March 3, 2008
Watch the Press Conference on Cal All-Access:
Coach Ben Braun
Below are quotes from head coach Ben Braun from his weekly press conference with Bay Area media. Cal next visits USC Thursday and UCLA Saturday.
On the status of Patrick Christopher (hip):
He's doing better. He practiced this morning and he looked good. He had a little hop to his step. He did a lot of work defensively and he was present and accounted for. I think the weekend helped. It was the kind of thing that our trainers said would take a couple of days. I went back and looked at that last play (against Washington Saturday) again, and I think that's a play he might normally make.
On playing through aches and pains and how that can inspire the team:
Our team, at this part of the year, you're going to have some bumps and bruises. Late in the season you're grinding, you want to play hard and get some things done. For us, we're still working on some of the things defensively we need to do, and we had three different guys take charges this morning (in practice). I'm sure a lot of teams aren't taking charges at 7 in the morning, and our guys were and that's encouraging.
On looking back at Saturday's loss to Washington:
I enjoy Mondays because the sooner we get to our film and we can put the game to rest. It was a very productive film session. I thought we saw where some of our rotations broke down. (The Huskies) hit some tough shots and we gave up a few in transition, more than we would have liked to, but we did rebound, we did do some good things. But those little things - and they're not unimportant when I say little - they end up being big things and we've got to work on those.
On why this year's team differs defensively from what have traditionally been strong defensive units at Cal:
(In past years) we've had some players that weren't as talented offensively - that's what they had to do. They did what they could do. I said that to our players. You look at Jerome, Patrick and Ryan, three sophomores - those three guys offensively are as talented as any we've had. But now they've got to take that step, and it's a big step, to become what I would say, if they're not lockdown defenders, really able and dependable defensive players. And that's a challenge, it's something that takes time, it takes commitment, it takes a will, and in all fairness to those three guys, they're playing a lot of minutes. Especially Patrick - we don't have a lot depth there - there's times when he's probably going to be saving himself a little bit. And it's hard. So we've got to get through that, and he's got to take that step. I think that Patrick's a capable defender, Ryan's a capable defender and Jerome a capable defender. I think in many respects they've all gotten better, but I'm choosing those guys as guys that have been pretty consistent offensively, but we've also got to challenge them now to step up (defensively).
On whether this team's combination of strong offensive stats and weak defensive stats comes as a surprise:
It's been a challenge. I'll take a page from (Huskies coach) Lorenzo Romar: I could have done a better job. I don't mind saying that. I remember Lorenzo saying that after he had his team sitting in a 2-3 zone, and said that's it, he threw his hands up and said, we're playing man. I know why he did that. Because Lorenzo, like me, he's a defensive coach. We've spent more time recently on defense, but it's something we have to do a better job. If you look at our practices recently, we put a lot of time in on rebounding, and we've done a better job now of putting bodies on people. As a result we've done better. I think the next step is - Theo Robertson took 20+ charges for us last year, that's a guy that was always dependable to do that - we've got to get other guys stepping up and doing those types of things. There's no glamour, there's a risk of injury, there's a lot of things that you have to challenge (players) to do, but whether it's a loose ball, charges, those hustle plays, we've got to do better.
On his level of personal frustration with Cal's defensive woes:
It is tough. I do take it personally and I take responsibility. If our defense isn't where it should be, it starts with me, it starts with our coaches, and it's up to us to impart that to our players and have our players buy in. I think we have a group that has shown that they buy in, but it's been inconsistent. It's almost like we have to take a tough game and now bounce back from that, or take a hard knock, and it shouldn't be that way. It should be a habit. Defense usually is a habit, it's a consistency of action, and once you get it, you get it, and we've got make sure our guys get it on a consistent basis. Obviously, we'd be a lot happier if we were getting those stops. We think back to some of the games we didn't lock down, we'd be sitting upper division right now. That's how close things are.
On the team's focus to come out with confidence despite its struggles:
You could see it in the game against Washington. We came out and played with greater energy. There was that feeling (of confidence), but I think we still have to go out and make the little plays.
On the big games from DeVon Hardin and Eric Vierneisel on Saturday's Senior Day:
Somebody said, is there pressure playing on Senior Day? You know, sometimes there is, but they handled it well. In terms of giving their best effort and their best performance, they did that. Sometimes it takes an effort like that. It doesn't have to be Senior Day. That can be a road game, a tournament game, your next game.
On Hardin's persona and mindset on the court:
After the game, he is a nice guy, and I want our players to be good people and good sports, and have high character off the floor. (But) when DeVon's had that edge, and I don't know if it's necessarily a mean streak, where he's used his body and he's not thought about results, he's not thought about expectations, boy, he's been awfully, awfully good. And I think he got back to that (vs. Washington).
On whether Ryan Anderson has discussed a possible early exit from Cal to enter the NBA Draft:
What we have talked about is just concentrating on what he needs to do the remainder of this year. I don't think he wants the pressures at all, nor should he have any of the pressures, of deciding in the middle of the year what he's going to do for next year. He's asked me to sit down after the year and talk to him, and give him feedback, and that was our plan from Day 1.He hears as much as everybody else hears, and he's a sensitive guy, and I think that has to weigh on you a little bit. And I think it's been something that weighed on DeVon as well, but DeVon's now focusing on getting that behind him as well and saying, hey, let's just play. Those guys will be much better if they're playing and not worrying about those types of things. It's a great decision for a player to be in to say I can go pro or I can stay, what a great option that is to have, but he doesn't need to worry about that until after the year.
On one commentator's recent assertion that Cal is capable of winning the Pac-10 Tournament:
You know what, we are. We're as capable as any team in our league. Our team knows that. Last year was an example. We don't want to lose sight of that. I want to keep our players positive. We've got to come back and continue to fight.