Bill Self attends KU’s practice on Friday, remains ‘day-to-day’ for Arkansas game

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Kansas men’s basketball coach Bill Self walked through a Wells Fargo Arena tunnel with his son Tyler, heading through a door leading to the parking lot of Wells Fargo Arena early Friday afternoon.

Self grinned and informed a handful of media members he wouldn’t be speaking after his team’s 90-minute NCAA West Regional practice, handing off those interview duties to acting head coach Norm Roberts.

Self — he missed last week’s Big 12 Tournament and Thursday’s 96-68 first-round victory over Howard — remains “day-to-day” as far as coaching responsibilities heading into Saturday’s second-round clash against Arkansas (4:15 p.m., Wells Fargo Arena).

“Coach is doing well. It’s a day-to-day situation with him and everything, but he’s doing good. He was in practice with our guys just a little while ago and coaching them, so we will see what happens,” Roberts said.

Roberts was asked by a media member to “walk us through the communication process that you guys go through with coach Self and the players and how often you meet with him while you’re here in Des Moines going over stuff, the nuts and bolts of that.”

“It’s the same that we always do. We have scouting report. We meet probably two times a night and go over different scenarios and what we want to do and how he wants us to play both offensively and defensively,” Roberts said. “So we haven’t had any extra meetings and those things. As a staff we always collaborate and work together and everybody has input on what we think would be the best situation for us.”

Kansas head coach Bill Self exits the court after leading his team in practice a day before it plays Arkansas in the NCAA Tournament Friday, March 17, 2023, in Des Moines, Iowa.
Kansas head coach Bill Self exits the court after leading his team in practice a day before it plays Arkansas in the NCAA Tournament Friday, March 17, 2023, in Des Moines, Iowa.

KU senior Kevin McCullar noted: “Coach Self has been around us as well. ... He’s doing great, and having coach Rob pushing us, it’s no drop-off. Coach knows what he’s doing and he’s a mirror image of coach Self. He gets us the game plan and we go out there and execute.”

“He’s a mirror image of coach Self and expectations don’t change,” guard Joseph Yesufu said. “We’ve just got to be ready.”

Roberts acknowledged after Thursday’s first-round game that he was a bit more “animated” coaching in the NCAA opener than last week’s Big 12 Tourney when KU went 2-1 without Self, who had a heart catheterization nine days ago.

“We have been together for almost 25 years, so we probably do finish each other’s sentences in basketball terms,” Roberts said of Self, one of his best friends.

“I do try to think of what he would want to do (in a game situation). If it’s a situation of getting the ball inside, if it’s a situation, trapping the ball screen, where we would want to attack. Those things we talk about a lot before the game begins, on how we want to attack, what we want to do, how we want to play the game. So I just revisit that in my head and coach that way.”

Arkansas’ Kamani Johnson was asked if he can imagine how tough it is to not have a head coach this time of year.

“It’s probably tough not having the head of your team,” Johnson said. “I hope he’s there coaching them. You’ve got to focus on what’s ahead of us.”

Noted Razorback Jordan Walsh: “I couldn’t imagine what it’s like for us to play without ‘Muss’ (coach Eric Musselman), so I could just imagine what those guys are going through in their heads. But obviously I wish the best for the coach. I hope he’s healthy in everything he’s doing. We have a game we have to go out here and compete and win and that’s the main objective. That’s what we are keeping our mind on, not whether they have a coach or not. If they do great, if they don’t great, cool, we’re going to prepare the same way and hopefully come out with the same intensity to win.”

McCullar’s back spasms have abated

Kevin McCullar is pleased to report his back spasms, the ones that kept him from playing in the Big 12 Tournament final versus Texas, have completely disappeared.

He proclaims himself 100% healthy entering Saturday’s second-round NCAA Tournament West Regional game against Arkansas.

“I’m feeling good, the best I’ve felt,” said McCullar, a 6-foot-6 senior guard from San Antonio. “Credit to the training staff here at KU for getting me back right. I just felt good out there (in Thursday’s first-round win over Howard), being out there and competing with my brothers.”

McCullar — he had 10 points, seven rebounds and five assists in Thursday’s 96-68 win — actually played against Arkansas in the NCAAs before.

He had 15 points and eight rebounds while playing 34 minutes in Texas Tech’s 68-66 second round loss to Arkansas on March 21, 2021, in Indianapolis. Current Razorback guard Davonte Davis also played in that game, scoring 15 points with six rebounds and one assist.

“Yeah, that’s been a while ago,” McCullar said. “I don’t remember too much about it, but I remember it was a good game. It came down to a last-second shot or something like that, and it was a great environment. We played them at Butler.

“Devo (Davis) is a great player. He’s a great guard, and it will be fun to match up against Arkansas again.”

Roberts praises Jalen Wilson

Roberts also spoke on junior Jalen Wilson, who scored 20 points with seven rebounds versus Howard and averages 20.1 points and 8.4 rebounds a game entering the Arkansas contest.

“Yeah, he’s tremendous. He has been one of the best leaders we’ve ever had and one of the most competitive kids we’ve ever had,” Roberts said. “Everybody knows Jalen went through a situation (suspicion of DUI prior to 2021-22 season; he was suspended three games), but I’ve never seen a kid handle a situation like he did and take full accountability.”

Roberts continued.

“We talk about when that situation happened, usually a kid addresses the team and says I’m sorry,” Roberts said. “He didn’t do that. He addressed the team for 10 to 15 minutes saying, ‘I’m taking total responsibilities. I screwed up here. This shouldn’t happen. I’m not going to do that again.’

“He went through a whole thing on his own and he really took accountability. He has grown up so much. He cares about Kansas and about his teammates, and that’s reflected every day when he comes to practice and when he’s around.”