I’m here at the Pac-12 headquarters in San Francisco for Pac-12 basketball media day.
Reporting on the Keenan Allen situation at the same time, so bear with me.
Will try to keep you posted on what’s of most interest to you.
(Cal went 11th in the order, but we will move the Bears to the front of the line):
CAL: Mike Montgomery and Allen Crabbe step to the podium. “I learned a long time ago the later you are in the afternoon, the better you did last year,” Monty said. “We were a little disappointed to be so close last year, have it in our grasp, and not finish it. Hopefully we can do it again.
“We’ve got the pieces to be competitive.”
On Richard Solomon coming back after being declared academically ineligible at midseason last year: “I think you’re going to be delighted with Richard Solomon. It was a tough deal for him. Richard didn’t blame anybody — he took responsibility, which I thought was the first step. Richard has grown up. He’s matured. He’s taking care of his business. That’s not to say he won’t dunk and pound his chest now and then. But he’s really grown up and appreciates his chance to be at Cal.”
Crabbe on who becomes leader without Jorge Gutierrez: “Honestly, we all know nobody’s going to fill Jorge’s role . . . just going to have to leave it up to the upper classmen.”
Does he need to be more vocal: “I feel like it’s an opportunity for me to step up. My first two years I didn’t have to say anything because we had upper classmen. That vocal part can just be a little extra step for me becoming a leader.”
Monty on his health issues: “How do I look? Pretty good, huh? Seriously, at this time last year I was 10-12 days out of surgery and in shock. I was very, very fortunate. I don’t feel anything as a result of it. We get so wrapped up in coaching sometimes you fail to recognize all the other things of value you’re dealing with every day — the kids, your family. Unfortunately, it hasn’t changed me that much — I’m still the same nut case I’ve always been.”
Monty on the Pac-12 race: “A lot of what’s being projected is based on I’d almost call it on NBA upside, and rightly so. Certainly, Arizona’s loaded — I don’t think there’s any question about that. If UCLA gets their kids eligible, they’re very good, too. I think the league has gotten a lot better. I think Stanford is going to be very good. There’s a lot of people to like in this league. The continuity of coaches is good.”
USC: “I think the leaague is going to be outstanding,” Trojans coach Kevin O’Neill said, predicting 5-6 Pac-12 teams will make the NCAA tournament and 3-4 more will play in the NIT.
Maurice Jones, the team’s do-everything, mini-point guard/score, has transferred to Iowa State. “We’re going to miss Mo,” O’Neill said.
But back is Jio Fontan, healthy after missing last season with a knee injury. O’Neill calls him the best point guard in the league.
UTAH: Coach Larry Krystkowiak’s squad picked to finish last in the Pac-12 in Year 2. But he is excited. Hoping to begin return to Utes’ glory days.
Center Jason Washburn: “I believe in Utah. I believe in Coach K. I believe we’re headed in the right direction.”
ARIZONA STATE: Herb Sendek already has smiled, so we’re ahead of the game with the league’s most serious coach. He calls senior Carrick Felix his team leader. Felix is sitting right next to him. Felix: “It’s definitely a great compliment. I appreciate it.”
Sendek plans to open the floor for PG Jahii Carson, eligible this season after sitting out in 201-12. “Jahii is an electrifying player. He’s blessed with amazing athletic talent,” Sendek said. “For me, the joy in practice is his eagerness to learn. He’s a total team player.”
Gone from last year is versatile wing Trent Lockett, who transferred to Marquette to be closer to his mother, diagnosed last spring with cancer.
New to ASU coaching staff: Ex-Warriors coach Eric Musselman.
OREGON STATE: Beavers try it without former San Leandro HS star Jared Cunningham, who left a year early for the NBA. “I think we can replace his scoring, but replacing his defense will be harder,” coach Craig Robinson said.
Still, Robinson said he expects the Beavers to be better defensively and a better rebounding team. Also said this will be his deepest . . . and best team at OSU.
Asked where he’ll be next Tuesday, the President’s brother-in-law said: “I’ll be in Chicago for the election. But we are practicing Tuesday.”
WASHINGTON STATE: Ken Bone and Aussie big man Brock Motum on the podium. The Cougars visited Down Under for a summer tour. “For me it was a lot of fun to have my American teammates visit my home,” Motum said.
Gone is point guard Reggie Moore, dismissed from the team by Bone earlier this fall. “It’s too bad on a personal note for not having him in our program still. He ended last year on a great note — he played very well in the last 7-8 games,” Bone said. “He’s actually a great, great kid. He’s liked by everybody in our program. It hurts not to have him around still.”
STANFORD: Johnny Dawkins and junior PG Aaron Bright on the podium. “I think we’re growing and we’re moving in the right direction,” Dawkins said. “Winning the NIT was great for our team. I’m very excited about the potential of this season.”
Believes he has 7 or 8 players who should view themselves as starters. Expect them to have a mix of lineups.
Replacing departed seniors Josh Owens and Andrew Zimmerman: Expects big year from Dwight Powell. Also Stefan Nastic, John Gage and freshman Grant Verhoeven.
Bright says healthier Powell playing with much more confidence this season.
Dawkins said freshman Roscoe Allen is “every bit” of 6-9 or 6-10 and may not be done growing.
Bright says Stanford sent team video greeting to injured Ravens LB Ray Lewis, who gave team pregame pep talk before NIT semifinal at Madison Square Garden.
COLORADO: Tad Boyle on being 32-4 at home in his two seasons. “We should be 36-0. I can’t tell you who we beat in those 32 games, but I can tell you who we lost to,” Boyle said.
The Buffaloes are 200 seats away from selling out their season opener against Wofford.
Andre Roberson on being picked sixth in the Pac-12: “I’m not sure why that is. I feel like we haven’t gotten enough respect yet. We’ve got to go out and prove everyone wrong.”
Boyle on the Pac-12: “There’s a lot of good, young players coming into our league. It’s so hard with young players predicting how quickly they’re going to acclimate to college basketball. Our league is going to better from top to bottom.
“By the end of the year, we could be a better team than we were last year.”
UCLA: Ben Howland talking about “new” Pauley Pavilion – team practiced in renovated facility for the first time on Monday. Bruins took trip to China. He also says TV deal with boost Pac-12 recruiting.
Howland on freshman guard Kyle Anderson, declared eligible by the NCAA: “We’re very pleased it’s been resolved.” Said Anderson is excellent PG on offense, but not a great matchup on defense at 6-foot-8. Would typically matchup vs. opponent’s 3 man on defense.
Larry Drew, ex-North Carolina player, also available at PG. Howland calls him “very good decision maker,” but suggests he needs fewer “lulls in concentration” on defense. “Big thing for him is he’s happy to be back home,” Howland said.
On NCAA review of Shabazz Muhammad, still not cleared to play: “We’ve been very patient, will continue to be. Very optimistic. I can’t tell you how long or when — I don’t know that. I’m very confident things are going to work out.”
Howland praises Bears: “Cal may have the best pair of guards in the conference in (Justin) Cobbs and Allen Crabbe.”
Howland on center Josh Smith’s ongoing weight issues: “Josh has a body type that is both a blessing and a curse.” Said he expects Smith will have to deal with the problem indefinitely.
ARIZONA: Sean Miller on experience: “The players that have gone through hundreds of practices, that have played in big games, have played in the NCAA tournament, that’s who you rely on.” In Arizona’s case, that’s senior F Solomon Hill, an all-conference player. “There’s no question in my mind he can move beyond that this year. To me, he’s the leader by example on a daily basis.”
Hill’s advance to Arizona’s freshman — come to practice early, stay late, be home early. “Those parties are always going to be there,” he said. “Just sacrifice.”
Miller said Hill will move from playing a lot of 4 man to playing on the wing at 3.
Miller on UW’s home court: “It’s hostile in a very good way.”
On importance of Pac-12 teams faring well in preseason: “Everytime a Pac-12 team plays a non-conference opponent, I want them to win. The most success each team has only helps each other.”
OREGON: Coach Dana Altman has some veterans, but also six freshmen. Senior E.J. Singler is “critical. E.J.’s been an anchor for us the last two years. Done a great job of stabilizing our team. He does all the dirty work. Brings it every day to practice. He’s going to have to have a great year for us, as are the other two seniors, for us to have a good year.”
On freshman guard Dominic Artis, from the Bay Area: “He’s really worked hard this summer. Had a great fall. I anticipate he’ll be a big part of our team.”
Freshman football player Arik Armstead is on the roster — probably not available until sometime in January. He’s 6-8, 290. “He’s a physical presence in there,” said Altman. No kidding.
WASHINGTON: Huskies coach Lorenzo Romar with PG Abdul Gaddy. “The main expectation for me is to become the best leader I can be,” Gaddy said. “Being a senior, kind of just know everything and you’re the coach on the floor.”
Gaddy said Huskies will have great chemisty without “that dominant personality.”
“The team will be the face of the team,” he said.