After leading the Cal Men's Basketball squad on a successful 3-1 exhibition tour through Australia, head Coach Cuonzo Martin took some time to chat with Andy Katz and Seth Greenberg of ESPNU in late August.
In an early interview, freshman forward, Jaylen Brown, deftly described the purpose of the team's Australia campaign when he said, "We didn't come here to win games by 20 or 30 points. We came here to be tested."
Tested they were, and when asked what he learned most about this year's squad, Coach Martin highlighted the team's ability to compete at a high level. According to him, they did a great job with scoring, sharing the basketball, and maintaining effective spacing on both sides of the ball.
Coach really emphasized the manner in which the returning players like Tyrone Wallace and Jabari Bird have embraced the new talent in Jaylen Brown and Ivan Rabb. Inflated egos don't seem to be an issue with this squad and so each of the guys not only doesn't mind sharing the ball, but also is confident in his ability to score.
Wallace in particular is expected to make a huge impact on the team's success this season as a versatile and physical point guard. His biggest area of focus in terms of improvement is on directing the team as a point guard, running the playbook, and discerning who has a shot and who doesn't.
The other big veteran is Jabari Bird, who is coming off of another season riddled with injury. Despite that, Coach believes that in Australia, he played the best overall with the minutes he had, playing aggressively and defending at a high level.
Coach also addressed his expectations for Georgetown transfer, Stephen Domingo, who sat last season according to NCAA transfer rules. He believes Domingo is most suited for the 4 position, and expects to use him to spread the court with the three ball.
When asked about the young guns, Coach took a moment to reflect on the most difficult part of transitioning to Division I college ball: adjusting to a much higher defensive intensity. That being said, he praised Rabb and Brown for stepping up, highlighting their desire to be good and going so far as to endorse Brown's ability to not only defend but also play the 1-5.
With so many offensive weapons, Coach's primary focus is on defense and believes that, "In order to be successful at the highest level you have to defend, rebound, and play hard every night."
What we learned from Australia is that the team boasts deep talent, chemistry born from a common desire to improve, and an adaptability that can make the Bears a match for any squad they face.
To listen to the whole interview, click here for the full audio.