Jan. 14, 2002
Below are selected quotes from Cal men's basketball coach Ben Braun from his weekly press conference. The Bears host Washington Thursday at 7:30 p.m. and Washington State Saturday at 5 p.m.
About using big men on the perimeter on defense
It all goes back to who you have. If you have Jamal Sampson, if you have Solomon Hughes, these are guys who are athletic and who have good feet. I remember Louisville being pretty good at that a few years ago. Sean Lampley can do it. We had Sean do a little of that last year. Sometimes, it's helping for cover, sometimes it's temporary, sometimes it's late. It just depends on the defensive cover at that time. I want our players to be aggressive, to stay aggressive.
About the defense's improvement from last season
I think our big guys are giving us the ability. It's not easy to go inside and score (on us). A.J. Diggs has helped us defensively. I also think that we have some guys that take it personally as a challenge. Dennis Gates, for example, it's a personal challenge for him. We've been able to go out this year and do a good job defensively on the other team's top players. When you can take a (Casey) Jacobsen and hold him to seven and a (Curtis) Borchardt and hold him to nine, you've got a chance to win. If we can stay aggressive defensively, I think we have a chance to be in every game. This could be the best defensive team I've had. If you're playing well defensively and you're getting opportunities to be in games and win games, then that is the number one reward. I don't think you need to be in a national ranking. It's just something your team knows and hopefully your fans know. We're not going to make national magazines (by being defense-oriented), you're not going to make highlight center. Guys taking charges, it's not going to be a headline for a story. Deflections, that's not showing up anywhere. Challenging a shot, there's no statistic that shows a (shot challenge).
I think the guys buy into defense when they want to play. Dennis Gates is a guy who buys into defense, and that's why he's playing more. A.J. Diggs is starting to play more because he's a very good defender. Jamal Sampson is still playing pretty good defense. His offensive stats aren't the best, but defensively, he's had some presence. Solomon Hughes, who was playing great offense, in addition is playing great defense. I feel that Amit (Tamir) plays some solid defense, that he is a good defender. So the guys who buy into that, the more possessions they are going to have, the more opportunities they are going to have, but sometimes it is a hard sell.
On Cal's rebounding deficiencies
I think it's concentration. I think it's mindset. Some of our guards are guarding the ball pretty well. There are games when Jamal has stepped up. There are games when Brian Wethers and Joe Shipp have stepped up. If we could really solidify the rebounding, that would help us. We're getting better on the offensive glass, our guys are getting more aggressive offensively. Brian Wethers has had a lot to do with that.
On Cal's offense
If you look at our field goal percentage over the last couple of games, it's been a little up and down, but we've gotten some good looks. That's important. We need to put our players in a position to just score. I'd like to see us get to the free throw line a bit more. Offense is something that's going to come, but I think you have to have a starting point. You have to have a solid ground. I think you have to have something that is part of our identity, and defense really is.
On Dennis Gates and Brian Wethers
You can't help but have Dennis rub off on you when he's out there practicing. This guy is taking charges, he's helping out, he's boxing out, and he's probably the smallest guard we've got in the lineup. He's constantly boxing out, battling for rebounds. It rubs off. Joe Shipp and Brian Wethers, with their size, started to pick that up. Brian is actually going after the boards a lot harder. He's made that a personal mission. He's taken that on as part of his identity. It's something that he is capable of doing, and he's going out now and doing it. In the last three or four games, that's been a good factor.
On the team's steals totals
I think when we're playing aggressively, we're going to get steals. We have guys that anticipate well. We have some guys with quick hands, quick feet. I think we can be even better at that. I think we can be even more aggressive than we've been. That's what good defense does. We're helping everybody else. Sometimes we get a quick deflection. Other times you think there's an opening inside. Our big guys affect things. They affect shots, they affect decisions. When a guy drives in, when we do get beat, you have to think about going overtop of some of our big guys. Then, there's Dennis Gates who is always in your way. We do cause some travels. We do cause some deflections.
On the relationship between playing good defense and good offense
I've always thought that when you play good defense that it helps your offense. I think that a lot of our fast breaks and transition passes have come from good defense. You can take some of the pressure off your offense if you can get good stops. That's our goal.
On the hoped-for return of Solomon Hughes this week
He's been a huge part of our team. He was playing as well as he has played in his career before he got injured. He was playing probably the best out of anyone on our team all around. His play at both ends of the floor was as good as anybody. He was on the floor yesterday testing. He was able to go up and down without significant pain. He's going to go in today and get some running up and down the floor, and we're going to work him back into practice slowly and surely this week. I expect him to get some minutes (on Thursday). It depends on getting his timing back.