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Self, Martin, Weber, Donlon, Hoyt speak at Coaches vs. Cancer Tipoff event

Kansas City Star logoKansas City Star 9/25/2020 By Gary Bedore, The Kansas City Star

A lot can change between now and Dec. 12, the current date for the Border War basketball contest between Kansas and Missouri at T-Mobile Center.

But as of Thursday, a few weeks before the new, Oct. 14 start of the 2020-21 preseason, it sounds as if a highly-competitive game could be on the horizon.

Coaches Bill Self of KU and Cuonzo Martin of Mizzou heaped praise on their teams during separate interviews with ESPN’s Holly Rowe at Thursday night’s 13th-annual Coaches vs. Cancer Kansas City Tipoff Event. It’s the first time the event, that also featured Kansas State’s Bruce Weber and Kansas City Roos’ Billy Donlon and Jacie Hoyt was virtual because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

“I like my guys,” Self said Thursday of the 15 Jayhawk players who gathered in Lawrence on Aug. 2 for abbreviated summer workouts prior to the start of school on Aug. 24.

“I think every coach should like his team before they start playing. After you start playing you realize maybe there are a few things I’m not quite as keen on than I thought I would be. I can tell you this. My guys have been 10s — the attitudes, everything,” Self added.

“The guys that don’t know are guys that know they don’t know. For me that’s a blessing as far as coaching them so far. We are limited on what we’ve done. You can just see there’s a chemistry and camaraderie that we usually have, but maybe now more so than most years. I think that may be consistent with a lot of teams out there.

“We are telling our guys, ‘Stay away from the college population, kind of isolate yourself, bubble yourself in some way, shape or form.’ It gives your own team an opportunity to grow closer than they ever have. The social issues that have come up … I think I’m more in touch with my players, and I think they are more in touch with me. I feel good where we are relationship-wise. That doesn’t guarantee you making a shot or getting a big stop. I am real excited to coach this particular group of kids,” Self noted.

Self — his squad returns college basketball defensive player of the year Marcus Garrett — didn’t mention any players during his 15-minute Q&A session with Rowe.

Missouri coach Martin did mention one Tiger player in expressing how he also is quite impressed with his own squad.

“I think we have the personnel to be very talented. We have all the parts,” Martin said. “We have experience. We have great guards. Jeremiah Tilmon (6-10, 260 senior forward) is one of the better bigs in college basketball.

“I think the things we have to do well we didn’t do last year — we’ve got to shoot the three-ball well. We got open looks, but they didn’t fall. We’ve got to finish at the rim well. We had opportunities but didn’t finish well. We’ve got to continue to defend at a high level without fouling,” Martin added.

Martin’s Tigers arrived on campus on Aug. 13 with school starting Aug. 24.

“It was a slow process for us to bring our guys back,” said Martin, who like Self “didn’t really feel comfortable bringing our guys back in the summer (because of coronavirus concerns). Now being with our team, it feels good.”

Weber earns national coach of year honor

Kansas State coach Weber was asked a question by host Rowe about his winning USA Basketball’s National Co-coach of the year (with Louisville women’s coach Jeff Walz). Weber led Team USA to a gold medal at the FIBA Under 19 World Cup in the summer of 2019 in Greece. The USA team went undefeated. Weber was assisted by Mike Hopkins, LeVelle Moton and Shane Southwell.

“It was special, not getting national coach of the year, but winning the gold, being there,” Weber said. “It brought a special feeling of pride to me to represent our country,” added Weber, who for many years helped Purdue coach Gene Keady, one of his mentors, run USA basketball training events.

“It was the biggest winning margin in history at the World Cup. We were in Crete, Greece. There were so many good memories.”

Hoyt was named WAC coach of year

Kansas City Roos coach Jacie Hoyt’s women’s team won the Western Athletic Conference championship last season. She was named the league’s coach of the year.

“It was an awesome year,” she said. “It was the first time in school history to win a conference championship. That was incredibly special for us, not just because of our team and all the hard work and sacrifices we made (but) to represent our university in a city that loves athletics so much. You’ve got the Chiefs, you’ve got the Royals, you’ve got Sporting KC. To be able to put our school on the map in Kansas City for women’s basketball was incredibly special,” she added.

Donlon on coaching amid pandemic

Roos men’s coach Billy Donlon has contacted some of his mentors for advice during the pandemic. He’s learned that no one person has all the answers.

“There’s no playbook,” Donlon said. “Because nobody, thank goodness, has gone through a pandemic. The No. 1 thing ... you are trying to make sure your kids are mentally OK. They are 18- to 22-year-olds. You try to make sure their mental health is OK. Then you try to communicate with them all the time, every day with Zoom calls like this (used during the Coaches vs. Cancer interviews on Thursday). We stay on top of them from an academic standpoint, continue to build the culture we’ve preached here to have success.

“It’s been a challenge. I’m blessed with an excellent coaching staff. I think we’ve handled it pretty well thus far, but I’m not the one who gives out the grades,” he added with a smile.

Holly Rowe honored

Rowe was awarded the Norm Stewart Legacy Award for her work in raising funds for cancer research. The Tipoff Event, according to Coaches vs. Cancer “is part of the nation-wide Coaches vs. Cancer program, a collaboration between the American Cancer Society and the National Association of Basketball Coaches. Today, more than 5,000 Division I, II and III college coaches, along with high school and other youth league coaches across the country are involved in the program, having raised more than $130 million to support the American Cancer Society’s mission to save lives, celebrate lives and lead the fight for a world without cancer.”

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©2020 The Kansas City Star (Kansas City, Mo.)

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