KU men’s basketball coach Bill Self said Thursday he was proud of the way his Jayhawks have played “considering all the crap and distractions that this team has listened to and dealt with.”
Self was responding to a question about the Jayhawks being “bombarded with things that were not related to basketball” while the Big 12 Conference race was still in question. KU wound up clinching its 13th consecutive conference championship with three games to play and won the title outright a game later.
On Friday, star freshman Josh Jackson was charged with misdemeanor property damage. Two other KU men’s players have faced legal issues this year as well. In addition, University of Kansas police continue to investigate the reported rape of a 16-year-old girl in December at McCarthy Hall, where the team and other male KU students live. That police report was brought to light in January.
According to a transcript of his Thursday news conference, Self was asked: “When the conference race was in question about a month ago, and you were bombarded with things that were not related to basketball, does the team’s ability to withstand all the off-field distractions make this conference title more special?”
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Self responded: “I will say that this team has been as focused as any group that I can remember considering all the crap and distractions that this team has listened to and dealt with.
“So I would say that’s a proud thing. You know, as a coach, you want your team to be — to rally around things. You want them to be tough. And I do think these things indirectly certainly made us do those sorts of things, without us talking about them; it’s not like we sit around and talk about and break everything down; we don’t.
“We, on the inside, have a better feel for what’s going on than what the outside does, obviously, and so maybe it has — maybe it has helped in that regard. But it’s certainly been taxing, though. It’s been more than — you know, kids should be able to go out and relax and have fun and play the game they love, even though it’s playing for pretty high stakes. And those things that transpire probably didn’t allow them to do that quite as much, which is disappointing.
“But I certainly understand it. I mean, it’s certainly human nature, and then when you’re — when you have issues in front of you that must be dealt with and you have issues that are obviously going to be talked about, it’s nobody — it’s not the media’s fault that that stuff’s brought up. But it’s also a way that, you know, hopefully that you can kind of rally around those things, as well.”
Four KU players have been in off-court headlines since January.
▪ Jackson was charged Friday in Douglas County District Court after he allegedly damaged women’s basketball player McKenzie Calvert’s car in December outside a Lawrence bar by kicking the driver’s door and the taillight while she was inside the vehicle. He issued an apology and his arraignment is April 12. Self has not suspended Jackson from any games this season.
The Star reported in late January that a university investigation found KU sophomore Lagerald Vick likely hit Calvert multiple times in late 2015 and recommended he receive two years of school probation. Vick was never publicly suspended from any KU games.
▪ Sophomore Carlton Bragg completed a three-game suspension in February for violating team rules. He was charged with misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia in Lawrence Municipal Court and reached a diversion agreement that would dismiss the charge.
▪ Hours after KU won the Big 12, junior Devonté Graham was arrested for an outstanding traffic warrant and later released from jail after posting bond. Self said Graham was stopped last summer while driving an ex-teammate’s car that had an expired tag and thought the fine was paid. Graham apologized and was not suspended.