Feb. 11, 2002
Below are selected quotes from men's basketball coach Ben Braun from his weekly press conference. The Bears (17-5, 8-4) visit Washington State Thursday and Washington Saturday. The WSU game will be televised in the Bay Area on KRON TV (Channel 4) at 7 p.m., while the UW contest will be on Fox Sports Net at 5 p.m.
Is Joe Shipp Cal's go-to guy?
It depends what you mean by that. Do you want the ball in his hands throughout the course of the game? I think that's not a bad idea. We like to give Joe some looks. When we call play-sets, we try to have his name in mind. I think our players look for him. It's because of Joe's versatility. I think when he came to Cal, he was pretty much just a three-point shooter. He's become more than that right now. He's a guy that can get to the glass and he's got a knack to get to the foul line. He's shown the ability to pull up and he scores in transition. He's done a lot of things for us. He's a guy that puts pressure on the defense by attracting attention. This creates other openings for the team. When you are a go-to guy, you kind of have an X on your back. The responsibility of the challenge is that you have to make the guys around you better and he has a chance to make our team better by realizing that he is going to receive more attention. He has established himself as a consistent entity on offense and I think he's improved his defense. Joe has improved his play.
Did Shantay Legans and Amit Tamir get their looks on Saturday because Joe Shipp was the focus of the defense?
They had some looks, but Joe got some attention and still hit some big shots for us. He was certainly big for us in the game against Oregon State, which set up the Oregon game. Joe has an impact ... he's been a pretty consistent player for us this year. Joe is really willing to put the ball on the floor and I think he's doing a better job of that. He's realizing that there are different ways to score now. He used to be strictly a three-point shooter and now he's finding other ways to score. He's an intelligent player that takes what the defense gives him.
Is it difficult identifying who is going to have the hot hand from game to game?
If you look at our major scorers, it's becoming a little more predictable. We have different guys that get points but I think Joe (Shipp) has been pretty consistent. Brian (Wethers) has showed us some ability to score, Shantay (Legans) has had that ability and Amit (Tamir) is emerging. It's becoming a little more settled, but to me it's a good thing that it's not just one player that the defense has to stop to beat Cal. I hope that we can keep up some of that versatility and balance. We always have a wing that we feel we can exploit.
With that in mind, is it hard for the players to buy into this system that doesn't feature one star?
That's something from an early age with players. They enjoy the accolades and they enjoy pats on the back. But you have to learn at a young age and hopefully throughout your career that winning is about more than that. Winning involves selflessness and self-sacrifices, being humble and supporting and giving credit to others. Those are hard things to do sometimes ... not just in basketball. Everybody likes to be rewarded for what they do. It's just human nature. That's what the challenge is always about.
Do you think that is why Cal has had a hard time moving up in the rankings?
It's possible. That's the ultimate compliment though. To hear from coaches, writers and fans ... and I hear it a lot ... 'You guys really do a lot of things well as a team.' That's what you try to fight for. That's what it's really about. As time goes on, certain people will start emerging in those categories. But for right now that's what we have. All you can do ever is make the best of the situation with the players and the team you have, and we are getting an identity. But this is something that our players have definitely bought into. To me, it's always been about the team that plays together and wants it more. You do need talent and I think we have some talented players. Maybe our talent is more balanced?
On the upcoming game at Washington State:
Washington State has always played well at home. They've always played us well at home. It's always been a big challenge for our team. That's what history has shown. A combination of things might be problematic. It might be an injury or a team thing, you never know. There are some talented players at Washington State. Mike Bush is a talented athlete. Marcus Moore is a very talented guard. That's something that they are building around and it's going to take time. In a lot of their losses, they've had leads in them. Some of them could've gone the other way. They've played people tough. Pullman has never been an easy place to play but by the same token it's a typical road trip in the Pac-10.
Right now our players are saying the right things regarding the game against Washington State. One of players wrote 'Washington State' on the board after the big win the other night. So they are saying the right things. You don't know until you've gotten into practice and you hope that your players are taking care of their business. It all comes down to effort. It's about not overlooking a team or looking forward to the next game. Those things can get you in trouble. I was pleased that our team managed to stay focused after the win over Oregon State. We managed to play hard and keep our focus for the Oregon game. It's going to be the same challenge here.
How critical is it to get wins out of this road trip?
It has to be important because in this league you don't see teams getting on rolls. The league is too good. I haven't seen a team that is able to get on a roll. Look at the schedule. That's why it is important to keep playing at the competitive level. That's why these games are important because at the end of the day we can say that it put us a step closer to getting something accomplished.
What would you say that your team's identity is?
Defensively, I think we are a hard team to play against. Offensively, we are starting to reaffirm that we have some inside presence that is getting better. We are making a concerted effort to go inside. At the same time, we've got guys that can knock down shots. We've got the ability to score at anytime and we did that against Oregon. Sometimes it's not artistic, it's about doing it in a workmanlike way. Our identity is a team that has to do what it takes to win. We're going to try to push the ball and we've got a couple of guys that can create mismatches, and we have certain guys on our team that can match up defensively to take away the opponents' effectiveness. We try to take away team's strengths. We are doing a better job of remaining aggressive.