Everyone seems to agree that Gary Franklin Jr., who committed to Cal over the weekend, is an excellent prospect.
But don’t expect an immediate consensus on what position the Mater Dei High-Santa Ana guard will play for the Golden Bears.
“I don’t think he’s a point guard. I don’t think he’s an off guard,” said Mater Dei coach Gary McKnight. “I think he’s a guard. He can play point, he can play off guard, he can play defense.”
Franklin is no help, either. I asked him straight out what position he plays, and he showed an elusiveness coach Mike Montgomery hopes he displays on the floor.
“People ask me all the time: What kind of guard do I think I am? I just tell them I’m a winning guard,” Franklin said. “I do whatever I can to help us win. I can shoot, but because I’m a point guard I can also get people involved. Coaches trust me as far as ballhandling and making decisions.”
With senior Jerome Randle set to graduate after this season, Franklin figures to duel current freshman Brandon Smith for Cal’s point guard job next season.
“In college, I think coach Montgomery is going to give me an opportunity to handle the ball and run the point,” Franklin said. “Me and Brandon will be in there as the ballhandlers. I think I have a good chance (to start).”
McKnight added: “I think he’s going to play guard. But he’s very versatile. He can really shoot the ball.”
Rated among the nation’s top-100 prospects by most of the main scouting services, Franklin averaged 14.2 points and 4.5 assists last season for a Mater Dei team that was 31-2, but lost in the CIF Southern California final.
He played alongside 6-foot-10 twins David and Travis Wear, now freshmen at North Carolina, and 6-8 forward Andy Brown, a freshman at Stanford, who suffered a knee injury midway through last season. Guard Tyler Lamb, headed to UCLA next season, completed the starting five.
This year’s team also features Keala King, a top-100 guard who has committed to Arizona State.
McKnight said Franklin is a perfect fit on every team because of his demeanor.
“He’s got a great attitude — he’s always smiling,” McKnight said. “He’s a very good student, and he really goes out of his way to help the team. He’s very courteous of me and he’s the captain of our team, the leader of the pack.”
“I pretty much do whatever it takes to win,” Franklin said. “My teammates sometimes get mad when I don’t take shots. I’ll pass up shots to get other guys the ball.”
Franklin is the fourth member of the Class of 2010 to commit to Cal. He likes the nucleus that will arrive on campus together next fall: power forward Richard Solomon and shooting guard Allen Crabbe, both from Price High in Los Angeles, and small forward Alex Rossi, of New Trier HS in Winnetka, Ill.
“I know them pretty well. I know their game pretty well,” Franklin said of Solomon and Crabbe. “The three of us together, as well as Alex, I think we’ll be pretty nice.”