Dec. 4, 2007
Below are quotes from head coach Ben Braun from his weekly press conference. Cal hosts Jackson State Wednesday before visiting Kansas State Sunday.
On the Jackson State Tigers:
We're familiar with Jackson State from last year, when their team went to the NCAA Tournament and had the nation's [No. 10] scorer [Trey Johnson].They've got some good quickness, they're explosive and they have a lot of the same guys back, so I think our team has to be prepared going in. I don't think you look at records, you look at the team's capabilities, and Jackson State plays a good schedule, so they play some pretty good people.
On whether Cal has built an impressive early-season resume with its 5-0 start against a tough schedule:
I don't worry about building a resume when you play in the Pac-10 - we're going to play 14 nationally ranked games right in the Pac-10, so I don't really worry about that. I think that playing a good schedule is something we did last year. By playing a tough schedule, it's giving us an honest assessment of where we are, what some of our strengths are and what some of the areas are that we need to improve. You get an honest assessment when you play good competition. We've had to work in every game we've played this year, and it's going to be that way the whole year. That probably will help us prepare. It's only at the end of the year that you say which games helped you and which games didn't. I can't worry about that, but we're getting a chance to play teams that, A, have been to NCAA Tournaments; B, play in competitive conferences; and C, would like to beat us.
On what he can assess about Cal's road performance so far this season:
I try to tell our players and encourage them to think about every game as a different opportunity. There's no question that there's a difference between playing at home and on the road, but there shouldn't be any difference in your quality of play and your effort. Obviously, you're going to get in environments where you're going to have to play against fans and conditions away from home that you're not used to, but I don't think that should affect your effort. What I would encourage our team to do is to play to our best ability and not worry about outside conditions, whether they're home games or road games.
On how the Bears fared in the visitors' role at Nevada:
I felt that our team got off to a good start and our focus was good early in that game. Defensively, we got off to a good start and, as a result, it affected our offense - we got off to a pretty good start. We were able to build a lead early there, and if you're going to build a lead, that's a good place to build it. It's hard to play in those environments and be down a lot, no question about that.
On the environment at Kansas State's Bramlage Coliseum:
It's a good environment, I know that. They get great crowd support. I think almost everywhere we play it's going to be that kind of environment in road games. There'll be a lot of excitement there. They've got one of the top players, maybe the top player in the country [Michael Beasley].
On his impressions of Kansas State power forward Michael Beasley, who leads the nation in points (26.7 ppg) and rebounding (15.0 rpg):
He may be the top player in the country. I haven't seen too many better. He's awfully good. I've been impressed with him every time I've seen him. He competes, he's got skills, he can step outside, he can post you up inside, he rebounds - he really does it all for his team. I like the way he plays, I really do. He seems to be having fun out there while he's playing.
On any steps he could take to help Cal get off to better starts in games:
The teams we play, that's what they do. We can prepare for what they do, we can know what's coming. They do what they do awfully well. But basketball's a 40-minute game, and because it's a 40-minute game, it's what you do over 40 minutes. Would I like to get off to a better start? Yes. But if you asked me would I like to get off to a good start and then not have a strong finish, I think I'll take the strong finish if I had to take a choice. That's not by design. I didn't say, "Guys, let's get behind and let's see if we can pull it out at the end." We've struggled, and other teams have been very aggressive and they've played well, so we'd love to get off to a better start, but I think our competition has a lot to say about that.
On his level of concern for the health of the Cal lineup:
I'm always concerned. That's my job. I worry about everything. I don't want my players to worry, but as a coach, I'm always concerned with rehab, and how their diet is, and how much sleep they're getting, and what kind of shoes are they wearing. But [Taylor Harrison, knee], not yet [cleared to play]. Omondi [Amoke, calf], not yet. Guys even get banged up in practice, but you can't cancel practice. Every time we practice, I'm concerned. They get knocked around every day.
On the status of Theo Robertson (hip):
[Theo's] coming around. Our hope is that he can come back and join us in the Pac-10. That would be a welcome shot for us if that happens. And he's working his butt off. I've never seen a kid work as hard as Theo trying to get back. He's really pushing himself and I'm really impressed with his effort, so I hope that incrementally he'll show progress. He can do some light running and some slight cutting, and he's able to extend now on his jump-shot, which before he wasn't able to do. So he's been able to increase that, and that's helping him a lot. I feel good because he's making progress but to give you a date [for his return], I couldn't do that and neither could our trainers or doctors, but I think we're encouraged because he's working so hard that in the next couple of weeks we could get him on the practice floor and maybe in his drills and maybe in his full cuts - that would be great. Once he can do that, then you can maybe think about being cleared.
On what Robertson will add to the team when he returns to action:
He'll mean everything, because he's our most experienced player, he's our best defender, he's got a high basketball IQ, he can knock down shots, and he's got the game experience under his belt. In the meantime, I'm proud of the guys that are playing. They're holding their own. But we hope we can get Theo back, he's a do-everything guy.
On the future use of a three-guard combination - such as Patrick Christopher, Jerome Randle and Nikola Knezevic against Missouri - and whether it could happen to start a game:
That was a good combination for us because it put another defender on the floor, another ball-handler on the floor, and I think going into this game, that's definitely a possibility, that we may go back that lineup, the way we started the second half against Missouri. Nikola made a big impact for our team - that was huge for us. We could start that way, and if the game was right now, we probably are leaning towards doing that.
On how he can help Eric Vierneisel find his groove:
He's got to get fully healthy [ankle]. I know that's not an alibi for Eric, but when he's been at his best, he's been healthy. So he's got to get fully recovered. And he's just got to knock a few shots down. I can tell you that when he's practicing he's knocking a lot of those shots down. So he's got to carry over from practice to the game, and that's a confidence factor. I'd be more concerned if he wasn't knocking down shots in practice, but he is. And then I'm also concerned because I'd like to see him healthier. When you're a shooter, you have to have your feet under you. It's difficult - I don't care if you're a quarterback trying to throw, or you're a shooter trying to shoot - it's a lot easier if you've got your base under you. You don't want to be shooting off of one foot and worrying about your steps.
On Harper Kamp's contribution thus far:
Harper's been a real great addition for us, because he's given us solid play in the post, he's been tough, he's a guy that screens well, he rebounds, his positioning is very good, knows the game, and boy does he compete. He's got a lot of hard work and a lot of desire. He works extremely hard and I like his spirit. He's got a pretty good touch. He's leading our team in free throw shooting, so I'm pleased with what he's brought us, and I mentioned that when the year started that I had a pretty good feeling he was going to fill in and help us. And he has.
On how important the 5-0 start has been considering the team's injury issues:
I think it's huge for us. It's really important that our team is playing as well as it can. I like our team spirit. We've fought in every game. We've gotten behind and clawed back. We've got good attitudes. I think it's been a team effort. Each day, each game, there's somebody that steps up and gives us something. Whoever it is, somebody's stepping up. That's a good sign, that we're depending on different guys each game to step up. We're not exactly sure which guy that'll be, but that's okay, because that's what the team is about.