The Golden Bears will begin once-a-week official practices next week in preparation for their August tour of Northern Europe.
The coaches, who typically spend much of July on the road recruiting, will be back in Berkeley to conduct one practice each of the next couple weeks before ramping up the schedule prior to the Aug. 13-22 trip to Sweden, Norway and Denmark. Teams are allowed 10 organized practices prior to a summer tour.
In the meantime, the players are lifting and on the court together for open gym play. At least those who are healthy and in town.
– Sophomore guard Allen Crabbe, who sustained a broken nose and mild concussion last month during the under-19 USA tryout camp, hasn’t been on the floor yet. He was scheduled to begin treadmill work this week, but junior point guard Brandon Smith said he talked this week with Crabbe, who suggested he might not be able to do any basketball work for another month.
– Redshirt freshman Alex Rossi, who missed all of last season with groin and hernia issues, also has yet to begin playing. And sophomore guard Emerson Murray remains sidelined following surgery to remove a plate from his foot.
– Meanwhile, junior forward Bak Bak has spent more than a month at home in Kenya, sorting out some paperwork. He apparently is getting his passport renewed and it’s taking longer than expected.
But a team spokesman told me the coaches are not worried this will turn into a Max Zhang situation. Unlike Zhang, who went home to China last offseason and wound up signing a professional contract, the coaches fully expect that Bak will be back.
Smith said the team is getting a lot done under new basketball strength coach Scott Thom, who replaced Mike Blasquez, now working with football.
“We’re all really comfortable with him,” Smith said. “When I was a freshman he was coach V’s protege, working with us then. We love coach V, but it’s been a good change. He’s given us some different twists on the lifts we do, so it’s fun. He’s kind of customized the workouts a little bit to meet our needs.”
Smith said the players are doing their weightroom workouts wearing heart monitors for the first time, and the result is a clear picture of everyone’s fitness level.
“You get to see who’s really pushing it and who’s coasting. It’s right in front of you. It’s cool,” Smith said. “Guys are getting after it. These are team-building moments and we really like each other.”
Smith said he’s been impressed so far with the work ethic and coachability of the Bears’ two freshmen: 6-10 forward David Kravish and 6-9 forward Christian Behrens.
“Kravish is really long, but you could tell he’s trying to adjust to the pace and the tempo of the game,” Smith said. “Stuff he was able to get away with in high school he’s having to change it up a little bit.
“Behrens is athletic and a heady player,” Smith said. “He kind of in a sense surprised me. I didn’t know his baskeball IQ. But he knows angles and he knows how to play.”
Smith said he doesn’t think any of the Bears have visited the countries they will see next month.
“I’m super excited,” he said. “It’ll be a cool experience with all my teammates and I think it will really help us grow and bond together.”