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Basketball: Bears by position — center

Starting today, I’ll provide a position-by-position breakdown of what the Bears figure to look like next season. We’ll start in the middle.

CENTER

  RETURNING: Max Zhang
  LEAVING: Jordan Wilkes
  ARRIVING: Markhuri Sanders-Frison
  UNSURE: Taylor Harrison

Jordan Wilkes’ decision to graduate and depart this spring with one year of basketball remaining eligibility deprives Cal of its most experienced center. But while Wilkes has a good understanding of the game, his impact on both the offense and defense was modest.

Markhuri Sanders-Frison, a 6-foot-7 1/2, 275-pound junior from South Plains JC in Texas figures to be the Bears’ new man in the middle. Coach Mike Montgomery said he has long arms and noted that he spent a year at a prep school before playing two seasons of high-level JC ball.

“I hope (he provides) a little post presence,” Montgomery said. “He’s a big body. We’d like to get him in at 270 — he probably weighs more than that.

“He can take up some space inside and he’s got a pretty good feel for the game. He brings a little maturity.”

Monty said he’d be happy with the same kind of numbers Sanders-Frison put up while splitting time at South Plains — about 9 points and 6.5 rebounds.

Zhang, the 7-2 1/4 native of China, is the tallest player in Cal history. But he arrived two years ago as a project, and he’s still not ready to contribute on a regular basis. He played 67 minutes spread over 15 games this season, averaging 1.3 points. He did block 13 shots.

“Max just needs to get stronger, which is obvious,” Montgomery said. “Contact bothers him. It takes him out of the things he does, mentally. He’s a very skilled kid, but he has to be able to react more naturally to a situation that occurs.

“Max kind of goes by the numbers: `I’m going to shoot that shot.’ If taken away, he doesn’t have a natural response to counter with. It’s hard for him.”

Harrison, the third-year sophomore, has spent the past two seasons on the sideline, trying to let a chronically ailing knee heal. It doesn’t look promising.

Montgomery said Harrison has made no final decision, but it won’t be a surprise if he opts to take a medical retirement, which would allow him to finish school with financial aid, while freeing up a scholarship for the basketball program.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Sanders-Frison figures to be the starter, with power forward Harper Kamp sliding into the spot a couple times periodically to give him a rest. Big Max may need another year in the weight room.

Jeff Faraudo

  • wehofx

    JF, great reporting this season. Thanks.

    MSF sounds like a 4 who’s going to try and play the 5. Or do you think he can be a real 5?

    I sure hope Big Max hits the weight room big time and the practice court.

    HK did a hella job this season but he sure needs some help on the block.

    GO BEARS!

  • rick bruce

    What about Bak Bak?

  • John

    We just need MSF to bang for those rebounds and have a nose for the ball. Boykin and Kamp are fine offensive players, but we just need that presence in the middle to body up the other team’s big man. He seems like the right size to do so.

  • milo

    MSF could be a 4-5 Brockman type player, letting Kamp play 4 and Boykins move to the 3, his natural position. Monty is right, if MSF can get 9 pts and 6 rb and bang people around that’s good and frankly an improvement over Wilkes.

  • Jeff Faraudo

    Rick,

    Bak Bak is a power forward. I’ll write about him Thursday.

  • Kevin B

    Albeit a few inches short, MSF sounds like a prototypical 5 to me. Reminds me of that center for Ben Howland’s Pitt that did a defensive number on Cal in the tourney a few back.

  • concordtom

    None of these guys are built to specifications. Therefore, Cal is going to get hurt in the paint again. At 6’7″, 270+, MSF isn’t going to be a vertical player. How we gonna compete against the big dogs down low?

    Then again, Pitt’s DeJuan Blair is doing the job at (listed) 6’7″ and 265 lbs. I just might have to shut up!

    I dare say MSF’s gotta avg 12+ if we are going to have a true post presence. That will help the team greatly! If the interior could draw defensive pressure, the outside guys will light it up. If…