March 18, 2009
Cal players and coaches went through their final preparations Wednesday for their NCAA Tournament opener against Maryland, including addressing the media a their pre-tourney press conference.
The Bears practiced away from the Sprint Center early in the day, then returned to the venue for a public workout on the arena floor.
Head coach Mike Montgomery, as well as players Jerome Randle and Patrick Christopher, all discussed Cal's prospects at a press conference during the afternoon.
The Bears, who are seeded seventh in the West Region, face 10th-seeded Maryland Thursday afternoon.
Head Coach Mike Montgomery
On winning over the players when he first arrived at Cal:
Well, we haven't done that yet totally, but I think the approach is to get to know them, find out what they are all about, find out what their strengths and weaknesses are. I think it's tough on kids if you just come in and you say, "Look, it's my way or the highway." I think you need to try to accommodate them a little bit and try to allow them to have some success based on what they've been able to do and try to blend and work them towards what you think is going to be successful ultimately. The fact that these kids were willing to learn, that they were willing to listen, that they wanted to be good, they wanted to be successful made my job a lot easier, but there's been a lot of give and take. There's things that we have to do better ultimately, but rather than just pound them into the ground, we kind of tried to take the approach, let's see about them, see where they are. Didn't want to have preconceived notions about, you know, what people might have said about them or, oh, you can't win with him or he can't do this. Let's let them prove what they can do to me and we'll go from there.
On Jerome Randle:
Well, Jerome is first and foremost a very good player. He's a very skilled player. He's got -- he really, really wants to be good. I think like most young people, if you can prove to them that you maybe have some idea of what you're talking about, that there's something there for -- that can help them, they're going to listen to you, and he's been great. We started off with a conversation really about Brevin Knight and experiences I had with a small guard from the East that had a little bit of attitude when he started and how I understood him and how we worked through it. He's made great progress. Some of the things that maybe he didn't do, that he was criticized for, it's maybe because he didn't know what to do, and that happens a lot to kids. They don't have all the answers. So, when we've asked him to do something, he has responded, and he can really shoot the ball and he's very quick. So he's been a real pleasant surprise.
On Randle competing with Maryland's Greivis Vasquez:
No, I think it would be dangerous if we got in a situation like that. They're a little bit different players. I think Vasquez is a better passer. He's 6-6. He can see over people and pass over people. He can finish at the basket easier than Jerome can. Jerome has to do what he can do. Certainly late in the games, Jerome has won a lot of games for us from shooting from it deep. But they're really totally different type of players, and I don't -- I wouldn't want to come -- I wouldn't want it to come to that. We've got other people need to be involved, and Jerome has to keep them involved.
On Maryland's Dave Neal:
It's what a lot of people are doing. It makes it very difficult to defend because you've got a guy that's a big enough guy to play inside and compete and board and defend your big guys, yet he's a pick-and-pop guy. He's a great shooter, you know, so now all your screens are set, usually with your bigs, and the big comes out, whatever you're going to do handle a screen, you know, and then he steps off and he's got great range, and he can shoot from three. It's just what you're seeing a lot more in college basketball now. People seem to be getting a great deal of advantage from skilled big people as compared to just monster back-to-basket guys, and he's a good one. He shoots the ball very well, and so all of a sudden, you're trying to help on a pick and roll or be in a help side situation with a big that's stepped off. He'll make you pay for it. He's been very valuable for them.
On expecting an up-tempo game:
I think both coaches would like to get out and get the stuff that comes off of break, if you can. I don't want them to have it. I don't want Vasquez in the open court any more than I can prevent it from happening. It also means that if they're in the open court, we probably missed shots. So obviously both are comfortable in the open court because of the skill sets. Neither team have back to basket, pound them out, grind them out type teams. Both are probably comfortable in the open court. We get a lot of good slots in the open court if we can get it. It means -- for either team it means defending, boarding out, letting and running. I don't think you're going see that because I would say typically in the NCAA things slow down a little bit, possessions become more valued. You become a little more conservative what you try to do as time goes on, but I know from my perspective I would sure like to get some numbers off the break, and I'm sure Gary feels the same way.
On taking advantage of the opportunity this year:
You don't ever take anything for granted. You know, this is a tough business. Teams in the NCAA that have juniors, a lot of times don't have seniors, if memory serves me correctly. I hope that's not the case for anybody. I think kids should stay for all four years and get their degrees, but you don't look forward to anything -- this is an opportunity for these kids. They've earned it, played hard. It's a reward for a job well done, but you also can't come into the tournament -- this is the first time for these kids. So, you know, how they're going to react, you don't know. You don't want them to come in with the idea that hey, this is just the icing on the cake. This is the cake. That is what you play for in college basketball. We've got to have the right mindset to have a chance to win. We're going to approach it -- my approach is going to be that, look, you know, we take it -- the longer you play well, if you play as well as you can, you're going to have a chance to win. Doesn't guarantee you anything. I think when you get -- I'd say six, six and above, your seed, I think your teams are, you know -- five and 12, there's probably a little bit of an advantage. I think six, 11, seven, ten, you know, obviously eight, nine, it's pretty much somebody's judgement. They're all pretty good teams. You're going to play a team that's pretty comparable to yourself. You're going to have to play your best game. You don't really know where kids' minds are. I know they love to compete. I know when the ball goes, they'll try to find a way to do some things.
Junior Guard Jerome Randle
On not being satisfied with just advancing to the tournament:
We can't get complacent about being here. It's great being here on this stage, but we don't want to just lose a game and go home. I mean, we obviously want to win, and that's exactly what we're focused on right now.
On Greivis Vasquez:
Well, this is a team game. You have to play team defense. It's going to be -- they're going to play great team defense. We're not going to focus so much on him. We're going to just play basketball. I mean, he can't win a whole game by himself, you know, he needs the rest of his teammates. He's definitely number one on our list, but we have to just contain him and just be smart out there and just play our game.
Junior Guard Patrick Christopher
On not being satisfied with just advancing to the tournament:
Since we're a junior team, I think it's basically been about progression since our freshman year. We started off, you know, we had underachieving freshman year, didn't have any post-season play. From there, the next year, a little bit of progress. Made it to the NIT, little bit short of the NCAA Tournament, and now here we are. You know, we have a new coach. We've grown a lot I think and matured and made some steps, and here we are.
On Mike Montgomery's style to win the team over at the start of the season:
I would say obviously he has a great resume as a head coach and I believe him being able to get the best out of his players regardless of who they are. So, from day one, everything was kind of like he instilled defense in us and just telling us to take pride in defense, and prior to this year, we scored the basketball very well, probably one of the highest team in the Pac-10, but we also gave up the most points. So, if we could have played both ends of the floor, I believe we would have been successful.