Tag: California Golden Bears

Cuonzo Martin
Associated Press

Cal players come together through weekly life chat sessions

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BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) Each member of the California basketball team has his own definition of what it is to be a man, a recent topic of conversation for the Golden Bears during one of their weekly chat sessions focused more on life than athletics.

This is just one focal point for second-year Cal coach Cuonzo Martin as he tries to best prepare his players for anything that might come up during college or later on – from a difficult family or personal matter to an unforeseen crisis or world event.

“It’s good to hear each other’s opinions on certain issues,” guard Sam Singer said Wednesday. “There are going to be arguments on certain things, we’re not going to see eye to eye but for us to be able to communicate through those disagreements and come to a solid conclusion is something that will help on the court as well. They’ve been very productive.”

Martin started this at his first coaching stop, Missouri State.

“It’s just really about life, not necessarily about basketball,” he said.

The meetings they call “Real Talk” happen on a weekend day in the locker room after breakfast, led by director of basketball operations Marco Harris. Martin turns up from time to time if he happens to be around, but if he joins in it is clear he is a peer and not an authority figure so that everyone feels comfortable speaking his mind openly and honestly.

“We just talk about different subjects of life, different things going on around the world,” said guard Tyrone Wallace, who returned for his senior season rather than entering the NBA draft. “It is a team-builder. We get to learn from each other as well as the coaches and the staff who attend. It’s just a chance for us to be together and bond.”

That process began during the team’s August tour of Australia.

Martin is all about providing examples from his own path. Perspective is one of those teaching points. He used to be so devastated by a loss it would ruin his entire day.

“It took me years to learn it’s just a ballgame,” he said. “When I was able to embrace it I was probably 23 years old.”

One thing Cal doesn’t need to discuss is the high expectations for this team, with the national spotlight already on the Bears and their star-studded freshmen. The group features what’s considered a top-five recruiting class in the nation led by local forward Ivan Rabb out of Oakland’s Bishop O’Dowd High and Jaylen Brown from Marietta, Georgia. Both will make an immediate impact for the Bears, who finished 18-15 and eighth in the Pac-12 at 7-11.

Now, the belief around Berkeley is that the Bears can contend for a conference title again not to mention an overdue NCAA Tournament run. The Bears last made the tournament in 2013 and took a six-point loss to eventual Final Four participant Syracuse. In 2009-10, Cal captured its first conference regular-season crown in 50 years.

“I don’t think we read too much into stuff on the outside,” Singer said. “We’re all very motivated, so we set high expectations for ourselves. We know what we want to accomplish and know how good we can be, so it’s up to us to determine how we do it with all the potential we have.”

Junior Stephen Domingo, a transfer from Georgetown who gets his first chance for the Bears after coming back home to the Bay Area, has been impressed with how the young players have participated in the chat sessions. Their on-court play is generating serious interest, too, considering the gathering of NBA scouts in the stands at Haas Pavilion on Wednesday as Cal went to work.

“These are some of the most mature freshmen I’ve ever met,” Domingo said. “They know how to carry conversations past basketball. It’s a great group of guys Coach Martin brought in. Jaylen, Ivan, Roman (Davis), they’re wise beyond their years, so they can talk about any controversial issue. It’s nice to know they’re well-rounded young men.”

Combo guard verbally commits to Cal

Cuonzo Martin
Associated Press
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While there’s still work to be done in the 2016 recruiting class, California landed its first commitment in the Class of 2017 Thursday afternoon.

6-foot-4 combo guard Alec Hickman verbally committed to Cuonzo Martin’s program, with the news being reported by ESPN.com. Hickman’s a talented guard who can play either on or off the basketball, and based upon California’s current perimeter rotation he’ll be an important addition when the 2017-18 season rolls around.

Experienced returnees Tyrone Wallace (senior), Jabari Bird, Stephen Domingo, Jordan Mathews and Sam Singer (all juniors) are all upperclassmen, with freshman Jaylen Brown being the lone underclassman. That means at least five of Cal’s current guards will definitely be gone by the time Hickman arrives in Berkeley, and Brown is projected to be a first round pick in next June’s NBA Draft.

Hickman, who attends JSerra Catholic in San Juan Capistrano, California, played for the Team Eleate grassroots program this summer.

California completes non-conference schedule

Cuonzo Martin
Associated Press
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With a solid group of veterans being joined by one of the top recruiting classes in the country, California is expected to rebound from a 2014-15 season in which they didn’t play in a postseason tournament in a big way in 2015-16. Thursday afternoon the program announced that it has completed its non-conference schedule, with the Golden Bears hosting fellow Bay Area program Saint Mary’s December 12.

“This should be a great game. Our two Bay Area schools have a strong basketball tradition,” California head coach Cuonzo Martin said in the release. “We have not played one another in more than a decade and I know our fans will appreciate the matchup. We are fortunate that a game between our two schools worked out on the schedule this year. Hopefully, we will be able to compete against one another more often in the future.”

Martin’s team, which will be led by senior point guard Tyrone Wallace and includes talented options such as juniors Jabari Bird and Jordan Mathews and freshmen Jaylen Brown and Ivan Rabb, is expected to contend in the Pac-12 as well as make some waves nationally. In addition to the game against Saint Mary’s, Cal will play in the Las Vegas Invitational November 26-27 against San Diego State with West Virginia and Richmond matching up in the other semifinal.

The Golden Bears will play just two true road games before the start of Pac-12 play, but both of those matchups provide interesting challenges. Wyoming, which will host the Golden Bears December 5, lost four starters from last season’s NCAA tournament team but the altitude in Laramie (the highest in Division I) is even higher than what Cal experiences in road games at Utah and Colorado.

And the other road non-conference game should rate among the best in the country this season, as Cal will visit Virginia December 22. Tony Bennett’s Cavaliers have finished atop the ACC standings (regular season) in each of the last two seasons, and they’re expected to contend again in 2015-16.