Martin and Squad Ready For Australia


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By Jim McGill, Staff Writer
Posted Aug 12, 2015
If by BearInsider Staff or Contributor, this article is Copyright © 2017

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Cal head coach Cuonzo Martin
RSF/Berkeley, CA -With their trip to Australia just around the corner, the Bears wrapped up practice tonight in the RSF and are making final preparations for departure.
"What they've done in practices is they've done a great job of working hard," said Cal head coach Cuonzo Martin. "The competitive spirit's really been there so that's been great to watch.

"We put a lot of our offense in so we've been focused more on the defensive side of the ball, just understanding the principles -especially for the new guys but also for the older guys reacclimating.

"It's really fun to watch them compete. We've probably done more scrimmaging than anything. It's been good."

After having an extended evaluation period to seel how the greatly-expanded roster, Martin was asked if he's learned anything new about the 2015-16 version of his team.

"Not really," said Martin. "You've got good ballplayers. You've got good guys.

"It's just a matter of having fun and playing some games and competing in those games.

"We're not just going over to hang out in Australia. We want to win games and get better.

"We'll have different lineups and we'll do some stuff that we practice and see who plays well together. See who can run and score the ball and work on spacing and things like that. Have pace on offense. Everything we've worked on, we want to see it transfer on the court."

As for early standouts?

"The guys are playing well, all the usual suspects," said Martin. "I think Kingsley (Okoroh) and Kam (Rooks) are doing a great job defending the post and scoring the ball, dunking and being a presence. The fist three or four practices, I didn't see a presence from those guys around the rim. But I think those guys are starting to impose their wil around the rim and being physical."

With small forward/wing Stephen Domingo now eligible to play after his transfer year, the hope is that some of what he brings to the court will free up wing Jabari Bird to play more effectively, without as much defensive focus on him game in and game out.

"Guys like Stephen Domingo and Jabari Bird, they make shots," said Martin. "They're threats to catch and shoot whenever they step on the floor.

"In Stephen's case, a guy that can play the 2, 3 or 4 brings a different threat for you. When he's at the 4, he's got a bigger guy defending him and you can put him in a lot of different positions to be successful, where it's hard to defend him. Most big guys aren't used to defending that way."

"As a coaching staff, we want Jabari to be aggressive. To play hard and compete. Be ready to catch and shoot and attack off the dribble. 

"He'll always put pressure on himself to be a good basketball player, though. He knows what he needs to do but I think we have more guys now that will help him be who he needs to be."

In his first two seasons, backup point guard Sam Singer rarely displayed the perimeter touch he was known for at Ransom Everglades, where he averaged over 30 points per game. However, once he hit a big game-winning shot over Washington late last season, the old confidence returned for Singer and he seemed to play much more freely as the season wore on.

"He spends a lot of time in the gym, working on improving his shot," said Martin. "Sam can make the 3-point shot but I don't really think that's Sam Singer.

"I think Sam's game is getting to the rim, making big plays, being a great defender, making big assists and maybe a 3-point shot if it presents itself. But he's not coming down and taking a bunch of 3's a game. It's not what we do well.

"We tell our guys, do what you do well and do what you feel good doing. Yes, he can make 3-point shots, but in order for us to be successful at a high level, it means facilitating our offense, getting to the rim and hopefully he can get 8 or 9 assists a game and 5 or 6 rebounds."

After nine days of practice and departure for the Land Down Under imminent, has Martin settled on a base five starting lineup?

"I really don't," said Martin. "I don't have a (starting) five at all. 

"We might mix it up and have four or five different lineups. We might go four guards. We might go with an offense with Ivan Rabb at the center position.

"We haven't said anything to the team but the guys have played well. I will say we have nine core guys that can play anytime and have really earned it.

One of the most positive developments with five players added to the active roster that can play big minutes is the ability for Martin and staff to sub more frequently to keep his best players fresh and get maximum effort on a consistent bais -an element needed in a high-intensity system like Martin's.

"It's hard to play as hard as we want to play with guys playing 35-40 minutes a night," said Martin. "When you're short-handed, it eventuallly take a toll on you. Not to make any excuses for our guys -they continued to compete. But it is what it is. We need to play at a high level to play at the level we want to play at."
 To view Martin's full interview, use the embedded viewer below:
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