BTTV: Cuonzo Martin Previews Cal Basketball

BERKELEY -- BearTerritory got an exclusive inside look at the first practice of Cal's 2014-15 season on Friday, and head coach Cuonzo Martin went one-on-one to talk about his new team.



BERKELEY -- California head coach Cuonzo Martin took time out of practice on Friday to speak exclusively with BearTerritory about the Golden Bears' upcoming season -- his first at the helm of the program following the retirement of Mike Montgomery.

Here's the transcript:

Ryan Gorcey: Cuonzo, when we first met, the first day I went to your office, the first question you asked me was, 'Can this team win a championship?' I know you've only seen them over the summer, and a little bit over your shoulder. What do you think is the answer to that question?

Cuonzo Martin: Well, I like our pieces. I like our pieces. It's a great group of guys, fun to be around. This is where it starts. We'll see how it goes.

RG: How do you win a group of men like this over after having spent so much time with Mike Montgomery?

CM: My job, I'm hired to be the head basketball coach. That's the most important thing: To implement my style, the way we want to play, the way I want to play. We go from there. I think that's the greatest thing about this game. As a new coach, who has a new style, a new philosophy, you get your new players to buy into what you're trying to do, and the ultimate goal is to have success.

RG: What's going to be the hallmark of this team, this season, if you could say one word -- one concept -- what are people going to know this Cal basketball team for, this year?

CM: Play hard. You've got to play hard. I think that's the blueprint -- to play hard, consistently.

RG: It's been about six months since you arrived. What kind of changes have you seen in these young men, from Day One until now?

CM: I think, for me, we took over the job, the guys worked hard from Day One. The guys want to be successful. They put the work in, they put the time in, and now, it's just a matter of, everything we've worked on, put it on the floor and get ready for November.

RG: One of the big blows that you took pretty early on was Kameron Rooks going down with a knee injury. How is the inside going to shape up for you guys, with David Kravish obviously being a huge returner?

CM: Well, I think David's an elite player. I think he's an all-league guy. Losing Kam is a tough loss, and he's day-to-day, rehabbing very well. I think Kingsley [Okoroh] will step in there. Christian [Behrens] will step in, so you've got guys that will step in and play the game, but our goals, offensively, are to put the ball in the basket, and we have various ways to put it in the basket -- low post, inside, outside -- put it in the basket. We've got to always defend, rebound and play hard.

RG: Dwight Tarwater, what kind of role is he going to play for you guys, kind of a big body, not quite your prototypical four, but what do you see him doing?

CM: He's a basketball player. He knows how to play. He's played in college games. He's played in big games. He's scored baskets. He knows how to make perimeter shots, but he understands also how to play the game.

RG: You've told me before that you like wings, you want wings, you use wings, and, I'm sure if you go up to Memorial Stadium, Cal wide receiver coach Rob Likens will give you Red Bull that will give you wings. What have you seen so far out of Jabari Bird? It looks like he's put on about 10 pounds of pure muscle, looks a whole lot different from last year.

CM: He's a very talented basketball player. He's a guy that wants to be the best. He's very coachable. We've got to get him to do it at an elite level at both ends of the floor, because he's a guy that can make shots and score the ball, but we want him to be consistent and score every night, looking for his offense, being aggressive, being assertive, but also being a great defender. With his size, he's got to be able to defend and rebound the ball.

RG: Veteran point guard Justin Cobbs graduated before you got here, and you didn't have the benefit of having that kind of a floor general. Who's going to be in contention for the point guard spot, and what have you seen out of those guys, like Sam Singer and Tyrone Wallace?

CM: I think with Tyrone, Sam and Brandon [Chauca], all three of those guys are very talented. Tyrone's a guy that can play three positions on the perimeter, Sam's a guy that can play two. Brandon's a natural point guard, so I think, for us, whichever one of those guys wins that spot, that's who'll get it, but all three of them are talented enough to get it done.

RG: We've seen videos of you hitting the heavy bag with Nicodemus [Christopher], we've seen videos of you lifting. What kind of juice do you feel you get out of these guys when they're in the weight room and they see, 'Hey, Coach can probably out lift me a little bit'?

CM: It's just what I do to stay in shape. We work out with Nic, and I don't work out at the level those guys work out at, but it's just me staying in shape, staying active. I just think that's what you need to do in order to stay healthy, most importantly.

RG: Finally, on Saturday, with football away, basketball will play, and you guys are going to have an open practice -- not here at the practice facility -- but at Haas Pavilion. What can fans expect out of that?

CM: I just think it's a regular practice. It's a behind-the-scenes look at what we do on a day-to-day basis. We're trying to have a little fun with it, as well, but that's more for the fans than our guys. I think it's fun for them to get involved. You've got to interact with your fans.

Cal will hold an open practice at Haas Pavilion on Saturday at 1 p.m., and the first 250 fans will get free Cal Basketball gear.

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