A couple of us talked this afternoon with Mike Montgomery, who offered his thoughts on a range of topics.
I will have a more specific breakdown on next year’s team beginning Wednesday, but here are some insights from the coach:
– On the season: “I have a hard time imagining doing a whole lot more. There were probably two or three wins we left out there. If we were healthy, we could have squeezed out one or two more wins and that might have gotten us a better seed (for the NCAA Tournament), so we wouldn’t have played a No. 1 (in the second round). I think we had the capability based on even what’s left (in the tournament) now to win more games. But I think it’s fair to say Duke’s a better team.”
– On the growth over the past two seasons by the departing four senior starters: “They’re very talented kids. In their own way, each has their own set of skills they bring to the table. They’re basketball players, and they wanted to succeed in basketball, no question. As a result of that they were receptive to the things we had to say. They wanted to win, wanted to be successful. That goes a long way. We had to get them all on the same page in terms of how to win. It wasn’t always easy, but once they started to realize if they get a little bit better defensively, played a little bit harder, share the ball better in certain sitautions, we could win.”
– On moving forward without Jerome Randle, Patrick Christopher, Theo Robertson and Jamal Boykin: “I’m worried about every facet about what we’re going to do. We lose two first-team all-conference players, maybe eour best glue guy in Theo, and a very emotional leader in Jamal. We”re not going to be favored to win the league next year. We’re going to have to step back and build this thing properly.”
– Montgomery said there is no timetable for resolving the situation involving sophomore Omondi Amoke, who was suspended indefinitely last week for violation of undisclosed team rules.
– He said the four incoming freshmen will play “significant roles” next season and had praise for 6-6 wing Allen Crabbe, named the Gatorade state player of the year. “I’m pleased with Allen. He’s made great progress. We liked him when we saw him initially, thought he was going to be a real good player. To his credit, he’s worked very hard to get better. He’s gotten better in every phase of his game. I hope he can stay hungry.”
– Montgomery said he expects to add one or more additional newcomers before next season. Cal currently has one vacant scholarship.
– He said he has no idea yet who will emerge as next season’s point guard. The candidates include sophomore Jorge Gutierrez, freshman Brandon Smith and incoming freshman Gary Franklin Jr.
– On leadership: “I don’t think leadership is going to be a problem next year. There are some guys waiting in the weeds that are very very excited about that,” he said, citing Harper Kamp, Jorge Gutierrez “in his quiet way” Markhuri Sanders-Frison and Brandon Smith.