Ben Braun Looks Ahead Toward Start of Season
Courtesy: Cal Athletics  
Release:  11/02/1999

Nov. 2, 1999

BERKELEY - With the start of the regular season less than three weeks away, Cal held its annual men's basketball media day on Tuesday, Nov. 2. Below are comments from head coach Ben Braun as he looks forward to 1999-2000.

On the first two weeks of practice, which started Oct. 16 in Haas Pavilion:

It's good to be back on campus. It's just a great feeling to be back here. It's been a couple of years, and I forgot how convenient and how exciting and how enthusiastic it can be when you're on campus. We save about two hours a day, and that's more effort that we can put into other areas with players. We're seeing our players now before practice and catch up with what's going on. We didn't do that last year. Literally, by the time they got on a bus and got to practice last year, it was time to stretch, run drills, hurry up and get out of there (the Golden State Warriors practice facility). It was tough. So, this is really a welcome change. For anybody who takes practice for granted, they shouldn't. It's a nice situation here.

On working with such a young team that has five freshmen on the roster:

I've been through this experience before. When you're going through it, from a coaching standpoint, you put some long days in, but they're all very rewarding because you know the time you're putting in, you've got a group that's going to be together for a number of years. That's what's going on right now. For every time that we don't like the progress or think we're going slowly, there's a bigger picture out there. The group that we have has been very eager. They've been very coachable. They make a lot of mistakes in practice, like any young team would make. But we seem to make fewer mistakes by the end of practice, and make fewer mistakes each week. And that's a good sign knowing that we're teaching something that will show results down the line.

It's the first time that that's really been the case. Now, we're at the stage where we have players who are helping to build a foundation for the future of our program. When I first got here, there was a special feeling for the seniors. The fans had an attachment to the seniors, who had gone through four years. I think you look at the same thing now. You're going to see a group that's going to progress through a four-year period.

On the point guard situation:

We have the ability to look at three different point guards, which is something we haven't had for a couple of years. Donte Smith has been like a combination guard for us. He can play point guard or off-guard and is pretty comfortable at either spot. Shantay Legans has shown the ability to make the players around him better. He can be a real positive factor on the court. And Raymond King has been injured (broken finger on left hand), so he's had limited practice so far. He's come back this last week and his fingers are getting a little stronger. He'll be a little limited in our exhibition games, but he'll definitely play.

On how Raymond King is approaching his senior year:

I've challenged Raymond to really dominate at his position and make the guys around him better. With the players we have coming in, he'll be the first to acknowledge that they're pretty talented players. I think it's raised his level and it's made our whole team raise its level. That's always been my definition of an effective point guard, is somebody who can make your team better. If your team's not winning or if your team's not playing well, then it doesn't matter how talented your are or what skills you bring to the table. There are different ways you can help your team. It may be defensively. Certainly, Raymond is a very quick player. He's got the ability to probably put more pressure on the ball than anybody we have, and that would be a way to make contributions to our team. And to push the ball up on offense, that would be a way to change the tempo of the game. I think he's seeing those things.

On any apprehension about starting freshmen:

I don't have any apprehension about starting any freshman. We're going to have to start two or three, maybe four. There will be a few freshmen in the lineup when we open up. I don't know how many. There are a number of freshmen that I anticipate being in the lineup and deservedly so. They're good players, and we're a young team.

On freshman center Nick Vander Laan:

Nick Vander Laan, who has been out the last week with mono, probably will be out this week, as well. He'll practice a little bit, but he won't be ready to play. In our early practices, he was really a factor. He's a tough kid. He's a competitor. He just brings it every day. It's an expression, but that's what he does. He brings people to a different level. It's really a joy having his presence out there. He brings aggressiveness to us.

On freshman guard/forward Brian Wethers:

Brian Wethers has looked pretty good in practice early. He's picked up a lot of defensive concepts. He has the ability to be a good defender for us. He's a big guard at 6-5, a strong guard. He gives us the ability to play bigger at the guard position. We're working on his ball handling, which is coming along. He has the ability to be a scorer, which is something we're going to have to develop.

On freshman guard Donte Smith:

I think he's going to be a player who is going to bring a lot to the table for us, again with is versatility. He can play an off-guard, he can play a point guard. He also has the ability to score. One of the glaring things we're missing from last year's team is scoring. So, we're going to ask Donte to step up, even as a freshman and help share the scoring load. That's something that most players like to hear, by the way. Not everyone can do that, but Donte knew that when we recruited him, we wanted him to add to our scoring.

On freshman guard Shantay Legans:

Shantay has improved his shot over the course of the last year. He's really a solid three-point shooter. He also is a good penetrate, and I think he's a very adept passer. Early, he's looked good defensively.

On freshman forward Joe Shipp:

Joe, again, is going to give us a boost offensively. He's got the ability to knock down three-point shots. He's also a player that can get inside and get to the foul line. He's pretty strong with the ball. He's a pretty versatile scorer, an inside-outside kind of guy.