Kristi Chartrand: Now that Brandon Rush is finally a Jayhawk, I guess the first question should be how does he fit into the program and what kind of role will he play on this team?
Bill Self: I think he’ll be an impact guy for us. He has the potential to be a big impact guy for us. I think he’s a very athletic and very talented player with a lot of potential. But how he fits in and what role he’ll have obviously will be determined over the next 2-3 months. I haven’t seen enough to really know more than I think he has a chance to be a terrific college player.
KC: So how many times have you really seen him play?
BS: I think I’ve seen him play enough over time to evaluate him. The last time I’ve seen him play competitively was in the Chicago pre-draft camp. We got word of him being cleared today and I have seen him play since he’s been on campus -- by rule we could do that. I just think that he’s a guy that really could bring an awful lot to this team because this team is going to be so young and we don’t really have a proven scorer and, although he’ll be a freshman, he still brings an air of confidence to us as somebody who can score in bunches.
KC: How tough has all this waiting been on Brandon and his family?
BS: He’s been nervous. He expressed that when he talked to some guys a little bit ago. He’s expressed to us he said ‘Coach I want to go to school’. It’s not his fault that some of the paperwork was a little late getting to the Clearinghouse. It’s certainly his fault that his situation was unique in that it took the Clearinghouse more time to finalize this. But certainly he’s kept a good attitude and his family has kept a good attitude and we’re very appreciative of the confidence they put in us to believe that this would get done and lead the charge to expedite the process. Clearly the Clearinghouse operated on their time frame but there was just so much information they had to get in such a short time to make this happen. He was nervous but we never thought all along that he wouldn’t be declared eligible. We thought he was eligible the second we saw the unofficial transcripts.
KC: Was there a deadline he needed to be cleared by? Were you working against a time frame here?
BS: That’s why we enrolled him in class. To enroll him in class to make sure there wasn’t a deadline and then our academic advisor has been in very close communication with his professors describing the situation and where everything is. Even though he’s going to be behind some, he’s probably not as behind as some because we feel like we’ve kind of got some things in place to really start it off fast the beginning of next week.
KC: Though I think I know the answer to this, where does this class rank with you? It’s clearly one of the better classes you’ve put together anywhere you’ve been.
BS: Nobody will ever admit they recruited a bad class and everybody’s class is really good until you get ‘em and sometimes they don’t quite pan out the way you want them to--sometimes they’re better than what people expect them to be. But I have to say on paper, this is as good as we’ve ever done and we’ve had some really good ones. Our class our first year here with Sasha, C.J., Russell, and Darnell may play out to be one of our better classes and this has potential as good a class as we’ve ever had. As far as freshman going in and contributing this class has a lot to prove to equal what those guys did at Illinois (Dee Brown, Deron Williams and James Augustine).
KC: How about as far as Kansas recruiting classes go…where does this class rank?
BS: When I think of Kansas recruiting classes you can go back to the mid-90’s obviously with Jacque, and Paul, Pollard, Haase, Gooden, Collison…I mean there’s been some great ones. Certainly Keith, Aaron, Mike, Jeff Hawkins, and Wayne were a great class. You would think Drew, Nick and Kirk would be the best of the best with three lottery picks. To me this could be a class that hopefully could rival those great classes but only time will tell.
KC: There’s been a lot of talk about Rush possibly being a one-and-done…you and I have talked about your theory on that before – you never know. What kind of conversations have you had, if any, about him being a one-and-done possibility?
BS: Well, we’ve talked a lot about a lot of things. The climate today is a lot different than it even was 5-6 years ago with young players declaring earlier and earlier. It used to be guys stayed for a minimum of 3, then it was a minimum of 2, and now there’s no minimum! With the way the rules are set up with the NBA, they’re hurrying guys to go to school so they can possibly leave after a year. So there’s no thinking on our part or Brandon’s part that this is what I’m going to do. The thinking is on my part and his part, is you know something? We’ve got a lot of good players – and we’re going to recruit a lot of good players in the future – if anybody can play themselves into a position where they can provide for their family and it’s in the best interest of their family to leave…We’re supporting the decision that they make as long as it’s in everyone’s best interest. He’s going to have to have an unbelievable year for him to leave and we’re going to have to win an awful lot of games. But he knows, and what we talked about is his focus being on helping Kansas, and if he helps Kansas, he’s going to help himself.
KC: Everybody knows Brandon is athletic but what other qualities will he bring to the table?
BS: I think he’s an excellent player with the ball in his hands. He can create for himself, he can create for others, and he’s a good passer. Certainly, he’s a guy much like Keith, that can go get his own shot. He’s long, he’s athletic – he is a high-flying athlete. The thing about it is he’s got a long ways to go defensively…he’s gotta a lot of things to learn about the game-- which he understands--and he’s got a lot to learn about being a part of the team and not just being the man – which we talked about, and which he is very willing and wanting to do. The thing about it is – he’s a freshman, and all freshmen have things to learn and he’s certainly going to have a lot of things to learn just like everybody else. I don’t want to portray him out to be the savior of our program this year or anything like that. But he does have a chance to be a great player but expectations should be the same for any highly-recruited freshman and he shouldn’t be held to a different standard because his last name is Rush.
KC: How about the rest of the team? How do they feel about him coming on board?
BS: They think he’s really good. They (the players) don’t have to tell us anything because we’ve seen him play enough but they really think he’s a talent. Really a talent.
KC: I’m sure they’re all looking forward to playing WITH him.
BS: Yes. And this is a better situation for him today than it would’ve been six months ago because we lost a player that’s a similar size and plays a similar position. It’s basically we’re back to where we thought we’d be with players, obviously different personnel, but we certainly helped ourselves by him being here with the losses that we had.
KC: Did you ever think when you lost J.R. you’d come out of this with someone like Brandon Rush?
KC: I don’t think that was quite an option back when we talked about it when J.R. left…It was ‘yeah we’ll look at some guys’ but I don’t think you guys expected much to be there.
BS: No. We didn’t. This has been a unique situation and I’m excited, I think he’s excited, and our players are excited. But he’s also just a college kid trying to make it and he’s got a lot to learn and he needs to enjoy being a college student-athlete and take advantage of everything that’s before him which he said he seriously wants to do.