Then again, you'd be pretty laid-back, too, if were looking at the upcoming season with a team as loaded as this year's edition of the Kansas Jayhawks.
There's even been a little talk of hanging another national
championship banner in April.
"It's been mentioned," Self said. "We've talked about it with Cole
(Aldrich) and Sherron (Collins). They have a chance to leave their mark
on this place like few others have. But here we are talking about
(another championship) and we ain't even playin' our first game."
Self even drew some favorable parallels between this year's team and
the 2007-08 national championship squad, primarily when it came to
talent level, but he liked some of the differences.
"I don't know if this team's quite as athletic but it may be bigger. I
think this team is probably deeper. If a key injury occurs, if your key
players go out, it's going to hurt, but maybe if a key injury or two
occurs, we have enough depth to overcome it."
The biggest differences between the two, however, are the character and
resiliency acquired by the '07-'08 team in a first-round NCAA
tournament loss in March of 2006 and a grinding 2007 elite eight game
in which they couldn't buy a basket and were outmanned terribly . Self
said those losses left the Jayhawks "hungry" and battle-tested."
"I hope this team is as driven," he said.
The Jayhawks also find themselves in a situation vastly different than
in 2007-08 because the foundation of the championship team was the
older guys like Sasha Kaun, Russell Robinson and Darnell Jackson, but
the talent on the team was among younger players like Brandon Rush,
Mario Chalmers and Darrell Arthur.
Now, Self said, "our most talented guys are our old guys, and our
foundation is our old guys. So, there should be no hesitation on
anyone's part to know who to look to. That's positive: it puts less
pressure on those young guys to deliver."
Once again, according to Self, the lynchpins of KU's success will be
junior C Cole Aldrich and senior G Sherron Collins. They need to be as
good if not better than they were last year when they led the upstart
Jayhawks to a nice sweet sixteen run. Self thinks they're primed to be
even better – especially Aldrich.
"Cole's lower body strength is better. Hopefully with (7-0 transfer C
Jeff) Withey back there and some other guys, he won't be forced to
guard the other team's best big guy at all times, especially if he's
got a foul situation. I do think Cole can be improved, no question
about it, but he amazed me last year at the level he played at, because
he continually got better each and every week. If he continues to do
that, he could go down as one of the better big men to play (at Kansas)
Aldrich is also showing much stronger leadership skills, which should
benefit Collins by taking some of that load off, allowing him to focus
on other areas.
"This year, I think (Collins) will welcome it being his and Cole's
team. Sherron will still be the mouthpiece, Sherron will still have the
ball in his hands, but Cole's getting more and more comfortable in that
role and guys do listen to him."
Self said Collins' doesn't need to lead the team in scoring this season
because he has so many more scorers to dish to. That ability to rack up
assists is what his coaches – and NBA scouts – want to see.
"He's got some guys this year he can distribute to and that
he has some confidence in that are maybe a little more proven from a
scoring capability. I still want him to look for his shot, but I don't
think he'll feel the pressure of last year."
Kansas will likely start the season with a nine-man rotation, maybe 10,
Self said, but once the year is in full swing, he wants have his group
narrowed down to nine players – four bigs and five smalls. He even
theorized he might go with just eight, thanks to the development of
6-8, 225 sophomore F Marcus Morris.
"What we could do this year, though, the rotation could easily be
eight, because if Marcus Morris continues to develop, we can play him
on the perimeter. I don't know that that's all going to play out but my
gut hunch is we'll play nine."
The abundance of talent in Lawrence has some wondering if there are
enough minutes to go around. The reality is, some players who would
likely start at other schools might end up pretty restless on the end
of the Kansas bench. Self said he doesn't ever worry about that.
"I think if you have guys on the bench who aren't restless because
they're not playing, you recruited the wrong guys," he said. "You want
to have guys who want to be out there."
Self also reminded the media that players who arrived on campus with
reputations for never having met a shot they didn't like, like Rush and
Chalmers, had to be prodded by Self to be more aggressive.
"On the flip side, if the guys who aren't playing are young guys, we
can throw a red shirt on two or three of them, too, and that eliminates
some of those things you're talking about."
Self was quick to throw a wrench into the rumor mill, however,
insisting that he hasn't talked to anyone about red shirting, but he
suggested, "If I'm a young guy and I thought I had a chance to start
here eventually, I'd want to red shirt, and that could happen with a
couple of guys. Once practice starts, the minutes have a way of
figuring themselves out."
Self Likes Jayhawks' Leadership, Talent
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