Stanford head coach Johnny Dawkins talks impending rivalry match-up with Cal

What can we expect from Cal and Stanford's first meeting of the season on Thursday? We talk to Cardinal head coach Johnny Dawkins.

Stanford Head Coach Johnny Dawkins

How do you reconcile Cal's performances against Utah and Colorado, with the Bears' losses to Oregon and Oregon State? "I like to give everybody credit. I think Oregon and those teams are very good, as well, and playing a tough road game. This conference is one of the best conferences in the country, so there are going to be no easy games. Everybody's going to go out, and you have to compete for 40 minutes, and try to come out on the winning side of the ledger. Cal is a very talented team. They're a very good team, they're well-coached, and they're a team that will be good throughout the season."

What do you make of freshman Ivan Rabb's progression? "I've watched Ivan Rabb, who grew up in this area, so I've seen quite a bit of him. He's a great young man. Very, very talented. He's definitely really good around the basket. He scores well in the paint. He's also a capable shooter out to about 15, 17 feet. He can step out, so he has versatility, and he runs well. He has the whole package. He's mobile for a big guy, he can step outside and knock down shots, he can post you, and on the defensive end, he's a presence. He makes a lot of plays defensively, so he's a very active big guy who's really talented." the Beavers, both Kingsley Okoroh and Kameron Rooks got into foul trouble early, and became non-factors, allowing Oregon State's zone to collapse on Rabb and limit him to just four shots. Cal's big men have had issues staying out of foul trouble. How can you exploit that? "You're just going to have to go play the game. Whatever your system is, you have to stick to that. I'm sure, like a lot of teams, it's difficult when your bigs get into foul trouble, or your better players get in foul trouble, for that matter. You just have to go out there and focus and compete. Unfortunately, those guys probably picked up some early fouls or something, but they have depth. They have depth at the big spots, they have depth on the perimeter. They're a good basketball team."

How has 6-foot-9, 220-pound senior forward Rosco Allen (14.1 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 10th in Pac-12 in three-point field goals and 30-of-75 from three) stepped up to embrace his leadership role on the team, as one of three seniors: "I've been very happy with his overall performance, and his overall growth. He's had to have an expanded role on our team, and he's become one of our go-to guys. He wanted that. He's asked me: 'Coach, I want to be in that position,' and I'm proud of him. It's always tough, you lose some guys that filled those roles the last several years, and then Rosco, it's his time. He wants that, as well. Just playing really well. He does a lot of different things for us. You see the shooting, and you see the dunks, but he's been a really good leader for us this year. He's been one of our leaders. He's been one of our captains, and he's provided really good leadership for this group, and that's something that I've seen a lot of growth in him, not just as a player, but as a person, and the maturity that you get, coming from an older player, and he's taken on that responsibility well." What do you make of the conference's performance in the preseason, and yours in particular? Stanford needed overtime to beat Green Bay, 93-89, and Saint Mary's, which lost to Cal, beat Stanford 78-61. Cal narrowly beat East Carolina, and lost to San Diego State and Richmond: "Preseason's always going to be challenging. You don't have a chance to see teams that often, you don't have that much film on them, so there's a good chance there's going to be a number of upsets, or potential upsets, early in the season, based on just not being familiar with your opponent, and they haven't been scouted as well as they're scouted now. Then, you add that to chemistry and continuity, we have a lot of teams -- it's a really deep league -- but there's a lot of turnover, a lot of young players, also. Not only is it a talented league, but it's a talented young league. These players need time to develop. Some of these kids, it's their first college game, and I don't care how good you are, how talented you are; your first college game, your first, second, third, up to five college games, there's an adjustment period there, and I think you saw some of that with the teams in our conference. But, all in all, I thought we had a really good preseason as a conference. I thought we finished out as one of the conferences in the country, and I think we're just really trending in the right direction as a league."

Who are some of your young guys with the most upside? "The young player that's probably shown us the most is Marcus Sheffield. He's come in, has given us a lift in several games, and he still has a huge upside, still can get stronger. But, I like all our freshmen. I think Josh Sharma, who came in against Oregon State and gave us some quality minutes, I think he has the chance to be a really good center in this conference. Then, Cameron Walker, who was injured, so he didn't play, as much. But, before he was injured, he was actually the freshman that was playing the most for us. Unfortunately, he had a setback with the injury, so he's just kind of getting himself back, now, getting his rhythm and timing back. All of them have shown promise for us. It's just a matter of them continuing to grow and get better as their careers progress."

How much will Walker play in the next few weeks? "We have a lot of confidence in Cameron's ability. I can't give an amount of time he's going to play in any given situation, but we do trust our players. We trust that he can contribute in our program, and when the opportunity presents, we'll look at rotations and subs and see if it's the right fit for us." How did Walker get injured? "He strained his calf. I'm not sure even he knew when he did it, to be quite honest, because we were actually back at home, on a Sunday, went to go visit the Ronald McDonald House, and we saw him that night, the next morning he said his calf was a little sore. We were off that day. You never know. It's something that he could have gotten kicked in it. The sport is so volatile with things that can happen to you. He could have gotten kicked in our closed-door scrimmage we had prior to that. You just don't know where he picked it up. He just said it was really bothering him, so we wanted to make sure we took care of it for him."

How important is home court advantage? (Stanford has won six of the last eight at Maples Pavilion against Cal, and the Bears are undefeated this year at Haas Pavilion): "Home court advantage is important for everybody. That's just important, especially for your area here, for your fans, it's very important that you compete very well at home. I think everyone takes pride in that. That probably will never change in our game. Everyone wants to protect the home court, and play well there."

How do you take advantage of Cal struggling against the zone? "We're going to play our normal defense. For us, we have our system, and we kind of stick with that. We play man, and we play some zone, and we kind of play both. Our guys are kind of used to it. The thing you don't want to do is start coming up with new ways to try to play, and then your players are not prepared, because they're not instinctive anymore, because it's not what they've done all year. You just have to believe in your system, compete hard and go out there with that."

Sheffield and Bears freshman Jaylen Brown played together in AAU since seventh grade. Has he given you a scouting report? "You know, I haven't asked Marcus one question about Jaylen, to be quite honest. They did play on the same AAU team. Jaylen Brown, he's a great player. I saw him play enough when I was watching Marcus Sheffield. It's not hard to see the sheer talent in that young man, and not only talent, but he's a high-character young man, as well as being very talented. You can see that shine through when he's on the court, how he carries himself. He has a presence out there, and he's going to be a great player." What kind of development do you see on tape from Brown? "He's definitely grown as a player. When you're watching him, he's getting better all the time, right before our eyes, just in watching film of him. You see the growth in his game. He's more comfortable in the system. You can tell he's more comfortable both defensively and offensively, in what they're doing. He's not out there wondering what's going on. You can see a lot of freshmen, they're looking around, 'What am I supposed to be doing? Where should I be?' He's very comfortable knowing where he's supposed to be. I think he understands his role very well. He's a scorer. He's looking to put pressure on a defense, and he can impact not just offensively, but defensively. He's doing a lot on both ends of the floor, and that's when you see growth, because everyone knows that he can score the basketball, and he can do a lot of things that are special, but it's the other parts of his game that I've watched grow, watching film of him. He's improving in a lot of facets."

Brown had two chase-down blocks from behind against Oregon State. What does that say to you about his progression? "Exactly. That's impressive. Not many players can make that play. Just his overall awareness, defensively, of where he should be, and what he's doing in the scheme of things, all of those things you see from watching tape that he's improving at, daily."

How would you assess the development of 6-foot-9, 218-pound sophomore forward Michael Humphrey (10.9 ppg, 7.2 rpg, eighth in the Pac-12 in blocks and 11th in rebounds)? "I'm really proud of Mike. Watching Mike's development, you knew Mike had a chance to be very, very good, but he's really had to step up, with Reid [Travis] being out. He hasn't been reluctant. He's stepped up and he's given that to us. I'm very proud of him for that. He's progressing at a really good rate. I think he's one of the more talented bigs in our conference, and I think he still has a big upside."

Can Humphrey go outside? "He has versatility. He can go inside, he can go outside. He's a versatile big guy, and that's something that he's worked very hard at. Coach O'Toole, our big man coach, and he have worked very hard, and you really see it paying off, watching him continue to grow in those areas." Top Stories