Banquet-speaker Self jokes about KU's 'risky move' in playing Missouri last October

By Gary Bedore

Kansas coach Bill Self’s 30-minute review of the 2017-18 basketball season at Tuesday’s postseason awards banquet included both light-hearted and serious comments regarding the Jayhawks’ exhibition-opener against Missouri.

“We played Missouri in Sprint Center, which to me was the most risky move of the year for me, because if we lose my (behind) is grass and if we win, we should have,” Self said, drawing laughs from the KU faithful at Lawrence’s DoubleTree Hotel.

“It was so much fun to be able to put ourselves in a situation to play something like that, that meant so much to so many others,” Self added of a game that raised about $2 million for hurricane relief efforts. “I think our players totally bought into it. Even though it was a great rivalry game, I still think what everybody got out of it was how we all joined together in a very short amount of time to raise a lot of money for others. I don’t think people really got the hatred out of it as they got the good out of it. I was really proud of that.

"The win obviously was nice as well,” Self added of KU’s 93-87 decision over the Tigers on Oct. 22.

Self on Tuesday followed the KU-Mizzou game comments with an anecdote from game two of the regular-season, a 65-61 victory over Kentucky on Nov. 14 in Chicago.

“This is what I told the officials when we shook hands before the Kentucky game. I said, ‘Hey, don’t call any fouls. Even if they happen don’t call fouls,’ because we only had six guys. If they called it tight we didn’t have anybody to put in other than Mitch (Lightfoot). Sam (Cunliffe) wasn’t eligible. Billy (Preston) was not suited up: ‘No offense, Clay,’’’ Self said, joking with senior walk-on Clay Young, who was not one of the seven Jayhawks who played 6 or more minutes in the KU victory over Kentucky in the Champions Classic.

“We didn’t have enough guys,” Self continued. “Fortunately for us we were able to keep guys out of foul trouble. We got through the game beating Kentucky with six guys (Lightfoot played 6 minutes). Think about that.”

Self, who had the crowd laughing many time during his presentation, became serious when referring to his team’s overall accomplishments.

“These guys put it together,” Self said of the 31-8 Jayhawks, who won the Big 12 regular-season and postseason tourney titles and reached the Final Four. “The way they put it together was as a team. Go back and look at it. Svi (Mykhailiuk) was fantastic. Devonté (Graham) was fantastic. Malik (Newman) was fantastic, had his moments. Lagerald (Vick) was fantastic, had his moments. Doke (Udoka Azubuike) was fantastic, had his moments.

“We had no chance to be very good this year unless Mitch Lightfoot was fantastic and had his moments. We had no chance to finish like we did unless Silvio De Sousa was fantastic and had his moments. Even though Sam didn’t play much, Sam is a terrific athlete. His time is coming (Self also praised Marcus Garrett for being “as equipped to be a college player as anybody we've had in a long time.“).

Self continued: “I think as good as we finished I can look back on this season and say, ‘You know what? No regrets.’ I really can. Sometimes I look back and say, ‘I wish we’d done this, wish we’d done that.‘ I don’t think I wish we’d done anything different because what we did do were learning lessons to allow us to be as good as we could be when it counted the most.”

He added, in addressing the players: “I take my hat off to you guys, to see the maturity and how you improved so much.”

Self praises Doke

Self spoke personally to 7-foot sophomore center Azubuike at the banquet:

“Doke, hey we are all very proud. You have grown up and are one bad man,” Self said to applause from the banquet-goers.

Azubuike is in the process of deciding whether he’ll turn pro or return to KU for a junior season.

“That was great. That was nice. Hearing it come from him, it was nice,” Azubuike said of Self’s praise.

Tip of iceberg nationally?

Self was asked by the media after the banquet if he felt Tuesday’s news regarding further federal charges against Adidas executive James Gatto that included making payments to one mother of a KU player and a guardian of another, were “the tip of the iceberg” as far as hearing about college athletes allegedly getting paid by shoe company execs.

“I think the tip was probably back in September, but I do think this adds to it without question,” Self said of the FBI looking into college basketball recruiting. “I’ll just have to wait and see how it plays out because I don’t know anything more than you guys do.”

Self comments on Newman, Vick

Self on sophomore Newman and junior Vick recently declaring for the NBA Draft:

“When they declared, they basically became a professional right there,” Self said. “They’ve got to earn their way. Nobody is going to give them anything just because they played at Kansas or just because they had a good postseason.

“There’s a lot of players out there that can really play they don’t even know about yet. They have to be hungry. There’s no reason to declare unless you are going to make it. You (have to be) focused to go make it. I think both those guys have the right attitude to put in the time and be as prepared as they can be.”

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