A few highlights from Tuesday’s press conference:
STARTING LINEUP: No big surprise here, but nothing set in stone, either. Coach Mike Montgomery referred to juniors Jorge Gutierrez and Harper Kamp and senior as the “three staples.” Freshmen Allen Crabbe and Gary Franklin Jr., are penciled in to start on the wings.
“It won’t be set,” Montgomery said of the lineup. “There’ll be different opportunities for different people. It really depends on how they play.”
He said that freshman wing Alex Rossi, slowed some recently by a minor, undisclosed injury, will play against the Seawolves.
THE ROTATION: The Bears’ inexperience will extend beyond the starting five . . . well beyond.
“You may start two freshmen at the wings,” Montgomery said. “You may come off the bench with essentially two freshman at the posts.”
Technically, he was referring to freshman Richard Solomon and sophomore Bak Bak, who played in just seven games last season.
“And after that, guess what? You’ve got a couple more freshmen coming in.”
Those would be Rossi and Emerson Murray.
THE POINT: Gutierrez will start at the point and sophomore Brandon Smith, the De La Salle HS grad, is emerging as the backup. For now, at least, Franklin will concentrate solely on shooting guard.
“I’ve been a little bit pleased that Brandon is starting to come around now in terms of leadership,” Montgomery said. “We needed him to do that because we’ve got to get Jorge off the point some.
“He’s a natural point guard. Brandon knows how to play that position. He needs to make sure he’s running the club. He’s a tough kid. He’s in the best shape of anybody.
“He’s shooting the ball really well. He worked real hard on that during the summer. In fact, I’d rather have him pass up shots to run the club and and get others involved than be a scorer. Obviously, if they aren’t going to guard him he’s got to make open shots.”
THE SCRIMMAGE: The Bears scrimmaged Saint Mary’s College last Saturday and Montgomery called the experience “an eye-opener” for the freshmen.
“I think we responded well, but initially the intensity and the level of competitiveness was just something they hadn’t experienced before,” Montgomery said. “Those are the things we’re going to have to learn as we go through the season.
“A lot of times in practice we’ve got freshmen guarding freshmen and neither of them know what they’re doing, so they’re kind of easy on one another. We go to into Saint Mary’s and the other guy knew what he was doing.
“He was a little older and we got a little thrashing for a while there until they figured out, `Whoa, this isn’t like practice, playing against my buddy, who doesn’t know where he’s going, either.”
THE SCHEDULE: Montgomery is a bit anxious to see how his young squad fares against a fairly challenging set of non-conference games.
“The schedule is probably a little tougher than it need be, given the circumstances,” he said. “San Diego State, for instance, nine seniors back. Might not be the best year to play them.
“The tournament in Orlando . . . it’s pretty loaded up,” he said, referring to the Nov. 25-28 Old Spice Classic in Florida, featuring a first-round matchup with 22nd-ranked Temple, then potential games vs. Notre Dame, Georgia, Boston College, Texas A&M and Wisconsin.
“Kansas here, New Mexico here, Southern Mississippi . . . it’ll be interesting.”
GUTIERREZ ON THE ROOKIES: Gutierrez did not sound worried — well, not too worried — about being flanked by freshman on the wings.
“They’re pretty nice kids, they’re pretty good. I’m impressed,” he said of Crabbe and Franklin and their three fellow freshmen. They can score. They can play defense sometimes, when they want to. They’re getting better, though.”
FINDING POINTS: Montgomery joked a bit when asked how the Bears plan to generate sufficient scoring after the departure of four seniors.
“We may have to try to keep people scoreless. That may be our best chance,” he said. “I would guess we don’t have a 20-(point) type scorer on our team. You might even be surprised if in any given game a guy comes close to scoring 20.
“But I think we have seven guys potentially could average double figures, depending on their minutes and the circumstances. It’s going to have to be a team deal.”
THE DEFENSE: Ask Montgomery how well his freshman are adjusting defensively, and there is not much suspense as to what he will say.
“They make a lot of mistakes,” Montgomery said. “It’s not for lacking of trying.
“In my estimation, it takes a good two years to get a good man team because there’s just so many things that go into it. They then understand all the nuances of what you’re talking about.”
The freshmen? They don’t know. They can’t know.
“Freshmen get screened,” Montgomery said. “You’ll be running something and you look and a freshmen will be buried right in the middle of someone’s chest on a screen. That’s fairly standard, fairly normal.
“They’ve got to learn how to get through screens, how to anticipate, the communication aspect.”
MONTY’S PERSPECTIVE: Asked how he’s coping with a team featuring five freshman, Montgomery conceded, “It’s both energizing and scary.
“It’s scary from the standpoint that there’s limitations they’re going to have for a while. But it’s exciting to watch the light come on when something happens.”
Monty really appears to like the newcomers. “They’re really a good group of kids,” he said. “They’re quality people, they’re fun to be around, they like each other. They hang together.
“From that standpoint, I kind of woke up this morning and said, it’s going to be interesting to see what they do. Because they’re going to do some funny things. We’ve just got to make sure that there’s positive energy and kids don’t let themselves get down and that they’re playing hard.
“I told them if we’re playing hard, we can live with mistakes. Just try to get it back for us with a hustle play or picking up a teammate, that kind of stuff.”