NCAA Basketball

Young Cal looks to make strides in coach Jones' second year

(AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

By JANIE McCAULEY

AP Sports Writer

BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) The losses were painful, several far more so than others.

Cal experienced an embarrassing 24-point defeat at the hands of Division II Chaminade. The Golden Bears took a 27-point beating at home from Central Arkansas and lost to Portland State by 25, also at Haas Pavilion.

It ended up the worst season in school history.

Second-year coach Wyking Jones has been impressed by how the players came together through all the rough moments and have become a more close-knit group by spending time bonding. Cal took a Soul Cycle class together and went to movies this summer.

"I think it's going to play a really big part in this season especially because it's our second year together, we know each other, we're getting that chemistry up and it'll translate onto the court definitely. It has shown to do so, so far in practice," sophomore forward Justice Sueing said.

The game films were not easy to watch.

"As hard as it was looking back onto the season and realizing what we could have done better ... it really serves a purpose to us because as a young team and being counted out in the preseason rankings, it really gives us some motivation," Sueing said.

Cal will have Oakland native Paris Austin as its floor leader now that he's eligible after sitting out last season following his transfer from Boise State.

The Bears will begin the season in China against Yale on Nov. 9, then it's right back for a pair of games in the Legends Classic in Brooklyn only days later.

"It's going to be a great experience for our guys, a culturally enriching experience for our guys and our staff," Jones said. "But, it's a business trip. We have to go get the win."

Here are some things to watch for with Cal this season:

MORE EXPERIENCE: After Jones spent his first season establishing a system on both ends of the floor, he feels the Bears can slow things down and add to it now that the players have a grasp of the concepts. "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," Jones said. "It's nothing that they haven't heard before or done before. They're all familiar with it."

RETURNERS UNITE: Sueing realizes he and the others who have had a year in Jones' system must help the freshmen quickly transition. "The guys that have played a lot of minutes ... that were thrown in there, we were forced experience onto us, I feel like ultimately we'll use that to translate onto the freshmen and then to our game play," Sueing said. "We're trying to improve every day. We're trying to make a run." Juhwan Harris-Dyson had a slow start last season because of a respiratory illness but now the sophomore guard is ready to go.

CHINA TRAVEL: The road trip to Shanghai will total 14,291 miles flown and more than 28 hours of travel time. That could be both daunting and beneficial for a young Cal team picked 11th in the Pac-12.

SHOOTING WOES: Cal shot 40.6 percent from the field and 28.6 on 3-pointers - making just 148 of 518 from deep - but has more capable shooters this season. Jones said he expects the Bears to stretch the floor and make it tougher on defenses with a balanced attack. "You can expect us to shoot the ball a lot better than we did last year," he said.

POSITION SWITCH: Sophomore Darius McNeill will move from point guard where he played last season to his natural spot on the wing. Austin, a high school teammate of former Cal star Ivan Rabb at Bishop O'Dowd, will take over point guard duties. "We're going to be a lot smaller this year, a lot more guard-oriented this year," Jones said, noting with Austin "I think that automatically makes us better. He's been playing that position his whole life. He's a natural leader."

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Updated October 26, 2018

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