Kansas basketball coach Bill Self, who has not been pleased with the play of his two starting bigs, might have to consider some changes if things don’t change soon.
“We’ve got to get those guys playing at a much higher level. I don’t know if we need to tweak our lineup or maybe kind of settle in on playing four guys (guards) early in the game. I’m certainly not opposed to that,” Self said Wednesday night on his Hawk Talk radio show.
Forwards Landen Lucas and Carlton Bragg played just 10 minutes apiece in Tuesday’s 65-54 CBE Hall of Fame Classic title game victory over Georgia. Lucas had no points, two boards, three turnovers and five fouls; Bragg had three points, three fouls and one board.
“Maybe (I’ll) just start guys based on the opponent. I’ve never been a guy who did that. I’ve always liked having our starting five and let everybody know,” Self added. “Maybe some games start four guards. Maybe some games start Udoka (Azubuike) depending on who the other personnel is.
“We really need to develop Udoka,” he said, noting the 7-foot freshman played just five minutes Tuesday only because he’s not used to defending in a 2-3 zone, which the Jayhawks employed for 30 minutes.
“We’ve got to develop a low-post scorer. He (Azubuike) is the best option we have to score consistently down there. Landen can do some good things. He’s a little out of sync now. Carlton … he got exposed. Maden (Yante, 30 points, 13 boards) put it on him pretty good last night. He (Bragg) is much better than he played last night. We all know that.
“It is frustrating to me,” Self said. “Look at it from a coach’s perspective. If big guys aren’t going to be a presence or rebound or protect the rim, why wouldn’t you play four guards? Lagerald Vick (sophomore guard, eight boards, nine points, 24 minutes vs. Georgia) is as good a rebounder as those guys. I don’t see a reason why you wouldn’t play four guards, maybe create more havoc on the perimeter. We need to practice trapping the post and doing some things with four guards out there we haven’t had a chance to practice yet. I do see four guards being much more of a go-to for us.”
Self did say he believed the first two of 6-10 senior Lucas’ five fouls were not deserved while the 6-10 Bragg “obviously deserved his (first two whistles). Beside the point, we have got to get those guys playing at a much higher level,” Self said.
Self said Lucas last year “rebounded and defended, got baskets off other people’s plays. If you are going to throw it to a guy, ‘Doke’ gives us the best chance to score. Carlton is kind of a finesse guy that will play outside/in. I kind of wish it was the opposite, but that’s kind of where he is. We have to develop a low-post presence where your rim protector can rebound in traffic and do some things. Udoka gives us the best chance to do that probably. The thing that has become obvious is Udoka needs some minutes,” Self said.
KU junior forward Dwight Coleby had four rebounds and four blocks in 20 minutes in the title game.
“He’s a great kid,” Self said of the 6-9, 240-pound transfer from Mississippi. “You can see he doesn’t have the explosiveness with his leg (left ACL was surgically repaired last year). He’s probably 60 or 70 percent of what he was before he was injured. Structurally he’s fine. He doesn’t have the confidence or strength with it to explode. Through rehab he has a ways to go and do lot extra work to get strength back in it, and so much is confidence as well.”
Coleby’s dad, Dwight Sr., who lives in Freeport, Bahamas, was in town for the CBE Classic. He returned home Wednesday morning.
“I was pleased for Dwight. They’ve gone through so much over there (Bahamas) with the hurricane (Hurricane Matthew in early October). Dwight had a chance to spend some time with his dad. It was great to see him play so many minutes,” Self said.
It seems Coleby’s dad needed to get home.
“He’s been working nonstop. The hotel is shut down. They’re trying to bring it back up,” Coleby said. His dad works at a resort that was damaged in the hurricane. “He has to get back to work. He couldn’t get much time off. It was great to have him here.”
Graham ready for feast
KU junior guard Devonté Graham normally likes to devour all kinds of food, especially his mom’s macaroni and cheese, while watching football — preferably the Dallas Cowboys — on Turkey Day.
“I don’t know how much I’ll eat on Thanksgiving. We’ve got a game the next day,” said Graham, who scored 14 points off 5-of-15 shooting (3-of-9 from three) and swiped four steals against Georgia.
The No. 5-ranked Jayhawks, 4-1, who remain in the midst of a hectic schedule, do indeed meet UNC Asheville, 3-2, at 7 p.m. Friday in Allen Fieldhouse. The squad should be finished with practice and settled in McCarthy Hall for a Thanksgiving team meal and 3:30 p.m. start of the Cowboys-Redskins game.
“Cowboys all day, every day. Me, Landen, coach Self, we all love the Cowboys. Anybody got something to say, you can just put up with coach Self with that one,” Graham said, laughing, during the preseason when he took The Star on a tour of McCarthy Hall.
Self outlines KU’s holiday schedule
“We’ll practice early Thursday, have Thanksgiving dinner with the team,” Self said. “We’ll do the Asheville scout and be back (in fieldhouse for game) Friday.”
Self reiterated a recent theme that the Jayhawks — who hit 38.7 percent of their shots (6 of 21 from three) — have resembled a tired team.
“We haven’t made excuses for our guys but you can look at them … mentally they are fatigued,” Self said. “What is this, five games in 11 days? 12,000 miles? Even Frank (Mason, 19 points, five boards, three steals, three assists, five turnovers) got frustrated the second half.
“What are we, 4-1?” Self asked. “We are fortunate to be that. We play on Friday and maybe we can catch our breath a little bit more after that. The travel has kind of knocked us out a little bit. Hopefully we can kind of get our batteries recharged and play with more energy than we played with over here (Sprint Center in CBE). Although last night (in 83-63 win over UAB on Monday) to start the game we were pretty good. Hopefully we get our legs under us, get our minds fresh and be ready to play Friday.”
Down to 262 pounds
Self gave an update on frosh Azubuike’s ever-changing body on Wednesday.
“I don’t think he’s quite 7-foot tall. I think he’s a legit 6-10 1/2, 6-11. He got here at 303 pounds. He’s 262 now. That’s a heck of a deal. In five months lose 41 pounds. He looks absolutely great. He feels good. He has to go after the ball,” Self said.