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.
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.