Story Poster
Cal Basketball

Pac-12 Men's Hoops Media Day: Madsen, Kennedy and Newell

October 11, 2023
3,868

LAS VEGAS - Cal head coach Mark Madsen, grad transfer guard Keonte Kennedy and soph forward Grant Newell represented Cal at today's Pac-12 Men's Basketball Media Day at the MGM in Las Vegas.

Madsen got started by talking about his transition with the team since his arrival.

“We get the workouts in the summer months and then we get the 20 hours starting in early, mid-September,” Madsen said. “Our guys have been going hard. They've been learning the system. It's been awesome. It's been a great experience. I'm incredibly excited about our team this year.”

The Bears are coming off their worst season in the history of the program but rather than Madsen dwelling on what went wrong with his predecessor, he noted the positives he was able to build on.

“I'll say this,” “Madsen said. It was a tough year last year for Cal, but it's not like there wasn't a lot of work going on behind the scenes. We're probably benefitting right now from a lot of the work, just even in terms of infrastructure and a lot of things that honestly the administration and Mark Fox worked really hard on last year, and now we're bearing the fruit of it this year a little bit.

“As a new staff, we're coming in and trying to inject even more energy, our own version of energy, to help get this thing to an even higher level. So I've never been more optimistic, and I love our team. I love all the changes that have happened, that the Cal administration has stepped up in a major way, and I love what our staff and our players are doing.

“I want to reiterate, we have lofty goals. We're not trying to just win -- we have lofty goals coming in. So that's part of the excitement that I feel.

“You look at our personnel, I think we're the team that a lot of people don't want to play this coming year. Other coaches, they can see what we've done, they can see the personnel, they can see the players. Other teams are not going to want to play us because we're going to play hard, we're going to play with great energy, we're going to be sound in terms of our coverages and in terms of how we attack teams.

“Look, as a coach, we all know, it's never perfect, but we're going to go hard at this thing.”

As a former Pac-12 player, Madsen wistfully reflected on the demise of the conference.

“I'm incredibly sad about it,” Madsen said. “I'm incredibly sad about the breakup of the Pac-12. In the back of my mind, there's always the hope, 20 years from now, 15 years from now, things don't work out with some of these other conferences and it gets put back together in some way.

“But that's the reality we live in, and we're still going to be able to embrace it. Where some doors close, other doors will open. I'm sure a lot of these West Coast rivalries, even though we're in different conferences, a lot of us are still going to try to find a way to play each other and keep some of those rivalries going, even though it's not in the same conference.

“Moving forward, just moving forward, we're in the ACC next year. The ACC has always been a phenomenal basketball conference. Already in recruiting, it's been phenomenal to talk about the ACC because we can talk about having a West Coast presence. We can talk about having an East Coast presence.

“The travel is going to be tough, but we're already looking at creative ways to help mitigate some of the effects there.”

Clearly last season is impacting media expectations for the Bears this season as Cal was picked to finish 11th in the 12-team conference.

“The great thing about playing a game is that all the experts can weigh in and try to pick who's going to win. Vegas can make their line and all those things, but when it's all said and done, every team still has to play in the game. Every team is going to have to chase our shooters around on the court. Every team is going to have to deal with our physical and tough inside players, posting up, stealing, rolling to the basket.

“At the start of every season, it's such a great thing because the media will pick the winner. They'll pick the all-conference team. But then even a guy that's picked first team all-conference, he still has to go out there and prove it every single night.

“So the word I would use for Cal is grittiness and toughness. Again, I'll reiterate that, just as a coach, there's certain teams you just don't want to play them. We're that team. Teams are not going to want to play us because we have a lot of weapons, we have a lot of ways to attack another team.”

Coming to his first D1 job with his arrival at Cal, Madsen will use his success (and occasional failures) to build upon in his quest to restore respectability to the Cal program this season.

“Over the course of four years at Utah Valley, there was growth and improvement every single year. We had some great successes. We had some tough losses along the way. You almost learn more from a tough loss than you do from a great win because there's that pain. You feel that pain.

“Then you look at what went wrong. You relive it, you watch the tape, and then you say to yourself, okay, this is never going to happen again. Then you try to put the systems and philosophies in place so it doesn't happen again.

“But that experience, especially in the WAC - the WAC is different than the Pac-12. A lot of teams in the WAC, it's a lot of little guys running around on the perimeter. So you have to learn how to deal with that style, along with traditional teams that play two big guys as well.”

In contrast to the plodding, low-scoring playing style fans have come to expect in recent seasons, Madsen is determined to open things up and run, as often as humanly possible.

“We want to play fast, great ball movement, and unselfish play,” Madsen said. “We want to have great spacing. We definitely want to play at a much faster pace than has been accustomed to, and we want that ball to move, to fly around.”

One of the interesting story lines this season will be the reuniting of Madsen and former Utah Valley center Fardaws Aimaq‍ a year after he transferred to Texas Tech before both made the move to Cal.

“It was awesome to reunite with Fardaws,” Madsen said. “Obviously, we've had a strong relationship for three or four years. Four or five years now actually. Fardaws is completely healthy, and he's worked hard to be in phenomenal shape.

“The year at Texas Tech last year was kind of an aberration year because of all the injuries, because of the adversity he went through. He has been fantastic with the team. He's been fantastic in practices, and he's going to have an extremely strong year this year in the Pac-12.

Commentator Don MacLean noted that if it weren’t for NIL and the transfer portal and it’s impact on roster retention, Madsen and Aimaq wouldn’t have had to reunite after a transfer.

“You played in the NBA. You played high level at UCLA,” Madsen said to McClean. “Back in the day, everybody stayed four years. Now it's one year free agency every single year. The difference between college and the NBA -- and you said it on your broadcast -- in the NBA, you can put players under contract. In college, it's free agency every single year, every single year.

“That's good for the players at times, at times, but it does make it -- it's almost like you're coaching a G League team in terms of all the movement.”

The transfer portal has also changed the emphasis on how recruiting is done, with the focus largely shifting from prep players to portal transfers, creating a difficult situation where there’s never really a break for coaching staffs.

“Yeah, it is,” Madsen said. “It used to be you had that lull in April, May. Coaches had a little bit of downtime in April, and May. Now there's no downtime. That March-April time frame hits, you're on a plane flying around to visit players. You're burning up your Verizon cell phone plan. You're doing all that.”

Madsen was inevitably asked about making the mental adjustment from playing for Stanford as an undergrad vs. coaching for his Pac-12 rival.

“The first couple of days at Cal, seeing all the blue was an adjustment, but I've embraced it,” Madsen said. “I love it. Obviously, I love my alma mater. I love my friends and teammates from there. I'm a Cal Bear now, and I'm excited to put all of my energy there.”

The precedent was set over a decade earlier with the tricky Stanford to Cal move, with former longtime Cardinal head coach Mike Montgomery moving over to Cal after a short stint in the NBA with the Golden State Warriors. Madsen was asked about Montgomery’s impact on him as a player and a future coach.

“Huge, huge,” Madsen said. “Mike Montgomery - obviously Casey (Jacobsen) played for Mike. Mike was someone who demanded perfect or near-flawless execution. Every set that Mike ran, it had a primary option, a secondary option, and multiple counters. Everything we did was so fundamentally sound, and the level of repetitions was huge.”

Host MacLean noted that the college game has changed significantly since he starred for UCLA and Madsen and Jacobsen did the same at Stanford.

“I think one of the biggest things I take is that the game has absolutely changed,” Madsen noted. It's all about spacing. It's all about opening up the lane. Shooting, rolling to the basket to create pressure on the rim. But all that being said, the principle of having a set and having multiple different things you can do out of that set, have multiple different counters is the defense, if they look out there and if they see a certain set, they have no idea what you're going to do. So that, I think, carries over. The style of play is very different.”

To wrap things up, Madsen was asked about his two players in attendance at today’s event.

“Let me start with Grant,” Madsen said. Grant is gritty. “Grant just brings a toughness. They're coming up now. What's up, guys? I heard footsteps over there.

“Grant is someone who just brings that Chicago toughness. He's not going to back down from anybody. He's been one of our best guys in terms of attacking the basket and getting to the free-throw line, and he knocks down his free throws every time.

“He stretches to the three-point line. He runs. He can handle. He can initiate the offense. And Grant, just in addition to being a phenomenal basketball player, he's a tremendous person. It's been great to get to know Grant.

“Keonte Kennedy, my man right here. Keonte, I tell the team over and over again, I say, guys, 95 percent of the time, Keonte Kennedy, when we identify the other team's best perimeter player, he’s going to be one guy who's guarding him. Why? Number one, because he has great technique, he understands angles, he studies the game. Number two, you can't measure the size of his heart, the level of his toughness, the character. He's not afraid to have fun. We're running a conditioning drill, and he's yelling at the camera. We play in the Haas Pavilion. He's calling it the Haas of Pain. He's putting that out there right now publicly.

“But these two players are a reflection of all the players on the team, but these two young men are extremely special, extremely unique, and we're lucky to have them.”

Newell was effusive in his praise for his new head coach and talked about the frustration of last season’s epic struggle as a team and the impact it had on him.

“It's great,” Newell said of playing for Madsen. “He's a really enthusiastic guy, hands-on approach. Teaches me and the rest of my teammates a lot about the game that we're going to need down the line.

“Of course it motivated me, but for the most part, I definitely flushed it all out. We're just focused on what we have coming this season. We're really excited about all the pieces we have, from staff to players, everyone.”

After growing up in Aurora, Colorado, Kennedy was asked about the difference between his next home in Austin after moving late in high school and his new home in Berkeley.

“It's different, but there's also some similarities too,” said. “I don't know, it's different dynamics, but it's similar in its own way. You've just got to be there to see it. But I like both. I love both for what they are. I think that's one thing I've been trying to value, just appreciate everybody and places I've been for who they are and what they are.”

Kennedy was asked about the positive impression he’s obviously made on Madsen as well as his new teammates.

“Just being who I am,” Kennedy said. “I've been energetic. I'm always going to bring a positive vibe. I think that's something I can always carry to whatever team I'm on. Like he just said, I'm a defensive player first. I can play on both ends, but I pride myself on defense, and that's where we win championships.”

Newell had a solid season as a freshman last season but with not a lot of help around him, he also had his struggles. He’s been working hard to take the next step in his development.

“One thing that I've been working on ever since last season ended was my three-point shot, fixing my shot mechanics,” Newell said. “I've been working day in, day out, every single day, taking a lot of shots. Also, leadership-wise, I feel like I just can lead by example, not really a whole lot of a big vocal leader, but things I do on the court just shows and speaks for itself.”

Newell was asked about the energy Kennedy has brought to the team, on the court and off.

“I think it's a big, important piece to have for a team, really, really energetic, all over the place offensively and defensively, high energy guy. One thing that Coach Madsen always tells us, and the rest of the staff, is that the best teams are player-led. We need things like this.”

Though he can shoot and score with the best of them, Kennedy obviously takes pride in being a defensive stopper wherever he’s played. He talked about how he developed that mentality.

“Actually, I have a little story,” Kennedy said. “Growing up, I always played for my dad, and I was a shooter. He was just like, when your shot's off, you've got to find something else to do. It just clicked on me in high school. I started defending, and I realized the impact it had on my team. I just got the crowd going, got us going, got us going in transition. A lot of teams I played for played fast, and were athletic, so we have to get on the rim. I think that's where it came from, just from the heart inside, and stopping the other team's best players.”

A key addition to the team this offseason was Texas Tech transfer center Fardaws Aimaq. Both Kennedy and Newell had plenty of good things to say about the big man.

Phenomenal, elite,” Kennedy said of Aimaq. “He's strong. He's athletic. He has that it (factor). He knows where the ball is coming off. He studies the game. I think he watches our jump shots. He's really intuitive on where the ball's going to go. He's just so strong and just overpowering.”

“He's for sure a problem,” Newell said of guarding Aimaq. “He's probably one of the strongest guys I ever played in my college experience so far, also in my life, you know what I'm saying? It's going to do a lot for us.”

Newell was asked about what he learned and is able to build on after starting the majority of the team’s games as a true freshman.

“It was really good to get a lot of experience despite the results we had last season,” Newell said. “There was for sure some fatigue that came with it. Took care of all that this past off-season, cleaning up all the things I need to do to keep getting better as a player.”

Both players noted the different playing style fans will see this season.

“It's a big difference,” Newell noted. “One thing I can say is we play a lot faster, we're going to play a lot faster. It's really exciting, and we like it too.

“We want to put up numbers,” Kennedy said. “We want to play with a fast pace. It's been fun. It's fun to see everybody get out and run. We're playing with freedom. We're playing with pace, and it's really unselfish basketball.

“It starts from the defensive end. I can hang my hat on that end because I'm the anchor for that.”

To play fast requires elite conditioning and the players have been putting in the work to be able to not only play at a faster pace but to sustain it.

Yeah, 100 percent,” Newell said. “Miami Heat drill, we all had to do that. I don't know if you all heard the stories. Honestly, for me it was easy. There's probably a video of me running backward at the end of it. For me, we're doing ten of them. I'm running to get all this in my bank for the last five, cool. We get done, and one of our assistant coaches, Maz, he's like this is the last one.

“I'm like, all right, of the set? So I get back and he said we're done. I'm looking around like we're done? It was actually kind of fun. I was able to get out with my teammates in the second group to push through. We really have a team atmosphere. But conditioning-wise, we're going to be in great shape as a team.”

Stay tuned for more one-on-one content from today’s media day.

Discussion from...

Pac-12 Men's Hoops Media Day: Madsen, Kennedy and Newell

3,477 Views | 9 Replies | Last: 1 mo ago by calumnus
BearSD
How long do you want to ignore this user?
Great stuff. Madsen brings so much energy and positivity. Looking forward to the season.

BTW -- I think the host of this event was Don MacLean, the former UCLA player who works at P12N?
MoragaBear
How long do you want to ignore this user?
Staff
BearSD said:

Great stuff. Madsen brings so much energy and positivity. Looking forward to the season.

BTW -- I think the host of this event was Don MacLean, the former UCLA player who works at P12N?

Yes that's noted in the story
Intuit
How long do you want to ignore this user?
Everyone on the set looked extremely uncomfortable. They needed to "right-size" the furniture to accommodate 6'5" - 6'10" humans. The budget wouldn't cover a first rate program.

Don Maclean looked bored throughout much of the interviews. He was seemingly more interested in his next question than the interviewee's comments or responses. It's obvious the Pac-12 network's product is deteriorating even further.
LongTimeBearFan
How long do you want to ignore this user?
Intuit said:

Everyone on the set looked extremely uncomfortable. They needed to "right-size" the furniture to accommodate 6'5" - 6'10" humans. The budget wouldn't cover a first rate program.

Don Maclean looked bored throughout much of the interviews. He was seemingly more interested in his next question than the interviewee's comments or responses. It's obvious the Pac-12 network's product is deteriorating even further.
MacLean always looks like that in the Clippers studio shows he does too -- it's just his demeanor.

He's clearly sort of a dick in life, but he's actually really good at giving unvarnished, insightful analysis.
concernedparent
How long do you want to ignore this user?
Refreshing to have a coach who knows how modern basketball is played and how the modern college landscape works.
MoragaBear
How long do you want to ignore this user?
Staff
Casey Jacobsen was there, too. You should've seen the sour look on his face when I asked what Stanford fans felt about them retaining Haase while Cal signed Madsen. Needless to say, he was not happy.
NVBear78
How long do you want to ignore this user?
MoragaBear said:

Casey Jacobsen was there, too. You should've seen the sour look on his face when I asked what Stanford fans felt about them retaining Haase while Cal signed Madsen. Needless to say, he was not happy.
Bahahahaha, kudo's to you Jim for asking that question (knowing full well the answer....)
KenBurnski
How long do you want to ignore this user?

Moraga made the edit!
calumnus
How long do you want to ignore this user?
This is another indication Madsen is thinking Kennedy and Newell will be starters.
Refresh
Page 1 of 1
 
×
subscribe Verify your student status
See Subscription Benefits
Trial only available to users who have never subscribed or participated in a previous trial.