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Cliff’s Notes: Bill Self press conference, 1/24/13
Here is the Cliff's Notes version from Kansas men's basketball coach Bill Self's comments at his press conference today.
Full audio of Self and also of Mario Chalmers talking about his jersey retirement next month also is available.
• The Texas Tech-Iowa State result surprised Self (Tech beat ISU on Wednesday). Texas Tech played well. Iowa State didn't make some shots, from what Self saw when he watched the last five minutes of the game. That's life on the road in the league. Any win on the road is a big deal. It was a pretty shocking night when it came to favorites on the road last night.
• Brandon Rush is stronger than Ben McLemore, but they compare to each other athletically. McLemore is probably more athletic. They're both very similar. Rush was the better defender. Both Rush and McLemore are unselfish people. They want to fit in. They want to be liked. With that mindset, sometimes they lose aggressiveness. McLemore's getting better at it. KU just has to do a better job of plugging him in. That's the coaches' responsibility, but KU's players have to set better screens, too. Self said if he was a great scorer growing up, he'd defer as well to prove he was a team player. Danny Manning was the same way. If KU was winning by 20, he'd let other guys get their points. That way, guys would get him the ball when the game was on the line. Self wishes both Rush and McLemore were different with their aggressiveness. Self still isn't trying to change McLemore's game. He's the leading freshman scorer — at this point in the season — in KU history. Self would like him to average 25 points per game, but he's not that type of player. Self says we're splitting hairs with McLemore. He's doing just fine.
• Last year's team would have been a better team if McLemore and Jamari Traylor were able to play. But Self isn't sure if the end result — KU making it to the national title game — could have been much better. The chemistry was so good last year, it's hard to think that team could have been much better that it was last year. That's like saying KU could have been better in 2008 with Julian Wright. It's hard to say, because the chemistry would have been different.
• On the bus after Louisville lost, one KU player said, "Why aren't we going to be No. 1?" Travis Releford — a senior — spoke up and said, "We're right where we need to be." Self doesn't run from the No. 1 ranking, but it's not a primary goal of his during the regular season, either.
• Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger left Self's staff some good players when Kruger left Illinois and Self took over. Self never said one negative word about inheriting that situation at Illinois, because there were a lot of positives when he went there.
• Oklahoma has recruited well. Three guys that started last year are coming off the bench now. The Sooners are sound defensively.
• Naadir Tharpe is not afraid to shoot. Self thinks Tharpe's aggressiveness with his shot is a good offensive threat for KU. He hit a couple big shots against K-State.
• You can run great offense and score less because of length of possessions. KU is very opportunistic in transition, but it needs to be able to run more. Against K-State, Jeff Withey didn't block any shots, and KSU didn't turn it over. KU has to do a better job of scoring off its defense and creating some things. Self would love to play fast, but he thinks sometimes that's not the most successful strategy on the road.
• The most fun locker rooms are the ones away from home. Winning on the road is a great feeling.
• Self is fired up for Mario Chalmers, who is getting his jersey retired next month against Texas. The Chalmers family has meant a lot to the program. Mario is so loved at KU. Self has seen "The Shot" a lot, and it still gives him goose bumps. Mario was ornery. He was the perfect guy to coach, because he loved the moment and he loved the competition, but he'd smile the whole time while he loved it. Self would guess that one of the thrills of Chalmers' career was coming back and hitting the three-pointer to tie it up in the Legends of the Phog game in an exhibition that didn't mean anything, because Chalmers knows how much that meant to so many people around here. With a laugh, Self said Chalmers wasn't the best defender he had; he was the best stealer of the ball. Chalmers was the most clutch player Self has coached at KU. Sherron Collins would probably be second on that list.
• KU's four-guard lineup allows Travis Releford to guard the 4 if other teams play small. It helps KU in some situations because it allows the team to get another shooter and ball-handler on the floor. The hope is that stretches the defense and maybe allows KU to isolate Withey in the post more often.