Dec. 18, 2007
BERKELEY - Head coach Ben Braun answered questions from the media Tuesday at his weekly press conference. Among the topics he addressed were the impending debut of forward Jamal Boykin vs. Utah, what the team worked on since the Kansas State game and Theo Robertson's status.
On the value of the break for his team between the Dec. 9 Kansas State game and Thursday's contest against Delaware State, including the opportunity to prepare for exams:
This is always a tough time of the year, but we really gave them some significant time to get on their studies. When we did get back in (to practice), we are obviously trying to put attention on some areas that need attention. Those areas haven't changed since the last time we talked as a group. That last game, we were disappointed in our rebounding, giving up 22 offensive rebounds. That's a stat that really concerned me. And yes, we played a really aggressive (K-State) team in their place, but I just felt that really hurt us. So we've been trying to work on everything from positioning to contact. A lot of it is desire. I guess a lot of coaches with a 10+ rebounding differential might not make it a big deal, but it is a big deal, because we need to be better. That was not characteristic of what we've done this year, but it really hurt us in that game. So I think we have to be better at limiting offensive rebounds. We talked about not trying to block every shot, because you get out of position. Sometime you gamble and get out of position, and sometimes you get switched off and you get mismatches, and we have guards that have to keep post guys off on rotations, so we have to work on those things: How do you rebound out of a zone? How do you rebound out of a rotation? We've got to get better in that respect. That's one way to give up easy baskets, and (K-State) got a lot of put-backs for easy baskets.
The second area is turnovers. We can't turn the ball over and give teams those kinds of opportunities. We've got to be more solid with the ball.
I think our team's been shooting the ball fairly well. You can't order your team to shoot well, but you can take good shots. I think we've taken pretty good shots and gotten the ball where we've wanted to get it, but we really let down in those two areas in our last game and that hurt us.
On how much DeVon Hardin's foul troubles account for the team's rebounding problems, and the effort to coach Hardin to avoid leaving his feet:
DeVon's a good defender and he's got to keep himself in the game, and one way you keep yourself in the game is staying grounded. He is a great shot-blocker, but he can't block every shot. Even trying to block a lot of shots, he gets out of position. And it's not just DeVon. I think a lot of our guys are making plays - I find even guards going up and trying to challenge shots. It's just about discipline. We've got to be more disciplined defensively. I was not happy our last two games from a defensive standpoint, in terms of being in the right position and being anchored.
On whether opposing coaches might be instructing their players to use head fakes to get Hardin off the ground:
I think that's a pretty sound philosophy. People are trying to either get him up in the air for shots or trying to get him off the drive, and (doing the same to) our post players in general. But our post guys are pretty good defenders when they stay disciplined and they stay down. That's something we're working on right now, just getting in the proper position. You want your team to be aggressive and sometimes we're a little over-aggressive, but you've got to be in the right position and you just have to stay anchored. That's something we have to work at and I'm sure coaches on opposing teams will look at that.
On his impressions of Delaware State:
I was impressed when I saw them play Arkansas. I thought they shot the ball in stretches very well. They've got quickness, they've got some guys who can knock down shots, and their leading scorer that's back, Roy Bright, is a really good scorer and he can put the ball in the basket. We've got a challenge again to play good defense. That team has some experience - they went to the (NIT) Tournament - so we've got to be ready to play.
On whether he has ever experienced a 10-game road trip such as the one Delaware State is in the midst of:
I don't remember having to do that. Maybe five or six in a row. But that's a lot. I admire their program and Coach Jackson because I know what his goal is. His goal is to get his team to play well in their league and to prepare his team, and you can't argue with their success. He's done a good job of getting his team prepared for their league and playing a very good schedule. I think the scores of some the games you've seen were a little deceiving. They also played without Bright (for one game).
On his impressions of Eric Vierneisel following his breakout game at K-State:
Eric's shooting the ball well and his ability for us to be an experienced guard is important. He can get us going in some ways because he is experienced. You look at his assist-to-turnover ratio, that's pretty impressive. Last look, he was leading the Pac-10, and I brought that up to my team. On our team that's huge. You want to give him credit for what he's done. I know the last game, knocking down some shots gave him some confidence, because Eric's a good shooter and sometimes shooters just need to get on a roll. You never know when that's going to happen but if he can continue to shoot the ball with confidence that would really help our team.
On the status of Theo Robertson (hip):
I think he's had four contact practices, but right now we're working him into half court and trying to give him some recovery time because he's still sore. It's encouraging just to see him in some of the drills and he's still got a ways to go still, but it's just great to see him out there. His teammates were really excited when he got back on the floor. As coaches, we were ecstatic to see him playing. I'm just happy for him because it's been a long haul for him. It's been a long road back from his injury, but I don't know of anybody that's worked any harder than Theo's worked to get himself back. He's in the training room and doing rehab sometimes two, three times a day. He's making progress. I don't know about a time frame.
On the preparations for Jamal Boykin before his debut Dec. 22 vs. Utah:
We were putting him on the gold team (in practice) and then I'm starting to realize, you know, he's going to be on the blue team in three days. But he's getting a lot of reps on the gold team. It's been good to play against him practice. He's given us a real challenge in practice when you're trying to contain him, defend him, and he brings a lot of spirit and energy to his team. But Friday will be his first practice (with the blue team) before he's eligible to play.
On the role he envisions for Boykin:
Jamal will give us hopefully the same thing he's giving us on the bench right now. I like his spirit, I like his enthusiasm and I like his leadership. He gives you all three things. He plays with tremendous passion, he plays with tremendous energy, and I think he's got great leadership qualities because as your teammate, you enjoy playing with him. He sets the tone when he brings energy. He gives you effort. In practice we'll chart a lot of things, and he's oftentimes the leader in, let's say, deflections, the leader in being in the right position -- just being aggressive, getting to the foul line.
On whether it's unusual to see a transfer such as Boykin, who has not yet played for Cal, already established as a leader:
We're fortunate that a lot of our players knew Jamal before he came here and that he was from California. He's no secret to us. The things we're seeing him do now, he did them in high school, but he's just gotten bigger and stronger. I think the time he spent at Duke was time well spent - that's got to be valuable to be there. And I think being here too has given him an opportunity to acclimate. I think (the players) look at Jamal as someone that's a good role model on our team. That's part of being a leader, that people look up to Jamal. He's verbal, he backs up it up with action. If he tells you, "Let's go, let's get going," he doesn't even need to say it because of how hard he plays. But when he says it, guys respect him and they enjoy his energy. He's got tremendous energy and passion. I really appreciate it as a coach.
On how Jamal's activation affects the rotation:
He gives us the ability to give us a post guy or a big wing. He can play either spot. I think he's valuable to play in either spot and he's played both in practice for us. He's now facing up better. At his size, he's really pretty good at facing up. He's pretty good at the free throw line, he's pretty good off the block, and I think he's got the ability to do those things. Whatever position you call him, we may have to adjust some things we do for Jamal as well. We may decide some of the sets, some of the things we run, we may have to adjust a little bit. But if he's adding that much to our team, then we're going to have to make some adjustments. But in the meantime, he still will be a pretty good player in our rotation at the post, because he's so active in there. It's not like we don't have some guys in foul trouble. That happens, so it's nice to have Jamal and not worry about fouls anymore.
On his recollection of recruiting Boykin out of Fairfax High School:
I thought we had a good chance at him, because Joe Shipp went to Fairfax and he was familiar with our program, but he kind of told me at the time that he was looking to go away, that he had made a decision early in the process that he wanted to look at going maybe out to the ACC. I remember at the time wishing him luck. Obviously, we were hoping to get a chance to recruit him but I felt good for him that he had a great opportunity to play at a great school, and he was very polite about it. He called to tell me he was going to Duke, but I also felt good when he called me back and said, "Hey coach, I'm transferring, and I'm thinking about coming to Cal." I said, "That'd be a good school for you." That's what I told him the first time around and that's what I told him this time. I felt great that he still felt good about Cal and I think his family did, as well.