Oct. 22, 2009
BERKELEY - Media Day Photo Gallery
Head coach Mike Montgomery and the California men's basketball team met with the local media on Thursday afternoon in Haas Pavilion to discuss the upcoming 2009-10 season.
Head coach Mike Montgomery
We are into our eighth practice today, having taken Tuesday off and making progress. Unfortunately, we've had some injuries that have slowed us down a little bit, not giving us a clear picture of what we're going to be able to do, or what we'd like to do.
Injuries, I guess, first, Harper (Kamp) has been about where he was last year at this point in that his knee is still recovering, so he's on a day, off a day, or on at 70 percent and the next day at 30 percent. Ee haven't had him on a regular basis.
Jorge Gutierrez hurt his foot prior to the first day of practice and has been out since, so he hasn't done anything with us. I know we've had two or three guys who have missed a day or two as a result of injuries. We've had three of our rotation players that have not been there and that's slowed us down a little bit.
But there are lots of good things. Some of the issues that we would have had coming in or had last year have not necessarily gone away or resolved themselves, so we still have to deal with those things, but we do have good senior leadership.
Theo Robertson has recovered very nicely from that hip. He probably looks as good as I've ever seen him since I've been here. That would have been one of the question marks coming off of surgery, but he's good.
We've got a lot of work to do. Execution is just OK right now. It's just teaching, trying to get them to know what we want to try to do, break it down, try to get them to execute it. The effort's been there, the attitude has been there. We've just got to continue to push and see if we can't be a good basketball team.
Q: Who is the third guy in the rotation who has missed time (due to injury)?
Well, Markhuri (Sanders-Frison) missed a day, Patrick (Christopher) missed a day. Jorge's been out, Harper's been out, and they're pretty important.
Markhuri took a pretty good fall and that's a lot of weight coming down. He got his feet taken out from underneath him and hit the floor, full weight. That was just a couple of days, though. Patrick just had a minor hyperextension and that took him out a day or two.
Q: Last year, you started from scratch. How much does it help that they know some of it now?
It has helped, obviously. We haven't created the habits we need to create yet in some of the stuff. We have to remind them that we have to execute, do things properly every time. The problem is not so much not knowing what to do, the problem is executing it correctly and having people that can do what we're asking him to.
A lot of our passes are thrown to the high post, and that's been a little bit of a problem in terms of footwork and just the thought process. Again, without Harper, who is probably our smartest post player, it causes us a little bit of problem that way.
If you think about it, we started Jordan (Wilkes) last year primarily because Jordan was our most fundamentally sound post guy that knew what we were doing and could execute. [He was] Certainly not our most physical player.
We're in that same situation a little bit, trying to get guys to know how to make a pass, and what our screening angles are and all those kinds of things. It's just going to take time.
Q: Aside from the problem with the post, do you feel that they know this and that?
Yeah, Jerome (Randle) really has a much better idea of what we're trying to do. He's tried very hard to deliver the ball on time and be a point guard. I'm sure that when games start that'll change a little bit based on necessity, but right now, he's trying to enter the ball in the right place, he's trying to get the guys involved, trying to make all the right decisions and that's been encouraging.
Q: How's the defense?
We're not really very big. If you look at our inside game, other than Max [Zhang], we're probably 6-8 or below at every position, and that's not very big. That causes a little bit of problems in terms of having a shot blocker back there or somebody who can change the game for us, so we have to be better fundamentally.
They're really working at it. I don't think we have great habits. It takes a long time to really get good defensive habits. I don't know if we have those yet, but they're really working at it.
In the half court sometimes we can be very good defensively. We've not gotten to the point where we're transitioning back and picking up with that same level of intensity, but it is early and hopefully we can get there.
Jerome's working hard. He knows that's an important thing for him, to be better defensively, and really, him and Brandon [Smith] have had some really good matchups out there. Brandon's a tough kid that has not given in. It's pretty impressive as a freshman to be able to come in and hang in there with a very good player.
Q: Do you think defense is where you can make the biggest jump from last year to this year?
I think that's an area we can certainly improve because you're never good enough. Every time you give up a basket, you always look for a reason as to why you gave a basket up, thinking you can prevent anybody from getting a good shot. There's some truth to that.
Our block-offs, for example, on defense, are going to be critical. We do not have a dominant defensive rebounder that can just go get the ball off the glass for us. We're going to have to do things together, we're going to have to do things as a team, we're going to have to do things fundamentally correct.
Those things are all possible. We just don't have the luxury of having a 6-11 glass eater with long arms that just goes and gets the ball off the glass for us, so everybody's going to have to pitch in.
I would think that would be an area we could improve in. Maybe having just lost Jordan, until we determine what Harper's status is going to be. Jorge should be better, Brandon and D.J. (Seeley) should be better, Nikola's (Knezevic) played very well, frankly, so we should maybe improve our depth a little bit.
Q: Max had an encouraging summer overseas, but how does that translate?
Max got some confidence from that. We got the films from USA Basketball because we were curious ourselves as to how he was able to do that. When you saw the films, you can understand more how that would happen.
They played a zone and he stayed in the back of the zone. The lane internationally is wider, so he would stand back and he got a lot of blocked shots, just people coming in and throwing up below the rim stuff and Max would get those. He got a lot of offensive rebounds on his own missed shots. He's just so much bigger that he would just go back and get a couple.
I think he got some confidence. Max is just in a slow process. He's not a very experienced kid, having just played since he was 15. You'll see things that will make you say `Oh!' but there's still some things that he just really doesn't understand about what he needs to do to be effective.
But he is 7-3, he does have long arms and hopefully there's going to be opportunity to help us.
Q: Can you talk about how many players have jumped out at you in this first week and how many of them have improved since last season?
Three times now people have asked me who would be our most improved player. I've really had a difficult time with that because I don't know, for one, Jorge hasn't practiced, so I haven't seen him yet. I would expect him to be improved, he's stronger. He's worked on his shot over the summer, so maybe he shoots the ball a little bit better. Nikola worked on his shot; he's been shooting the ball better. D.J. has been playing harder. I think he's figured out that he needs to play harder to be effective. Harper hasn't been able to go. If Harper had come back 100 percent healthy, I would have said, `Well, Harper is (the most improved player) because now he's able to run and jump,' but he's not, so it's really hard for me to say. Jamal (Boykin) plays very hard, but I don't know if there's going to be any change to what he does. Omondi (Amoke), this was the first full summer that he's been able to actually work on his game, and he's done that. He's been very active on the glass. He virtually gets his hands on every ball. He could be a guy who could make a difference.
Senior Forward Jamal Boykin
On what is different about this year from last?
This year's practices have been a lot smoother since we remember the plays from last year and he (Mike Montgomery) doesn't have to teach us as much. The freshman can follow the scenes. Coach will be like, `Can I get a scene group up and you guys will be the example.' Then the freshmen and the newcomers just follow suit.
Last year, we were all freshmen in that sense (learning the plays), so that is the biggest difference for this year.
On what areas the team needs to work on?
Defense and rebounding. I think those are the two areas that when we improve, we will be a great team.
Senior Forward Theo Robertson
On the pressure.
I don't feel any pressure whatsoever. There are high expectations for this team this year, but it is something we have been working for. We are continuing to work to prove we are a good team. The pressure isn't really there for us. I think it is more of an emphasis to come out, work hard and prove to people that we can be a good basketball team.
On the high expectations of the team.
"It's definitely exciting, but putting it all in perspective. It's where we want to be, but at the same time we know that we need to be consistent. We are trying to build this program up so that it's like that every year. It's all up to us players to get back to the point where we were last year and improve on that. I think that is the task at hand, but it is good to finally see that people are taking notice of Cal a little bit."
On going into a season after playing all last year as opposed to coming back from an injury.
I think the main thing is comfort level. Even though I did have a surgery again this offseason, it wasn't one that was as severe. Being in a position of being in the second year under Coach Montgomery, it is just a lot more comfortable out there both physically and knowing the expectations for myself and the rest of my team. That's been a real positive thing in helping practices go smoothly.
Senior Guard Patrick Christopher
On having a year of experience with Coach Montgomery.
I consider last year like another freshman year. This would be my sophomore year. I think I had a pretty big jump from my real freshman to my real sophomore year, so I am looking forward to seeing that jump again.
On feeling pressure with the expectations for the team.
I don't feel pressure. This is what we have longed for as a basketball team and as a program. Jerome (Randle) and myself, coming in together, we were kind of dreaming of this. We're here now, so we're going to seize the moment and cherish every possession.