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Basketball: Foreign players a mixed bag for Bears

By my count, Sami Eleraky will become the 17th foreign-born player to join the Cal basketball team over the past three decades. If I missed someone, I know I’ll hear about it.

Past experience suggests we can’t know what impact the 6-foot-11 center from Copenhagen, Denmark will have with the Bears.

The previous 16 get mixed reviews:

— Bak Bak: Still one year left for the Sudanese-born, Kenyan-raised forward to show what he can bring.

— Richard Chang: Born in Taiwan, he played on Kevin Johnson’s teams in the 1980s with marginal impact.  

— Francisco Elson: Quick and agile center from the Netherlands was more effective when he reached the NBA, where he has earned more than $12 million.

— Jordi Geli: Forward from Spain never was more than a practice player for the Bears, and even that didn’t last.

— Shahar Gordon: Rugged forward from Israel played two seasons as a reserve before returning home.

— Brendan Graves: Canadian center transferred to Santa Clara, where he became a solid starter.

— Jorge Gutierrez: Reigning Pac-12 Player of the Year from Mexico was Cal’s greatest hoops import.

— Nikola Knezevic: Excitable guard from Serbia-Montenegro always seemed poised to make a breakthrough. Never quite happened.

— Kari Kulonen: Was once described as “the Finnish Magic Johnson.” Never a good idea. He had five assists and 10 turnovers in his one season (1985) at Berkeley.

— Saulius Kuzminskas: If you even remember this one-season (2001) forward from Lithuania, consider yourself a diehard.

— Sean Marks: Skilled forward from New Zealand averaged 9.8 points as a senior in 1997-98, then collected NBA paychecks from six teams over 11 seasons, albeit mostly as a practice player. Nothing wrong with that.

— Richard Midgley: Shooting guard from England never topped the game-winning shot he made vs. NC State in the 2003 NCAA tournament opener, but he scored 1,176 career points for the Bears. 

— Emerson Murray: Canadian guard has transferred to the Seattle U after working hard but never carving out a spot with Bears. His departure helped create scholarship room for Eleraky. 

— Hartmut Ortmann: German forward played three seasons off the bench in the late 1980s.

— Amit Tamir: Soft-shooting Israeli forward scored 1,055 points in three seasons, including 39 in memorable double-overtime win over Oregon in 2002.

— Max Zhang: Huge fan favorite, the 7-foot-2 native of China was on the doorstep of figuring things out when the national team kept him home in the fall of 2010.

Jeff Faraudo