Basketball: Behrens thinking big

I talked a few minutes ago with Christian Berhens, who told me he was “99 percent” sure he would commit to Cal even before his recruiting visit was done two weekends ago.

“I just felt like Cal presented me with the best opportunity, academically and athletically,” said Behrens, who called coach Mike Montgomery with his verbal commitment on Monday evening. “I feel like they have a lot of upside. I can see where I can fit in.

“I see a lot of great things in the future with this program. It just felt right when I was on the visit. The guys were great.”

Behrens, his mother and his younger sister flew to London to visit family after his recruiting trip and he used the time to solidify his commitment.

“I didn’t want to let this opportunity slip by me,” he said. “I realize it’s an honor to be playing in the Pac-12 and also be able to attend such a high caliber of university at the same time.

“Especially for a team that just won the national championship . . . uh, I mean the conference championship.”

And he started laughing. “We’ll get there,” he said.

Behrens, who stands 6-foot-8, said the Bears envision playing him at small forward and expect him to compete for playing time next season as a freshman.

“They’re pretty much leaning toward me being able to have an impact more sooner than later,” he said. “They needed a wing, a small forward that could drive and score off the dribble and be more versatile.”

Behrens played inside and outside on his Tahoma High team in Covington, Wash., but his skill set should allow him to be a 3-4 hybrid in college.

He and his coach, Rob Morrow, said he needs to continue working on his ballhandling. Morrow describes him as an excellent passer and good shooter.

Behrens was beginning to attract high-level recruiting attention as a junior when he suffered an ACL knee injury in January 2010 that required surgery.

A number of schools “were kind of scared off a little bit . . . Cal stayed with me,” Behrens said. “They said they were still going to recruit me.”

Assistant coach Travis DeCuire visited last July, then watched him play in January. That’s about when Behrens said his surgically repaired left knee began to feel whole again.

“I really started playing like myself toward the last half of the season after our winter break,” said Behrens, who wound up averaging 21.7 points and 10.5 rebounds. The knee “has its moments when it gets a little sore after I over-work it. Other than that, it’s pretty normal.

“I’m still working a couple percentage points off a hundred percent.”

Jeff Faraudo