Selection Sunday Media Quotes
March 15, 2009
BERKELEY - The following are quotes from head coach Mike Montgomery and players following their selection to the 2009 NCAA Tournament. The California Golden Bears will travel to Kansas City, Mo., to take on the Maryland Terrapins in the first round of the West Region.
Head Coach Mike Montgomery
On his players' reactions following the team's selection:
They were excited. It's new to them. Patrick Christopher said, 'I've never watched this thing before,' because they weren't in it and they really had no reason to watch. So, it was kind of a new experience for a lot of them, just sitting there, waiting for your name to be called and I think it was kind of fun. The Pac-10 gets 6 teams, that's great. The seeds were kind of middle of the pack - like UCLA, I was a little surprised - but it's good. Playing an ACC school, like Maryland, I've had some experience playing them, they're always very well coached. It's a major conference school that's done really well. I think it's all really good stuff for them. We had a good practice today and the kids are excited about it.
On watching Maryland:
I've watched them on television just when I get a chance. I know they've got one really good player that's very good offensively that has the ball in his hands a lot. I don't know much about them from top to bottom. I know [Maryland Head Coach] Gary Williams well. I know he's a heck of a competitor. I know that they'll play really hard.
On Gary Williams' teams from year to year:
I think they reflect his personality. He's a feisty guy; a little bit loony on the sidelines. But the kids always find a way to win. They always find a way to get into the NCAA Tournament. I know he's had some great teams. We played them with one of the best teams I had, and they beat us. So, you can always expect a very hard-fought, competitive game.
On how his success in the NCAA Tournament will help this Cal team:
I think I can help guide them through it. I told them their time is no longer their own. You can't just walk on the floor when you want to walk on the floor. They're not going to get a ball to shoot, touch, until that clock runs down to exactly that time. There's just a lot of stuff. It's very tightly regulated. So, you just kind of have to relax and let that stuff go, trying to figure out how to practice in conjunction with the time that you have on the venue floor. You have to find times to go back-to-back because you have press responsibilities, usually on either side of that. And the time that they give you in the arena isn't long enough to really practice. Everyone goes somewhere else to really practice and you come on the floor to shoot a little bit. So, all that stuff will be good from my perspective having done that a number of times, so they can just relax and do their job.
On getting out of the Pac-10 and playing teams that are not as familiar:
That's what makes the NCAA Tournament so interesting. Yeah, I don't want to play USC in the first round. The excitement level is up. I think it's a one-and-done deal, clearly, and they're not going to be as familiar with us. But, the stuff that you do if you're a good basketball team - your defensive rules, and how you handle pick and rolls, and how you handle certain things - that's what's going to work for you. When you have a 7 seed, you're going to play a good team and it's going to be a team that's very comparable to yourself, as has been evaluated by the NCAA committee. And they're pretty smart. They know what they're doing. They watch a lot. They look at a lot of criteria. So, you're going to be playing a team that's fairly similar to yourself. And, so you know it's going to be a team that knows how to win, it's going to be a team that has been there before, it's going to be a team that probably has veteran players. But, looking forward to a different team, maybe we can find some way to exploit somehow, but then I'm sure they're thinking the same thing.
On whether there was any confidence when season started that Cal would be in this spot now:
All you want to do is play the best you're capable of and hope that it takes care of yourself. I told the team that when you start to become part of the conversation, now people start trying to find what's wrong with you, so nobody will want to talk about you, or care about you much. So, now that we've put ourselves in a position, now people start criticizing what you can't do. But, that goes with the territory. You have to be prepared, that the more you put yourself in a position to be successful and play in the NCAA Tournament and so forth, then it's, 'Well, they don't do this, they don't do that,' but it's worth it. I said people, ourselves included, keep wanting to know, 'Guys what's wrong?' And I'm saying, lets talk about what's right. How about the fact that we finished third in the Pac-10 and we're in the NCAA Tournament? I start naming off all the people - Utah won the WAC, we beat them there, or the Mountain West, and we beat them there; Pacific played for their conference championship, we played them; Reno played for their conference championship, we beat them. The team that really handled us - Missouri - but they won the Big 12. You look at Florida State, we were a three-point shot away from tying them and they were in the finals for the ACC. A lot of good things happened this year, and we have to look at that and take it on the bright side. Of course, can we play better? Yeah. Are there things we need to do better? Yes. Let's look at the bright side and try to stay positive and see if we can't go out and compete and just do what we do.
On what he thought the team needed the most when he was named head coach last spring:
I thought we needed to play better defense and I think we're average on defense. That's a step in the right direction. We don't defend as well as we need to, as well as I'd like us to, but we're trying to do that. I just think that we needed some direction, just a fresh set of eyes and once we got that, the kids seemed to respond to it.
On the team's intensity against USC in the Pac-10 Tournament:
What did SC do to everyone else, by the way? Who had the best chance to beat them? We did, we were tied. Are you going to give up 22 rebounds, offensively? No, that's ridiculous. The point is SC was very motivated. Everybody kept talking about how hard they played against UCLA and how hard they played against Arizona State. They played harder against us in the first game than they did against anybody. But, because we don't have the marquee value, that was kind of overlooked. We got backed off and we have to find a way to change that. But, it wasn't like we didn't want to play, we were ready to play, it's just their level of intensity, their level of physical play, we weren't ready for, and we didn't adjust to it fast enough. Second half we did, but we got ourselves in a big hole. So, it wasn't like we were the only ones who could handle SC. They had one chance to make the NCAA and they took advantage of it. They had to win all 3 games. I was disappointed in that what we could've done is blocked off better. What we could've done is when they started pushing us and throwing us around, which they did, we didn't respond very well to it. Those are things we can change. We were ready to play. It wasn't like they came out. We're in a learning process as a program, as a group, to how to play at a high level all the time. It's just something we have to work through. At the same time, if you looked in our locker room and said, 'Okay, who's going to be physical?' you would not find one player to point your finger at - we are not a physical group, it's just not what our nature is, and we just have to slowly but surely start to make that better.
On how the team feeds off of Jerome Randle's toughness:
He'll make plays. What we need to continue to work on is our leadership, so that we have people on the floor that are leading by example. Jerome doesn't take charges and maybe he's not our best defender. So, in order for him to be that leader, he's got to do those things before he can ask anybody else to do them. Jorge's a freshman. He's not going to do that. He's a very quiet person. And he does pick us up, leadership, from the standpoint of example. But, it's hard for him. He was very frustrated on Thursday because we were getting pushed around pretty badly, and he doesn't like that. He just doesn't understand that. But it's hard for him. So, it's got to come from the older guys. They've got to step up and match that and that's something that's a group characteristic that we've got to get better at.
Guard Patrick Christopher
On the mood of the team after the selection was announced:
Everyone was definitely excited and overjoyed. It was getting kind of nerve-wracking. We saw Arizona in the field, so we were kind of unsure. We were unfamiliar with the Selection Sunday stuff. We were just a little nervous and did not know what to expect. But once we saw California up there, it was definitely worth it.
On playing in the tournament:
We're definitely excited to have the opportunity to play in the NCAA Tournament. We will take it one step at a time. I think we'll scout and break them down tomorrow. I'm definitely looking forward to that.
On Cal's goals for the tournament:
The goal is to win as many games as possible. You want to win the national championship and that's the bottom line. That's why we have March Madness. We'll go in there with great expectations for ourselves and settling for nothing less.
Forward Harper Kamp
On the mood of the team after the selection was announced:
We were really excited. Most of us haven't had the opportunity to play in the NCAA Tournament. For me, it's something that I have looked forward to for my whole life. So I'm very grateful for the opportunity that we have. We feel like we've earned the right to play. We're going to go out there and try not to disappoint ourselves and our fans.
On the Maryland Terrapins:
I've seen them play a few times this year. They play in a tough conference. They play the best competition in the country. We know they are going to be a good team. They have some guys with the ability to really score the ball. The coaches will get the video and prepare us the best they can.
On finishing third in Pac-10 after being predicted to finish 8th in the conference:
It just shows the faith that we had in each other this year. We weren't really looking at what other people thought of us or what they thought we could be. From the beginning when Coach [Montgomery] got here, we kind of changed our mentality and knew that as long as we play hard and play together that we could change the culture here.
Forward Theo Robertson
On being the only player on Cal's roster with NCAA Tournament playing experience:
Freshman year, my role was to defend and defer to the upperclassmen, which I had no problem with because we had some great players on that team. The roles have changed a little bit this year. I definitely have a bigger role this year. I'm going to go out there, be more assertive and make plays, help the young guys along and do whatever I can to help us win basketball games.
On facing Maryland:
It's just really exciting. You're playing a team from the ACC, one of the great conferences in college basketball. Anytime you get an opportunity like that, you want to take full advantage of it. We know Maryland had a pretty good year and beat some big-time teams. We're going to have our hands full trying to get a win against them.
On potentially facing Greivis Vasquez, Maryland guard:
I definitely want to draw that defensive assignment, especially since its tournament time. Every team is going to have someone that's really good and all these teams there are quality teams, so you definitely look forward to the challenge.
On playing an opponent outside the Pac-10:
It's exciting to go out there and see something new. Playing in the Pac-10 is kind of like scrimmaging or practicing a little bit. You start to see them, they know what you want to do, you know what they want to do, so it kind of evens itself out. Going into this game, it's going to be a good challenge for us. Coach says they have some different things we haven't seen before, so I'm sure it'll be very interesting.
Guard Jerome Randle
On making the tournament after being picked to finish 8th in the conference:
I knew we would make it all year. One thing I was really upset with at the beginning of the year was that everybody threw us under the bus. They said we would only finish [eighth] in the Pac-10. We didn't accept that. We practiced hard and worked hard and made sure people wouldn't say I told you so. And now we finish third in our league and we made it to the NCAA tournament, so I'm very excited and I'm proud of our team.
On having a coach with Final Four experience:
It means a lot. He knows what you have to do to get there. He knows how hard you have to work and how tough it is to get there. He's definitely going to tell us. He talked to us about the tournament before and got a little emotional. That kind of made me feel like, hey, he's just anxious to get there and I'm feeling the same way. It's a serious deal for him and it's a serious deal for us. This will be our first time going and that means a lot.
On playing an opponent outside the Pac-10:
One thing I can say is that I'm glad the Pac-10 season is over with right now. It was tough, especially with people scouting you week in and week out. It will probably be a little tough for both us and Maryland to prepare for one another. I feel like we just need to play hard and that what it's going to come down to.