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Basketball: What’s ahead for Golden Bears?

By Jeff Faraudo
Tuesday, March 26th, 2013 at 12:27 pm in Basketball.

While acknowledging that “you’re never satisfied,” Cal coach Mike Montgomery expressed satisfaction about a season in which the Golden Bears finished in a tie for second place in the Pac-12 and won an NCAA tournament game for just the second time in his five seasons.

The Bears (21-12, 12-6 Pac-12) had “a chance to win it — we didn’t but we had a chance, and that’s what you want,” Montgomery said. “On balance, it’s a pretty good season.”

Cal has been competitive at the top of the conference in four of Montgomery’s first five seasons. In fact, over the past five years, the Bears and Washington share the best composite record in league play at 59-31, followed by UCLA at 58-32, and Arizona at 57-33.

The perfectionist in Montgomery laments opportunity lost. The Bears went into the final week of the Pac-12 season in position to steal a piece of the title. Everyone else cooperated with losses, and still Cal couldn’t get the hump.

“There were some things there that were available for us that we didn’t get,” he conceded.

Montgomery sounds excited about next season, although he won’t know for about a month whether Pac-12 Player of the Year Allen Crabbe (18.4 ppg, 6.1 rpg) returns for his senior season or enters the NBA draft.

Junior point guard Justin Cobbs also has requested an evaluation from the NBA Undergraduate Advisory Committee.

My guess: Crabbe departs, Cobbs remains.

Either way, the Bears will return with a veteran nucleus, augmented by a strong four-man recruiting class.

With or without Crabbe, I envision the Bears somewhere in the top four in the Pac-12 next season, behind Arizona but competitive with pretty much anyone else.

At least four starters back

Aside from Crabbe, the Bears will have four returning starters:

– F Richard Solomon (6-10, Sr.) 8.9 ppg, 6.8 rpg, .472 FG
Montgomery: “Richard has improved consistently. We need him to finish better. We probably need to use him away from the basket a little more. He does shoot the ball pretty well. When he gets tuned in, he can go get the ball.”

– F David Kravish (6-9, Jr.) 7.9 ppg, 6.9 rpg, .498 FG, 56 blocks
Montgomery: “Kravish needs to try to get a little bit stronger. He got bounced around pretty good on occasion. But he can move his feet, can defend a person away from the basket. He needs just continued improvement.”

– PG Justin Cobbs (6-3, Sr.) 15.1 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 4.8 apg, .325 3-PT, .841 FT
Montgomery: “He’s still a combo guard. He certainly was better at the end of the year. He’s a reluctant shooter. We’ve got to get him where he’s more comfortable with his shot. He wants to drive.”

– SG Tyrone Wallace (6-4, So.) 7.2 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 2.6 apg, .342 FG, .224 3-PT
Montgomery: “Absolutely, no question (he can become a better shooter). He’s got to go to work and change his stroke a little bit and become more consistent. I think he can and I think he will. I expect him to improve in every facet of the game. He loves to work. He’s got length, he’ll get stronger as he matures. There’s just a lot of stuff that’s exciting about him, first and foremost because he wants to be a good player.”

Junior shooting guard Ricky Kreklow (3.1 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 9 games), who missed much of this season with a lingering foot injury, will take the next month off to let the bone heal thoroughly.

Montgomery is convinced we haven’t seen any of Kreklow’s potential. “He’s tough, plays hard, understands a lot of things. He’s got a good basketball IQ.”

The Bears also have high hopes for 6-9 sophomore forward Christian Behrens (0.7 ppg, 1.6 rpg, 7 games), who missed most of the season with a recurring knee injury. If he can stay healthy, Behrens figures to be in the rotation at the post.

Help on the way

The Bears will bring in at least four freshmen — there could be a fifth if Crabbe leaves and a scholarship opens.

Shooting guard Jabari Bird either will provide Crabbe a nice complement on the wing or will compete to replace him, should Crabbe exit.

At 6-6, the five-star Salesian HS star is the best local recruit Montgomery has landed.

“The sky’s the limit,” Montgomery said of Bird. “He’s a highly touted player, very athletic, can play above the rim. He has a knack for scoring. Physically, he’s going to get stronger and stronger. He’s a slasher. He can play at the basket and can shoot the ball.”

Also signed are Santa Monica shooting guard Jordan Mathews, the son of ex-USF coach Phil Mathews, and Miami point guard Sam Singer. The Bears have a commitment from 6-11 center Kameron Rooks, the son of former Arizona post star Sean Rooks. Kameron Rooks is expected to sign on April 17.

Bird and Mathews, in particular, should help a team that converted just 30.2 percent from the 3-point arc this season.

“Mathews is a tough-minded kid, physical and not afraid to make contact. He can really shoot the ball,” Montgomery said. “That’s what we lacked — guys who can shoot the ball. Singer is multi-faceted. He can handle, he’s a real good passer, understands the game and has length. He can play multiple positions.”

Montgomery is not permitted to comment on Rooks until he is officially signed.

Farewells and projects

If a scholarship opens up, figure the Bears to seek another big man. With Robert Thurman (4.9 ppg, 3.5 rpg) and Bak Bak (1.5 ppg, 1.1 rpg) graduating, Montgomery noted the Bears could use more depth up front. The only other graduating senior is backup point guard Brandon Smith (2.4 ppg, 1.8 apg), whose role diminished late in the season.

Because the Bears will have so many perimeter players, Montgomery said they could play a smaller lineup at times. Figure that to be situational, especially depending on the opponent.

Don’t expect quantum leaps from three freshmen who redshirted this season: SG Kahlil Johnson, F Kaileb Rodriguez and walkon 7-foot-1 C Geoff Frid.

“If anybody in that group would have been capable, we would have used them (this season),” Montgomery said. “There’s got to be some work there from that group.”

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  • joey

    Great info and good reading Jeff. Any idea who we play nonconference next season?

  • Picard

    Obviously, I hope Crabbe returns. But, I wonder if there’s any trepidation on his part that he will be outshone by Bird, who figures to be a one and done.

  • gobears49

    The fun part of this blog is to point out stuff that needs to be changed to make Cal better. I could list several things that came to pass after I suggested them on this blog. One comment I made a few weeks ago was that I heard on a Cal post-game show that a pro scout told the caller that Wallace needed to change his stroke. Sure enough, that came up in Monty’s comments above — “SG Tyrone Wallace (6-4, So.) 7.2 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 2.6 apg, .342 FG, .224 3-PT
    Montgomery: “Absolutely, no question (he can become a better shooter). He’s got to go to work and change his stroke a little bit.”

    If requested by anyone, I will post my short list of things I suggested Monty should change or do that he did change or do very quickly thereafter.

    Despite Monty not saying anything about Frid, I guarantee he is a comer.

  • bigdruid

    Gobears49 – tell us more about Frid. What’s up with him and why are you so optimistic about him?

  • ConcordBear

    Bird is a tremendous prospect and I believe he will play in the NBA but based on what I’ve seen he needs 2 or 3 years before he will be ready.
    If he does blow up as a freshman and dominates more power to him.
    Can’t wait to see Jabari and the other new comers added to the roster?
    How man full rides does men’s hoops have, 12 or 13?
    Jeff can you expand a little more about Johnson and Rodriguez? Do they have any ability to play at the D1 level?
    Hope those 2 and Frid are ready to work, it sounds like they need to put in a lot of time in order to play.

  • gobears49

    Bigdruid,

    Here’s what I know about Frid, from a guy I sat next to at Pappy’s who’s friend of his. He has only played basketball for about three years — before that he played soccer. I think he’s an American.

    From his workout video, below, he seems to be very coordinated and seems to make every shot. Plays more like a forward from the tape than a center. Watching him in warmups, he seems to have developed good back to the basket moves since the tape was made, I believe with both hands. Doesn’t seem to be a great leaper, but doesn’t have to be.

    Here’s the video. There is another one, which I haven’t looked at yet

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=duHrCHYCq28

  • gobears49

    Frid is also heavier than I thought. 250 pounds should be enough.

  • Juancho

    If crabbe stays im willing to bet cal makes the elite 8. Bird is that good. He made aaron gordon look like a jv player when i saw their matchup in hayward.

    Id take bird today over crabbe for a pickup game. Better shooter more athletic and above all, he can drive to the basket and get his own shot off. Crabbe is a spot up shooter.

    The other guys in the class im not as excited about. Not bc of them. But because i dont know much about them. Except for reading that rooks may redshirt his first year bc hes overweight.

  • gobears49

    Juancho,

    Agree with you. On a few occasions I have said that, except when he drives, most of Crabbe’s shots are catch and shoot (as opposed to Cobbs), though occasionally he makes some nice plays in the key, a few with his left hand. Catch and shoot guys can make it in the NBA but they have to be a bit more marksmen-like than what I have seen from Crabbe so far. I think Crabbe needs one more year in college to develop mobility in creating his own shot. If he does that, his value to an NBA team would go up.

  • gobears49

    From the little I’ve seen of Bird on video, I think he’s a quick slasher type, who can create his own shot. It will show my age, but he reminds me a bit of Jumpin’ Jackie Ridgle, who could go around anyone. Unfortunately, while he could really jump, he wasn’t a great shooter, which is probably why he only lasted a half year with the Cavs. Wallace is also a slasher but needs to be a bit more of a finisher.

    I think a line-up of Cobbs, Crabbe, Bird, Soloman, and Kravish would be dynamite. Subs would be Wallace, Kreklow, Behrens, and maybe my man Frid (I know my mention of him is getting old).

    BTW, contrary to what Jeff reported, Kahlil Johnson cannot claim last year as a redshirt year, as he played in a game (six, to be precise). Perhaps this shows that Rodriguez is a better long term prospect for the Bears, as they chose not to burn a year of eligibility last season.

  • The Wisdom Cow

    Just hearing that Rooks is considering a red shirt makes me so excited about the guy long term.

    So few players his size are thinking about anything other than how soon they can get to the NBA. Granted, his family has money, so that priority is not a factor. Still, it’s a sign that the kid wants to live a college experience.

    To me, the Frid workout video shows a guy that may well develop into a good reserve. He’s big, and does show some coordination, but not the fastest of foot, nor of hands. Consider Max, who would lumber down the court (slow feet) but did have quick arms. Frid can become a good player offensively, but I’m guessing he needs to work on his lateral movement to improve his defense.

  • gobears49

    Freshman Mathews should also play next year, except if they decide to redshirt him (that only would occur if Crabbe returns).

  • gobears49

    Wisdom Cow,

    Regarding Frid, you have to remember the workout video was done a year ago and that was only about after he had played basketball about two years. I think that his shooting ability after playing that short of a time is pretty amazing.

  • ConcordBear

    Regarding Rooks he is skilled enough to play and contribute as a true frosh next year.
    Only reason he would redshirt is if he can’t get his body into college playing shape.
    That’s the question and if he works hard enough he will help the team.

  • gobears49

    If Frid and Rooks are equal in ability (though I tend to favor Frid at this point), since Frid has already burned his redshirt year and Rooks has not, it would make more sense for Rooks to redshirt unless he is really needed next year. Besides, given the limited playing time that should be available for a “project” to develop next year, it would only make sense to do one of them then, not two.

    I actually think, from watching Frid make all of those threes in a row on his video., he could be more comfortable at a power forward position, with Rooks eventually playing center or a more post-up position.

  • The Wisdom Cow

    GB49, well, he’s coordinated and has good form on his shot. Unfortunately, that doesn’t improve the time it takes to get from one side of the key to the other to prevent a layup. His arms are not long for his size and he doesn’t jump high, so quickness is crucial for his defense.

    Now, the bar is not terribly high. A large mammal like Frid, who certainly seems capable to contribute on offense, doesn’t have to be very quick to be able to contribute in some defensive sets. However, a player below the bar is a substantial liability.

    The problem for most BIG bigs is that increasing quickness can be as difficult or impossible as putting weight and muscle on TALL skinny bigs.

    Don’t mistake what I’m writing as saying Frid is a bust. I have not seen much of him at all. I’m going off the video, and an amalgam of comments I’ve read all over the place. Primarily, if he could have contributed, he would have been put out there, and this is a roster that often needed another big.

    On the brightest side, he’ll be learning from Monty, and just look at what that did for Thurman, who was taught where to be when, resulting in maximizing his skills. The dark side is that the wait for a player to become quick enough to play can be one long wait.

  • gobears49

    Wisdom Cow,

    I don’t know about Frid’s defensive skills or his toughness, another important factor. I’m only going off of his video and watching him warm up for a few games (I was probably the only one watching him do that). The only thing really know about him is that he is big and he seems to be able to shoot a wide variety of shots, albeit not while he is being guarded. Still, I liked his video much more than that of Rooks, so at least for now I favor him over Rooks. I think both will develop at lot under Monty’s tutelage.

  • Juancho

    My concern with rooks is motivation. Guy is 7 foot and his dad was a beast. Yet hes never put in the effort to get in shape.

    Thinking hell turn it on in berkeley isnt a slam dunk in my opinion. Just strikes me as unmotivated.

  • Suttree

    That can all change once he gets on campus and has dedicated trainers working with him.

  • Yogi Bear

    Frid isn’t even worth talking about at this point. Cal fans let themselves get way too excited about walk-ons. There was actually a guy who convinced himself that Robert Thurman would start over Solomon this year because of how he played in the SF Pro-Am League. If he ever gives us five good minutes a night, consider yourselves lucky. At least we didn’t spend a scholarship on him like we did by giving Rodriguez an offer way too early relative to his talent level.

    Rooks is slow as hell and has no lift. I’m not sure yet whether he moves so slow because he just doesn’t Robert Thurman is an athletic marvel compared to him. He needs to show some commitment to running the court and getting in shape before I consider him the solution to any of our problems. Monty is not the type of guy who generally is going to get someone who doesn’t want to work to work harder. It’s taken him three years just to start getting through to Solomon to get him to give a more consistent effort on the court.

    LOL at the guy who thinks Monty changes things because he posts them here.

  • Juancho

    I hope rooks does get in shape when he gets here. But his dad was in the nba. So its not like he hasnt had trainers or a support system.

    Hes not your average big kid. His dad was an elite college player.

    Hell maybe he just liked burgers too much and that will change. Hope so.

  • gobears49

    Yogi Bear,

    Frid is the only walk on I’ve ever had any interest as a potential Cal basketball player, as at least he can shoot the ball well, albeit without being guarded. Hard to tell how he will shoot when being guarded, but we won’t know that until he plays in some college games, unless Monty opens up some practices late next fall a la Dykes.