Oct. 26, 2007
BERKELEY - Eric Vierneisel enters 2007-08 as the most experienced member of the Golden Bears, with 78 games under his belt in blue and gold. Stepping up in the face of injuries that depleted Cal's frontline in 2006-07, Eric canned 38.8 percent of his three-point tries and went on a seven-game, double-digit scoring run in December and January, including a career-high 13 points at Oregon State. The political science major was named Cal's Most Improved Player at the end of last season.
CalBears.com: How are preparations going for the season?
Vierneisel: Preparations are going well. There are obviously a lot of things we have to work on. Defensively, we're not really where we want to be yet, and that will only come with time. We really have to work on trusting each other and being in the right positions on defense. Slowly but surely, we'll get there. We have the ability. We just have to put in the time.
CalBears.com: Do you have any added confidence considering you're fully healthy now after struggling with a sprained ankle for much of last season?
Vierneisel: With me, I've always kind of played with an injury, whether it be here or high school, so I'm kind of used to it. But whenever something like that happens, you're never going to be 100 percent unless you let it heal. I don't think that the injury affected my play though, especially at the end of the year. Right now at this point - knock on wood - I am the healthiest that I have ever been at Cal. I feel good, I feel confident. I just want the games to start now.
CalBears.com: Are you savoring things more as you enter your senior season of Cal basketball?
Vierneisel: This year is definitely going to be my last time through. I think I've had a well-rounded experience since I've been here, so I'm looking forward to capping it off in a special way.
CalBears.com: Talk about the groove you got into last season during the seven-game stretch when you scored in double-figures.
Vierneisel: I took advantage of the opportunities. A lot of times in my career here, the opportunities were fewer, so it was harder to take advantage of them. But especially during that stretch, I was getting a lot of opportunities to play, opportunities to contribute, and I took advantage of those. When I started the ball rolling, I was playing with more confidence and the coaching staff had more confidence in me, and it was just a cumulative effect.
CalBears.com: During the past offseason, what were your focuses in terms of basketball?
Vierneisel: A main focus of mine every summer is to get stronger. I came in here pretty skinny. Now, I'm the strongest I've been since I've been here, and I'm dishing out more punishment than I'm taking. I also really tried to improve my ball-handling this summer. That was kind of strong suit for me in high school, because I had to play point guard, but coming here, I've been mostly a catch-and-shoot guy, so I'm kind of trying to go back to the way it was in high school where I could be good at everything.
CalBears.com: Some shooters worry about gaining muscle and how that might affect their touch - was that a concern of yours?
Vierneisel: That's never been a concern for me. I've always felt better going on the court after I've lifted or after I've gone through a workout. Psychologically I think it helps me. It's always been something I try to do.
CalBears.com: How has your frame changed over the years at Cal?
Vierneisel: I came in here about 190 and I'm about 215 now, which has been a nice increase overall. Being stronger on the court, you're able to impose your will a little bit more.
CalBears.com: With you and DeVon the only seniors on the roster, do you feel any different going into the season as far as your role on the team?
Vierneisel: I do, but it's not just because of the fact that I'm a senior. I have the most experience as far as playing and all the situations that occur during a game, during close games. In that sense, it's been different because I'm one of those guys who's been in those situations.
CalBears.com: Do you have a more outspoken style now with your teammates?
Vierneisel: I'd say I'm pretty much the opposite. I'll talk to guys, but it'll be one-on-one on the side, after the play. I'll observe what's going and after the play or after the practice I'll approach someone. But it's not in my nature to yell at somebody.
CalBears.com: You've said that when Haas Pavilion is rocking, "the excitement is like no other arena in the country." Can you talk about the role of the Haas crowd, the student section, the band and the effect they have?
Vierneisel: It's just a different experience here. Playing in all the other Pac-10 arenas, our crowd reacts differently. And it's not because I go here. If I was playing at a different school I would probably say the same thing about Haas. It's a big arena, but it has a small feel. The students are right on the court and it gets loud. It always gives you more excitement, gives you more energy, and it takes away from the other teams'.
CalBears.com: People may not know that your parents come to a good number of games considering their home state is Illinois. How often do they attend?
Vierneisel: I've been really fortunate that my parents have been able to see me play [Eric's father works for Northwest Airlines]. My freshman and sophomore year they were out here a lot. Last year, not so much, because my dad was diagnosed with diabetes, so it was hard for him to travel. But he's doing better now and they're going to be out here a lot again this year. It's really nice to be able to see them after the games and know they were here supporting me.
CalBears.com: You are a political science major. Tell us about your favorite class at Cal so far, a course called Revolutionary Movements.
Vierneisel: The professor is James Gergor and the basis of his research is fascist Italy. It was really interesting to see how fascism started and the elements of revolution. He was a really good speaker and it was easy to stay engaged in his class.
CalBears.com: Has the University been a particularly good place to study poli-sci?
Vierneisel: Yes, definitely. I've had a bunch of people tell me that Berkeley is the place to be a political science major. It doesn't hurt in finding out new things, especially on this campus.