Ben Braun Press Conference Quotes

Nov. 9, 2004

Below are selected quotes from head coach Ben Braun from his Nov. 8 press conference. The Bears open the season against UC Riverside Thursday in the first round of the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic at Haas Pavilion.

On Cal's closed scrimmage against Sacramento State last Saturday:
It was a continuation from the other day. We're trying to progress and we did some things better than the opening exhibition game. Our focus is still defense, transition, trying to create some opportunities. But we did well in those regards. I thought we did a little bit better job offensively, which is important. A week later helped us a lot. One of the things was we got better spaces for guys and moved the ball better. We had some better looks at the basket.

How much of these first few games do you think you'll play a lot of guys and try some different combinations? Or do you think you have a starting five here?
Normally you try to play some guys in the preseason and that's our goal. But we're also in a tournament, this is the opening game, so our goal is to plan in advance and be conscious of that. But I think every game will be like that.

Is there any extra significance with playing in a tournament like this that has a national recognition?
I think the major thing for our team is that any time you can play in a preseason tournament, it helps us for future tournaments - the Pac-10 Tournament, the NCAA Tournament, the Golden Bear Classic - the more you can play in this format, the better it is for our team. That's first. And the byproducts, if you're able to win, are there and you'd like to extend your preseason and play in a couple of extra games. You'd also like your team to have a chance to travel and play in a tournament setting like New York. Those are great incentives and all those are important.

If you don't get to New York, you've got a pretty long layoff (Nov. 23 vs. Southern):
Anybody that plays in these tournaments - it's the same with the Preseason NIT - have the same problems. We faced that one year. You play in the preseason NIT and in this and if you don't win you're going to have a lot of practice time. We'll still practice next week if we're playing or not but we would get a chance to play. I think our guys would rather practice and have two games at the end of it than not. But that's part of what you do. There's no guarantees. We have to go out there and earn it.

On shorter preseason practice time:
It's hard to believe. We had a staff meeting this morning and we spent a lot of the meeting talking about the stuff we still have to put in. Hopefully we're teaching at the pace we'd like to teach at, but there's only so much you can put in. In a three-week period, that's what we've had so far and there's a bunch of situations here we're still trying to put in. You want to get them in by your first game, but you do that and you spend more time on getting everything in and less time on building things through constant repetition.

Assuming there's no foul trouble, who's your first guy off the bench?
At the guard position, Martin (Smith) is a guy that's given us a lot of energy. Eric (Vierneisel) played at shooting guard. He can come in for any of our points really. He can come into a 1, 2, or 3 because he can play a wing. Then you can move either (guards) Richard (Midgley) or Ayinde (Ubaka). Those are the two guys we like to bring on in the guard position. If we're going to bring a forward in or a post guy, we can bring in DeVon (Hardin), or in the scrimmage we brought David (Paris) in. We brought (forward) Kevin (Langford) in afterwards. But all three of those guys give us different things, so I'm happy with any one of them.

On the team's incentive to do well early:
I hope our team learned a lot last year. When you open the season, everyone is hungry and the teams playing right now are good basketball teams. There's not a bad team in our (regional). Every team is a good team and I meant that. Saint Mary's should have beaten Arizona last year - at Arizona - and they really had them beat. Belmont did beat Missouri at Missouri last year. Riverside, we know they're guys are capable. Our players, I know, remember last year that the teams coming out early are fired up. I think it's important to step up early.

Our players last year, what did they know about college basketball other than what we told them? They hadn't had a chance to play college basketball. All they knew was what they've seen and heard. But when you're in the game suddenly, you realize, you're playing against guys 3-4 years older. I told them Chico State wouldn't be an easy game and our guys we're getting scrapped and hustled and pushed and (Chico State) knew where they were supposed to be. They're very organized, they had seniors and there's something to be said for that. That's an experience, last year, which I would hope helped our young guys. And I would hope that our young guys, who are now sophomore, can relate that to our young guys who are freshmen. We can get guys physically and mentally prepared for the game. My challenge to them is how we do emotionally in terms of experience: how will we handle game situations and tournament situations? Those are the questions that come out.

Do you think Dominic McGuire has a chance to be your leading rebounder?
He's got a nose for the ball. He knows he's got to do that for him to play. He's got to do those things, and he does. If he's not doing those things, he's not bringing as much value as he could. He's taken on the tasks, he's gotten on the boards, and he's taken pride in it. He's been a factor for us so far this year. He's helped us. You looked at him last year and thought, `where can he play? What's his natural position?' We put him into the wing position a lot Saturday and he played fine. We put him back in the post and he played fine. He's going to be a good player. He's a guy who has a good nose for the ball. He's hungry and he's athletic. But more than all that, he's determined. He knows he's got to do those things for us to be successful. I think that's why he's really pushing himself. I think our teammates look to him as someone who's inspiring when you're smallest post guy is leading you in rebounding ...

Do you think McGuire could be one of the conference leaders in rebounding?
I hope he can continue to do it. We'll need him to. One of the other stats is getting rebounds is great but keeping your man off the boards is another thing. So if you're not keeping your man off, you better go get it. I've said that before. Sometimes as coaches we ask kids to box out, put a body on people. Dom's skill level is to go get the ball. He's really good at it.

Has did Leon Powe handle the Chico State game?
I think he learned something by sitting there the whole game, listening to coaches, watching guys going in-and-out, talking to them, having dialogue. You pick up something in the game. For Omar (Wilkes) and him, this is a valuable experience. Those guys have played their whole careers and never sat and have always been in the game and ready to play. It's a different mentality when you know that no matter what happens, you're not playing this year. That's the mentality they have. What I like about those two guys is that they've never taken themselves out mentally. They're with their teammates, they're at film sessions. If we have 6 a.m. practices, they're there. They're doing whatever it takes. And they're working with younger guys, which is good. That's been a plus right now.

How good of a shooter is Omar?
Good. Omar can knock shots down. He can get up and he's really got good spring, good quickness. He just gets to the basket. He can stop. He pulls up as well as anyone on our team. That's one of the best things he does - he's a good pull-up shooter, which is something I've always advocated. Most kids don't work on their pull-up game. They're either good from three or good going to the basket. He has that in-between game, which is a delight to see.