situation played well at a very high level. I think the Kansas-Texas game has been. We've even talked about in the past, and kidded about maybe even playing a non-league game, because we think that Texas-Kansas playing twice ... I know our fans are excited about it. We've always enjoyed coming to play up here, because it's one of the great places to play. You want to win obviously, and we were fortunate to do that last year.

"I think it has been — and I think it will get even better — with being one of the best rivalries in college basketball."

8:38 a.m. update

The KU-Missouri rivalry isn't the only rivalry that looks like it will be coming to an end soon.

In the last two days, the Baylor basketball coaches haven't seemed to have much interest in scheduling Texas A&M in the future.

"We don't see anything on the horizon, at least," Baylor coach Scott Drew said Thursday.

Baylor women's coach Kim Mulkey gave a much more entertaining answer on Wednesday at Big 12 women's media day.

"Who wants to be in a relationship that's over and has no value for you?" Mulkey said. "And that stuck with me. So basically (the Texas A&M president) is talking about a divorce. And I think I know a little bit about a divorce.

"And my feeling is this: If a man wants to divorce me and says our relationship has no value to him, and then he asks me if he can sleep with me, the answer is: No!"

8:15 a.m. update

Here are the Cliff's Notes from KU coach Bill Self at the podium here at Big 12 media days.

Self says he is excited about his team. He says his team is a very thin team that is very talented. The Jayhawks will have less margin for error this year because of their depth. The league will be terrific, with perhaps as much parity as there ever has been.

One thing about reduced numbers is it forces guys into roles. No question, Tyshawn Taylor will be the leader of the team, and Thomas Robinson will be the emotional leader. Taylor has paid his dues, and he's learned how to lead better.

Robinson has to have improvement similar to what Cole Aldrich had between his freshman and sophomore year. Robinson needs to be an All-American for KU. He needs to be a player that's one of the top 10 to 15 players in the country. Self thinks he has the ability, but he still is very inexperienced. He's never been the focal point of the opposing defense. It will be a different role for him, but Self thinks he's talented enough and cares enough to be one of the best players around.

Robinson has improved his shooting stroke. Self hasn't come up with a rule for him on which shots he can take. For example, with Russell Robinson, the coaches knew he'd take two bad shots per game, so they expected that. But Thomas Robinson won't make his living on the perimeter.

Thomas Robinson didn't have a good offseason. He had a fabulous one. He performed well at camps across the country.

Jeff Withey is a talented guy, and he hasn't had a chance to play a lot. In recent memory, KU has had some talented fourth big guys, like Aldrich and Thomas Robinson. Withey is trying hard and has gotten stronger, though he can still get stronger yet. Self likes him. He's not a prototypical big guy. He's a finesse big guy. If he plays enough minutes, he'll block a lot of shots.

• Self doesn't know if expectations should change that much with KU's two lost freshmen lost because of academics. KU has a talented team. Expectations can be tempered a little bit, but Elijah Johnson, Travis Releford and Withey are good players that haven't had a chance to show it yet. Self thinks his guys expect to be pretty good.

In basketball, the KU-Missouri rivalry is underrated because it's in the middle of the country, but at worst it's one of the best five to 10 rivalries in the nation. There's mutual respect between the two programs. Self would hate to lose the rivalry. Self feels good about the Big 12. He believes it's stronger today than it ever has been. Missouri is not putting the league in jeopardy. He thinks putting 100 years of tradition to the side isn't a smart move. It's hard to develop new rivals. Rivalries are important. KU has had some great games with Texas, and that rivalry is going to get better because the teams play each other twice. But Texas still circles Texas A&M, and KU still circles Missouri and Kansas State. KU will develop greater rivalries going forward because it will be playing teams twice.

7:56 a.m. update

A lot of times, teams come into the year trying to play the "We get no respect" card.

It's going to be tough for KU to make that argument after looking at their rankings in the preseason polls.

To be fair, most of these polls came out before the announcement that freshmen Ben McLemore and Jamari Traylor would sit out this season.

Still, here's how KU ranks in each of the following polls:

Sporting News — 14th
Blue Ribbon — 11th
Lindy's — Unranked
ESPN.com (Andy Katz) — 18th
CBSsports.com — 14th
Athlon Sports — 13th
NBCsports.com — 15th
Dick Vitale — 17th

Seems a bit high for a team with depth issues heading into the season like KU.

7:10 a.m. update

Welcome to the Newell Post (early morning version), as we're getting ready to set up at Big 12 men's basketball media days at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.

KU coach Bill Self is first at the podium this morning at 8 a.m., so the blog will pick up quickly. We'll have Cliff's Notes of what he says, plus updates from other coaches throughout the day.

Here's the schedule of coaches, for those wondering:

8 a.m. — KU coach Bill Self
8:15 a.m. — Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger
8:30 p.m. — Baylor coach Scott Drew
8:45 p.m. — Texas coach Rick Barnes
9 a.m. — Texas A&M Associate Head Coach Glynn Cyprien
9:30 a.m. — Texas Tech Coach Billy Gillispie
9:45 a.m. — Kansas State coach Frank Martin
10 a.m. — Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford
10:15 a.m. — Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg
10:30 a.m. — Missouri coach Frank Haith
11 a.m. — One-on-one interviews with coaches
Noon — One-on-one interviews with players

Let's get started with some discussion on a topic that has gotten a lot of attention lately: Kansas State's media guide cover.

Here's a screenshot of it, taken from the Kansas State athletics website.

Personally, I like the cover, and I commend Martin for agreeing to do something different (and memorable).

So I've made my vote in this informal, fun, not-too-important poll: What is your opinion of the Frank Martin "faces" media cover? I'm interested to hear what KU fans think about it after seeing the results from a poll done on Kansascity.com.

Keep checking back throughout the day for more Big 12 media day updates.


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