Press Conference - 1/4/00 - Pre-Cal/Stanford
"Our non-conference schedule worked out very well for us. I was very concerned with it coming into the season with the amount of youth we had and how they would respond to a difficult schedule like that. I think that we accomplished what we wanted to get out of the non-conference games - tough competition that makes you get better. We played in a variety of arenas, but we would have like to have played in one more road-type game, as opposed to a neutral site. Texas was a good test for us because it was a big game for Texas and to their fans, and they were very much into it. We didn't get into what we are going to see this weekend - a smaller arena with a very hostile crowd, where the crowd is closer to the court.
"I feel good about where we are with the exception of one thing. Without having Lamont Frazier, a combo guard-type, in practice situations, we have not had some of the matchups that we would like. The last couple of days, we have had Gilbert (Arenas) running a little more at the point, going against Jason (Gardner), with Richard (Jefferson) over at the 2-guard and Luke (Walton) or Ricky (Anderson) at the wing.
"Obviously, up front, Loren Woods' play has continued to elevate. Michael Wright has also had an excellent last few days, and I thought that he played very well in the tournament.
"We need Richard to continue to stay focused for longer periods of time. The only thing that stands between him and being a great 3-man is being consistent. If you look at his ability and that of Sean Elliott, Chris Mills, Jud Buechler and Michael Dickerson, great 3-men to come out of this program, and Richard is as talented as any of them, maybe more so. But he needs to bring the same kind of intensity to the court every practice that was present with all three of them. That is why they have been good NBA players for so long. Look at where he was last year, to his performances this year, and he has made great improvements. He is our top 3-point shooter. We are looking for him to take the next step and maintain an intensity level through every minute of every practice session, and it will be there in games without question about it.
"They look to be a very young team, but I think it has been a case of where freshman have beaten out some of the other guys. Going in to the season, I think people expected Solomon Hughes to be starting in the post, but (Nick) Vander Laan has looked good in there so far and has made more of an impact. I thought Donte Smtih, who is a very talented player out of Washington D.C., would be in the point position, but Shantay Legans has been there, although Smith has played a lot.
"(Cal) relies on (Sean) Lampley a lot like we relied on our two seniors last year. He is someone who has always seemed to play well against us. He is doing everything well this year, rebounding, scoring and he can pass as was evidenced by his 12 assists against Davidson.
"I think that you could put our (the Pacific-10 Conference's) freshmen up against anyone (in the nation). If you look at the two we have (Arenas and Jason Gardner), Casey Jacobson at Stanford, (UCLA's) Jason Kapono and Brian Jackson at Oregon State, they are all doing so well. I am not sure there has ever been a better freshman class come in here (to the Pac-10). Look at all of the guys at Cal and ASU, too. There have been a lot of openings for them to come in and play with guys leaving early (for the NBA).
"John Ash has been doing a better and better job at the point for us each day. With John, he has is coming to the realization that he doesn't need to do great things. He just needs to play well, not commit turnovers and generally take care of the ball."
University of Arizona player quotes -
Jason Gardner -
"I know this (road trip) is going to be tough. This is really our first road trip of the season, and we are going to have to play two good games. We have played in enough big games that I don't look at myself as a freshman anymore, since we have played 13 games.
"I think this is going to be a lot of fun. Stanford has a great crowd, and when they jump up and down the get the floor shaking. We are going to play a lot of tough road games, so I don't think this is going to be all that unusual.
"I'm playing alright now. My shots have been off, but I have still been getting my assists and some rebounds. I still have some things to work on, but I think I am getting my shot back somewhat. I miss one shot and another, and I get kind of down on myself. We have had off for a couple of days, and now I get a new start in the Pac-10 games."
Loren Woods -
"We have been getting ready for this for the last three or four weeks. The coaches have said from the beginning that all of this (non-conference schedule) is to get ready for the Pac-10 season, and I think that we are ready. We have played some tough opponents, but with the Pac-10, it is going to get really tough. Last year was tough watching these games from the bench or home. That was a different team, though, and I know that I can contribute this year.
"(Playing at) Duke to me was really not that tough. Clemson was the worst for me. I don't know if anywhere is going to be as bad as Clemson, but I hear that Oregon is pretty tough. The (loud) atmospheres really don't affect me that much. I don't really hear the crowd, and I can pretty much block everything out. Sometimes, I don't think the coaches like it because I can even tune them out when I am focused on the game.
"We definitely can't overlook Cal. They have the mental edge going into this game because of what the did to us last year up there. If we overlook Cal in any way, we are going to get blown out of the water."
Michael Wright -
"I expect to draw double teams from every one of the Pac-10 teams. It is not going to be like Delaware when they did not double team me. I am used to it, and it is something that we are going to be prepared for.
"Playing up there (at Cal and Stanford) last year was a learning experience for me. Coming in as a freshman, we came in and I was kind of amazed at how the crowd would shake the floor and taunt us. I know what to expect now, though. I have told them (Arenas and Gardner) that this is going to be a completely different atmosphere than the neutral court games or playing at home. They are fast learners, so I think they are going to know what to expect."