It’s almost with a sense of pride that Ricky Kreklow wears a shiner under his right eye.
For the junior guard, it’s evidence he’s back on the court again.
“I’m excited,” Kreklow said this week. “I’ve had a pretty rough college road, but I’m excited to finally put a good foot forward.”
That wasn’t intended to be a pun, but Kreklow, a transfer from Missouri two years ago, missed all but nine games last season because of a broken bone in his right foot that was reluctant to heal.
Point guard Justin Cobbs describes Kreklow as almost an X-factor on the Bears’ roster.
“People are going to finally see Ricky Kreklow for the type of player he is because he’s not going to have to worry about that foot,” Cobbs said. “He’s Jorge (Gutierrez) with a little jumper. That’s what we need.”
So Kreklow had no complaints last Saturday when, three minutes into the team’s first official practice, he was accidentally poked in the eye during a drill by freshman Jabari Bird.
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“They told me it was less than a milimeter away from causing permanent eye damage, “Kreklow said.
Instead, he hasn’t missed a practice, either because of his eye or his foot.
There still is soreness at times, but doctors tell Kreklow his foot is healing and he simply needs to read the signals his body sends.
“The bone itself probably won’t be completely healed for a couple months. But it’s to the point where it’s just (a matter of) my symptoms,” he said. “If I feel good, I can play.
“The one kind of determining factor is how does it feel 24 hours after the practice? It’s always sore after practice. It always will be. As long as by the next day I’m feeling good, no harm done.”
Kreklow said he’s preoccupied a bit by his foot with each day.
“Basketball is hard to play when you’re thinking a lot,” he said. “That’s what I’m looking forward to this year — playing while I’m finally healthy.”
Kreklow said he feels healthy for the first time since the end of his freshman season at Missouri in March 2011.
Aong with three guards among Cal’s five-man freshman class, coach Mike Montgomery should enjoy backcourt depth he hasn’t had for a couple years.
Besides Cobbs, Kreklow and sophomore Tyrone Wallace — who has grown an inch to 6-foot-5 — the roster features rookies Jordan Mathews and Sam Singer, along with Bird, the former prep All-America star from Salesian High.
“All the guards on the team can play,” Kreklow said. “There’s not one person that’s kind of the lame duck out there.”
Kreklow appreciates Cobbs comparing him to Gutierrez, who was the Pac-12 Player of the Year for Cal in 2012 as much for his toughness and impact on his teammates as for his statistical production.
“Jorge was such a prime example of someone who just works their butt off,” Kreklow said. “I hope I can bring that (defensive edge) to the table, too, because that kind of play’s contagious.
“I’ve always prided myself on a work ethic on the floor. I’m going to look to contribute as a shooter as well as a passer. I’m not going to take a play off.”