TIPOFF: 5:30 p.m. Sunday at Haas Pavilion in Berkeley. TV: CSNBA. Radio: 910-AM.
In Sunday’s paper I write about the much-hyped Cal and Stanford freshmen classes of a year ago and how it hasn’t been a perfect season-and-a-half for all of them.
Perhaps no one among those players has had it tougher than Alex Rossi, the 6-foot-5 wing from suburban Chicago, who has played exactly 4 minutes in one game since arriving at Cal due to a nagging lower-abdominal injury.
Rossi underwent surgery to repair a hernia, and a separate procedure to reaattached a muscle that had torn away from his pubic bone. He acknowledges he’s not entirely out of the woods at this point, but he’s feeling better every day and maintains his expectations for what he and his classmates can accomplish.
Here’s more from my interview with Rossi:
— On his he’s progressing: “I’m feeling pretty good. Getting stronger every day. I haven’t missed practice yet since (Dec.) 26th, so that’s good.”
— On why his injuries took so long to heal: “My first surgery I had a hernia on my left side. That was a result of my muscles, for whatever reason, stopped firing. I think my hips came out of place. And then my abs stopped working on their own. And then my back started getting really tight. And my groin started overworking, and that’s what tore it . . . I wasn’t using my calves at all, and that was putting a lot of pressure on my knees. My physical therapist tried to explain it to me, that it’s all one muscle. If my upper body is not working, then my lower body has got to work a lot harder.”
— On whether he’s beginning to feel like himself again: “I’m obviously nervous because it’s been a long time. I’m starting to feel strong, starting to get athletic again. Starting to be able to dunk a lot easier. Lateral quickness is coming back. Every day I’m a player longer and longer in practice.”
— On how tough the ordeal has been: “It’s been really hard. I have a lot of friends outside basketball and a lot of teammates who have been really supportive and have made Berkeley a positive experience when a lot of times it shouldn’t be.”
— On how Richard Solomon will respond to being academically ineligible: “I think it will be good from him. He learn from it, he’ll come back and he’ll be a lot better than he was.”
— On whether the four remaining members of last year’s incoming class still can fulfill their ambitions: “I don’t see why we can’t. Just two years ago in high school, we were `the man.’ We were Jorge Gutierrez in high school. All the recruiters wanted us. Now we’re here and after almost two seasons, we’re still not quite there yet. But we were looking at the future and said, `We can still do something.’ We have to keep reminding ourselves that we’re players. We were really good and we are still good. We’ve got to wait our turn, I guess.”
— On how the injuries have changed his outlook: “Our group was pretty humble to begin with, but this experience is even more humbling. You really have to ground yourself. Coming out (of high school), no one would say it but you know you’re a player, you can compete with anyone. I was even told at the end of last year I might not ever play again. I start looking at school and basketball differently. I’ve never been all about the NBA, but at the same time that’s where I wanted to go. I’ve never wanted to do anything else. Now I kind of see it from a different perspective.”
ABOUT THE CARDINAL: Mike Montgomery’s first concern is with Stanford’s depth. “You’re never sure who’s going to have a big game,” he said. “I think John Gage is kind of a wildcard for them off the bench . . . Every time I watch he’s making a big shot for them. (Josh) Owens is a beast. (Josh) Huestis can come in and give them really good mileage. (Jarrett) Mann is a really good defensive player. They’ve just got a lot of kids who can play.”
Stanford’s depth in the frontcourt could be particularly troublesome for Cal. “They have very versatile bigs, a lot of options,” Cal backup center Robert Thurman said. “They have a lot of guys and each of them can do their own thing.” Thurman will be needed to help starters Harper Kamp and David Kravish, and guards Allen Crabbe and Jorge Gutierrez will need to contribute also to the rebounding effort.
THE SERIES: Cal leads 143-114. The teams split two games last season, each winning on its home floor. Cal is 4-2 vs. Stanford under Montgomery.
MISCELLANY: Cal and Oregon enter play Sunday at 6-2 in the Pac-12, one-half game behind Washington at 7-2 . . . Stanford has dropped two in a row for the first time this season. The Bears have not lost two straight this year . . . Cal is 13-0 at Haas Pavilion. Stanford is 3-3 on the road, just 1-3 in conference road games.
Cal (16-5, 6-2 Pac-12)
|SF Allen Crabbe||6-6||So.||15.7||6.1|
|PF Harper Kamp||6-8||Sr.||9.4||4.9|
|PF David Kravish||6-9||Fr.||5.9||5.3|
|SG Jorge Gutierrez||6-3||Sr.||14.3||5.0|
|PG Justin Cobbs||6-2||So.||13.0||4.8*|
|G Brandon Smith||5-11||Jr.||3.8||2.9*|
|G Emerson Murray||6-2||So.||2.0||0.8|
|C Robert Thurman||6-10||Jr.||3.3||1.7|
Stanford (15-5, 5-3 Pac-12)
|PF Josh Owens||6-8||Sr.||13.1||6.3|
|PF Dwight Powell||6-9||So.||4.7||3.7|
|SG Jarrett Mann||6-4||Sr.||3.9||3.4|
|SG Chasson Randle||6-3||Fr.||12.1||3.2|
|PG Aaron Bright||5-11||So.||12.2||3.4*|
|G Anthony Brown||6-6||So.||7.6||3.5|
|F Josh Huestis||6-7||So.||6.1||5.2|
|F John Gage||6-10||So.||5.5||1.6|