Self Offers Team Hoops Grade

It's finals week at Kansas University, and the Jayhawk hoopsters are hitting the books hard for exams. While the players finish tests and await their results, KU coach Bill Self has already handed out grades for the first semester.

The hoops professor said he'd give his team "probably a ‘B.'"

"We've been pretty good, haven't been great," Bill Self said at his press conference on Wednesday. "(We) played out of some different lineups that probably didn't allow us to look as good as what we can potentially be just because of different rotations and chemistry. But attitude and effort and unselfishness and those things, I give a grade pretty high. Execution, average. We got to get better in that area. Paying attention to detail is average. Toughness, we can get better. For the most part, we passed, but we expected to pass. I don't think that's anything earth-shattering to say we're doing well right now because we expected to be doing well with as many returning players as we have."

Yes, the Jayhawks are doing quite well at 9-0 and ranked No. 3 in the country. KU's next test after finals comes against Ohio this Saturday at 4 p.m. at the new Sprint Center in Kansas City. The Bobcats (Mid-American Conference) are 5-2 heading into their road game versus Maryland Wednesday night. They lost by just two points to Holy Cross (62-60) and Temple (90-88).

Ohio has four players in double-figure scoring, led by 6-8 forward/center Leon Williams, who averages 17 points and 9.3 rebounds per game, while shooting 58 percent from the field. Shooting guard Bubba Walther (6-5) ranks second at 15.6 points per game, and also averages 3.6 assists and 1.89 steals.

"They play fast," Self said. "They're averaging (78.9) points per game. They switch defenses, and that will be good for us. We haven't played against a ton of teams that do that — switch, play matchup zone, two-three, man, (and) guard ball screens differently. They're talented. They're two possessions away from being 7-0. They're balanced, they have a good team. (They have) undersized big guys that can drive it, so it will be a good challenge for us."

Self calls Walther "probably as good a passer as we'll play all year, a great passer who can really shoot."

KU certainly has some fine shooters, too, especially now that sophomore guard Sherron Collins is back in the lineup after missing the first eight games recovering from foot surgery. He played his first game last Saturday against DePaul, and scored six points in 13 minutes.

"He's still not as quick as he was," Self said. "His weight's good, his condition is not. It's just a gradual process where it's getting better daily. I don't know if he'll be 100 percent by Saturday, but he won't be far off."

Freshman guard Tyrel Reed has also had the injury bug with two bad ankles. Reed missed the DePaul game with an ankle sprain.

"He's doing OK," Self said. "He's sore. He said yesterday he felt like an old man getting out of bed and walking around."

"I was like, ‘Welcome to my world,'" Self chuckled. "He's doing better, but he's not quite 100 percent. He's doing fine. He's just got some bum ankles, and those are things you play with."

Junior swingman Brandon Rush is still another guy not quite at 100 percent after off-season ACL surgery. Self, though, expects Rush to be at his peak soon.

"I think he's closer physically than he is mental," Self said. "We've seen him do things in practice sometimes — dunking in traffic and challenging shots above the rim, things like that where he's doing once every day as opposed to trying to do it back-to-back possessions. I think it's more a mental conditioning, his brain to go do it. Physically, I see signs every day that he's getting closer to the old Brandon. He's come a long way since Washburn (Rush's first game back this season on Nov. 15), and he's going to continue to grow as long as doesn't have any setbacks. I see him being the same old Brandon here hopefully within the next month."

Self said Rush is "probably looking for his shot more, but it's not aggressive moves off the bounce or to force help, it's more off the catch. That's still good, that's a positive. He's more aggressive off the catch, but he's got to get where he's more aggressive off the bounce, too."

With Collins and Rush back in the lineup, KU will look to pick up the tempo. And with more bodies and a faster style, Self said he thinks "everybody's minutes are going to do down if we play to our strengths, which is getting out and pressuring and playing fast and those sorts of things. ...Brandon's (minutes) might go up, because we kind of held him back. I don't see anybody's minutes really elevating because I don't think that would be best for our team if we play to our strengths."

Self wants the post players' strengths to be defense and rebounding. While he said the big guys need to do a better job of finishing around the hoop, "if we become the post defenders and rebounders that I think we can become, then I'll be happy with our post players regardless of how many points we score because they'll be impacting the game in ways to make it easier for everyone else."

Self is hoping his players make a big impact on their tests this week. He said this time is "a totally different ball game" with finals week where the players need to hit the books "and use basketball as a way to burn some stress off.'

Then come tipoff at the Sprint Center on Saturday, the ‘Hawks will aim to raise that first-semester ‘B' grade to an ‘A.'

"I think they're excited to play in this venue," Self said.


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