Feb. 25, 2002
Below are selected quotes from Cal head coach Ben Braun from his weekly press conference. Cal travels to Arizona State on Thursday at 5:30 p.m. PT and Arizona Saturday at 11 a.m. PT.
Is the national ranking good or bad for your team?:
It's funny. I've had teams that have been ranked before, so it's not a new concept for me, but it may be for some of the players. It certainly is not going to change who we are, but it's a nice acknowledgement. You always appreciate being recognized for effort and that is what our message is to our players. It's not going to define who we are and how we feel about ourselves. With this team, we really are the kind of team where we put together effort and put a lot of things aside. We've done a good job this year of focusing on trying to improve as a team. We haven't paid a lot of attention to rankings because throughout the year they aren't that significant. Towards the end of the year, they become a little more significant and there are obvious reasons for that. Most coaches and players would like to be in the rankings when it counts at the end of the season. This is just a culmination of where our team is heading.
Can being ranked help you in the seeding process for the NCAA tournament?:
I don't think it can hurt you, but I don't want to make more out of it than there really is. We've played in a very good conference and if you can finish near or at the top of our conference, you're a good team ... this is one heck of a conference. It means your team has battled and fought to win. There are some real good teams in this conference.
On Arizona State:
They've always been a tough team and they've been a tough team this year. They have always played hard and they are very competitive. We had a tough game last time. We had to fight to win and they're a team that's going to scrap and play aggressively. They are going to present a challenge to us. They have gone through some of the things that we've gone through where they haven't gotten much recognition for what they've done. They are a very solid team and they are fighting for a postseason berth and they're hungry. I think our team is aware of that and they know it is going to be a difficult game.
On Shantay Legans:
I think the Pac-10 handled the situation fairly and quickly and we will move on. I don't think there will be any more repercussions from that. I do know Matt Barnes and his family, and I think it was just a moment where he lost his composure. If he had to do it all over again, it would've been a different result. You saw our team show some restraint by not responding and that's why they have those rules in place. Things can get pretty ugly and you can forget why you're playing the game. You want to play strong, aggressive and tough but you want to do it within the framework of the rules and the spirit of the game. Our league has been pretty good about that, you haven't seen a lot of flare-ups. Games are going to be physical, but you don't want there to be retaliatory or dirty play, you just want them to play hard.
On the role of walk-ons versus scholarship players:
We regard the players on our team as team members, where some guys have a scholarship and some don't. The guys that don't are good enough players that they could have scholarships at many schools. They chose to come to Cal to contribute at Cal ... and contribute they have. They are hungry players and they're focused players and are players that are team-oriented. They are here because they want to be here. Cal has been a great experience for them and they've made use of the opportunities that they have gotten. Certainly A.J. Diggs and Ryan Forehan-Kelly have had opportunities here.
Scholarships usually come down to availability. I think we've done a pretty good job over the years of rewarding those players at some time during their career. The guys who have contributed the most we have tried to do that ... give them a scholarship. It's not always a guarantee and our players have never assumed that it is a guarantee. We have a history of doing that whenever we have the opportunity. It's exciting for this to happen. It goes back to our team concept. A team is comprised of more than just first team All-American or first team all-state players. You have to have players that are good players that can make contributions by understanding team work and understanding what team play is about. They are humble and have tremendous work ethics. They came here with no guarantees and made spiritual and physical contributions to our team. As a coach, you can't ask for anything more than that.
We've had calls from people that want to come to Cal, but we have to tell them that we are limited on scholarships. If they still say that they want to come to Cal as a walk-on, it would be great if that came about. That could happen ... it's a definite possibility. Student-athletes today are looking beyond basketball. I commend guys like Conor Famulener because it's beyond basketball and ego. They get a high quality education while getting to participate in a high quality basketball program. These guys are pretty perceptive and realize that they will get a Cal degree, play in a NCAA atmosphere and have a chance to play for a championship. They've got it all right now ... it's a pretty good deal.