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October 11, 2018
San Francisco, California
Q. Your thoughts on your schedule and then you have the two games in between those at home.
WYKING JONES: Well, it's going to be a lot of travel, obviously. The good thing about the China trip is that we're there for six days before we actually have to play. So we 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, 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.
Q. How much of a concern is that for you, the traveling?
WYKING JONES: You know, a little bit of a concern, but the guys have to play a 40-minute game. They should be ready to go.
Q. What else are you guys going to be doing in China while you're over there?
WYKING JONES: We're going to be at -- Disney in Shanghai is one of the stops. We're going to be visiting Alibaba campus while we're there. They have a couple things that we're -- a couple stops for us while we're there.
Q. What are some ways that Cal fans can expect the team to look different this year?
WYKING JONES: We're going to be a lot smaller this year, a lot more guard-oriented this year, having Paris Austin at the point this year is going to -- 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 haven't -- we've upgraded our talent 1 through 10, and 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.
Q. You continue to have Justice play the 4, a little bit of small ball out there?
WYKING JONES: A hundred percent. 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.
Q. You mentioned Paris is kind of like your quarterback out there. Are you comfortable with other guys handling the ball like Justice, like Darius?
WYKING JONES: 100 percent. Juhwan Harris-Dyson, Darius was our point guard last year. He's still out there. He moves to his natural position at the 2 where he can really focus on shooting the ball and scoring. But if we need him to back up at the point, he can do that. He's done that. He's got a year of that under his belt.
And just even our big guys handle the ball. So I'm looking forward to the versatility that we'll be able to have out there on the floor.
Q. You have four quality freshmen coming in. Talk about how the new pieces are fitting and integrating the first few practices.
WYKING JONES: 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.
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. More versatile group. 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.
Q. Can you give us a snapshot of what each of the new guys are bringing to the program this year?
WYKING JONES: The four freshmen, Matt Bradley is big, strong, rugged, doesn't even look like a basketball player. He's just a big 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 is his pull-up, 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 scoring as well as back to the basket scoring.
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.
Q. Have you managed to get Connor to gain any weight?
WYKING JONES: We have. 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. And 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, more so than it is on the offensive end.
Q. I'm curious how influential Paris has been. This is a guy that had to sit out last year. It's a long season to sit out and stay on the bench, but time and time again he was always on his feet cheering on his teammates. How influential that for your team?
WYKING JONES: Well, for him, 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 continued to be a positive influence on his teammates, and now finally get 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.
Q. With a couple of exceptions, you have a really young team to work with, a lot of freshmen and a lot of sophomores. How do you expect those younger guys to step up and become leaders and help you win games down the stretch?
WYKING JONES: Well, the sophomores have had a year of playing Pac-12 basketball. 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. In year three I had 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. So 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.
Q. What aspect of basketball do you like to control the most? Is it turnover margin, is it the pace of the game? What is it for you?
WYKING JONES: 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, and so just trying to make sure that we feed the hot hand.
And that's part of -- that's Paris's job. That's -- 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 feed off of that, but also having a point guard out there that can recognize that is also very helpful.
Q. What kind of influence is David Grace on your staff and your team?
WYKING JONES: David has been great. 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.
Q. Can you talk about Darius McNeill, what you expect from him this year, especially since he'll now be able to play his more natural position at the 2 with Paris starting at the 1?
WYKING JONES: Well, Darius is more comfortable shooting the ball, being a scorer, and so being able to play him where he's more comfortable I think is really going to help him have a great season. Last year obviously he knocked down a bunch of threes, breaking the freshman three-pointers made record last year, and so now he has -- he's going to have more opportunity to play to his strengths. I'm looking forward to him having a great season.
Q. Is Darius going to be the primary backup to Paris at the 1?
WYKING JONES: A hundred percent, yeah, I would say so.
Q. With the newcomers, have there been any surprises or anyone who's really stood out to you?
WYKING JONES: I knew that Connor could shoot the ball when I recruited him, but to actually see it in practice and see it against competition consistently, day in, day out, in shooting drills, in live play, has been -- it's been fun, more than anything. Just see a big guy out there that can shoot the ball like that. I would say that's been the biggest surprise.
Q. As you guys are gearing up towards your first exhibition game, are you guys kind of where you want to be at the moment in terms of conditioning?
WYKING JONES: I don't know, as a coach I don't know if you're ever where you want to be. You always feel like there's more month do, more to put in, more to learn, more to sharpen up, and so we're just -- we're working. We're teaching. And my approach this year is just to slow things down a little bit. Last year I was really -- I wanted to put my system in, offensively, defensively, and this year we're just slowing things down.
Just slowing things down. We're going to get good at what we're doing. We're going to slow down and just look at every single piece of it and just -- really just get good at what we're doing from an offensive standpoint and a defensive standpoint.
Q. Juhwan Harris-Dyson had a rough year last year. Now that's behind him. Talk about how much it's going to help you guys to have a full healthy JHD in the lineup this year.
WYKING JONES: It's going to help us tremendously to have him 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.
Q. I asked about the guys what they were most excited for on this team, and they said chemistry. How have you seen that play out in the locker room and on the court?
WYKING JONES: Well, they're one of the closest teams I've ever been a part of, ever been around. 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, and then you'll see -- hopefully you'll she shooting percentages go up because we'll make that extra pass to get the open look.
Q. How much of an emphasis -- I don't know how much you can say this, but how much of an emphasis was there in scheduling California teams in your non-conference schedule?
WYKING JONES: Yeah, it was something that I wanted to do. Us coaches, we see each other throughout the recruiting periods. We sit next to each other in the gym all day long. All day long. And so, you know, in my mind, it's like, hey, let's play the local guys. Why not? It's a great game for the fans on both sides. You don't have to necessarily get on a plane. So why not play the local guys and get some competition and create some buzz around the Bay Area?
And so we decided to do that. We go and we play in China -- we're going to get more than enough travel early, going to China, going to Brooklyn, and so to me, it just made sense to come back and play locally.
Q. You talked about Andre Kelly being up to 260 now. How is he -- he may not be like the tallest guy in the world, but how does he provide that kind of size in the post?
WYKING JONES: You said be up to 260. He's down to 260. He 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, and so, you know, the more -- the better shape he continues to get in, the more he's going to be able to help us.
Q. You said when you were hired you wanted to run the press and the 2-3 zone, and last year's roster may not have been the most -- the best roster for that type of system. I was asking Justice back there, and he said this team might be the most versatile in terms of that. Do you feel like that system is better suited for this particular roster that you've put together?
WYKING JONES: Yeah, I mean, I feel like we have more interchangeable pieces from a defensive standpoint, which allows you to be able to do those things. You know, 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, yeah, we have the versatility to be able to do that.
Q. Do you see the guys that have been with you for the year get a little bit of that uptick --
WYKING JONES: Yeah, 100 percent. 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. So yeah, 100 percent. 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.
Q. What did you learn from the team last year and kind of how will you guys use that this season?
WYKING JONES: More than what did I learn from the team is what I learned from myself was to just slow things down. Just slow things down, not be in such a hurry to implement all these different things at once. You know, just slow things down. Let's put this in. Let's get good at it. Let's take a week, get good at it, keep looking at it, keep looking at it, dissect it, show it on film.
Like one of the things we do now is I make the guys diagram plays. We'll be in the film room, we'll watch film, and I'll say, Paris, go to the board and draw this particular play, so that he sees every single piece of it. I'll say, Connor, you go up and draw up this particular play, so even as a big he has to dissect and know where everybody is supposed to be.
So we're doing more things like that where we're just taking our time and just getting good at what it is that we're going to do.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports