Mike Montgomery’s initial reaction to the Golden Bears’ recently completed tour of Scandanavia?
“It was expensive,” he said. “Oslo’s really expensive. No. 1 in the world.”
Try $11 for a water at a sports bar. Or $40 for a hamburger.
Otherwise, Montgomery and his staff learned some things about their team, even while injuries prevented them from using every player and every combination.
Jorge Gutierrez played just two of the five games because of an ankle sprain, Harper Kamp was severely limited by what Monty called “a balky knee.” Richard Solomon missed the final game after being scratched in the eye. Alex Rossi and Emerson Murray still aren’t 100 percent after dealing with abdominal and foot issues, respectively.
And Bak Bak did not make the trip, having just gotten back into the U.S. after a long summer spent in Kenya trying to work out passport issues.
As a result, other players — especially newcomers or those who hadn’t gotten much opportunity in the past — got plenty of playing time.
“We had to play ‘em,” Montgomery said. “You don’t want to just go out there and not perform. There were some stretches where lineups we had weren’t functioning together. That doesn’t help you much.”
But there were some encouraging signs, starting with the play of junior walk-on center Robert Thurman, who was the club’s top scorer in a couple games.
“He had a good trip. He was a factor around the basket,” Montgomery said. “He rebounded the ball and there were times when he was really our only guy who could score inside, and he responded very well.
“The teams we played were not big and physical. Most of them wanted to play five out. But he just was a factor. He’s improved quite a bit.”
Freshmen forwards David Kravish and Christian Behrens also saw substantial playing time and in the final two games, victories over the Norwegian national team, were on the floor together in crunch time.
“Kravish and Behrens were in the last eight minutes of those games and they did very, very well,” Monty said.
More on Kravish: “Kravish played well. He is smart, he just needs to get stronger. He knows how to play, he’s generally in the right place. He doesn’t jump above people, necesaarily, but when he does shoot it it goes in. He just has a knack. It’s sort of what we expected.”
More on Behrens: “He struggled early, but he has some things about him we didn’t know. All of a sudden he just started to relax and started to play. He has a nose for the ball, he gets to the ball. And he finished. He doesn’t have to get to a certain shoulder (to score inside), he just reacted.”
Sophomore transfer guard Justin Cobbs also got his first game action with the Bears after practicing but sitting out last season. Montgomery started him at shooting guard several games, but also at point instead of Brandon Smith one game.
“He did some very good things,” Montgomery said. “There were some times when he didn’t really know what he wanted to do. He has the ability to jump up and shoot over people. He’s got potential to be very good.”
Montgomery is anxious for his team to get healthy. He won’t know if the Bears’ depth is dramatically better than a year ago until everyone is playing and showing what they can do.
“It doesn’t help to have a bunch of guys who can do some things. It’s better to have guys who can do what you need to do to win,” he said. “We have more possibilities of guys that can step up.”
Montgomery senses the trip paid other dividends, too.
“I think they really got to know each other, hanging out with each other, laughing and giggling,” he said. “I think they really enjoyed that part of it.”