Bill Self saw some good things — and plenty of things to work on — during Kansas’ three-game exhibition season that concluded with a somewhat shaky 86-57 victory over NCAA Division II Fort Hays State on Tuesday night at Allen Fieldhouse.
“We’re OK,” said Self, KU’s 15th-year coach, giving a state-of-the-team address Wednesday night on his hour-long Hawk Talk radio show.
“I think our conditioning is pretty good, considering we don’t have a lot of depth. That’s not bad. I think we have the potential to be a good shooting team. We’ve not shot it well in a game yet,” he added, noting Devonté Graham made 6 of 10 threes on Tuesday but the rest of the squad was just 3 of 21 from beyond the arc.
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KU hit a combined 16 of 54 (29.6 percent) threes in the other two exhibition victories — 93-87 against Missouri and 100-54 versus Pittsburg State.
“We share the ball pretty well,” Self added. “We are a decent passing team for this early in the season.”
Self then rattled off some negatives.
“Our defensive rebounding is probably a little suspect because we are small. Certainly I don’t think we guard the ball nearly as well as we will,” he stated.
He was a bit alarmed at the squad’s pace of play in the preseason.
“We play too slow in my opinion,” Self said. “People think playing fast is shooting fast. Our cuts are not as sharp. Last year’s team took a lot of pride in being quick, moving quick. I think we’ve got some players that do and some players obviously don’t (move quickly) yet. Those are things we can obviously work on.
“We’ve only been out there a month so far,” Self added, noting the squad hasn’t put in all of its sets entering Friday’s regular-season opener against Tennessee State at 8 p.m. in Allen Fieldhouse.
He said this year’s team thus far — and it’s obviously early — also is not as gritty as last year’s 31-5 squad.
“For us, I feel we are not very tough yet. I’m not sure it’s possible to be as tough as what our team was last year, mentally tough,” Self said. Think about it. We’re down 14 with three minutes left against West Virginia. We’re down 13 in Rupp Arena playing Kentucky (and win both). There so many games where things didn’t go well the guys just grinded through it.
“Let’s say we replace Frank (Mason) with Malik (Newman), replace Josh (Jackson) with Billy (Preston), replace Landen (Lucas) with Udoka (Azubuike). From a talent standpoint you lose the national player of the year (Mason) then maybe as good a prospect as there was in the draft (Jackson).
“But that’s not what we’ll miss. We’ll miss guys who at game point: ‘Would you rather be down one with the ball or up one on defense?’ Every one of those guys (last year) would say, ‘Give them the ball. I want to guard them.’ That was their mind-set. This year, the team right now: ‘Oh, if we can have the ball let’s just take the ball.’ Which isn’t a bad (thing). It’s confidence offensively, but that’s not really the way that we are (traditionally). We’ve got to get a little bit tougher. That hopefully will start Friday.”
In saying he felt the squad was probably “a week behind where I wish we were now,” Self stressed, “I like the guys. The whole team is great to coach. They are fun to be around. Sometimes we don’t play with the motor we should.”
He said the effort needed to increase from everybody. “I got on Devonté today,” Self said. “He makes six threes, scores 27 on 12 shots (Tuesday), everybody is thinking he’s great. I said, ‘Your man went around you every time he wanted to.’ We all need to take more pride on that end.”
Self said he needs to remind himself to be patient.
“Look at our team, Mitch (Lightfoot) has never played. Doke has never really played. Billy hasn’t ever played. Marcus (Garrett) hasn’t ever played. Malik hasn’t played here. Everybody says we’re a veteran team. Five of our eight guys have never gotten experience at least at Kansas. You’d think Devonté, Svi (Mykhailiuk), Lagerald (Vick) could carry the water from that standpoint.”
Mykhailiuk made 3 of 16 threes in the preseason.
“I think Svi is a lot better player than he was last year but he hasn’t made any shots yet,” Self said. “He’s not shot the ball great yet. In practice he’s ripping it. He’s really shooting it well. It’s a matter of time the lid comes off for him.
“I’m pleased with Svi. I think he should play to his athletic ability. He’s a good athlete. Sometimes I don’t think he showcases that as much as he could. Last night after he got mad when he didn’t start the second half (he and Newman were replaced by Preston and Garrett) I thought he looked much more aggressive and took the ball to the basket.”
Self said the Jayhawks had a short practice, then watched film on Wednesday with the regular season approaching Friday.
“That (leading by just five at halftime) was a pretty good way to get our guys’ attention I think moving forward,” Self said of the Fort Hays game.
De Sousa signs with KU
Silvio De Sousa, the No. 25-ranked player in the recruiting class of 2018, according to Rivals.com, on Wednesday signed a national letter of intent to play basketball at Kansas in a signing ceremony at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.
De Sousa, a 6-foot-9, 220-pound senior power forward who is originally from Angola, announced for KU on Aug. 30 over Maryland, UCLA, Oregon, Indiana and others.
He moved to the United States in January 2015. De Sousa first attended Montverde Academy in Florida, then transferred to IMG last season.
Wednesday was the first day of the weeklong November signing period. KU is expected to land signatures Saturday from Devon Dotson, a 6-1 senior from Providence Day High School in Charlotte, N.C., and David McCormack, a 6-10, 260-pound senior from Oak Hill Academy in Mouth of Wilson, Va.
Dotson, who is ranked No. 17 and McCormack, who is ranked No. 33, have orally committed to play at KU.