This year the speeches will come from Jeff Graves, Bryant Nash, and Brett Olsen. No one knows yet what they will say, but it is sure to result in thunderous applause and maybe a few tears. Jayhawk Illustrated spoke with Bill Self and asked for comments on his seniors.
Jayhawk Illustrated: Talk to me about your senior players. What have Jeff and Bryant meant to this team?
Bill Self: Both Jeff and Bryant have had solid careers. Bryant has been a role guy. Obviously he has helped make the team better in ways fans don't see because he hasn't gotten as many minutes over time. He is an outstanding young man and is going to get his degree. He is certainly a great locker room guy and a good player too. Bryant is just such a tremendous athlete as well as a fantastic kid.
Jeff finished so strong last year. This year has been a little bit of a roller coaster for him. He has been one of the most fun kids I have coached. We haven't always seen eye to eye on certain things, but not because there is not a mutual feeling of...well, like. We have always liked each other. I would really love to see him finish strongly and do well and he certainly has that in him.
JI: And Brett Olsen?
BS: You have to have players like Brett. You just have to. Our walk ons don't get much attention or much time to show what they can do, but they do show it in practice. Brett had dedication and is such a hard worker. He is going on to medical school…just a great kid.
JI: You have a few games left, but as postseason play approaches what are your expectations?
BS: Of course, you never want to see your season end. One thing that is great though is that seniors know that it is coming down to the end. You will see those guys, I believe, have more focus than they have had at any point int heir career.
JI: You have these seniors, and the juniors, who are entering the NCAA tournament with a history of two Final Fours. Does this feel any differently to you than as a coach for Illinois? Will you prepare any differently?
BS: I don't think so. One thing that could potentially be different is these guys are expecting. In the past, players have hoped. These guys have played in so many big games, they know there are certain times of the year that are so important and there are no second chances. With a young team, young in terms of success, you are happy to be there. I don't think these seniors, or this team, will be content with that.