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

  • SteveNTEXAS

    Amit and Marks were fun to watch as was Jorge. As I live close to Mexico – I don’t see Jorge as all that foreign.

    I wish Monty would make a play for Matt Roth who may be looking to transfer out of Indiana. Hes a great student with a BA and Masters from IU – and his college 3Pt avge is over 40%- he once hit 9 3s v Ohio State. Matt wants to go into sports administration and has one year left on his eligibility. If he leaves Indiana he wants good academics.

    Wouldn’t a sharp-shooting 5th year player fit in just perfect at Cal?

  • Juancho

    Let us not forget that dirk nowitzki was a cal commit before he decided to go pro.

  • marc

    I didn’t know Dirk was, that would of been unreal.

  • ConcordBear

    Wallace, as the highest profile recruit, apprears to be the most likely frosh to make a big impact. The other 3, no idea what to expect from them at the D1 level.
    Hope they are all strong players in the Jorge, Kravish and MSF mold.

  • Jeff Faraudo

    Dirk never formally committed to Cal, but was close. Ben Braun and his staff worked hard to get him before the rest of the world knew how good he was. He made at least one visit to the Bay Area to check out Cal with his adviser/guru Holger Gerschwinder. But when I covered him in the Hoop Summitt game at the Final Four, I knew immediately he was too good to end up at Cal. He had like 33 points and 13 rebounds against the best U.S. high schoolers. Kentucky was getting involved, but the bigger issue was that Donnie Nelson Jr., was an assistant coach for the international team and had an entire week to cozy up to Nowitzki and scout him. As you will remember, the Bucks drafted him, but Donnie Nelson and the Mavericks swung a deal (trading Robert Traylor) to get Dirk. Cal was close, but Nowitzki was too good — frankly, he belonged in the pros.

  • southseasbear

    Interesting analysis Jeff, but keep in mind there is a difference (in the accuracy of player evaluation) between those who happened to be foreign born but played in US high schools (where they can be scouted) and athletes who have played abroad in leagues with which we (and our coaches) are not familiar. Bak played in So Cal and was known to be a project. Knezevic & Zhang were gambles. How much do we know about Eleraky besides his height and weight?