Jan. 3, 2000
BERKELEY - Below are selected comments from Cal men's basketball coach Ben Braun from his weekly press conference prior to the Pac-10 opener against Arizona.
On Arizona's two freshmen starting guards - Jason Gardner and Gilbert Arenas:
In general, when you look at Arizona, I'm really impressed with their balance of having five guys in double figures. You just don't see that very often. Usually, it's a feat if you can accomplish that in a game, let along average that. That's impressive to me. That tells me that they're a very difficult team to play against because you can't just shut down certain areas of their game. You've got to really play them straight up, and that makes them a very difficult match-up for anybody. I'm impressed their players have been able to play the minutes they've played. I know they're in excellent shape. They've avoided foul trouble. They've battled any signs I've seen of fatigue.
They have two outstanding backcourt players in Arenas and Gardner. They seem very confident and very comfortable and they're playing very well. I think they're playing with a lot of poise, too. I saw Jason a lot when he was in high school, and he was a player then that commands a lot of attention. He's strong with the ball. He doesn't make a lot of mistakes. He's a player who can create shots for himself and for his teammates. He'll also go up and get rebounds and loose balls.
Arenas was always known for his scoring. He was a prolific scorer in high school. You always knew that Arenas could score, that was never in doubt. In addition, he's defended, I'm sure, better than a lot of people might have thought. He's really worked hard on his defense and has become a part of their quickness and pressure defense.
On the match-up between Cal's freshman guards and Arizona's freshman guards:
I think you're talking about talented freshmen, freshmen who have demonstrated they can compete at the college level and be successful. In our game, you're going to see more freshmen than you would see in a normal game. You're going to see a lot of freshmen on the floor. You're going to see some quality freshmen that are competing at a very high level.
On Cal's depth heading into the Pac-10 season:
I think it's one of the positives, looking back at our non-conference games. I think we've gotten some good performances from a number of players. I don't think we've pointed to one or two players who have carried this team. I don't think we've had to depend on one or two players. I know there's been a correlation with how (Sean) Lampley's played in some of the games and how we've done, but I think we've had guys step up. I think our team has shown the ability to go deep, to give guys a rest or spot them when they're in foul trouble or simply to stay fresh and turn up our defense. We've been able to do that. We've given people an opportunity to play and they've handled it pretty well. They've proven that they can play. A lot of the swings in our games have come when people off the bench have turned games around. Dennis Gates came off the bench and helped turn the game around (against Davidson). Whoever we bring off the bench will give an added punch to our team.
On what the concerns will be during Pac-10 play:
It's like starting over, in some respects. Now, it's conference play. We're seeing teams that are new. We're seeing teams that are very familiar with Pac-10 basketball. With our team, they've seen us play 12 times. There are no surprises. We're going to be very well scouted. All the teams that play us will know us inside and out. Now, it comes down to execution. Now, it comes down to toughness. And it certainly comes down to experience and being able to withstand those conditions.