Feb. 18, 2002
Below are selected quotes from Cal head coach Ben Braun from his weekly press conference. Cal hosts UCLA Thursday at 7 p.m. and USC Saturday at 3 p.m. There is no TV for the UCLA contest, but the USC game will be on Fox Sports Net. Both games can also be heard on KABL Radio (960 AM).
On the final four games of the season:
It's a key stretch for us. It's the final stretch of the season. It's been one heck of a year in our league. Our team has battled all year, and I have every reason to believe we're going to battle some more. Our team's usually shown the ability to battle back from adversity. That's been a good sign for our team. Anybody that's going to be successful in our league better be able to bounce back because there's nobody cruising through this year. This is the nature of our league. You understand that, and you back and you battle. Three of our next four games are against nationally ranked opponents, and the one that's not nationally ranked just came off a huge win. So, we know this is going to be a very tough stretch for us.
On the Washington game last Saturday:
It just seemed we were a half-step behind in a lot of things. If you look back, we actually had some pretty good starts in some areas. But it seemed like our focus and our concentration was down. Not only our rebounding, but I go back to just how many shots we missed. We had opportunities on the break - we had two on zero one time and kicked it out of bounds. My message has always been, you may have a bad shooting night, you may not knock it down. How about getting a foul? How about getting your misses? We had enough misses in there, how about cleaning a couple of them up? Maybe a couple of extra offensive rebounds could have helped us. We needed something to get over the hump.
We're going to have opportunities, and we've got to make use of every opportunity we can. That's what's important. Every game and every day is an opportunity. I'd like to see our play and our effort and our energy and our focus ... I'll take our chances when we do those things. We'll take whatever is dealt to us after that. We can live with that. Let's go out there and out-work, out-hustle, out-think them. We started out fairly well, but we didn't sustain it. In the few times that's happened to us this year, we've paid a price for it. That hasn't happened a lot to our team.
On Dennis Gates coming back from his wrist injury:
He'll be at practice today. He was in the gym shooting this morning. If you think back to the Washington game a year ago, Dennis Gates was the difference in that game. He's just so alert on the floor. People forget what he's meant to this team. He's a senior. He's been one of our best defenders. He gives us leadership.
On Solomon Hughes:
I think he's making strides. I really think he's done some really good things. I thought the second half against Washington State he played well. He took a few deep breaths, and that's what I asked him to do. The first half he was in such a hurry. He's been in a hurry, I think, since he's come back. He was in a hurry to get back to where he was. I said, 'Solomon, It's a day at a time, it's a step at a time.' When he takes his time and when he's confident, boy, is Solomon good. He's really played well.
On Jamal Sampson:
I think (his offense) is coming. He did some very good things against Washington State, and those things weren't very apparent against Washington. I think he was very disappointed in the results. He settled a little bit in the first half, he rushed himself. I go back to how we used to challenge (Sean) Lampley, your goal is not to get your shot off. The goal is to get a great shot or a foul. Our post guys have to come away with something, a foul or a basket. Otherwise, it's an empty trip.
The bottom line is there are a lot of expectations on Jamal. A lot of those really are unfair because when you're a freshman playing college basketball for the first time, that's a big change from high school. Those expectations can deter your growth sometimes. They can get you to be in a hurry, get you to be impatient. They can get you in the habit of living up to other people's expectations. That's the time to be reminded that this is a process, and Jamal has made strides. He's made huge contributions for our team. I remind him of that all the time. He's one of the new additions to our team, and our team has changed from last year. We've had certainly a defensive makeover. So, he's got to feel good about that. He's a big part of that. Offensively, he's starting to come around. But that's going to take some time. It's nice to see his enthusiasm and spirit.