Cuonzo Martin Preps for First Cal Exhibition

BERKELEY -- Cuonzo Martin previews what we can expect from the Bears on Friday, when Cal takes on Cal State East Bay in the first exhibition of the 2014-15 season.



BERKELEY -- Outside of Kameron Rooks everybody, California head coach Cuonzo Martin says, is healthy for this Friday’s Halloween exhibition at 7 p.m., at Haas Pavilion against Cal State East Bay.

“Nobody’s missed more than a day or two of practice, so that’s fine. Dwight [Tarwater] missed two days, but he’s back,” Martin said late last week.

“I’m just as anxious as anyone to see how we play, see how we respond to the atmosphere, in a game situation,” Martin said on Tuesday. “After a while, banging against each other and wrestling each other all day long gets old. TO break the monotony, it’s fun to play a game.”

While every Bear may be on the court, the stands may look markedly different than Martin was used to at Tennessee, where preseason exhibitions would regularly draw 10-15,000 in attendance.

“I don’t even consume myself with it,” Martin said before practice on Tuesday. “The biggest key for me is, we’d love to get all our fans to these games and support us. But, the focus is on the floor. I think the bottom line with anything is winning ballgames. I think that helps in a lot of situations. If you win the ballgames, people will come. To me, it seems as though everybody’s very excited about it, so we’ll see. The most important thing for our guys is getting ready to play on the floor.”

Tarwater and the rest of the Bears’ big men -- David Kravish, Christian Behrens and Kingsley Okoroh -- will have to get put through their paces on Friday against the Pioneers, as Martin remains confident of about four of his starting five, with the final slot still up for grabs.

“Hopefully, these two games will help us,” Martin said. “The biggest key for me as a staff, we talk about hopefully having an opportunity to get those big guys a lot of minutes. Sometimes, you play these exhibition teams, the guys are a little smaller, so it’s harder to get your big guys in the flow, so we’ve got to find a way to keep them on the floor.”

Last week, Martin said that he had about seven or eight players he had in mind for the rotation, with the possibility to extend that to nine.

“I think we have a real good feeling for some guys who have worked hard and put themselves in position,” Martin said on Tuesday. “I think we have a strong seven. I think there’s an eighth guy who’s right there who’s really improved, but everybody has a chance. With that being said, guys continue to get better through the course of the season, so I’m not a guy that says, ‘Here’s eight guys, and you other guys, you’re not playing all season.’ You have to continue to work to get your seven to be ready to play, but you never know when your number will be called.”

Despite playing the markedly smaller competition, Martin still feels as though these first two tests will provide at least a glimpse into what this team will look like during the regular season.

“It depends on how they play,” Martin said. “Some teams play a zone, and it gives you a different look, to be able to adjust to something, have to go through something. If they push the ball very fast, you have to be able to contain the dribble. They have guys that rebound the basketball, so different teams present different things. It’s a matter of how you adjust to them. In practice, you go against the same guy every day, you understand his moves, and all of the sudden, you have officials out there that make calls, you get a foul, and all of the sudden, you get a foul and you’re hesitant with how to defend. For us, it’s great for our guys and for me as a coach – the things we emphasize and the things we stress, now you’re actually going and seeing them in live games.”

The Bears were picked to finish seventh at last week’s Pac-12 Men’s Basketball Media Day, but big man David Kravish -- who did not practice early on Tuesday, as he comes after his class ends at 4 p.m. – said that Cal has a chance “to be very good.”

“We have very good team chemistry,” Kravish said. “The team gets along really well. We’re playing very hard, working very hard, and we finish every practice. Coach Martin is pushing our limits, and giving us a new ceiling. Everybody knows what the goal is, and that’s winning as a team. Everybody bought in, the transition was smooth and seamless.”


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