Jan. 2, 2002
Below are selected quotes from head coach Ben Braun from his weekly press conference. Cal visits Stanford Friday at 7:30 p.m., before hosting the Cardinal Sunday at 7 p.m. in Haas Pavilion.
On impressions of Stanford this year:
I think they've improved, just with a healthy (Curtis) Borchardt. I think he's had a tremendous year for them. He's made a big difference for their team. Now that he's back and he's healthy, that's been a big factor for their team. Last year, they had the two Collins twins, who were tough to go in and score on. I wouldn't say it's any easier necessarily now to go in when you've got Justin Davis, who's a very good defender, and Curtis Borchardt. Those are two good defensive players. Borchardt is always a threat on the defensive end because of his shot-blocking ability. They're again going to play defense from the inside out.
On a difference between Cal this year and last:
I think depth-wise, we've improved dramatically. Our ability to defend inside has improved. I think with both Solomon Hughes and Jamal Sampson, and the addition of Amit Tamir, we actually have three solid post defenders. That helps us. If one guy gets into foul trouble or one guy gets fatigued, we've been able to rest a guy or give a guy a break.
I think one thing you've been able to see from our team this year is that we've been able to score in a variety of ways. We've worked hard on transition basketball. We're trying to get different touches, different looks. Solomon has been a consistent scoring option for us. At the same time, we've given Joe Shipp and Brian Wethers a chance to post up. We've given our guys a chance to penetrate. So, I think we've got other opportunities now. I think we're a little harder to prepare for than we were a year ago, in that respect.
I think the balanced has helped us this year. The unpredictability probably has been to our advantage. There's not a defined person. Certainly, Joe's had the ability to score, and that's been good for us. Solomon's been consistent for us on the block. At the same time, we've got other guys stepping up and knocking shots down and distributing the ball. There's been more of an even ball distribution. Our ball movement has been better. Our penetration has been better. We worked on that in the off-season.
On Amit Tamir's passing ability:
If you watch Stanford, they're very good as passing from the high post. That's been a staple of their game over the years. There's less help-side defense in the high post. So, it should be easier for Amit to make passes from the perimeter or from the block. When Amit catches it in the high post, he's got options to shoot it, reverse the ball or get it inside. Nobody can really jam in on the ball when it's at the high post. So, he's pretty good at that. He's also a pretty good post passer on the block.
On handling pressure on the perimeter:
Our perimeter play has improved. That's something we challenged our players from a year ago. I like that our players have handled pressure better this year. I anticipate Stanford continuing to pressure. I thought Stanford did an excellent job against Michigan State to turn their game around with some pressure. I like that fact that our players have stepped up, too. Maybe a year ago when we got pressured, we sat back on our heels a little bit. Now when we get pressured, we've been able to go to the basket. We're becoming more aggressive against pressure.
I think Dennis (Gates) has specifically improved that area of his game. I think the result you're seeing of that is his assist-to-turnover ratio. It's as good as there is in our conference. He's been able to put back-to-back nine- or eight-assist games from the two-guard. It's a lot of assists.
We work hard in pre-practice on those skills. What do you do against pressure? What do you do on creating your teammates a shot? There are times in the game that a play or an offense might not produce a shot. You've got to make basketball plays. I think our team is making more basketball plays this year than it made a year ago. We didn't make as many. It was either going to be inside or it was going to be out. We didn't have a lot of in-between play. I think we're getting guys better at the in-between game.