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Bill Self wants KU basketball, and this player, to rebound better after EIU scare

Kansas men’s basketball coach Bill Self has a noted habit early in each season.

He tends to call out his team’s flaws to the media — likely in an effort to inspire change. And like clockwork, it usually works. Whatever is ailing KU is usually solved by NCAA Tournament time.

Well, Self had his first real call-out on Tuesday after Kansas survived an upset scare against Eastern Illinois. He took particular exception to KU’s rebounding issues after Kansas was outrebounded 36-33 by the Panthers.

Rebounding struggles aren’t exactly a new issue for the Jayhawks this season. Kansas ranks No. 278 in offensive rebounding rate (25.8%), and two of KU’s three ranked opponents thus far — Marquette and Kentucky — have outrebounded the Jayhawks.

But for KU to get outrebounded against KenPom’s No. 344-ranked team (out of 362)? Self wasn’t pleased.

“We haven’t rebounded the ball yet this year, except for Hunter (Dickinson),” Self said. “We have been — and we’re going to be — but we’re a very poor offensive rebounding team. We are getting well less than 30% of our misses back. So tonight, we actually did better, believe it or not, than we have been doing on the offensive glass.

“If Kevin (McCullar) doesn’t get it and Hunter doesn’t get it, I don’t know who gets it. KJ (Adams) has historically been a better offensive rebounder than defensive and, Dajuan (Harris) is not getting any cleanups and Elmarko (Jackson) doesn’t get any. So it’s not a great rebounding team. ... And the bench isn’t a good rebounding group, so we’ve got to be more aggressive.”

Self issued a challenge to McCullar and Adams.

“To be real honest with you — KJ, Hunter and Kevin need to get them,” Self said. “Just to call it like it is. Hunter has been getting them, but those are the guys that need to get them.”

McCullar is currently averaging a career-high eight rebounds per game but only had three vs. the Panthers.

Meanwhile, Adams has dipped from 4.3 rebounds per game last year to 3.5 this season — though it is worth noting he spent most of his time at center last season, compared to power forward this year.

The most significant drop for Adams has come in his offensive rebounding percentage: from 8.9% to 4.7%.

“KJ last year did the same thing — I mean he didn’t defensive rebound last year,” Self said. “What he did last year was he’s guarding a guy that’s bigger than him, so he tried to make sure his guy didn’t get the rebound, which is a pretty good strategy if you have J-Will (Jalen Wilson) and Kevin to clean up, and Gradey (Dick), who’s 6-foot-8.

“We don’t have that as much this year. We got Kevin. So, KJ has got to be a guy that hits, releases and go gets. But I think too many times he’s wanting somebody else to get it when he does a good job blocking off, and he’s not blocking off the best rebounder per se like he did last year. He’s got to be able to hit and go get.”

Adams and his Jayhawks have a tough challenge ahead on Friday against No. 4 UConn, which ranks No. 4 in the country in rebounding margin.

It’ll be the first chance to see if Self’s words inspired something different from KU.