Cal Basketball Media Day Quotes

Oct. 30, 2003

BERKELEY - Cal held its annual men's basketball media day on Thursday, Oct. 30. Below are selected quotes from head coach Ben Braun as he looked forward to the opening of the 2003-04 season.

The Bears, who began practice Oct. 18, play exhibition games against Athletes in Action Nov. 10 and EA Sports Nov. 14 before getting the regular season underway vs. Cal Poly on Friday, Nov. 21 in Haas Pavilion.

On how Leon Powe is progressing
Leon's really done well. He's really strengthened his knee. His ability to get up and down is good. He's developed a solid base. He's developed in his quads and hamstrings. He's really caught that leg up to the other one and he's been practicing well. I'm very pleased and I'm sure he's very pleased with his progress. He will never take a day off, so we have to give him a day off. We have to make sure that we give him some easier time. He's not going to take the time, it's something we will have to do. I see his play improving since practice started. Since the summer and the fall, he's gotten stronger.

Do you normally give players time off?
I try and give all our players some time. If your team is practicing hard, I don't think you can go five or six straight days. If your team is practicing hard and playing hard, you need to get some time after 3-4 days.

On sophomore guard Richard Midgley
Richard feels like a veteran and he's only a sophomore. That's really a complement to Richard. He played a lot his freshman year. He's a guy we're really going to count on this year. He will be on the floor as a shooting guard or a ball-handling guard. But he's really been practicing hard this preseason. He's always been a strong player but he's in great shape right now. It's reassuring to see him on the floor.

On Amit Tamir and assessing his poor finishes the last two seasons
I think strength conditioning is one thing. He really believes in that. That's something we talked about. It's not something that is pushed or emphasized overseas. Players would play more games than work on their strength and conditioning. Also, I played him too much. There were a couple games when he got a couple minutes of rest and that was probably to his detriment.

How many minutes can Tamir play?
There were games we played him 36-38 minutes. He doesn't have the kind of body to play that many minutes hard. He can play it. I can put him on the floor, but he wore down. Physically, he has worked on that aspect of his game. He's just a more durable player. I think Amit can play a solid 32-34 minutes. That would be ideal, if he didn't get into foul trouble. Minimally, that's what we should do if were really playing hard.

Are you going to have a bigger rotation this year?
I think so. If you look at the team right now, we have six post players. There is no reason these guys should be playing more minutes than they should. That will be a strength of ours. I think we will have some depth there.

On recruiting local players after adding several from overseas in past years
We've tried to be attentive of the guys overseas and some of the connections we might have. At the same time, we've made it a priority to recruit local players that we think are good players. When you look at Leon, Ayinde and Marquise - those are three of the better of the players in the Bay that have come around in a long time. We are certainly going to recruit them. We may not sign every player in the Bay Area, but we are certainly going to look at those players and make it a priority if they are good players and good people, and they are.

On the freshman class as a whole
The freshmen are making strides. They play hard. They're learning. They're a coachable group of guys. They have been very competitive and have taken the level of our practices up. They also provide some areas we're going to need this year (after) losing Brian Wethers and Joe Shipp. We're losing two pretty good wing players. It's pretty good to have Marquise and Dominic McGuire coming in the year you lose two solid players. I think those guys have shown signs of improvement. They're active players. They're quick on the break, they can get to the glass, and they can defend with some of their quickness. And they're both guys that have improved their shooting range. They're pretty good shooters from 15 (feet), and they're trying to increase their range from three. I think they're decent shooters from three. They just need to get more consistent.

On the team's depth
We have a pretty good group of athletic players. I think we're going to have some more athletic ability. All four guys coming in are pretty athletic. They've made contributions, just helping our level of practice. I hope they help us in the game but its going to take time. They're still learing about what we're trying to do, but they're getting there. They're a good group. They're picking up things pretty fast. But they still have a ways to go. Concepts, defensive principles, those are the hardest things. All those guys are coming in were leading scorers and the top guy in their high school team, and now they're being asked to be complimentary players. You can't have a team of five guys that are go-to guys. Taking charges are now important, setting good screens are important, getting the ball to open people, reading the defense is important. All of that is new territory and we're handling it one step at a time but they're getting there.

On freshman guard Ayinde Ubaka
Ayinde has given us a lift by being a really sound ballplayer. He can get by his defender and make a play. We've noticed a lot of drives and dishes this year that we haven't had in the past. What I like about Ayinde is that you can't just play him as a driver because he's got three-point range. He keeps the defense honest and finds people in the open court. He puts pretty good pressure on the ball. He's working hard on being a help-side defender. He's got a lot of quickness.

How have the veteran players influenced the younger players?
That's always a challenge. You want your older players in a leadership role. You want your older players there in a demonstrative way to show the younger players the ropes. Whether it's in a drill or an offensive play we've run. And they've done a good job of that. At the same time, we're not asking our seniors to stop competing. They're going to compete. I think they've handled the competition pretty well. There hasn't been any resentment of anyone new coming in. I think our team recognizes good play and players that make team plays. I think that is important in the grand scheme of things, no matter what year you are, that you're doing something that helps the team. When freshmen take a charge, the seniors come up and help them up, and when a senior takes a charge, the freshmen come up and congratulate them. That's the coach's job, to build camaraderie. To build teamwork, that type of thing. I don't want people worrying about minutes or positioning yet.

Is Midgley set at shooting guard?Right now, we're looking at playing him at the shooting guard. If there was a certain time in a game, maybe against a zone or late game situations, maybe we needed some experience on the floor, I'd have no question Richard can go back to the point. We want our guys to be interchangeable. I like having more than one ballhandler on the floor. Richard will definitely be expected to pick up some scoring.

On freshman wing Marquise Kately
I look at him as a big guard. He can play a wing and run either wing. He's shown the ability to knock down some shots and get to the rim. He's a strong player, and he's going to be a pretty good player getting into the lane and knocking down that medium-range shot. But he is working again on his three-point range.

On senior center Gabriel Hughes
Gabe's been playing at the post. With his experience and the way he finished last year, he gives us some size. He will definitely be in our rotation in the post.

On senior forward Conor Famulener
Conor has the most experience coming in, and he's been our best post defender. He's very knowledgeable and a good post player. At the same time, other guys are going to have a chance to compete. That's going to be a competitive part of our practices.

On the likelihood of more local fans coming to the games because of the local recruits
I imagine there will be a few more local people coming out, but I think we have a really good fan base anyway. I don't think we have to sign a local player to get a good crowd. It's not going to hurt us, I think it can only help us. We had some pretty good crowds last year, and I think maybe there will be more interest because we have some local players.

On coaching young players
There are some days in practice where I have to bite my lip a little more. I'm not going to stop coaching or stop giving advice, criticizing. We need to challenge players or else we're cheating them. They're going to have to really work. That's been my challenge to our young guys when we're making the same mistakes over and over. Our freshmen are going to have to have patience. They're going to read a lot that will challenge they're patience. That shouldn't ruin or deter their learning curve. I heard Leon say in an interview, 'I've got to take things a step at a time.' Lebron James had a good opening night but there will be nights when things don't go his way. How will he react to that? Does he watch highlight film or game film? Our players might want to watch highlight film, but they need to go back and watch game film in our offices. They have to be real students of the game for us to get better quickly. A lot of that is experience. They have to go out and get their feet wet. They will find out what its like against Athletes in Action. They have been beating teams by 15-20 points. They've been beating top 20 teams. That's one of the reasons we go out and play them.

On new game plans?
I'd like to see our team get easier baskets. We had to come up with game plans and attacking people every minute on the floor. That's what a coach does, but it's certainly easier to get easy baskets off the defense. If we get to the foul line, that's a way for us to score. If we can do those things, I think the balance can be there. But we did lose two dependable scorers in Brian Weathers and Joe Shipp. You're replacing not only their points - which you end up doing somehow - you have to replace their experience, their confidence and their knowledge. That's a little bit harder.

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