Cal head coach Cuonzo Martin talks about Tyrone Wallace's injury, Sam Singer running the point and ASU and Arizona

BERKELEY -- Cal head coach Cuonzo Martin details the loss of point guard Tyrone Wallace, his replacement Sam Singer and the Bears' brace of games against Arizona State and Arizona

California Head Coach Cuonzo Martin

On Tyrone Wallace's injury: "It happened over the weekend. I didn't see anything in practice, when he went down. I think he just went to the sideline, and we did tests and X-rays after that. It's unfortunate for Tyrone."

When did it happen? "It happened Saturday. We had off, Sunday."

"It was practice, whether it was five-on-five or four-on-four, it's part of practice."

Was it something you saw happen? "No. I didn't."

"He just got hit in a five-on-five drill. It wasn't anything that stood out. He went to the sideline during a water break, had a trainer look at it, and then they went from there."

How does this change things for you guys, without your most experienced player? "I just think you keep rolling. You lose a key element like Tyrone, [it's] not an easy thing to transition, when you've got 15 points, almost five assists, four or five rebounds, but a guy that's a tremendous leader, so when you lose that, but also a presence -- it's not necessarily the points and the production, but you have a presence from a guy that's battle-tested, but I think that Sam [Singer] will step up and get the job done. I think he's excited about the opportunity. Unfortunate how it went down, but he's excited to get an opportunity to go out there to play and compete, and also Brandon Chauca. We'll see how it goes from there, but I think both of those guys are ready to embrace that challenge."

Have you talked to them about it? "I talk to them all the time, so it's not a case of, 'This happened, now you guys need to step up,' because you don't want any added pressures. Basketball's stuff they've been practicing, things they've been doing from Day One. I think, more than anything, Brandon Chauca, you're the next guy in line, so be ready, because Sam's been in the rotation, so it's a little bit different for Sam, because he's been on the floor. In Brandon's case, just being ready, and the plus about both of those guys, they work extremely hard, even though Brandon probably hasn't played in five or six games, he's really worked hard. He's continued to work. He's a worker. It won't be a lot of drop-off, as far as conditioning, from that standpoint, when it comes to Brandon, because he's a guy that works extremely hard."

Sam has played well for you at times recently. What's your confidence level with him as your starter: "Oh, no problem at all. I think, again, it's a great opportunity for Sam. I think he's ready to go. The good thing about this -- to lose Tyrone is tough -- but I think the guys will rally around Sam and Brandon, and to give them a level of comfort, to know that we're here to support you guys, because when you lose a piece like Tyrone, a senior, a guy that brings so much to the table, you want to make those other guys know that, 'We're here with you guys, so do everything in your power to be successful. We're here to help and support.'"

When you've had experiences like this in the past, have you found that the other guys elevate their game? Who do you need to step up, besides Sam? "I don't think it's necessarily a guy that's stepping up and being a superhero. I just think doing what you do, but at a high level, and being consistent, because even in the three road games, with Tyrone, you have 49 turnovers in three road games, you're down the stretch in the game with 40-plus seconds left in a game that can go either way, you give up offensive rebounds, 55 percent average from the free throw line in those three games, when you have a chance to win. For us, it's really taking care of the basketball, at least try to hover around 70-plus percent from the free throw line, I think we'll be OK, because I think our defense has been sound, to give us what we need. Now, we just need to be consistent offensively, to give ourselves a chance to win games, and not turn the ball over. It's not necessarily a guy or two guys to step up and do something they haven't already done. It's just, when your opportunity presents itself, be ready to go."'s last three or four games, the way he's performed, does that make the transition easier? "It's always pain. More than the production on the floor, win or lose, during games, [Wallace] is a senior, who came back to school to do something special, so to see him go down, you hurt for Tyrone Wallace. Now, as far as Sam is concerned, I think Sam will be ready to play. Sam puts the work in, in practice. It's not something he hasn't practiced, in the flow. He's been out there. He understands everything that we're trying to do. I think it'll be a smooth transition, again, just going from a guy that's coming off the bench, to a starter, it's an adjustment within itself. I think, once the game gets going, he'll be fine."

Free throws and other issues, how concerned are you that, this far in the season, your young guys are so foul-prone? "It's not necessarily a concern. It's things we continue to work on during practice and preparation. The thing we talk about with the young guys, even all the other guys, is, 'You have to be ready before it happens. You can't react when it's too late. You have to position yourself before the play happens on defense.' I think that is the biggest key -- being turned around, being ready, especially when the ball is moving in transition, to be set, to be able to play defense. When you react late, that's when you get in trouble. I think the positioning early, most of their fouls, they get them and it's understandable, and I see why the referee makes the call, so it's not a case of hard fouls or protecting somebody, taking a charge from somebody else. We have to do a better job positioning ourselves early, and they won't get those fouls."

How did the guys respond to the news and the three-game skid: "That part has been good, because again, they come back and work hard. I think that is always a plus, when guys come back and work hard. Any time you're playing on the road, it's always tough. Still try to manage to win games, but I think the thing that gives them consolation here, in those losses, when you come back and watch film, you say you lost a game -- when you're shooting free throws and you're not at even a 60 percent clip on the road, and 49 turnovers in three games, that is hard to win games, even at home. I think once we shore thar part up, because those are things we can do, once we correct that, I think we'll be fine. Because they know how we lost the games, it's not a case of, 'We did everything spectacular; we just weren't good enough to win the game,' that wasn't the case. It was a case of things that we need to correct, now. Obviously, you've got to give the other teams credit, for doing what they need to do to win the games."

When you lose a player of this caliber, if you're going great is it easier than losing him right now, at the worst possible time, when you're trying to turn things around? "I think any time you lose him, you lose him, because it's an adjustment. That's production on the floor. Not just that, but it's also leadership -- the little things that you don't get on the floor, the repsect level around the league when he steps on the floor, from the officials understanding who he is -- those are the things that you don't account for. But, I think anytime you lose a key part, it's always tough. I don't think it matters whether you win four in a row, lost five in a row, it's all the same."

Are they telling you that he will be back this season? "I just heard four weeks, five weeks, that's all I was consumed with. I didn't get caught up in anything else."

How's Tyrone dealing with this? "He's OK. I guess, as good as he can be at this point. I understand how it feels to be injured and out of games, so I guess as good as he can be."

His career might not be over, but how do you reflect on what he's meant to your transition? "Oh, he's made it smooth. When you're takling about a guy who's a wing player who goes to the point guard position, that's not easy, and I thought he did a great job adjusting, from that standpoint. But, a guy who's done a lot of good things for us -- rebounding, assisting, attacking, scoring -- and again, the leadership. I think he's really grown as a basketball player, when it comes to leading this team."

What have the guys on the team felt? "I think, right now, Sam, Jabari [Bird], those guys have those qualities. Even  Stephen Domingo, who doesn't play a lot, at least currently, those guys have the types of qualities to be leaders on the floor. And, they do that every day. It's not a case of, 'OK, Tyrone's out; let's try to lead.' They have that in their DNA. They bring that to practice all the time."

Does it make you feel better that Ivan Rabb and Jaylen Brown are coming into their own? "As long as they're playing well, because it's a team game, and I think those guys have done a good job, because they continue to grow every game. The continue to grow every practice, and they'll have to step up even more, just from the standpoint of, not necessarily production, but awareness, preparation, focus, all those things. I think that's the next phase for those guys, because they can score the ball, they can do things to give us a chance to win games. I just think those little things, attention to details, scouting reports, staying out of foul trouble, that's where they help, more than anything."

What will you miss most about him on the floor? "A guy that can make a play. I think that's the biggest key, when you're talking about one of about five guys in all of our league that can make a play -- you can give him the ball anywhere on the floor, and he can get to the rim and make something happen. Not many guys can do that."

In your career, can you think of other examples where you've had to deal with this big of a loss at this point in the season? "Yes. I think my second year at Tennessee, Jeronne Maymon, who was our best player on the team, he was out for the whole season. He tried to go, and just couldn't go. That was a tough blow. He had multiple knee injuries, and he was kind of the heart and soul of the team, from a physical standpoint -- toughness, what he brought to the table, 6-7, could play the one through four -- so that was a big loss. Again, it's more for the young man. Your team will bounce back, and injuries are a part of the game. You hate for it to happen to you, but it's really for the young man, for what he has to go through."

"One thing about players, you make adjustments. You keep moving. It's like when your brother's down -- it's not like he's not part of the team. He's still in the locker room. Every player wants to play. Sam Singer coming off the bench, Brandon Chauca not playing as much, those guys would love to be starters. It's tough to see Tyrone go, but it's also, as a player, you have an opportunity, and I've always said, with adversity comes opportunity. You have to be ready when it presents itself."

On Arizona State (11-7) and new coach Bobby Hurley: "They're doing a great job. They have some experience returning, some tough guys, physical guys. They played very well against us here, last year. They play hard, they rebound the basketball, they crash the glass extremely well. I think with Tra Holder as a sophomore point guard, he's probably scoring as well as anybody in the league. He's doing a great job scoring the basketball. Last year, he probably averaged eight, nine, 10 points, but he did more facilitating than shooting. Now, he's really shooting the ball, he's shooting it at a high level, he's getting to the rim. He has a lot of guys around him that can not only shoot the ball, but make plays off the dribble. When you've got multiple guys between 6-6 and 6-8, who can dribble the ball and shoot from three, with physical stature, it creates a problem if you're not ready to rebound and box out."

They have one true big in Eric Jacobsen. How does he compare with other bigs in the conference? "I think he is one of the three guys I would say in the league is a really good low-post defender, one-on-one defender. They'll double the post now and then, but he does a good job positioning himself to play post defense, but also to get charges around the rim. He protects for those guys. I think he does a really good job of that. That's what you'd expect from a senior."

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