A few observations, impressions and notes the day after Cal’s 91-70 exhibition victory over Division II Seattle Pacific.
– Junior Theo Robertson, who scored 29 points, appears to have made a huge leap from 2006-07, when he last played. Robertson, who missed all of last season after undergoing microfracture surgery on his hip, was more assertive with the ball than we’ve seen before.
Coach Mike Montgomery was pleased, but said he needs more rebounding and a greater defensive presence from the 6-5 junior wing. Robertson didn’t disagree. ”Like he said, there’s always something you can do better,” Robertson said.
– The Bears allowed 42 first-half points, but just 28 after the break when they more often hit the floor for loose balls and pressured more effectively. They created 11 second-half turnovers and allowed only two more 3-point baskets after surrendering five in the first half.
“They run really good stuff, really hard cuts, they obviously shoot the ball very well,” Montgomery said of Seattle Pacific’s Princeton-style offense. “We’ve got some work to do to make the transition to a defensive-minded team. It’s not going to be easy.
“ We didn’t do a very good job at point of attack defensively, but I think you probably would expect that after 2 1/2 weeks of practice. We have to make that a priority, understand that’s something that’s going to pay dividends for us.”
– Montgomery’s rotation at this point is impacted by the health status of sophomore forward Harper Kamp, who played nine scoreless minutes in the first half, then did not return. His surgically repaired right knee, equipped with a bulky brace, will not permit him to warm up, play, cool off, then play again. At least for now.
“Then you’re asking for trouble,” Montgomery said. “What you want is to get him to that point. That’s going to be critical for us. We’d like to get him 10-12 minutes in each half.”
– Jordan Wilkes started at center, and the 7-foot junior had six points (on 3-for-3 shooting), three assists and two blocked shots in 22 minutes. But he contributed just three rebounds and had three fouls.
Montgomery was encouraged. “One of the issues is we’re just not very big,” he said, alluding to a rotation that otherwise doesn’t include anyone taller than 6-8. “He’s got to learn how to use his length, move his feet. We’ve been pleased with Jordan. He’s been pretty good.”
– An encouraging performance also by junior point guard Jerome Randle, from whom Montgomery expects a lot. He had 15 points on 6-for-9 shooting, dished seven assists and had three steals. He turned the ball over three times, but not once in the second half.
“I thought Jerome played well,” Montgomery said. “I didn’t see the turnovers as glaring, as trying to do too much or making a bad decision. Generally speaking, I was pleased with his effort and his attitude and all the things we’re asking of him.”
– Freshman Jorge Gutierrez looks like he can play. He played 15 minutes off the bench, subbing for Patrick Christopher on the wing, and he contributed six points, three rebounds and a steal. He shot just 3-for-9, but appeared comfortable and confident on the floor.
“He’s one of those guys who kind of understands the game,” Montgomery assessed. “He does some things prettty well. He’s a tough kid. Right now we have him playing off guard because we’re trying to keep him from trying to play two positions and not learn either. We’ve been pleased with him.”
– It seemed to take both Christopher and forward Jamal Boykin a half to get untracked. They each had just four points after the first period, but both finished with 12. Boykin played with greater energy, especially around the basket, where he wound up with 11 rebounds, five of them at the offensive end. Especially with Kamp limited, Boykin’s hard-nosed contributions will be key.
– Redshirt freshman Omondi Amoke didn’t see action until the second half, but provided four points and five rebounds in 13 minutes at power forward.
The Bears have another week of practice before the games that count. They officially open the Montgomery era on Saturday, Nov. 15 against Pacific. Tipoff at Haas Pavilion is 5 p.m.