I visited with Mike Montgomery for a few minutes this morning, and he’s happy with the state of all his players, and encouraged by what he’s seen so far from his five freshmen.
“Their attitude’s terrific,” Montgomery said. “They had a great summer, really worked hard and look good physically. They’re freshmen making an adjustment both academically and on the basketball floor. They’re just freshmen and they’re going to be freshmen ’til they’re not. There’s a learning curve, but I like their talent level, like their attitude.”
Cal currently has just 10 available scholarship players, so the freshmen — Allen Crabbe, Gary Franklin Jr., Richard Solomon, Alex Rossi and Emerson (not Cameron!) Murray — all will get the chance to make substantial contributions.
Here’s what Monty had to say on various other topics:
— Junior forward Harper Kamp (knee) and senior center/forward Markhuri Sanders-Frison (back) both are healthy and in excellent condition. I talked to both earlier this week for a story that should run next week, and I was impressed by how good MSF looks. He said he weighed 293 when he arrived at Cal barely 14 months ago, and he weighs 264 now. He looks trimmer than that.
— There is no clear picture as to if and when junior center Max Zhang could return from China. After playing (very little) for his national team at the FIBA World Championships early this fall, he was asked to remain with the team for the Asian Games, which run Nov. 12-27 in Guangzhou, China. The Bears knew Max would be playing in the Worlds, but Monty admitted “we were caught totally off-guard” when Zhang was invited to remain at home for the Asian Games.
The two issues related to that are 1) Can Zhang get a waiver to become immediately eligible to play in the second semester (without passing the requisite six units in the fall) because he was participating in an international sporting event, and 2) Will the Chinese national team allow him to return to Cal in December, or will they want him to remain with the national team for further training/events?
As to the first issue, athletes in sports such as swimming sometimes are allowed to take a semester off to train and compete in specified international competitions (usually related to the Olympics), but Cal isn’t clear on whether the Asian Games fits that criteria. The 2011 Asian Games is listed as an Olympic qualifying event, but the 2010 competition does not appear to have that status. On the second question, Montgomery said he has no real idea what the Chinese program may ask of Zhang after the Asian Games, and he admitted, “It’s difficult to communicate with Max when he’s’ there.”
— Montgomery said sophomore forward Bak Bak, who missed the second half of last season after becoming academically ineligible, is in good shape physically and in the classroom. “He has put on weight and he’s not the same guy,” said Montgomery, noting that Bak recently did 18 pullups. When he arrived at Cal, he could not do any.
— Sophomore Brandon Smith, who will be competing for time at point guard, missed most of spring workouts because of a bad ankle sprain. That’s better now and Montgomery said Smith is in better condition than anyone on the team.