Basketball: Monty’s thoughts as practice begins

The Bears officially begin practice Friday for what promises to be an intriguing season.

Can they win their second conference title in three seasons? It’s their goal and it’s possible.

I talked recently with coach Mike Montgomery, who laid out what he sees as the team’s biggest challenges and greatest strengths.

“We’d like to plan man defense and I’m concerned we’re not progressing as much as I’d like,” he said. “So we’re going to try to get that to where it’s something we can do effectively.

“I don’t think we board like we should. We need to get more people going more aggressively to the offensive glass and making sure they get their block-offs.”

On the flip side, he continued, “I think offensively, things will take care of themselves. I think we’re better in a lot of different ways. (Allen) Crabbe’s better. We add Justin Cobbs. Brandon (Smith) is better, Jorge (Gutierrez) is better, Richard (Solomon) is better.

“The key thing is Harper (Kamp has) got to stay healthy.”

Clearly, Monty has great respect and affection for Kamp. And why wouldn’t he? The fifth-year senior forward, who has undergone two knee surgeries over the past three seasons, is smart and tough.

When healthy, he’s an excellent player at both ends of the floor.

When not healthy, he’s usually willing to put himself out there, anyway.

“I just really think he deserves to have a healthy year and a productive year,” Montgomery said. “He’s put so much time and energy into it, he just deserves to have the kind of year he’s capable of so people see how good he is.”

With Kamp, Gutierrez, Crabbe and junior point guard Brandon Smith as the nucleus, the Bears figure to go as far as their complementary players allow.

Here are Montgomery’s thoughts on some of those players:

* On whether sophomore Richard Solomon has developed the beginning of a low-post game: “He’s getting better at it. He seemingly understands the value of it. You’ve got more just making the play rather than all the extra stuff. Just finishing the play and getting out of Dodge and getting back on defense. Again, when the game starts, how will that translate?”

* On walkon center Robert Thurman, who showed flashes of potential on the Bears’ recent exhibition tour of northern Europe: “Robert’s improved. He’s a big, strong kid. He’s maybe a shade under 6-10, but he’s 260 and he’s strong. He’s gotten a lot better at simplifying the game. If he gets (the ball) and turns to the basket, he’s pretty effective.

“There’s times in trying to guard the (Joshua) Smith kid at UCLA where his size and bulk might be of value if he knows use it. I wouldn’t say we’re out of the woods on that. If we can get him to play hard and be smart with how he plays — he’s got to be physical, but smart-physical — he’s got the ability to score the ball inside a little bit and rebound the ball. He can help us.”

* On freshman forwards David Kravish and Christian Behrens: “Christian’s coming off knee surgery (during his high school senior season), so he’s missed a lot. He came in here and he was timid. He didn’t trust the knee. He’s picked up 15 pounds, looks pretty good.

“He’s got the knack — we found out in Europe. He has a knack of being around the ball. The last two games we played over there against the Danish national team, we don’t win without David and Christian. They just created a lot of situations getting to the ball. He just needs to get stronger and be a little more aggressive and it’s coming pretty quickly.

“David is a very smart player. You look at the tape and you say, `Gosh, he’s always in the right spot. He always goes to where he’s supposed to.’ But he’s 210 (pounds), so he’ll get bounced out of some of the areas he’s gotten to. Strength will be a factor for him.”

* On junior forward Bak Bak, who did not travel with the team to Europe after spending weeks in Kenya sorting out a passport issue: “It slowed him down. He should have been lifting all summer — that was important — and he was gone. So he came back, he’d lost weight, lost strength.

“He’s just getting back to where he should have been, which is unfortunate for him. We’ve got to get him from being quite so timid. He’s got to go board the ball, got to mix it up, got to get in traffic. He’s pretty skilled. The question is how do you get him confidence? Part of that’s got to come from within. When he loses confidence, things kind of crumble in around him.”

* On whether redshirt freshman wing Alex Rossi is recovering from a lower abdominal muscle injury that forced him to miss all of last season: “Alex is slow coming around. The kid’s just really had a tough time. It was extensive enough, there’s always just a little setback and a little setback. Just when he thinks he’s ready to go, always something happens and he can’t go.

“He’s got to be patient. We’ve got to be patient with him and he’s got to be patient with himself. Otherwise, he’ll just hurt it again and it’ll just be a never-ending thing. We’d like to see what kind of player he is.”

* On how soon sophomore guard Emerson Murray will be fully healthy after having offseason surgery to remove metal plates from his foot: “Emerson will take less time. He’s getting more athletic by the day with that ankle. He’s getting better.”

* On how transfer guard Justin Cobbs can help: “He can play both guards. Justin is strong. He can defend, he can score. His big thing is he kind of loses focus every now and again over what he’s trying to do. But when he’s going, doing the things he’s capable of, he’s real good.”


Jeff Faraudo

  • Uh Huh!

    nice info. thx.
    I’m seeing a solid 7 man rotation of:
    3 core players to play as much as possible: Kamp – Crabbe – Gut
    3 rotation players: Smith – Cobbs – Solomon
    1 backup: Thurman

    Players trying to get some PT: Emerson – Kravish – Bak – Berhens – Rossi

    We’ve played with a fairly thin bench in recent years.

  • SteveNTEXAS

    CBS sports writers picked Cal and #26 and one had us with a 7 seed in the first tourney projection.

  • Beast Mode

    Jeff, when are you going to get a twitter account?

  • ThisisCal

    Does Monty have cleats?

  • Esquire Joe

    Odd that CBS has Cal at #26 and Washington not in the poll, but all three of the experts who created the top 26 have Cal as a 7 seed and UW as a 6 seed.

    Reading between the lines, it seems like Monty is pretty disappointed in Bak. With his earlier academic struggles and now this setback, it seems like he’s in serious danger of being a complete bust. I think it’s going to take a huge effort on his part just to get close to fulfilling his potential while he’s still at Cal.

  • c98

    “Jeff, when are you going to get a twitter account?”


  • SteveNTEXAS

    Here are 6 great minutes of Jason Kidd while at Cal


  • rollonubears

    great clip! i wonder if he’d have come here without sleazeballbozeman though.

  • Kevin Thomas

    How refreshing it is to listen to a Montgomery description of his team, assessing their strengths and weaknesses. Sometimes underplaying their strengths, and being somewhat surprised when players exceed expectations. Montgomery’s teams almost always overachieve.

    Then listen to Jeff Tedford, where he blames the players for making mistakes, and listen to the players, as they talk about how great they feel they are, even though they just lost two one-sided games in a row. Tedford is very good at convincing the players, the fans, and the press about how good the players and team are. Tedford’s teams continually underachieve. If only Tedford could convince the Cal opponents of how good the Bears really are, then maybe they would be kind to us and lie down in the face of all this greatness.

  • Raf

    I love Monty’s candor. Nothing sugar coated, sometimes part of you wish he would. Better to under promise and over deliver… lesson Teddy?

    Nice Kidd clip btw. Hearing rumors that with w/NBA lockout he’s coming back to play an exhibition game in a Cal uniform! You heard it here first people!

  • Jeff Faraudo

    To C98, Beast Mode and anyone else, I am now part of the Twitter universe. Find my tweets at CalBearsBANG.

  • bean

    Y’all hear what you want to hear. Tedford is also candid about players’ areas of improvement and needed improvement (and his own). And he certainly never promised that the team would be world beaters last year or this; he’s optimistic and thinks highly of the young men who bust their butts for our entertainment, but he’s hardly a sunshine pumper. If you’ve heard otherwise, you have selective hearing. And having been a long-time fan, there are Tedford teams that have “overachieved” as well as some that have disappointed. That’s the way with sports at any level, but especially with college sports where parity describes the vast majority of programs.

  • jim crow


    Smith not part of your Cal core? I’ll bet he plays more minutes than Kamp.

  • Kevin Thomas


    I read what Tedford says in black and white print transcripts. Let me direct you to the football side of this buzz blog. I challenge you to read JT’s gameday quotables, and find me one sentence where he shoulders any responsibility for the miserable performance of his team. All he does is criticize many of his players for making mistakes, either mental or physical, and make excuses for them. Maynard had a tough day? Barkley had a tough day as well. If he has his normal day, USC wins by 40 points. And USC is not a great team.

    You are a long time fan? Then you remember the great job that a freshman QB, Kevin Riley, did when handed the reigns against Oregon State. He brought the team the length of the field in the last minute to nearly score, when he made a bad decision and ran out the clock. You must remember Tedford slamming his headset and his cardboard on the ground, and screaming and yelling at Riley, when he came off the field, for making a mistake. This was a freshman who had done a great job up to that point. You learned ewverything you needed to know about JT in that moment, that he has very little character. Riley looked to me like he was playing like he was afraid to make mistakes for the rest of his career.

  • Gobears49


    I agree with your assessment of Riley’s play as a freshman against Oregon St. Probably the best he played at Cal. I thought we really had something in Riley at that point, but it certainly didn’t work out that way. He turned out to be a decent QB, but not the great one I thought we had when he played against OSU as a freshman.

  • gobears49,

    isn’t that kevin thomas’ point? kevin riley came in with great potential, but instead of nurturing it, tedford thwarted it. a coach needs to teach a kid, not yell at him. do you think john wooden taught his players by yelling at them?

    perhaps riley felt that same. in a post-season interview last year, he said something like, “coach was tough on me, but i guess he’s tough on everyone.”

  • Rocko

    Kevin I know exactly what you mean. I mean he has the audacity to try and blame our QB for thowing those interceptions inside the red zone and throwing passes that weren’t even close to the receivers. Then to make matters worse blames the receiver for dropping balls when everybody knows they were so excited to receive a pass that was thrown right at them that they forgot how to catch an easy pass. He can coach them the correct way to play the game, but he can’t be out on the field making stupid plays, that’s on the players. Now back to basketball!

  • Kevin Thomas

    Hey Rocko,

    Did you ever notice the big cardboard that Tedford carries around during the game with a few hundred plays listed on it? Have you noticed the 10-15 page book on his wristband that Maynard has to refer to before he gives the signals in the huddle? Tedford’s offense is so complicated, with so many sets, and so many plays from each set, so many options, so many reads, and so many players getting playing time, that I would bet that the team on the field for any given play is likely to have practiced that play not more than once or twice during the week before a game. That ain’t enough practice to get a play down pat, now is it?

    My previous point was not that Maynard was not responsible for the interceptions or the wild throws, or that receivers were not responsible for the drops of good passes. My point is that a great coach, or even a good coach, does not blame or berate his players in the press. He takes some of the blame for losses on himself in front of the press, and then behind closed doors, deals with his team and players and their mistakes.

    The fair catch by Jones inside the ten yard line and Anger running instead of punting are perfect examples of Tedford’s style. He blamed Jones and Anger in the press for bad decisions. Tedford’s assistant coaches should have drilled the correct instructions into those players beforehand, so they know what they are supposed to do. Then if they blow the play, it is their fault. If they were not instructed properly, it is the coaches’ fault. In either case, the matter should be handled in private, with the players and coaches, not in the media.

    You want to get back to basketball? Ben Braun had the same style as Tedford does now, as regards blaming players for mistakes in losses. His teams got worse over the years, he lost control of the team, and now he is gone. Blaming kids in the press is a formula for losing control of your team.