Though their Division II opponents were clearly inferior, the reviews are in. Head Coach Bill Self shared his thoughts on his young team’s progress with Phog.net.
The Jayhawks won both of their exhibition games by a combined 60 points, but that doesn’t mean that KU operated like a well-oiled machine ready to take on college basketball’s elite. It’s all part of the growing pains a young, unproven team has to endure. Self was quick to point out both the positives and negatives thus far.
“The negative is we play in spurts too much. The negative is we get bored a little bit when we have to grind out things as opposed to understanding we should be more excited to guard whenever the ball’s not going in the hole. I think transition defense is a problem – (we had) a lot of defensive breakdowns,” Self told Phog.net
If the transition defense doesn’t get better you can be sure Arizona will be the first team to exploit that flaw. Self is also trying to convey the importance of sustaining defensive intensity despite poor shooting on the offensive end. There will be times when this Kansas teams labors to score and the defense will be critical.
“The other thing is we really didn’t show much offensively. The ball stuck in our hands too much. We’ve really got to do a better job getting ball and body movement as opposed to just waiting for somebody else to go make a play,” said Self.
As for the positives…The unselfish Jayhawks accumulated 24 assists on 35 field goals against Fort Hays State, and vs. Pittsburg State, 19 assists on 25 field goals.
"I love the fact that they don't care who scores. These guys do share the ball. They are all pretty good passers. I think we are a better passing team than we were last year. If you take Aaron (Miles) out of the equation I don't think there are any questions that this team would be a much better passing team than last year's team," proclaimed Self.
Last season the freshmen struggled to find playing time but this year a duo of sophomores have come out firing. Sasha Kaun was the quickest out of the gate with 23 points against Fort Hays State. Kaun was nearly perfect from the floor (10-11 FG) but an abysmal 3-10 from the free throw line. Then it was the “C.J. Giles Show” in game two. Against Pittsburg State Giles was extremely efficient from the floor (8-10 FG), solid from the free throw line (8-10 FT), and it resulted in 24 points. C.J. also had seven rebounds and 3 blocked shots to complete his extraordinary stat line. Self believes the best is yet to come from the two sophomores.
“I think our big guys have played well. I don’t think they’ve put it together when they’ve both been in the game at the same time like I think they’re capable of,” Self explained. “But I know the first game C.J. was great early, Sasha was great the rest of the game. This past game C.J. was very effective. We gotta get those guys to where they’re really producing together because not too many people have two 6-11 guys with that type of size and athletic ability.”
Self’s high-low motion offense has been noticeably absent from the first two exhibition games, and though he will not abandon it completely, Self believes his team will benefit from an alternative plan.
“We’re playing a lot of ball screens, I mean a ton. We’ve been doing some different things out of penetrate-and-pitch but we’ve been playing off the ball screens which I think bodes well for our personnel.”
With renewed athleticism and depth, prior to the season, Self expressed in interest in pressing but the Jayhawks have yet to feature full court pressure.
“We’ve pressured but we haven’t pressed. We haven’t shown that yet. We haven’t been working on that as much as we will. We’re just trying to get the point where we can play because our first six days we have four games so there’s not much time to practice so we haven’t done a lot of extra things since we’re so young. So for us pressure would be a better word than press right now,” Self concluded.