Basketball: Bears by position — shooting guard

Today’s installment as we preview the 2009-2010 Bears by position . . .


   RETURNING: Patrick Christopher, Jorge Gutierrez, D.J. Seeley
   LEAVING: No one
   ARRIVING: No one

Christopher tentatively plans to enter his name into the draft, but it seems inevitable he will be back for his senior season. Christopher’s name appears nowhere on any 2009 NBA mock draft lists that I have seen, and usually there are more capable prospects at shooting guard than any other position.

But if he can get valuable advice from NBA scouts on the areas of his game that need improving, then the experience will be well worth it. Christopher must declare by April 26 if he wants to put his name into the draft pool, then has until June 15 to withdraw, provided he hasn’t hired an agent.

At 6-foot-5, Christopher is Cal’s best athlete. He’s explosive, plays above the rim and has good shooting range. His 3-point shot abandoned him the final five games (7-for-33), but he also was given challenging defensive assignments in some of those games, so it’s possible he simply wore down. He’s improved as a defender, but has room to grow as a ballhandler and a player who creates his own shot.

Still, Christopher is an all-Pac-10 first-team player who averaged 14.5 points and was at his best in some of Cal’s biggest wins: 23 points in the home victory over Arizona, 27 in the triple-overtime win at Washington, 29 in the late-season home win over USC.

Gutierrez, who was Montgomery’s first recruit last spring, had a very solid freshman season, especially when you consider he was asked to play both guard positions. He is Cal’s toughest perimeter defender, a ferocious competitor whose confidence grew as the season unfolded.

The question is: What position will he eventually play?

“Everything depends on everything . . . nothing is pre-determined at this point,” said Montgomery, when asked where Gutierrez will wind up next season.

Cal would like to let him spend more time at point guard, but may need him off the ball for now. Defensively, he can have an impact either way. Offensively, he still needs lots of work on his ballhandling, decision-making and perimeter shooting. But he’s a tough guy, and Montgomery likes him.

D.J. Seeley, recruited by former coach Ben Braun, saw sporadic action as a freshman this season. His confidence seemed shaky early in the year and he’s not a real physical player yet.

“He just needs to get better at everything,” Montgomery said. “He’s a  pretty laid-back kid. This is hard. You’ve got to come to work every day. That’s the only way you can improve.

“I don’t think (working this hard) has ever been asked of him. It kind of took him off guard a little bit.”

THE BOTTOM LINE: Christopher should be ready for a big senior season, but who lines up behind remains to be seen. Gutierrez likely will have to play the combo guard role again, as Seeley continues to develop. The Bears could benefit from a bit more depth here, but they’re in good hands with Christopher as the starter.

Jeff Faraudo