Basketball: Christopher OK with expectations

I talked this afternoon with Cal guard Patrick Christopher, who told me that being picked so low in the Pac-10 inspired the team a year ago, but that the Golden Bears are fine with being tabbed by some to win the conference next season.

“The Pac-10 is a great conference. I think it will be very competitive next year,” he said. “Having somebody pick you low is a pretty tough feeling. But it’s always good to climb to the top and prove everybody wrong.”

Picked eighth in the preseason a year ago, the Bears finished tied for third in the Pac-10, compiling a 22-11 record and reaching the NCAA Tournament. Cal returns everyone from that team except starting center Jordan Wilkes.

As a result of that experience, and defections from other programs, several online outlets — including ESPN.com — have made the Bears the early favorites to win the Pac-10 next season.

“When you have that target on your back, the situation is a lot different, not because we put ourselves there but other people put us there,” Christopher said. “We have to play like we’re in 10th place and feeling no pressure. I think everybody will be used to the system and what to expect. I think it will be a great year for us.

“It’s motivating,” he said of the expectations. “It keeps you going when people are talking. It’s different because it’s always about being an underdog . Now we’re going to have to prove we’re good enough to be at the top. But that’s not a bad thing.”


Basketball: Underclassmen draft rumblings

Sounds like UCLA freshman guard Jrue Holiday might be staying in the NBA draft, after all. Jonathan Givony of Draftexpress.com reported on his blog that, according to one NBA exec, Holiday is “moving up more than anyone in this draft,” and could find himself in the 6-to-10 range. If that’s the case, he won’t be back in Westwood.

Meanwhile, the Web site also said Saint Mary’s sophomore guard Patty Mills is awaiting paperwork from the NBA that will allow him to attend the Reebok Eurocamp in Treviso, Italy, without jeopardizing his collegiate eligibility. The June 6-8 camp is not sanctioned by the NCAA, meaning that Mills would have to reimburse expenses if he travels to Italy for the event, then opts to return to Moraga.

Gaels coach Randy Bennett told me tonight that Mills worked out in Dallas for the Mavericks on Wednesday but came away without a real sense of what the club thinks about him. The Dallas Morning News confirmed that UCLA senior point guard Darren Collison also worked out for the Mavs on Wednesday.


Basketball: Harrison has regrets, looks forward

Taylor Harrison is hurting. His left knee hurts every day, the reason he decided to retire from playing for Cal’s basketball team.

It hurts him, too, that a career that never really got started is now done.

“There’s really not much I can do,” he said Tuesday, announcing that he is stepping away from the game. “It’s a terrible thing because I worked so hard over the last two years to try to come back and play basketball and be with my teammates and friends and brothers.

“To work that hard and almost taste it . . . there were times when (coach Mike) Montgomery looked down the bench and said, `Taylor, are you ready?’  He tried to throw me in there a couple times.  It would have been good to have played this year.”

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