The latest subject in our Hoops Q&A series is Cal's Patrick Christopher, a senior from Compton, Calif. The 6-foot-5 guard averaged 14.5 points and 3.8 rebounds last season for the Golden Bears, who finished tied for third in the Pac-10 and lost to Maryland in the first round of the NCAA tournament. The following is an edited transcript of our conversation:
Luke Winn: Last year, on the day before the NCAA tournament started, I enlisted your sneakerhead expertise for an All-American shoe review for our Tourney Blog, which turned out well. What's going to be the go-to shoe for 2009-10?
Patrick Christopher: Right now I'm stuck on the Kobe IVs. I look forward to the Kobe V coming out; I think it drops sometime in February. But until then I'm wearing the Kobe IV. It's probably the most comfortable shoe I've ever played in. Usually I go more for style and color scheme, but this one is comfortable, low-cut, light, and I guess it helps that the greatest player of our era right now is wearing it, too.
LW: If you were able to design Cal's team shoes for next season, what would they look like?
PC: Since we're sponsored by Jordan ... I'd do a custom Jordan 11, since that's one of the most popular ones out there. I'd try my best to have our gold in there, because I think, at Cal, the gold is taken for granted sometimes, and it always looks great with our uniforms.
Our black shoes with the gold always looked great. The thing I'd have to keep from the original 11s, though, is the ice bottoms. You have to have the ice bottoms.
LW: You're an LA guy, and I read that LA Lights -- from LA Gear -- were making a comeback in the fall. Would you ever consider wearing those in a game?
PC: The interesting thing about that is ... I was going to go back to LA, because they have a shoe store there called Warehouse Shoe Sale, and they used to always have pairs of old LA Gears, and I was gonna get some. I wasn't sure if they'd have my size, but if they did, I was gonna rock some light-ups. It's been such a long time since the light-ups were out. But now that they're getting re-released, I don't think I want to do it anymore.
LW: It doesn't seem like there's a clear pick for Pac-10 champ this preseason. I'm going to have trouble choosing between you and Washington. Can you give advice on how the top of the league's preseason rankings should look?
PC: Well, I have Cal No. 1. I don't want to belittle anyone in the Pac-10, though, because anybody can win the Pac-10. It's such a tough conference. I think we're going to be good. Oregon State is bringing back the majority of their team, so they'll be a good veteran team like ours. Washington, I believe, is going to be tough too. And you can never count out UCLA, with all the things Ben Howland has done there. But after us, I guess I like Washington and Oregon State.
LW: Cal was the best three-point shooting team in the country last year [hitting 42.7 percent of its treys]. Other than having good individual shooters [Theo Robertson made 48.7 percent, Jerome Randle made 46.3 percent, and Christopher made 35.8], is there anything that coach Montgomery does in practice, or with your offense, to facilitate this?
PC: I think we get some pretty good rips up. We do have a segment of practice -- I mean, I believe every team in the country has one -- where it's more geared toward getting shots up. But it's possible that how we factor it into practice matters. It's not like we just come out and start shooting jumpers. We get things going and then the shooting segment is late -- maybe three quarters of the way in -- so we're getting shots up while we're fatigued. We're taking the same shots that come in our offense, too, and we're coming off screens and acting as if defenders are guarding us. I think all that stuff has been part of coach's philosophy since before he was coaching us.
LW: Last year, the toughest two non-conference opponents on your schedule were Florida State and Missouri, who aren't bad ... but this season you're going to play at Kansas in December, and maybe North Carolina in the Coaches vs. Cancer tourney final [with an opener against Syracuse]. How excited are you about that?
PC: Especially for the seniors, this is what we've been waiting for -- to get to play on the national scene, and accomplish some things that we've been trying to do for a while. It makes me excited about the season, and the preseason, and getting going early. I've never played at Madison Square Garden. That's the mecca of basketball. Then to go to Kansas, and play against the consensus No. 1 team in the country, will be a huge boost for us. I tip my hat to the coaches forputting together that schedule.
LW: Does it matter at all that you'll be coming right off of finals -- and a 12-day layoff -- before that Kansas game on Dec. 22?
PC: For a game like that, I think you throw everything that's in your life to the side, and focus on the game and then once that's done, then you bring everything else back in.
LW: One of the freshman joining the Bears this year is Bak Bak. He's going to be on every All-Name team, but I don't think people know much about him. Fill us in.
PC: Well, I call him Bak Bizzle. That's just a little something I came up with. He's originally from Africa [Kenya, by way of Sudan], and I was his [recruiting] host. He played in LA for a little bit in high school. Since being on campus, I've had the chance to play with him a little bit. He's very long, he can step out and shoot it -- a skilled player. So he'll be a nice addition for us.
LW: And he doesn't mind being called Bak Bizzle.
PC: Oh man, he just laughs about that. He's a good kid. I think once everyone gets back on campus, he's going to get more nicknames.
LW: I read about [your teammate] Jamal Boykin's art show -- called The Barack Obama Collection -- that went down in May near campus. You were there. How did everything look?
PC: Well, the show was pretty close to perfect, maybe even better than we had pictured it going. I was so amazed when I first saw his art [Boykin started it midway through the '08-09 season], because when somebody says they can draw, you might see them put together something that's decent, but his art is on such a professional level. He could really sell it. It's top-quality, and like I said, I was very impressed by his work.
LW: I saw some videos on a Cal blog [CaliforniaGoldenBlogs.com did a bang-up job covering it] of you reciting a couple of poems at the show. Can you tell me about the poems?
PC: The first one I did was a piece that I put together specifically for the event. Jamal had this whole "change" theme and it was about Obama, so I wanted to touch on that, as well as race, and the idea of being more than just another athlete, too. I can just recite them for you. They're pretty short.
LW: Please do.
PC: OK -- this is the first one:
So much deeperThan it seems.From what isn'tSeen, just by lookin.Unless you pick upThe book andActually Read. But somany Are judged by theirCover. Especially brothersAnd by that I simplyMean color. And othersThink they know the halfOf the drama.Black poor man asks forChange on the street.Rich man says...Ask Obama.And we've come along wayFrom slavery.To Rosa Parks' Bravery,Martin and Malcolm pavedThe way for me and peersAnd for yearsWe've been behind the climbOf this social ladder.While most of our role modelsRemain rappers.And that is a disaster.Lyrics filled with everythingAfter, they made it.Money, cars, clothes, women,Thinkin' they're winnin' but actuallyLosin',Abusin' what our children bringInto schools andIf they happen to talk about somethingElse...it's violence...They should try a new style of rappin.........Silence.So my children can hear positive blackMen speak of words that aren't as bitter.And I want children to follow me.........No need for twitter.No need for sitters.So stand behind me...And say Yes I CanDo all things throughChrist who strengthens me....And That's my plan.
LW: Well done. What's that one called?
PC: I actually don't title my poems. I always call them Untitled. The second one -- which is Untitled as well -- was for a girl, who was actually there [at the show]. I wrote it a long time ago, and recited at a sorority talent show when they asked me to perform. I have a lot of poems, but this is one of the few I know by heart. She was just a friend, and these were feelings, just thoughts that spilled out. I guess being a poet, some things just come to be.
Once things start rolling and the words start coming together, I guess magic is made after that. I can't really control it once I get going.
Beautiful, gorgeous...All of the above.But love neverWaswhat she Wanted...just becauseAnd I'd love to takeHer out.Make her shout.But because ofLaughter. Had toThrow you off toLet you know thatFlesh isn't whatI'm after.And if she doesn'tUnderstand that...Then disaster.Katrina. The towers.And I believe inThe powers of God.So I'll be prayin' for hours.But not for her.For a chance.To enhance my well being.And seeing that I'm a lonelyGuy.She is was I'm needing.Agreeing on the same thingfrom Her would be a lot.I plead, she disagrees,and wants and needs myLove to stop.So I stop.But you can't stop the feelingsOf feelingAnd to be willing to quitAnd back to chillin'...It doesn't work like that.I wanna wait.However long it takes.And if not.Then let my heart break.Because it can beRepaired.However long it takes.And if not.I guess I will have no mate.No steak, to go with myPotatoes.Fettuccine----- no alfredo.Spaghetti---- no prego.Got the syrup, but just no eggo.And she's an angel onEarth--- no halo.Not a day goesBy...When I don't think aboutWhy I'm by myself.And the feelings that I felt.But at the end of the dayThere was less help.So I was helpless.Never selfish.Because I always putHer first.And that's the worst.Because her feelingsLive in a hearse.Dead. And I could beg.On one leg.But instead. I standAway.Shakin' my head.Not ashamed.And I couldn't blameMyself.I tried it all...so I askWhy else.Or what else could IDo.Just to be with you.And I know I soundPitiful and worthless.But she is myWorld.And yet I'm so Earthless.
LW: In the video from the show, I saw that you read the first one from your Sidekick. Was that just an easy way to recite it for the crowd, or are you writing them on there, too?
PC: I've actually always written poems in my Sidekick. I have a couple that I wrote the traditional way, grabbing a pencil and piece of paper, but my Sidekick's always on me -- I guess that's why it's called a Sidekick. If I'm feeling it, I just grab it and get going.
And now I write some of them on my Blackberry, just because I have two phones like the rest of the basketball players in the world.
LW: Does writing poetry on a phone change the end result? I read a quote from the writer John Updike in which he said of his switch from typewriter to computer, "I don't know how this will change my writing, but it will." I wonder how the jump from paper to Blackberry affects things.
PC: With the technology we have now, maybe people take for granted the little things like a pencil and paper, and I do like writing with a piece of paper in a tablet. But technology is so convenient. I can be anywhere and have my Sidekick on me, and not need to worry about whether I have a pen or a pencil to take a thought down if one comes into my head. Maybe the Sidekick is me being lazy, but maybe it's me being comfortable, too.