Bill Self wasn’t able to change the time of Kansas’ second practice of the 2016-17 basketball season, thus he arrived for the VIP portion of the Coaches vs. Cancer Tipoff event about 45 minutes late Thursday afternoon at Bartle Hall.
Self, KU’s 14th-year coach, felt as if he’d be cheating his players if he cut short a sloppy session in which much teaching was involved.
“We were actually pretty good in Boot Camp. We were actually average at Late Night. We’ve actually stunk the first two practices,” Self told reporters Thursday at the fundraiser to combat cancer.
“I think we’re going backward right now,” he added of the Jayhawks. “I do like our guys a lot. They are working hard, but two practices in we don’t look very good.”
He explained the problem.
“Our attention to detail isn’t very good. Certainly we’re playing way too fast. You play fast and you think instead of reacting, then it just leads to turnover after turnover,” Self said. “We’ll get that straightened out. It’s not very pretty right now.”
Self did say praise the Jayhawks’ “effort, (overall) attention and focus.”
“Right now I’d say our young guys are trying to survive rather than worrying about the guy to the left and right quite as much. That will change,” said Self, who has scholarship freshmen on the roster in Josh Jackson, Udoka Azubuike and Mitch Lightfoot and other newcomers in transfers Malik Newman and Evan Maxwell as well as Dwight Coleby, who could not practice last season following left knee surgery.
“I told them today, ‘Give it two weeks and you’ll feel so much more comfortable.’ There’s definitely a learning curve. It’s natural for young kids to act like they are a little lost right now, which they are,” Self explained.
Lightfoot was able to practice Thursday after missing Wednesday’s first practice of the season because of a fever.
“Dwight has been out there the whole time and hasn’t missed anything. Udoka (slowed recently by a strained groin) has practiced both days, but we limited him going up and down for the short term, just because we don’t want him to aggravate it more. They’ve both been pretty good. I’ve been pretty pleased with them,” Self said.
Self comments on awards
KU’s Frank Mason and Devonté Graham were named first team preseason all-Big 12 Thursday in a vote of the league coaches. Others on the team: preseason player of the year Monte Morris of Iowa State, Johnathan Motley of Baylor and Jawun Evans of Oklahoma State.
“With Monte being preseason player of the year … how could he not be for the most part?” Self said. “We got a couple kids on the preseason (team) which was good. You mention (this) to Frank and Devonté and they say, ‘What does that mean, coach? It doesn’t mean anything?’ It’ll be a good recruiting mailout for one day.
“I think the kid at Oklahoma State, if he would have stayed healthy probably would have made first-team (all-league) last year. Obviously Motley is as talented a big-man prospect as we’ve had in our league a while,” Self added.
KU’s Jackson was named preseason freshman of the year.
“I think Josh was going to win freshman of the year in our league the second he probably signed because so much of that is based on reputation,” Self said of the No. 1-rated recruit in the Class of 2016 according to Rivals.com. “How could it be based on anything else? Nobody has seen him play. I certainly hope he’ll play to a first-team all-league type player as well. He’s certainly talented enough to do that.”
Self was asked about Jackson perhaps needing to work on his shooting technique.
“If people are saying about Josh, ‘Man he can really shoot,’ then we are going to have an unbelievable player because what he can do when the ball is not in his hands and what he can do to create shots for others is far superior to anybody we’ve had at his size by far,” Self said. “I think it’s OK for a guy to maybe not be the best at one skill set. It’s one in which he’s getting better and he’s improving it. I’ll be surprised if he doesn’t become a good shooter but that’s going to take a little bit of time.”
Self said the team would practice Friday afternoon and Saturday morning, then attend Saturday’s NBA exhibition between the Minnesota Timberwolves and Miami Heat, set for a 7:30 p.m. tip at the Sprint Center. Former KU players Andrew Wiggins, Brandon Rush and Cole Aldrich play for the Timberwolves.