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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

  • SteveNTexas

    Oh boy another unranked unknown player -well at least ESPN ranks him #91 at his position. Scout nothing – no other schools listed as having an interest- at least with the last recruit Portland State had some interest.

    Rivals ranked California 10th in last place
    http://basketballrecruiting.rivals.com/content.asp?CID=1159332 and we weren’t close to #9 Oregon State whose recruit had 3 stars.

  • SteveNTexas

    Behrens may be thinking big – as its likely no major team had any interest .. but Cal is thinking small.

  • dball

    I’m certain the coaches are a better judge of talent than any of us. Behrens, welcome to Cal and Go Bears!

  • rollonubears

    if there’s any team that knows about rehabbing knees, it’s the bears. we did a great job with powe and with kamp.

    i’ve seen the film on behrens. he’ll make a solid contribution if he can stay healthy.

  • CalJeff

    Hey, SteveNTexas – have some faith in Monty, man. Jorge wasn’t highly recruited or ranked and he’s turning out well =) . Monty got these kinds of guys all the time at Stanford and always had competitive and strong teams that were ranked and won P-10 championships. Not only that, the story also points out that the kid dropped off recruiting sites’ radars because of his injury, but was getting buzz beforehand. Recruiting rankings are just one piece of how a player should be evaulated and until we see some true “busts” I’m excited about every guy Monty brings aboard at this point. Think positive!

    Welcome to Cal, Christian! You made an excellent decision.

  • CalHipHopHead

    So these guys may not be the most hyped recruits, but if they fit into Monty’s scheme, we will be ok. I don’t remember Butler having a bunch of big time recruits last year. They may not be Harrison Barnes or Jared Sullinger, but we have to give Monty the benefit of the doubt until proven otherwise. He has exceeded expectations since he has arrived Cal, so far with not a ton of top-notch talent (except maybe for Crabbe). So let’s wait and see how this works out, before we jump all over him.

  • rollonubears

    monty has a tough time recruiting top talent because a lot of top talent doesn’t want to put in the effort monty requires. they think they can coast into the nba on talent alone, and for some of them, maybe they can, but i’d rather watch a bunch of blue collar guys grind it out for 4 years and play as a team. i’ve got faith in monty.

  • Yoda

    Hey Steve, Gary Franklin was ranked in the 70′s and Jorge wasn’t. Who would you rather have? Jelani Gardner was loved by all the recruiting services. Your problem is that you believe those rankings. They are meaningless.

    Remind me again what your prediction was for the Bears this year.

    This kid will be a good player and you’ll eat crow again. Indiana will be mediocre and I’ll laugh.

  • discdude

    SteveNTexas, once again proving his middle name is Negative.

    Hey, no one is “happy” that Cal isn’t getting the top 50 recruits, but in case you haven’t noticed, most of these top kids go pro in 1 or 2 years and Monty has clearly stated he is not recruiting those types of players. Further, it took Monty about 10 years before he had a hyped recruit at Stanford. This program will get one much sooner (probably 2012), but this program was in the dumps and it’s finally showing signs of life (or would you rather go back to the Braun era?). There will be a player who is top 50 and commits to giving Monty 3 or 4 years. It will happen. In the meantime, this team is 2 losses by less than 3 pts, without Crabbe, from being ahead of UW in the P10 standings. Who saw that coming?

  • The Wisdom Cow

    First, the ACL injury has kept him out of the rankings.

    However, I empathize with Steve. I am still simply baffled that Monty, with his track record and his style of play in utilizing quality bigs on virtually each possession, has not landed a top tier big man prospect.

    It just doesn’t make sense to me. Any prize Big would learn defense and get more offensive touches than at any other school. All I can figure is that Monty’s honesty about the work the kid would have to put in scares off the guys that other schools fondle and promise easy rides.

  • dailycal02

    loving the revival of the English connection… if this dude is half as much of a gamer as Midgley we’ll be happy to have him. Anyone know how English he actually is?

  • rollonubears
  • discdude

    Ok, I’ll admit I sympathize, we probably should have landed at least one higher level recruit. I’m frustrated by it, but let’s be realistic too. Monty has said he’s not recruiting one-and-dones. He also is competing against some serious pedigreed coaches (and programs) in the P10 in Howland, Romar, Miller, he’ll probably not often win battles against them, so don’t expect it. Further, there’s a dearth of quality talent in the Bay Area hoops scene who can qualify at Cal. Some of the kids previously discussed just won’t qualify. Finally, he’s really just finished only his 2nd year of recruiting, since he came in late for the year after Braun. And in that first half year of recruiting, he picked up Markhuri and Gutierrez, 2 of 5 current starters, and probably 2nd/3rd team all P10 and definitely first team all P10. Then, in his 2nd year he lands Franklin, Crabbe and Solomon (all top 100 players). Franklin leaves (leaving a late hole to fill, btw), Crabbe is freshman of the year on his way to a multiple first team all P10 career, and Solomon is showing tremendous upside. The 2011 class with Kravish was pretty thin, I think that’s rightfully distressing, but now they landed 2 more, plus Cobbs coming in. 2012 is the year where he needs to land a major recruit (major being a 4-star type of student-athlete, not a one-and-done) and if doesn’t then, I might have to change my handle to discNdude.

  • milo

    How many scholarship slots were open?

    I agree, Monty isn’t going to recruit one-and-dones, that’s not his way and I believe that’s partly why he was hired. Tedford operates along the way lines…give the kids an education, make they do their school work and run a clean program.

    A low post pounder would be nice but there’s ways around that…like throwing bodies and fouls in there on rotation. Also if this kid Berhans grows, he could become a true PF.

    With Jorge, Crabbe, Kamp and Solomon as the core and the others, I think Cal can be competitive and make a run at the conference title…if things fall right.

  • jeh

    Monty is a great coach, and on top of that, is right now and into the foreseeable future on the top of his game.

    Whether he is a better assessor of talent/potential than almost all his fellow coaches or simply a genius at getting the most of his players, consider:

    First recruit is Jorge, presumably not of interest to any other major college basketball school. Last year, off the bench, for crying out loud!, he makes the all Pac 10 defensive team; this year, as just a junior, he will repeat on that team and also place on the overall all Pac 10 team, and has to be at least in the conversation for the Pac 10 POY

    Next 3 recruits: MSF, Bak, and Smith. Playing injured all Pac 10 season, MSF has been a major force, may get honorable mention for the all Pac 10 team. Smith, presumably unworthy of a Div I scholarship, is the clear leader in the conference for assists to turnover ratio. I grant that Bak does not yet earn Monty any kudos for his recruiting/coaching.

    This year: Crabbe, clearly best frosh in the conference and arguably in the running for the all Pac 10 squad. Moreover, it is obvious that his best basketball is in front of him. What I thought early looks now almost a certainty: With good health, he will prove to be the best wing ever to play at Cal and will make a mark in the NBA. Solomon–still pretty raw, but it would be no super surprise to see him develop into an all Pac 10 performer, at both ends of the court. The other recruits–Rossi (injured) and Murray–at this point, it is too early to evaluate. Franklin, of course, left the program.

    In sum, Monty in 3 years, with the first two of them really unbalanced, thanks to Braun, has delivered an all Pac 10 player in Jorge, the best first year player in Crabbe, the point guard, Smith, with the best assist to turnover ratio in the league this year, and in Solomon an inside player of extraordinary potential, who has already helped this team in his first year. And in MSF, he has brought in an unheralded jc transfer who has proved to be an excellent, if not all star, player.

    So, 5 extremely impressive recruits and in Bak and Murray two not so impressive recruits, but on whom the jury clearly is still out. Another, Rossi who cannot fairly be evaluated; ditto for Cobbs. Franklin? No comment.

    So, where’s the problem with Monty’s recruiting?

  • SteveNTexas

    One can always find a high ranked recruit who did poorly or a low ranked one who did well. There are some people on death row who may be innocent but we shouldnt release all of them.

    In general the teams with the best talent win. kentucky Duke etc usually have top recruiting classes. Central Florida and Tulane probably never get a top 20 recruit and never stay ranked either. Recruiting services get better with time. Its ok to rationalize one recruit that isn’t ranked and we don’t have to be rated first in the Pac 10 but none are ranked and we are rated LAST. Don’t spin it – this isn’t politics.

  • milo

    Texas…Cal isn’t Kentucky or Duke. Cal won’t take one-and-dones. If anything Cal is going to be like Stanfurd under Monty…a very good team that gets into the tourney and will make a run at serious rankings and the top 10 every 4 or so years. I think Cal has the core of a very good team and can win the Pac in the next few years…if things fall into place. Hell, Cal won the Pac10 last year.

  • Tdogg

    Steve, you comparison of recruit rankings to death row inmates is ridiculous. WTH are you talking about? Rankings are totally subjective. I’m sure Jorge would earn more stars than he got when he was in high school. So the fact that we are ranked last. Who cares? It’s totally skewed anyway because Behrens would have been ranked much higher before his injury. Cal is not Duke or Kentucky or stinking Texas.

  • Raf

    it’s funny how myopic and hysterical fans can be sometimes… cal just signed a top recruiting classes last year… this year not so great. it even’s out, relax. the bears will be fine… and competitive.

  • Paul Thomas

    You know what else Kentucky and Duke have? Titles in the last fifty years. Enormous fanbases. Athletic departments focused pretty much 100% on basketball. What a dumbass comparison.

    Now, let’s look at a program that is actually a NON-ridiculous comparison to Cal: Wisconsin. (Best not to even mention a program like Butler, which has been forced to make do with such 2-star mediocrities as Gordon Heyward, Shelvin Mack and A.J. Graves.) Also an academic school, in an area not flush with basketball talent, and with relatively little history of success prior to the last 15 years. Scout.com has commit rankings going back to 2002. In that time, Wisconsin has had:

    1 5*
    14 4*
    17 3*
    4 2*

    So, a mixture of 3 and 4 star guys, but leaning slightly to the low end (akin to, albeit a bit better than, Cal under Montgomery, which has recruited 3 4*, 5 3*, 3 2* and one junior college transfer).

    In the last eight-plus seasons, i.e. the time period when the team had these guys playing for it, the team is 108-42 in Big Ten play, has won the conference regular season and tourney titles twice each, has never failed to make the NCAA tournament, has finished top 50 in the Pomeroy rankings every season, has finished (or is currently) in the top 16 of said rankings seven times, has reached the Elite Eight, and has reached the Sweet Sixteen three times. (Oh, and a Final Four a few years before that.)

    So the notion that you have to have a roster full of All-Americans to be a great program is false. What a lot of people, not to mention a lot of recruiting services, fail to grasp is that if you get two good seasons out of a player, the fact that they happen to be his junior and senior seasons (and that he won’t play much if at all in the NBA) instead of his freshman and sophomore seasons (followed by early entry to the draft) doesn’t matter much. The ideal is a guy who will stay four years and be good all four, but those are hard to come by in this day and age (not to mention, it looks like Cal may already have one in Crabbe).

    The question then becomes whether a coach can develop players; the answer, in Montgomery’s case, is clearly “yes”. So getting projects is not a program-crippling thing. Now, I’m not saying that these projects will work out– odds are one of Kravish and Behrens will end up being pretty bad, and Parker is a guy whose role is to provide immediate depth and toughness, not elite scoring– but, like, doesn’t Monty deserve some deference at this point? The team needed to sign players. There aren’t a lot of great ones left right now. So your choices are pretty much depth guys and projects– and in the last week, Cal’s signed one of each. There’s still an open scholarship to go along with two graduating players next year, so it’s not like they’re blocking talented players from entering the program.

    I don’t want to sound completely dismissive of recruit rankings, because clearly they have some predictive value for how a team will perform. But the Chicken Little crap is pretty stupid, frankly.

  • SteveNTexas

    If Stanford came up with this recruiting class we would be mocking them but because this is our class we have to make every possible rationalization we can. “Trust Monty” – “Last year we had a good class” “we don’t want one and done” Hmm Kidd was two and done maybe you would like to erase him from our history.

    Sure we don’t have to have the best PAC 10 recruiting class every year but this class is by far the WORST – last place – the bottom.

    No one will say we just screwed up and top players from our own area were grabbed away. You guys are in denial – let’s see how we catch Arizona next year as they have a fine class.

  • Paul Thomas

    Why does Cal need to “catch” Arizona when all indications are that Cal has significantly more returning talent (assuming Williams doesn’t make the insane decision to return) than Arizona does?

  • jeh

    I would say it makes more sense to evaluate a recruiting class after its 4 years of college. How about it, SteveNTexas?