Dec. 27, 2001
Below are selected comments from head coach Ben Braun from his weekly press conference. Cal hosts the Golden Bear Classic Friday and Saturday in Haas Pavilion. On Friday, Coppin State plays Penn State at 4:30, followed by Cal against Harvard at 7 p.m.
We've had a long layoff, but we seem to be in pretty good stride. We're fortunate to get Amit Tamir back. We excited about that. We're finally shooting above 30 percent from three-point range. That's a big improvement for us. I'm pleased that we're shooting ball a bit better. I think offensively, we've been coming around. It's something that we struggled with earlier. Hopefully, it's something we can continue to build on.
Is it hard to work a new player during the season, like Amit Tamir?
Brian Wethers was basically a starter until he got injured and now he's been coming off the bench. I think he's been a big plus for us. Ryan Forehan-Kelly, who started so much for us last year, is coming off the bench. Dennis Gates was a bench performer, now, he's starting. I think we have the ability to go with different lineups. But I hope with our team it's not a major thing. Every coach hopes it doesn't matter who starts. It's a matter of making contributions. I think with Amit coming back, it's the same type of scenario. Amit is just excited about being able to play. He doesn't care if he's starting or coming off the bench.
On what you expect Tamir to contribute:
I think he gives us a lot in terms of poise and ability to stretch out the defense a little bit. He can knock down some shots out to the 3s. He can knock down some free throws - which would be nice for our big guys. He's a good passer, and he's a pretty knowledgeable player. I think he's one of those players who makes people around him better. Aside from any statistics that he gives us, I really believe that when he's on a team that team plays better. And that's an advantage. It's going to take him some time to get acclimated, not just personally, but within our team.
On Harvard's outside shooting:
If you look at (Frank Sullivan's) team, his top two players are shooting the ball pretty well from three. It's deceiving to say that Harvard's not a good three-point shooting team. It's like looking at our team a couple of weeks ago, saying 'Cal can't shoot 3s.' That's very misleading. If you're not attentive to their shooters, they're going to beat you. And they've done that.
On the Ivy League:
We seem to have an Ivy League school on our schedule every year. I'm impressed with the league. It's a good league. It's as underrated a league as there is in the country. Every year, you see their preparation, their ability, their competitiveness, their execution. It really is a solid league.
On why Cal's defense against the three-point shot is better this year:
We were so bad a year ago, it really bothered me. I don't think we were very aggressive. There's that adage about putting a hand up. It used to be good enough. I think you've got to do more than that. You've got to chase shooters. I think you've got to be aggressive. The biggest thing probably from a year ago is we've got some big guys who can get out and cover shooters. That's been a plus for us. We're utilizing the Solomon Hugheses and the Jamal Sampsons and our forward and our wings that can get out and guard perimeter people. A year ago or in years past, we had trouble doing that. We'd get beat off the dribble, and now we don't as much. That's why I think our defensive field goal percentage has been better.