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October 20, 2011Bill Self officially kicked off Big 12 media day when he arrived at the podium a little after 8:00 AM on Thursday morning. While the University of Kansas men's basketball team is less than a week into practice, Self is extremely excited about this Kansas team team.
"First of all, I hope you guys are as excited as I am about being here at 8:00 this morning," said Self with a laugh. "I am excited about our team and I'm excited about our league. Our team is totally different from last year. We lost six key players off a pretty good team last year. We recruited fairly well, but didn't get a chance to coach all the guys we recruited due to some NCAA (academic) situations.
"We're a very thin team that's pretty talented, but certainly less margin for error, because we don't have the depth that we've had in years past," he added. "The league will be terrific again and there will probably be as much parity as there ever has been."
Gone from last year are Markieff Morris, Marcus Morris, Josh Selby, Tyrel Reed, Brady Morningstar and Mario Little. Kansas finished the year 35-3, earned a No. 1 seed for the second straight year and was one win away from advancing to the Final Four for the second time under Self.
Fast-forward to the 2011-12 season, and much has changed. Just two players, Tyshawn Taylor and Thomas Robinson, have played significant roles for the Jayhawks. While Conner Teahan, Jeff Withey, Elijah Johnson, and Travis Releford have, at different times, played big roles for Self's squad, none have done it consistently.
With so many key losses and the addition of Naadir Tharpe, Justin Wesley, Merv Lindsay, and Kevin Young, a number of players will not only see their role increase, but could be looked upon as a leader.
While different players will take on different roles throughout the season, Self made it perfectly clear that KU will lean on two players in particular this season.
"One thing about having reduced numbers, it forces guys into roles," said Self. "No question that Tyshawn Taylor will be the leader of our team and Thomas Robinson will be the emotional leader of our team. Ty has done a great job and has paid his dues. He (Tyshawn) has really learned how to communicate by not only getting on guys, but talking to them and teaching.
"I think night in and night out those two should be constants," he added. "They may not always play well, but I think that they care so much and have been around long enough, that they'll do whatever they have to do to give us the best chance, from a tangible standpoint. In large part, because they don't have the personalities around them that we've had in the past that kind of forces their hand in doing so."
Robinson, the 6-foot-9, 237-pound forward from Washington, D.C., is coming off a season in which he averaged 7.6 points and 6.4 rebounds per game. In 33 games, he connected on 60.1 percent of his field goals and 51.0 percent of his free-throws.
However, Robinson's role is expected to change significantly this season. With the Morris twins preparing for what will likely be a very short NBA season, Robinson's work load offensively will increase.
"He's got to have improvement very similar to what Cole Aldrich had between his freshman and sophomore year," said Self. "Cole goes from a guy that only played six or eight minutes a game to a guy, I think, that may have made second team All-American, or third team All-American, the very next year.
"He needs to be an All-American for us," he added. "I don't know about first team or whatnot, but he needs to be a guy that's one of the best 10-15 players in the country, to be real candid. I think he has the ability to play at a high, high level like that, but the thing about it is, he is still very inexperienced."
--Brannen Greene and his father enjoyed their visiti to Late Night
--Alleric Freeman, a highly recruited player in the 2013 class also visited for Late Night