Saddled with responsibilities as president of the National Association of Basketball Coaches, Bill Self was out of town running meetings Monday and Tuesday at an undisclosed location.
Self, Kansas’ 15th-year coach, had a lot of time to consider what he’d say to his Jayhawks before, during and after practice Wednesday — the first time he met with the squad since Sunday’s 95-85 loss to Arizona State at Allen Fieldhouse. It marked the Jayhawks’ second-straight loss. KU (7-2) also fell to Washington 74-65 on Dec. 6 at the Sprint Center.
“Technically the Kansas City game is a home game because it’s part of our season-ticket package. The last time we lost back-to-back home games was 28 years ago in 1989 (Roy Williams’ first season at KU),” Self told more than 100 Williams Fund members Wednesday night at a KU Roundball Club dinner at Lawrence’s Cider Gallery.
“When I was watching tape with the players today for the first time since I’ve been out of town, I reminded them of that before we went out and practiced. It may have added to the intensity of practice.”
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Self reminded his players Wednesday that they were in good shape when they sliced a 14-point second-half deficit to six with plenty of time remaining in Sunday’s setback to Arizona State.
“Like I told our guys today, when you are down six with 6 minutes left at home, it’s almost a gimme,” Self said. “That’s when our guys (in the past) smiled on the bench and said, ‘All right, now, let’s have some fun. This is just what we want. We want someone to test us. Now we’re going to show them how this is going to play out.’
“We don’t have that dog mentality. We just haven’t developed that yet. Hopefully that’ll happen sooner rather than later. We’ve got a tough one Saturday at Nebraska (7-4). It will be a harder game to win than Arizona State was at home. We’ve got to go and we’ve got to be together.
“They are good enough to beat a top-12 team (Minnesota) at home, certainly they are good enough to handle us if we don’t play well,” Self added of the Cornhuskers.
Self also told his players Wednesday it’s not all their fault that KU has dropped consecutive games. The fact the Jayhawks have just seven scholarship players means the rotation players are playing a lot of minutes.
“I talked to them today (about lack of depth) and used Brannen Greene as an example. Brannen had a lot of talent. He played some but he didn’t play a ton,” Self said of the wing who played at KU during 2013-16.
“When he played, if things were going well he stayed in the game. We started listing guys that Brannen had to play in front of. Frank (Mason), Devonté (Graham), Wayne (Selden), Wiggs (Andrew Wiggins), Kelly Oubre. These are guys who are all pros that he had to play in front of. If he didn’t do it the way we wanted it done it wasn’t that complicated to say, ‘Andrew why don’t you go get Brannen?’ Or we’d tell Wayne to do it. Right now we don’t have that.
“It’s really not fair to our guys because there’s not somebody pushing them that if they don’t do it the way it needs to be done that there’s consequences where you just won’t play. If they just don’t play, who the heck are we going to put in? We need to get two or three more guys. When we do that I think we have a chance to take off.”
KU on Saturday will add 6-foot-6 sophomore wing Sam Cunliffe to the active roster. He’s a transfer from Arizona State who practiced the last two semesters and is now eligible to play in games.
Kansas also hopes to add freshman forwards Billy Preston and Silvio De Sousa sometime in the future. Preston, 6-10, hasn’t played this season as KU looks into the financial picture surrounding the vehicle he’s been driving. De Sousa, 6-9, is hoping to qualify academically, leave IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., and play for the Jayhawks during the Big 12 portion of the schedule.
“Sam can help us by Lagerald’s (Vick) and Malik’s (Newman) and Devonté’s minutes coming down,” Self said, noting Cunliffe should contribute off the bench immediately in some capacity. “He’s a terrific athlete who will be a real good player. He hasn’t quite figured it out yet.”
Self said the bottom line is the rest of the season “is going to be a fun ride.”
“It will be interesting because there will be more highs and lows,” he said. “The thing I have to struggle with, we talk all the time about ‘faces change, expectations don’t’ which is the way it should be at Kansas. The reality is there will be some ups and downs probably to get to where we want to go. You guys (fans at the Cider Gallery) may need to understand it could be a roller-coaster ride for us, so buckle up.”