Cal’s players are convinced their five-game excursion to northern Europe will pay long-term dividends.
“I’m excited,” junior point guard Brandon Smith said Thursday. “This will really help us mature as a team and give us momentum.”
“We’re looking real solid,” added transfer guard Justin Cobbs, ready to make his game-day debut for the Bears. “I like how we’re playing together. It’s like we picked up where we left off last year. A lot of guys are ready, wanting to make big things happen. Jorge (Gutierrez) wants to go out with a bang, Harper (Kamp) wants to go out with a bang. We’re just going to try to do what we need to do to send those guys out on top.”
Cobbs, making his first trip outside the U.S., is looking forward to facing professional and national teams from Sweden, Norway and Denmark.
“It’s going to be fun to measure us as a team and measure yourself personally as a basketball player,” he said.
BUMPS AND BRUISES: Gutierrez left the States with a sprained ankle he sustained during Wednesday’s scrimmage and Kamp is dealing with soreness in his knee, a recurring issue for him. Both figure to play.
“We’re looking good,” Smith said. “Our biggest thing right now is getting guys healthy.”
Kamp, the Bears’ senior power forward, said his body generally feels good and his back, which suffered spasms late last season, is good. “My knees are struggling a little — I haven’t been able to practice much,” he said. “At the moment it’s inhibiting me a little bit, but once I get a routine down and get it feeling better again I don’t think it’s going to hinder me during the year.”
POSITION OPTIONS: Coach Mike Montgomery said he plans to try players at different positions during the trip to explore his various options.
Cal should have more depth in the backcourt with the availability of Cobbs, a transfer from Minnesota. The Bears also hope guards Emerson Murray and Alex Rossi expand the equation.
Cobbs said Mongomery regards him as a combo guard, able to play the point or the two.
“Coach likes the way me and Brandon play together,” Cobbs said. “Brandon is really solid on both ends of the court. Jorge played a lot of minutes last year and he gets banged up with the way he plays. He does everying — he hustles, he defends, he scores. That’s a lot for a player to do playing 40 minutes. So maybe I can give Jorge a little rest.”
Cobbs, bringing more size and more of a scorer’s mentality than Smith, said the Bears could even play small at times, with himself, Smith and Gutierrez together in a three-man backcourt. “That’s a possibility. Then we can get after people with our speed and our quickness.”