Players return, player graduate, but every season a team
forms its own identity in college sports.
So what's the identity of Cal's 2012-13 men's basketball team?
"We don't have one," coach Mike Montgomery said.
On the eve of the season-opener against Cal State Bakersfield, Montgomery says the team is still trying to find itself. Gone are stalwarts Jorge Gutierrez and Harper Kamp, and the Bears will figure out as they go how they make up for the former heart and soul of the team.
"Who are we? What do we do? What do we want to be known for?," Montgomery said. "We're not good enough defensively right now, yet I don't feel like we can just outscore people. We're going to have to get tougher, we're going to have to get more defensive-oriented. We're going to have to get more detail-oriented. Right now, we don't really have an identity. I don't think we really know who we are."
Coaches always want more from their players, and Montgomery has been hoping one or two of his current athletes would emerge as the kind of leaders he had in Gutierrez and Kamp. He hasn't counted that out as happening yet, but he also is still waiting.
"I'm concerned about that," Montgomery said. "We're kind of quiet as a group. We don't talk on defense much. Sometimes we have young guys out there that really don't know what to do and need some help, and it's not happening. Some of the dirty work that Jorge and Harper used to get done for us, we have to find somebody or collectively we have to do that in terms of loose balls and defending people."
With Montgomery and his staff's coaching, the defense should come. And the Bears should be able to score some points. Junior guard Allen Crabbe returns as one of the Pac-12's premier players. He was sixth in the conference in scoring last season at 15.2 points per game. Backcourt mate Justin Cobbs returns his 12.6 points per game average.
"I think we have some guys that can score," Montgomery said. "We need to develop a couple more. We have fairly good depth at the big position but I haven't seen anybody step forward and be a go-to guy at the low post. Maybe we'll play a lot more players and give people a chance to see what they can do at the big position."
Montgomery is hopeful David Kravish can take the next step after a promising freshman campaign. Kravish started the final 21 games of the season and averaged 6.9 points per game. He also led the team with 41 blocks and was named to the Pac-12 All-Freshman Team.
For Kravish, part of that improvement may come with strength. Montgomery said he put on 10 pounds in the offseason.
"He's getting better," Montgomery said. "He too is a kid that is going to have to step up and take a little more of a dominant role. Right now, he just needs to focus on what he's capable of doing and do it more consistently. We need him to be a significant contributor on this team. He can't take a backseat. He can't be a secondary player."
As good as Crabbe has been in his Cal career, there is still room for further improvement. Montgomery thinks Crabbe can play hungrier and have a more dominant personality on the court, again something that will help the Bears compensate for the loss of Gutierrez and Kamp from last season.
"He's pretty good now," Montgomery said. "He doesn't have a dominant type of personality so he's got to probably get a little hungrier and know he has to make plays consistently. He can't afford to get discouraged or check out or let people take him out of a game. He has to consistently push because people are going to do whatever they can to minimize him, I would think. He's going to have to play through that."
The Bears were picked to finish in third place in the preseason Pac-12 media poll and have several players with NCAA Tournament experience. The Bears have been to the NCAA Tournament in three of Montgomery's first four seasons as coach.
"We have to go through the process," Montgomery said. "We'll find out that games are different than practices, that all of the sudden other people scout you, they take away certain things. We'll figure it out or not in game situations, what it's going to take, how hard we're going to have to play to have a chance to win."