In our Trippin’ series, we’re talking to teams as they return from preseason trips to foreign locales. Click here for all Trippin’ related stories.
By Jeff Goodman
It was simple for Cal's Mike Montgomery.
"It wasn't any more complex as I'd never been there before," Montgomery said.
And that's why the Bears played five games in Sweden, Denmark and Norway.
Montgomery said that if his team stays healthy, he doesn't see any reason why Cal can't contend for the Pac-12 crown this season.
"I expect us to have an opportunity to compete for it," Montgomery said shortly after returning from the trip.
What Montgomery learned: "We've got a long way to go fundamentally. We've got some talented kids, but sometimes you take it for granted. They just aren't there yet."
What/who impressed him the most: "It was a mixed bag. Allen (Crabbe) shot the ball well the first game, then disappeared. Richard Solomon played well the second game, then got hurt. Freshman David Kravish really knows how to play and seemed to be at the right place at the right time. It looks like he'll be able to help. Also, Robert Thurman was much more consistent and has really really improved - especially his knowledge of the game."
What his concerns are: "We've got to stay healthy. Jorge missed three games and we're a different team - night and day - when he's on the court. We need both him and Harper to be healthy."
- Bak Bak didn't make the trip because he had visa issues getting back to the country and arrived just days before the team left. Bak hails from the Sudan, but was arriving from Kenya. "I didn't want to risk it," Montgomery said. Montgomery said that Bak needs to make a step forward in his third year with the program and be more physical.
- Jorge Gutierrez sprained his ankle on the final day of practice and missed the first three games before playing the final two.
- Richard Solomon missed the final two games after suffering a minor eye injury.
- Harper Kamp, who has battled knee injuries for the past couple years, played two games because his knee was "acting up."
- Montgomery said Crabbe needs to be more aggressive and not just settle for the perimeter shot.
- Montgomery needs to be able to utilize his bench so that guys like Gutierrez and Kamp don't wear down late in games - and late in the season.
- Montgomery is hopeful that guards Emerson Murray, a sophomore, and freshman guard Alex Rossi can give the Bears quality minutes to give the team some depth in the backcourt behind the four core guards: Gutierrez, Crabbe, Brandon Smith and Justin Cobbs. Rossi, a skilled freshman, is still getting back to 100 percent after dealing with a sports hernia. "It's a tough injury. His body is still behind," Montgomery said. Murray, known for his athleticism, had a plate removed from his foot over the summer.
- It sounds as though Solomon, who was cut from the U-19 U.S Team earlier this summer, received a dose of humility. "He does a lot of flashy things," Montgomery said. "He needs to do more of the day-to-day things."
- Smith and Cobbs will likely share the role of running the team. Smith brings toughness and a stabilizing influence to the table while Cobbs may have more talent, but isn't quite as disciplined as Smith right now. "We can play them together, also," Montgomery said. "Cobbs can play some two."
- Montgomery will be smart with Kamp. "We can't run him into the ground in practice," he said. "We just can't do it. He's going to need some time off because we're going to need him on the court."