We never pass up an opportunity to share a little banter with the fellas from one of the best fan sites around, California Golden Blogs, and with the Bears on the docket Thursday night, we got together for some hot Q&A action with CGB authors LeonPowe and Kodiak. Enjoy.
CougCenter: This is year three of Mike Montgomery, but in a lot of ways this feels like year one because this is Montgomery rebuilding with his guys. What's the general feeling around the program?
LeonPowe: Almost everyone recognizes what an excellent coach Montgomery is - however, there's a small undercurrent of worry about his uneven recruiting results. It is still very early in his tenure, but around the nation we see hotshot new hires pulling in top 50/100 recruits. While I think the majority of fans are happy with Crabbe and Solomon, and Jorge last year, we'd like Monty to hire a younger, plugged in recruiting coordinator. But we do feel set with the coaching and the building blocks.
Kodiak: We feel like we're in really good hands with Monty. He's proven that he knows how to develop players and build teams to play stronger than the sum of their parts. That being said, this is a rebuilding year. Because we graduated 90+% of our scoring/assists/rebounding, it's going to be a rough year. I think most of us have reasonable expectations. We're not rating this year as a success or failure based on wins/losses; I think we'd just be happy to see improvements from the young players.
CougCenter: Gary Franklin, one of the high-profile recruits Montgomery brought in this year, has already left the team in search of a different role. It stands to reason the Bears will miss his talent, but it looks like the offense might be better, at least initially, without him. Good or bad -- long-term -- that he's gone?
LeonPowe: Personal opinion - I usually feel pretty bad when a clearly talented - and by reputation hard working and decent kid leaves the program. On the other hand, he thought he had the Jerome Randle green light to launch from everywhere . . . and often. More than a few fans have suggested that Franklin's aggressiveness was curtailing the development of Alan Crabbe (the real star of this freshman class for Monty) - so his free gunning ways should free up more shots for the up-until-recently passive Crabbe. Without knowing if he could've learned to curtail his shot-happyness, I'd say long term, not unhappy that he left. But I do wish he had stuck around to see if Monty could turn Crabbe and Franklin into an All-Pac-10 backcourt.
Kodiak: Good short-term. Good long-term. No matter how talented he is/was/will be, if he's a bad-fit chemistry-wise, it simply isn't going to work. Monty's teams rarely feature or highlight outstanding athletes. His best teams rely on fundamental play and crisp execution. That simply isn't going to happen if you have one guy who always wants to call his own number. I'd rather free up the scholarship spot to bring in someone else that is a better fit for the program. Considering how many frosh we took this year (out of necessity), it helps with class balance, too.
CougCenter: Do you ever watch Harper Kamp (who missed all of last season with a knee injury) and get seriously annoyed thinking about what could have been last year?
LeonPowe: Sometimes - I think we would've gotten a few extra wins, a better seed in the NCAA and would've been nice to see last year's seniors off with a Sweet Sixteen or Elite Eight appearance. But at least he's playing, unlike Taylor Harrison.
Kodiak: Yep. A healthy Harper Kamp would have been the perfect complement to Boykin, Theo, PC, and Randle. Hard to say how far in the dance they could have gotten because of matchups...But projecting more wins + better seeding and mixing in a hot tub time machine - I wouldn't have been surprised with a Sweet 16 run.
CougCenter: The Bears' offense has struggled mightily at times this year. When it actually is succeeding, what is it doing well?
LeonPowe: We draw fouls at a prodigious rate. When we can get the ball into the post - either Kamp or Markhuri Sander-Frison, we score at a decent rate. Otherwise, points from the transition game or over the last handful of games, Crabbe becoming assertive really are our only reliable scoring options. Jorge has the ability to put together a decent scoring game from the wing as well.
Kodiak: Our bread and butter is our high/low game. Kamp/MSF are our most reliable scorers. They also happen to be our best entry-pass guys. So, initiating the offense between one or the other works pretty well. Especially with Kamp because he's showing a much-improved ability to put the ball on the floor. However, everyone knows that we like to run high-low. So, Monty has to mix it up with double low, or entries from the wings.
This gets a little dicier because our guards/wings aren't as adept at getting the ball inside. Jorge Gutierrez will make brilliant passes, but also tends to be overly aggressive and will force things that aren't there. Smith is a bit undersized and has trouble with long/athletic defenders. The other wings are very young/raw. The other thing that we're starting to do well is inside-out. When Crabbe/Gutierrez are hitting their 3's, it's a nice complement to our inside game. However, this all depends on being able to get the ball inside first without turning it over.
CougCenter: What's your strategy for holding Klay Thompson under 30 points?
LeonPowe: LA RAZA! Jorge Gutierrez is an excellent man defender, as well as having the ability to get under his opponents' (student sections inclusive) skin. Scrappy, decent size, decent strength and speed, but tenacious and plays a little too hard for most opponents.
Kodiak: Um. Hope he goes to Palo Alto by mistake on Thursday? We don't have anyone who can cover Klay. Harper is tall enough, but not quick enough. Crabbe has decent length, but needs to get stronger and simply isn't experienced enough to stick with an NBA-level scorer yet. Gutierrez lacks the height to properly challenge Klay. However, he'd play Klay really physically, try to face-guard him and deny him the ball, and try to frustrate him. I'm sorry - you guys will probably all hate Jorge by the end of the game, if not the 1st half. What he does to Klay won't be legal in most states...well, except maybe yours. If the refs are calling it tight, Gutierrez will pick up two early fouls and that's all she wrote. If the refs let 'em play, then it will be up to Klay to do what he does.
From what I've seen, he's expanded his game with the ability to drive it aggressively when he has an opening. That's trouble. We may just have to figure that he's going to get his, and hope that we can shut down or slow everyone else. I expect that Moore/Klay/Aden are going to be tough to stop. Where I'm most concerned is whether Casto will be able to negate our low-post game with his length. The battle in the low block could be a game-changer early.
CougCenter: Actually, there is no sixth question. We just want to thank you for Marshawn Lynch.
Kodiak: Much appreciated. We love that guy.