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Basketball: Richard Solomon growing up

* 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Haas Pavilion (Pac-12 Networks)

 It was time for Richard Solomon to grow up, and he realized it just in time.

Now a senior at Cal, the 6-foot-10 forward has become one of the Pac-12′s most dependable players. As the Bears take on unbeaten and top-ranked Arizona on Saturday night at Haas Pavilion, no player in any of the BCS conferences can match Solomon’s 10.7 rebounds per game.

“I think everybody watching him play wanted more,” said former UCLA star and Pac-12 Networks analyst Don MacLean. “They felt like with the tools he had, he could do more. And this year he’s doing it.”

But two years ago Solomon’s future nearly unraveled.

In early December of his sophomore season, Solomon was suspended indefinitely for “conduct contrary to athletic department and university values.” Reinstated after two games, he suffered a stress fracture and missed four more.

Then, in mid-January, Solomon was ruled academically ineligible for the remainder of the season. He sat out the Bears’ final 15 games.

“It hurt a lot,” he said.

Click here to read the rest of my story.

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CHAIRMEN OF THE BOARDS

The leading per-game rebounders from the six BCS conferences (through games Wednesday):

Richard Solomon, Cal (Pac-12) — 10.7
Julius Randle, Kentucky (SEC) — 10.2
Ryan Spangler, Oklahoma (Big 12) – 10.1
Noah Vonleh, Indiana (Big Ten) — 9.6
Anthony Lee, Temple (AAC-x) — 9.1
Devin Thomas, Wake Forest (ACC) — 8.3
x — American Athletic Conference, formerly the Big East

 

2

Basketball: Cal news and notes

Even after three straight defeats, Cal remains one of seven Pac-12 teams included in the most recent NCAA tournament projection by ESPN.com bracketologist Joe Lunardi.

Lunardi has the Bears (14-7, 5-3) as a No. 11 seed playing against Saint Louis in San Antonio. A win in that game likely would get Cal a rematch with Creighton and Doug McDermott.

Lunardi has current unbeatens Arizona, Syracuse and Wichita State along with Kansas as his four No. 1 seeds.

Also in his projected field from the Pac-12 are No. 7 UCLA, No. 10 Colorado, No. 11 Arizona State, No. 12 Stanford (in a play-in game vs. SMU) and No. 12 Oregon (in a play-in game vs. Saint Mary’s).

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With their overtime loss to ASU, the Bears dropped to No. 54 in the latest RealTimeRPI rankings. They’ve lost about 20 spots the past two weeks.

Question is: Does Cal actually move up in the RPI regardless of whether they win or lose Saturday merely because it’s playing Arizona?

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Junior guard Ricky Kreklow, who has missed the past 10 games with a broken hand, practiced Thursday for the first time.

Don’t expect to see Kreklow on Saturday night against No. 1 Arizona. Next Wednesday against Stanford? We’ll see.

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Alex Illikainen, a 6-foot-8, 215-pound junior power forward at Grand Rapids Senior HS in Grand Rapids, Minn., will make Cal this weekend and be on hand to watch the Arizona game, according to Scout.com.

Illikainen is rated as a four-star prospect and the nation’s No. 86 junior by Scout. He also has offers from Creighton, Oregon, and Minnesota, among others.

The kid ought to love the Bay Area in wintertime. In Grand Rapids today, the high was 3 degrees with a low tonight of minus-20.

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I erred in my game story this morning when I wrote the Bears have an all-time record of 1-24 against top-ranked teams. Cal actually is 2-24.

I missed their 85-70 win over UCLA at the Oakland Coliseum — played 20 years ago today — in which Jason Kidd had a triple-double with 18 points, 14 rebounds and 12 assists.

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Basketball: ASU game thread

Click here to read my game story. And here for the box score

FINAL SCORE: Arizona State 89, Cal 78 OT. Carson scored 12 of his 29 points in overtime after the Bears rallied all the way back from a 16-point deficit to take the lead. Cobbs put the Bears in front with his drive to the basket with 44 seconds left and two FTs by Kravish made it 72-69 with 25.2 seconds left. But Jermaine Marshall used a screen to get free and sank a long 3-pointer with 17.7 seconds left to tie. Cobbs missed a jumper before the second-half horn sounded. Cal lost for the third straight time and fell to 14-7, 5-3 in the Pac-12.

10:21 2nd H: Cal within 57-50 after jumper by Kravish, who has 12 points on 6 for 8 from the field. Wallace, who had two points at halftime, has 15. Solomon has 12 rebounds.

14:21 2nd H: ASU’s lead reached 48-32 with 16:21 left, but Cal answered with a 12-3 run capped by a jumper by Kravish that made it 51-45 with 15:25 left. ASU now leads  53-44.

HALFTIME SCORE: Arizona State 42, Cal 30. Carson had 11 points and five assists, but he wasn’t the only ASU player who hurt Cal with quickness and penetration. Jermaine Marshall has nine points. Cobbs with 11 points for the Bears. Solomon has seven rebounds and five assists. ASU scored 13 points off seven Cal turnovers. The Sun Devils shot 5 for 10 from the 3-point arc, Cal 1 for 5. The Bears also missed five FTs.

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30

Football: Bears to sign a second QB prospect

After getting commitments from four defensive players the previous three days, Cal pulled a minor surprise by landing its second quarterback prospect, the Los Angeles Times first reported.

Chase Forrest, who led Mater Dei-Santa Ana to an 11-3 record and into the championship game of the Pac-5 Division, committed to the Bears after Cal made an in-home visit Tuesday night.

Forrest is the 20th player to commit to the Bears, including five who signed at mid-year, and the second quarterback. Also expected to make his commitment official on signing day next Wednesday is Luke Rubenzer of Saguaro High in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Forrest, 6-foot-3, 180 pounds, threw three touchdown passes in Mater Dei’s 30-0 win over Long Beach Poly in the Pac-5 semifinals. Rated a two-star prospect by Scout.com and Rivals.com, he is regarded as a passer/runner, as is Rubenzer.

“With his running ability and their offense and his live arm, they got a good quarterback,” Mater Dei coach Bruce Rollinson told the Los Angeles Times.

According to MaxPreps, Forrest passed for 2,001 yards and 14 touchdowns this season.

The 6-foot, 185-pound Rubenzer, a three-star prospect, passed for more than 4,200 yards with 61 TDs this season, and also ran for more than 1,000 yards.

4

Basketball: The long and short of dealing with ASU

* 8 p.m. Wednesday at Haas Pavilion (ESPNU)

During Super Bowl week, Cal coach Mike Montgomery pulled out a baseball analogy to describe the strengths of the Arizona State basketball team his Golden Bears will face Wednesday night.

“It’s like baseball — take care of the middle, you’re probably in pretty good shape in terms of catcher, pitcher, center fielder,” he said. “It’s the same thing with big guy and point guard. And they’ve got that.”

In 7-foot-2 center Jordan Bachynski and uber-quick point guard Jahii Carson the Sun Devils (15-5, 4-3 Pac-12) present the Bears (14-6, 5-2) with a formidable 1-2 punch.

Bachynski leads the nation in blocked shots with 88 – an average of 4.4 per game. He has blocked at least two shots in all but one of ASU’s games (he played just 27 minutes in a rout that night) and has fouled out just once.

Montgomery said the impact of any shot-blocker extends beyond the mere numbers.  

“How many shots is he changing? How many shots are you going in there aware of him and all of a sudden you change what you do because you’re afraid to get a shot blocked?” Montgomery said.

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Football: Marshawn Lynch gives lesson on how to become the Media Day story without really trying

Former Cal star Marshawn Lynch, threatened by the NFL with a $100,000 fine, participated in Tuesday’s annual Super Bowl Media Day.

Sort of.

Here are links to a few stories about Lynch’s unusual day with the media:

ESPN.com writes about how the Seattle Seahawks’ running back said his fans don’t care if he talks.”They just want to make sure I show up to perform,” he said.

– The Seattle Times provides a complete (albeit abbreviated) transcript of all Lynch had to say during his brief session with reporters.

– New York Post columnist George Willis reports that “Beast Mode was on Least Mode” during his 6 1/2 minutes with the media.

– The New York Daily News reports that Lynch made himself into the story of Media Day by trying not to be a story at all.

Yahoo Sports gives us all the details of Lynch’s endorsement deal with Skittles.

– Here is Cal grad and NFL Media columnist Michael Silver’s story on Lynch from an interview he did last week before the running back knew whether he’d attend Media Day.

– And, finally, Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith tells NFL.com he hasn’t seen a running back quite like Marshawn Lynch.

6

Football: At last, some big recruiting news

Cal’s beleaguered football recruiting class got a boost Tuesday with a commitment from middle linebacker Chandler Leniu, a consensus four-star prospect from St. John Bosco High in Bellflower, according to multiple recruiting websites.

A 6-foot-1, 225-pounder who originally planned to attend Washington State, Leniu visited Cal over the weekend and committed to the Bears on Saturday, he told Scout.com.

He is one of Cal’s top-rated recruits, ranked 11th nationally at his position by Rivals.com, 12th by Scout. Leniu becomes the third Rivals four-star player to commit to Cal, just the second according to Scout’s ratings.

Cal has moved up about 10 spots to No. 42 in Scout’s national team rankings, No. 44 according to Rivals.

Leniu becomes the Bears’ 19th commit, including five players who signed a midyear.

Commitments cannot become binding until the Feb. 5 national signing day.

2

Basketball: Montgomery sees big things for Rooks

A TV crew was at Cal today, preparing a story on freshmen Jordan Mathews and Kameron Rooks.

The occasion prompted coach Mike Montgomery to offer his thoughts on the 7-footer Rooks, whose progress and contributions this season have been predictably uneven.

The son of former Arizona star and NBA journeyman Sean Rooks, Kameron has played in 18 of Cal’s 20 games, averaging 6.3 minutes, 1.3 points and 1.6 rebounds.

He’s had a few encouraging moments, for sure, but his best days are a year or so ahead of him.

Asked for a comparison to his father, Montgomery said, “You can see the touch he has is very similar to what his dad had . . . kind of a non-rotating, very soft type jump shot. They’re very similar in a lot of the ways they played the game.”

To a degree.

“Kameron’s thing is just changing his body to where he can move and jump and run and all kinds of things. He’ll do that,” Montgomery said.

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Football: LB prospects picks Bears over UW

A good night for Cal football recruiting.

Linebacker Aisea Tongilava of Orange-Lutheran High announced via Twitter on Monday night that he has picked Cal over Washington.

A 6-foot, 210-pounder, who originally committed to San Jose State, Tongilava is rated as a three-star prospect by both Scout.com and Rivals.com.

With barely a week left before national signing day, Cal also picked up commitment Sunday night from one-time Northwestern pledge Noah Westerfield, an outside linebacker/defensive end from Wakefield High in Frisco, Texas.

Scout rates the 6-foot-3, 210-pounder as a three-star prospect while Rivals gives him two stars.

The Bears lost Saf/OLB Koa Farmer to Penn State last weekend, but now have landed three defensive players since Art Kaufman came on board as defensive coordinator.

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Basketball: UCLA game thread

Click here for my game story. And here for the box score.

FINAL SCORE: UCLA 76, Cal 64. The Bears (14-6, 5-2) go 0-for-2 on the L.A. weekend, falling into a second-place tie with the Bruins (16-4, 5-2). Jordan Mathews finished with 18 points for Cal, Justin Cobbs had 14 and Bird 12. Richard Solomon had nine points nad 14 rebounds. Kyle Anderson had 17 points, 12 rebounds and five assists to lead UCLA while David Wear scored 18.

3:22 2nd H: UCLA has gone 11-2 on the Bears and rebuilt its lead to 66-55.

7:56 2nd H: Bird scored 12 points in a span of 3:56, sparking an 18-2 Cal run. UCLA now leads 55-50.

9:41 2nd H: We have a game. Imagine that. Bird has scored back-to-back fastbreak drives and Cal is within 53-47 after trailing by 19 just 5 1/2 minutes ago.

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