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Basketball: Bozeman holds court in K.C.

Todd Bozeman — you all remember him — held court with a 22-minute podium press conference today at the Sprint Center in Kansas City.

The former Cal coach, now 45 and the coach at Morgan State, addressed a range of topics, including the recruiting sins that led to his ouster from Berkeley in 1996 and subsequent seven-year ban by the NCAA.

Bozeman was emotional, passionate, excited and never bitter as he discussed getting Morgan State’s Bears into the NCAAs for the first time in history. His team plays No. 2 seed Oklahoma Thursday night in a South Regional game.

He laughed when asked about seeing Morgan State sent to the same site as Cal.

“Well, I can’t say that I didn’t raise an eyebrow,” he said. “I smiled because I know that although the circumstances of me leaving Cal weren’t necesarily the greatest, I still have a lot of family and friends out there — we kind of call them framily. There’s probably more that think positive of me than negative.”

Bozeman apologized for his mistake years ago and said he has buried the past. He also said he has talked often to young coaches about avoiding the path he took when he paid the father of recruit Jelani Gardner $30,000.

“I definitely have told them, `Guys, it’s not worth it. It’s not worth it.”

Bozeman said he never doubted he would get a second chance, and hasn’t ever lost the passion he had as a young head coach in Berkeley.

“I always thought I’d have a chance. I didn’t know when it would happen. Maybe I’d be a volunteer coach at 75. But I was determined to get back in,” he said. “A lot of it was for my dad. I thought I embarrassed him.”

Bozeman’s father died three years ago, a few months before Todd was hired at Morgan State.

“I think of him every single day, sometimes four or five times a day,” he said. “A friend of mine told me every time you see a penny on the ground, think of it as your dad, telling you he’s walking with you. I pick up pennies all the time.”

The essence of Bozeman seems very much the same as when he was in Berkeley. Still very confident, his emotions riding on his sleeve. More mature, a few pounds heavier, he admits.

And very grateful.

“I feel so fortunate to be coaching,” he said. “I can’t even put it into words. I wouldn’t want to do anything else.”

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Basketball: Obama picks Terps over Bears

President Barack Obama picked Maryland to beat Cal in the NCAA Tournament bracket he filled out for ESPN.

“I’m kind of disappointed because I’m from the south side of Chicago,” point guard Jerome Randle said of the president, who also has Chicago roots.

“I’m defintely an Obama fan, maybe Obama isn’t a Cal fan,” added junior guard Patrick Christopher. “We’ll be OK. Everybody isn’t always going to necessarily be on our side. That hasn’t stopped us from trying to achieve what we want to achieve.”

Maryland’s players were tickled to have Obama’s support. “It felt good that the president knows about us and has confidence in us,” guard Adrian Bowie said.

“It’s pretty cool, but we’ve got to earn our wins in the tournament,” point guard Greivis Vasquez said. “We know we’re going to face a good team. It’ll probably help a little bit. I want to win on the court.”

Cal small forward Theo Robertson noted that Obama picked just one of six Pac-10 teams to win its opening game. “There wasn’t a lot of Pac-10 love from our president,” Robertson said.

Obama’s picks were Maryland over Cal, Utah over Arizona, Boston College over USC, Temple over USC and Virginia Commonwealth over UCLA. He predicts Washington will beat Mississippi State.

My first-round picks for the six Pac-10 teams: Exactly the opposite of the president’s.

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Basketball: Amoke doubtful with concussion

Sophomore forward Omondi Amoke, who figured to play a substantial role off the bench Thursday against Maryland, seems unlikely to play in the Golden Bears’ NCAA tournament opener after sustaining a concussion in practice Sunday.

Cal is listing the 6-foot-7 Amoke as day-to-day, but he didn’t sound convinced he would get to play.

“It’s really frustrating. I want to be out there with the guys. This is what we’ve been working all year for,” Amoke said. “I feel much better. I still feel kind of foggy, but it’s coming back. Hopefully, I’m ready to go.”

Amoke was injured when he landed on his back after a dunk Sunday and has head snapped back and hit the floor. “As soon as that happened I felt like I blacked out,” Amoke said.

Cal’s medical staff administered a test Sunday, which determined Amoke had suffered a concussion. He underwent the same test Wednesday morning and the results were better, but not enough to clear him.

Center Jordan Wilkes missed the Oregon State game this season two days after suffering a concussion at Oregon.

Cal coach Mike Montgomery didn’t’ paint an optimistic picture.

“He’s not ready today,” Monty said. “We’re keeping our fingers crossed. But he’s missed all week.”

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Cal football: Pro day

Tomorrow is pro day at Memorial Stadium. Scouts from every NFL team are expected to be there. The players I’ve heard for sure will perform are the following:

Alex Mack

Zack Follett

Worrell Williams

Anthony Felder

Rulon Davis

Cameron Morrah

Nate Longshore

Will Ta’ufo’ou

Sean Young

 

I’ve heard that Noris Malele won’t work out. Haven’t heard either way about Bernard Hicks or Mika Kane.

 

I will attend the event and have a post later in the day about it.

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Basketball: Randle dishes here and there

Here’s my story for the Wednesday editions on Cal point guard Jerome Randle and how his mother has helped him navigate through the hard times on the way to Thursday’s NCAA Tournament game against Maryland.

Here’s more from Randle that did not fit into my story:

– Randle had a very close relationship with his older cousin, Daryl “Chunk” Abrams, who would play ball with him . . . but only after Randle properly prepped the neighborhood court.

“In the winter time he would make me shovel the whole court to play ball,” Randle said of snowy days in Chicago. “We were like brothers. He was really, really tough on me. I just hated to lose.

“Just being around me, made my drive go. He was a good basketball player and I wanted to be better than him.”

After Abrams died during Randle’s junior year at Hales Franciscan High School in Chicago, Randle got a tattoo on his right shoulder that reads: In Loving Memory Chunk.

Continue Reading

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Cal football: Spring practice No. 3

The things that struck me the most about Tuesday’s practice were the same things that struck me about Sunday’s practice — Kevin Riley was once again sharp, and Giorgio Tavecchio continues to boom the ball.

Riley did make one mistake when it appeared he threw to the wrong area on a route by Jeremy Ross, but otherwise he was very good. He made a terrific throw over the middle and through traffic to tight end Anthony Miller, which prompted an animated reaction and pat on the rear from Jeff Tedford. Then he lofted a perfect long pass down the middle on a play action play, right in stride and softly into the hands of Nyan Boateng. That got some hoots and hollers out of running backs coach Ron Gould.

Tavecchio, meanwhile, consistently nailed 42-yard field goals. During another special teams session when the kickers work on their own kicking off a tee perpindicular to the field, Tavecchio blasted one from the Cal sideline into the opposite stands.

Tavecchio has been working hard in the weight room since the end of the season, and it shows.

“His work in the weight room is really evident,” Tedford said. “The ball is really jumping off his foot. He looks very good.”

You can tell Tedford is taking a very keen interest in the team’s kicking situation because he spent the entire field goal session of practice tailing Tavecchio as he attempted different kicks from different parts of the field.

“I’ve been lifting like crazy,” Tavecchio said. “I’ve been getting a lot stronger, just working on followint through the ball, making good contact.”

Some practice notes:

–Cornerback Darian Hagan and wide receiver Verran Tucker missed practice to concentrate on academics. Tedford said both players will periodically miss some spring sessions to hit the books.

–The team got a bit of a scare when wide receiver Alex Lagemann crumbled  to the turf clutching his knee. It ended up looking a lot worse than it was. Lagemann had to stop and plant to reverse field to try to catch a pass thrown behind him by Brock Mansion, and it looked pretty bad. But after being helped off the field and getting a little attention from the training staff, Lagemann was able to return to practice.

–Tight end Tad Smith made a terrific catch for a touchdown, jumping in traffic to haul down a pass thrown by Riley.

–Chris Conte got the first team reps at corner in place of Hagan.

–After practicing in just helmets the first two days, the Bears added shoulder pads today. Thursday will be the first practice in full pads. After Thursday’s practice, the team will part ways for spring break and return on March 31.

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Cal football: Back to basics

Brock Mansion said he and the other quarterbacks spent some time recently watching old film of Jeff Tedford-coached teams. They watched Kyle Boller, Aaron Rodgers and so on. The idea is to get in tune with Tedford’s offense.

“We have a good basis for everything now,” Mansion said. “We’re going back to basics. We’re basically starting from the bottom and working from there to make sure we have a good foundation we can go back to.”