Cal Basketball

Jones, Austin and Sueing Rep Bears For Pac-12 Media Day

October 11, 2018
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SAN FRANCISCO: Cal head coach Wyking Jones, junior point guard Paris Austin and soph wing/small forward Justice Sueing addressed local and national media at today's Pac-12 Men's Basketball Media Day at the Pac-12 Studios in San Francisco.

The Bears kick things off on a big road trip, playing Yale overseas in Shanghai, China on November 9th before returning for a pair of quick games in Berkeley, followed by another road trip -this time to the East Coast in the Legends Classic in Brooklyn, NY.

"It's going to be a lot of travel, obviously," said Jones. "The good thing about the China trip is that we're there for six days before we actually have to play. So we'll have enough time to get acclimated to the time, to the different circumstances, the hotel, the whole deal. But it's a business trip. We're there first and foremost to win the game, and we're really looking forward to it.

"It's going to be a great experience for our guys and a culturally enriching experience for our guys and our staff. But like I said, it's a business trip. We have to go get the win. And then we come back home and play right away. We land on the 11th and play on the 13th, and so we're going to have to get acclimated and get to work and get prepared for those games. And then two days later, four days later, we're headed to Brooklyn. So it's going to be a lot of travel, but we'll be ready."

This year's Cal squad will look significantly different that last season and the Cal head coach highlighted some of the differences Cal fans can expect to see.

"We're going to be a lot smaller this year, a lot more guard-oriented this year," said Jones. "Having Paris Austin at the point this year I think that automatically makes us better. He's been playing that position his whole life. He's a natural leader. He's from Oakland, so he has a lot of pride in wearing that Cal jersey, and I'm just really looking forward to him quarterbacking our team this year.

"Along with that, you can expect us to shoot the ball a lot better than we did last year. I feel like we we've upgraded our talent 1 through 10. We won't have Marcus and King, big bodies, but I feel good about us being able to stretch the defense with guys that can really shoot the ball. Our big guys, Connor Vanover, Andre Kelly, Grant Anticevich, they all shoot the ball, so it's a different look than what we saw last year. 

"Justice will play some 4. He'll play his natural position at 3, as well. From an offensive standpoint he gives us a clear-cut advantage at the 4. He stretches the defense. He opens up the floor. And you know, he goes down there, he battles, he rebounds. But he'll also play some minutes at the 3, as well, so definitely will use him at the 3 and the 4 this year." 

The four new freshman arrivals appear to be significantly impacting the team in summer drills and early practice and will raise the bar on athleticism over last season for the Bears.

"I think the thing that I'm most happy about is the cohesiveness amongst our team, how close these guys are, how much time they spend together on and off the court and how much they trust each other," said Jones. "In practice, I'm always applauding them for sharing the ball. It's not a lot of one-on-one, it's a lot of making the extra pass, getting open looks. A more versatile group overall. I'm excited about them being close. I'm excited about them caring about each other. I'm excited about them being able to play team basketball on the offensive end as well as the defensive end, trusting each other.

"The four freshmen -Matt Bradley is big, strong, rugged guy Doesn't even look like a basketball player. He's just big and strong. Doesn't look like a freshman. Strong body, physical. But he's very skilled. He shoots the ball from three at a high rate as well as pull-ups in the lane. That's probably his go-to i-his pull-up, (being) able to pull up in the lane. So he brings scoring to the mix.

"Jacobi Gordon is very versatile. I can play him at the 4. He rebounds the ball very well. He has a high basketball IQ, probably the highest of all the freshmen at this point, especially on the defensive end. He knows where he's supposed to be. But he shoots the ball. He can get to the rim. Really good offensive rebounder. He has good size.

"Andre Kelly is our biggest body, 6'8", 6'9", 260. He's physical. He's strong. You know, he has a scorer's mentality for a big. He knows how to score. He feels very comfortable facing (the basket) scoring as well as back to the basket scoring.

"Andre was 269 when he got to campus. So he's down to 260, and he's in much better shape than when he arrived, and he's moving well and he's more explosive.

"Defensively he's going to have to guard ball screens and do those things. The better shape he continues to get in, the more he's going to be able to help us." 

"And then Connor Vanover is just kind of...I've never really coached a kid like this. He's a 7'3" kid that really, really shoots the ball. He has great range, great touch around the rim. He feels more comfortable facing up than he does with his back to the basket. I think as he continues to gain weight and add strength, he'll feel more comfortable with his back to the basket, but he's a 7'3" kid that really shots the ball. So I'm excited to see what these guys all bring this season. 

"I think when he got to campus he was 208, 209, and he's up to 221 at this point, so he's gained 10+ pounds. It's something that we stress, and he knows it. It's something that's important. And more than anything, it's important on the defensive end, moreso than it is on the offensive end.

Perhaps more important than the arrival of any of the freshmen, junior Boise State point guard transfer Paris Austin is making the biggest impact, running the team as a true veteran point guard.

"This is a dream-come true situation for him, to be wearing that uniform after being at Boise for two years and having to sit last year, and he's continued to be a positive influence on his teammates. And now, finally getting a chance to get out there and show what he's made of. I'm excited for that. He's very excited for that. His teammates are excited for that.

"He's our natural leader. He's very vocal, whether it's good or bad, towards his teammates. He's not afraid to call guys out, and that's what you want from a point guard. We'll see what happens, but I'm excited to have him out there."

With the departure of senior bigs Marcus Lee and Kingsley Okoroh to graduation, the Bears will be a decidedly young squad, with a quartet of sophomores in McNeill, Sueing, Juhwan Harris-Dyson and Grant Anticevich being counted on to play increasingly bigger roles this season for the Bears.

"Well, the sophomores have had a year of playing Pac-12 basketball," said Jones. "They've had a season underneath their belt. You know, it's just a situation where, yeah, we're still young. We don't have any seniors.

"It's going to help us tremendously to have Juhwan be who he is from the start. You're talking about a kid that plays both sides of the ball. He's our best defender. He takes a lot of pride in his defense. It's something that's kind of his calling card, to be a great defender. And so him being able to start the season off -last year he lost 20 pounds. He went from 200 to 180, so by the time he gained the weight back late into the Pac-12 play, then we were all able to see who he is and how good he is, and so him being able to start the season off on the right foot is going to be great. I expect him to have a really good year.

"In year three I have my whole team back, including my recruiting class for 2019, but the sophomores, they're the older guys, so they've been through the fire. They have to help bring the freshmen along and encourage those guys, teach those guys, because they've been through it.

"Although we're young, we've still got to have leaders, so I'm calling upon Justice Sueing to be that guy. He's demonstrated that he can lead and be more vocal than he was last year. He's our returning leading scorer, 15 points a game in Pac-12 play. He's very talented, so he's been doing a good job leading. Paris is a natural leader, so he's been doing a great job, as well.

Jones was also asked what one of the main elements he tried to monitor and control as a coach.

"For me it's trying to make sure that we get the hot hand the ball. Just running plays. Once you get into the middle of the first half, you kind of have a sense of who's feeling it that particular night, and we have much better scorers 1 through 10 this year. So just trying to make sure that we feed the hot hand. That's Paris's job. A good point guard recognizes that and does a great job of that. And so as a coach, you want to run the plays to get that guy touches and feeds off of that, but also having a point guard out there that can recognize that is also very helpful."

In the offseason, the Bears added a couple coaching veteran's in former UCLA assistant David Grace and longtime Pepperdine head coach Marty Wilson.

"David has been great," said Jones. "Adding David to our staff, he's just a really good dude, at the end of the day. He's a great person from a recruiting standpoint. He's hit the ground running. We've had some really good inroads with him from a recruiting standpoint.

"From a basketball standpoint, he brings a lot, as well. I'm just very comfortable with him. I think we're all as a staff on the same page.

"Adding Marty Wilson to the staff, head coach for the last seven years at Pepperdine, Marty has been great. Marty coaches my defense, and he's been phenomenal. And I just think that just the overall staff connection is there, and I'm very happy about that."

On the intangibles front, Jones likes what he sees with team chemistry as opposed to the many distractions in last year's locker room

"They're one of the closest teams I've ever been a part of, ever been around," said Jones. "When I talk about sharing the ball and making that extra pass, they love doing that. They get excited about doing that. You know, so that excites me as a coach that I have guys that care enough about each other, and it's not about them, it's about us. And so I just think that that's going to help us in the long run, in the short-term and long-term. Hopefully you'll she shooting percentages go up because we'll make that extra pass to get the open look."

Last season, Jones hoped to implement a pressing, pressure-oriented defense to help create scoring opportunities and make up for their offensive shortcomings but the experiment was short-lived as teams figured out ways to break the Bears' press and make them pay on the defensive end.

Should he choose to implement the press more frequently this season, Jones feels the Bears are better equipped make it work in their favor -though more judiciously.

"I feel like we have more interchangeable pieces from a defensive standpoint, which allows you to be able to do those things," said Jones. "I don't think we'll ever get to the point where we're pressing the entire game anymore. You know, we're going to pick our spots, times to be aggressive, but I do think that the overall IQ of the team is a lot higher, which is what you need when you're reading, trying to read offenses, to play good defense. I just think that we have the versatility to be able to do that."

Heading into Jones' second season as head coach at Cal, how does he feel about his squad coming into the season?

"They've had a chance to go through the season, reflect on it, digest it over the summer, and now we're starting to ramp back up into being able to play," said Jones. "It's nothing that they haven't heard before or done before. They're all familiar with it. And the freshmen are still -- they still have their learning curve. But it's not a new system for the guys, for the returners." 

Stay tuned for more in-depth commentary from Austin and Sueing this week.

Discussion from...

Jones, Austin and Sueing Rep Bears For Pac-12 Media Day

Big C
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Anybody else happen to read this and come away with the numbers 269 and 209 stuck in their heads?
MoragaBear
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Staff
Here's Kelly at 269:

Obviously he wasn't fat then and he's definitely not fat now 10 lbs less, stronger and better cardio.

Now Vanover is skinny, even with the extra 11 lbs.
Big C
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Just my impression, but he doesn't look that heavy in the video and, last year, NOBODY was saying he was that heavy (don't think I ever saw him listed above 230). My guess is, he let himself put on a bit of weight before he arrived at Cal.

In any event, I know your main point was that this is a guy who can have 250-260 lbs evenly distributed over his body and not look fat, or even particularly heavy. True enough.

Might he be interested in playing a bit of tight end on the gridiron?
calumnus
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Big C said:

Just my impression, but he doesn't look that heavy in the video and, last year, NOBODY was saying he was that heavy (don't think I ever saw him listed above 230). My guess is, he let himself put on a bit of weight before he arrived at Cal.

In any event, I know your main point was that this is a guy who can have 250-260 lbs evenly distributed over his body and not look fat, or even particularly heavy. True enough.

Might he be interested in playing a bit of tight end on the gridiron?


Lol, I was thinking the same thing. Even if just short yardage, jump ball situations. It was one of the things I was thinking about if we needed a basketball scholarship freed up.
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