Kansas Guard Kevin McCullar Jr. and Kansas Forward KJ Adams enter the Hilton Downtown Des Moines upon their arrival at the team hotel Tuesday March 14, 2023 in Des Moines, Iowa. Photo by Nick Krug
DES MOINES, Iowa — Kansas men’s basketball coach Bill Self was the first member of the top-flight Jayhawks to arrive on the grounds of the team’s first-round NCAA tournament on Tuesday.
Self, who was discharged from hospital Sunday after a five-day stay following a stent procedure that kept him away from last week’s Big 12 tournament, traveled to Des Moines with his family, traveling separately from the rest of the team.
When the team arrived at their downtown hotel around 6:00 p.m. Tuesday, KU assistant Norm Roberts assessed Self’s status for the tournament as “day to day,” adding that Self is doing fine.
“He’s fine,” Roberts said. “He was in training with the boys this morning, he was in training (Monday) so he’s fine. We just see how it goes day by day.”
When asked if he knew Self’s status for Thursday’s 1 p.m. game against number 16 Howard at Wells Fargo Arena, Roberts said, “We haven’t decided that yet.”
Self will be monitored and assessed throughout the week and Self, his coaching staff, along with KU’s team doctors, will respond accordingly.
One Jayhawk who may not need as much monitoring in the coming days is senior guard Kevin McCullar Jr., who trained with the team Tuesday before traveling to Des Moines and checking into the team hotel a few hundred yards from Wells is Fargo Arena, which showed no ill effects from the back spasms that prevented him from last Saturday’s Big 12 championship game.
“Kevin was practicing,” Roberts said. “He was lively, stayed in the whole time, went through everything, looked good.”
Roberts, who was previously the head coach at St. John’s from 2004 to 2010 and also at his alma mater, Queens College, from 1991 to 1995, has captained the Jayhawks seven times this season.
He led KU to four wins in four tries in November when Self and assistant coach Kurtis Townsend were looking for a university-issued suspension related to KU’s ongoing NCAA case, and then helped the Jayhawks last weekend’s title game of the Big 12 tournament to reach as a lead The team wins against West Virginia and the state of Iowa before falling to Texas.
When asked Tuesday if he’d spent extra time with Self in recent days because of his role as acting head coach, Roberts said filling in for Self continued to be a total team effort.
“We spend a lot of time together anyway and[talk]as a full staff,” Roberts said.
As for Self’s message to the team after his return and before they left for Iowa on Tuesday, Roberts noted that it sounded awfully familiar to the message he’d heard from the KU head coach hundreds of times before.
“The message (was) to be focused and to understand that every team you play against is a champion,” Roberts said. “They know how to win. They are hungry. They want to win as much as you do. And then pay attention to details, because a change, a lack of a defensive order could mean that you go home. So you have to really tune in and be focused.”
Self’s words to the team during the last two days’ training also had a familiar ring to them.
“Let’s practice hard, let’s focus, let’s execute, let’s defend,” Roberts said. “We’ve talked a lot about defense and that we have to be careful and make people uncomfortable. … They seemed excited and ready.”
The Jayhawks (27-7) are scheduled to conduct an open practice Wednesday from 12:30 p.m. to 1:10 p.m. at Wells Fargo Arena. KU will also likely train at a different off-site location at some point during the day.
Wednesday’s NCAA tournament duties also include KU players and coaches, who meet with the media on Wednesday from 11:50 a.m. to 12:20 p.m., and it remains to be seen how much of that will include Self.
#KUbball arrived in Des Moines for the start of the 2023 NCAA tournament pic.twitter.com/OXaFkwqBif
— Matt Tait (@mctait) March 14, 2023
VIDEO: KU assistant coach Norm Roberts meets with the media after the team’s arrival in Des Moines