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Basketball: Bears return to face ASU

Eight days after its 69-59 home loss to Stanford, Cal (11-7, 1-4 Pac-12) is back at it Thursday night against Arizona State (9-9, 1-4). Tipoff is 8 p.m. at Haas Pavilion.

In the meantime, the Bears focused on fundamentals, coach Cuonzo Martin said this week, and the extra time gave sophomore guard Jabari Bird time to find his rhythm after two games back following a foot injury that sidelined him for 10 outings.

“Getting Jabari acclimated back into the lineup . . . now you have another guy that’s a perimeter threat,” Martin said. “For him it’s just his conditioning, getting up and down the floor. That part has been good, having him back out there.”

Martin did not say whether Bird, who came off the bench in games at UCLA and vs. Stanford, will be back in the starting lineup. My guess: Yes.

Martin said Cal’s struggles after a 10-1 start reveal issues that lurked beneath the surface when the Bears were piling up victories.

Specifically, he talked about a toughness that needs to grow among his players, creating an identity or, as he put it, “a way of life.”

“That’s an area we have to grow in, and it doesn’t come overnight. We’ll get there,” he said. “Obviously, everybody has some toughness. It’s just a matter of reaching for it when you need it the most. When we have adversity, you start searching for that.

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Football: O-line commit flips to Utah

Three-star offensive line commit Johnny Capra of Placer High has flipped to Utah, the Salt Lake Tribune reported.

Capra, a 6-foot-5, 280-pounder, had committed to Cal months ago. But he visited the Utes last weekend and announced he will sign with them Feb. 4.

Capra’s change of heart lives the Bears with currently just two offensive line commitments — three-star prospect Ryan Gibson of Bay St. Louis, Missouri, and two-star Nick Buchanan of Dunwoody, Georgia.

Cal still has 19 prospects either committed or signed as mid-year enrollees.

It’s unclear whether offensive line coach Zach Yenser’s recent departure for Kansas influenced Capra’s decision. In his brief comments to the Salt Lake Tribune, Capra said only that he was convinced to go with Utah after his visit.

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Meanwhile, Louisiana prep wideout and state 300-meter hurdles recordholder Brandon Singleton told the Times Picayune of New Orleans that he has decommitted from Georgia Tech and will visit Cal this weekend.

The 6-foot, 170-pounder from Hahnville, High, has been recruited hard by Miami and Georgia, and also has offers from Cal and Minnesota. He told the Times Picayune is also still is considering Georgia Tech but wanted to be free to consider all his options before signing day.

Scout.com rates Singleton as a three-star prospect and ranks him as the 10th-best wide receiver prospect in Louisiana.

 

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Women’s basketball: Cal duo honored

Brittany Boyd and Reshanda Gray of Cal are among five Pac-12 players included on the John R. Wooden Award women’s mid-season top-20 list.

Cal joins Connecticut and South Carolina as the only teams with two players on the list.

Nicknamed “Cornflakes and Milk” because of their chemistry on the floor, Boyd and Gray have been consistently productive as seniors.

Boyd is one of the nation’s most versatile guards, averaging 13.6 points, 7.9 rebounds, 8.4 assists and 3.2 steals. She had a school record 16 assists in one game, 19 rebounds in another, and is the NCAA’s active career leader in steals with 324.

Gray averages 19.1 points and 7.1 rebounds and is shooting 59 percent from the floor. She scored 37 points in a game vs. Sacramento State, most by any Pac-12 player this season.

Also nominated from the Pac-12 are Stanford’s Amber Orrange, Washington’s Kelsey Plum and Oregon’s Jillian Alleyne.

Stanford’s Chiney Ogwumike won the 2014 women’s Wooden Award.

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Football: RB recruit Powell enrolls at mid-year

Cal got a jump on letter-of-intent day with the announcement that running back Lonny Powell, who gave an oral commitment in May, has signed a financial aid agreement and is joining the Cal program as a mid-year enrollee.

Powell, a 6-foot-1, 205-pounder from Sacramento High, played in the recent Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl. He is rated as a four-star “athlete” by Rivals.com, a three-star linebacker by Scout.com. The letter-of-intent signing period begins Feb. 4.

“We’re excited about Lonny and his future at Cal, and we’re excited that he is a part of our program,” Cal coach Sonny Dykes said in a statement. “Lonny has done a great job in being able to graduate early from high school. He is coming to Cal as a running back but is a unique athlete who was a really productive player on both sides of the football in high school.

“Lonny brings toughness, strength and a strong work ethic to our program.”

Powell, who is expected to begin his Cal career as a running back, played three seasons of varsity football from 2012-14 with his teams combining for a 29-9 overall mark and an 18-3 Metropolitan League record.

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Basketball: Bears skid to No. 120 in latest RPI

No surprise here, but the news continues to be bad for Cal in the latest official NCAA RPI computer ratings.

The Bears are No. 120 in the rankings, ninth-best in the Pac-12 and about 70 spots away from reasonable consideration for NCAA tournament at-large entry.

Here’s the complete list of Pac-12 teams:
6. Arizona
11. Utah
27. Stanford
53. Washington
67. UCLA
80. Colorado
89. Oregon State
93. Oregon
120. Cal
123. Washington State
135. USC
142. Arizona State

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Football: From free agent to Pro Bowl pick

Former Cal running back C.J. Anderson, a second-year, former free agent signee with the Denver Broncos, has been selected as a replacement for Pittsburgh’s Le’Veon Bell in the Pro Bowl.

“It’s a chance to showcase my talent against the best and show I belong,” Anderson said.

Undrafted after his senior season at Cal in 2012, Anderson signed with the Broncos but hardly played in 2013. He got his chance this fall and responded by rushing for 849 yards and eight touchdown in barely half a season.

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Football: Cal makes O-line coaching hiring official

Cal coach Sonny Dykes announced Monday that Brandon Jones has been hired as the Golden Bears’ run game coordinator and offensive line coach. We first reported the news Friday.

“We are hiring someone in Brandon Jones that has all the qualities we’re looking for,” Dykes said in a statement. “Brandon shares in our philosophy of recruiting and developing the entire student-athlete to ensure success on the field, in the classroom and in the community.

“Brandon is a quality individual as well as an effective coach and recruiter that our players will learn from and enjoy playing for.”

Jones spent the past five seasons as the offensive line coach at East Carolina. He has been a member of six bowl staffs during the first eight seasons of his coaching career, including four of his five campaigns at East Carolina, where he coached seven all-conference players.

“I’m extremely excited about the opportunity to join the Cal coaching staff,” Jones said. “A lot of what Cal does on offense is similar to what I’m accustomed to, and I’m looking forward to our offensive line putting a good product on the field.

“I’m also excited about what being a student-athlete at Cal represents off the field because I know how important it is for college football players to receive a strong education. I’m ready to get to work by finishing up this recruiting class and signing the next group of Golden Bears.”

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Athletics: Five power conferences overwhelmingly approve NCAA autonomy, including stipends for athletes

Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby called it “a big day for student-athletes.”

A panel of 15 student-athletes and representatives from the 65 schools in the five football power conferences voted 79-1 on Saturday to give those five leagues autonomy from the remainder of the NCAA. The legislation included a full cost-of-attendance measure added to athletes’ scholarships.

“The benefits now available to student-athletes are more significant,” said Bowlsby, the former Stanford athletic director, from Saturday’s NCAA convention near Washington D.C. “This is a big step forward and a response to a changing circumstance for the 21st century athlete.”

Cal interim athletic director Michael Williams called the changes “a huge milestone” for the schools involved and college sports in general.

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Football: East Carolina aide hired as O-line coach

Cal’s new offensive line coach interviewed for the position on Wednesday, was promoted at his old Thursday and hired by the Golden Bears on Friday.

“It’s been crazy, kind of a whirlwind,” said Brandon Jones, who comes to Cal after five seasons as offensive line coach at East Carolina. For one day he also was the Pirates’ run-game coordinator.

On Sunday, he will visit the campus in Berkeley for the first time.

“I’m happy to be part of the Cal program,” said Jones, 31, whose hiring was not immediately announced by Cal. Jones replaces Zach Yenser, hired last week by Kansas.

Jones’ connection to Bears coach Sonny Dykes traces back to their time together at Texas Tech. Dykes was the Red Raiders’ receivers coach through 2006, when Jones was a senior center and Rimington Award finalist.

Both Texas Tech, coached in those days by Mike Leach, and East Carolina in recent seasons operated fast-tempo offenses not unlike what Jones will see at Cal.

“It’s extremely similar,” said Jones, who coached three first- or second-team all-American Athletic Conference offensive lineman last fall on a team that was 8-5, averaged 35.8 points and piled up nearly 7,000 yards of offense.

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Basketball: Bears see progress in defeat

It was another defeat, sure.

But Cal’s players viewed their 69-59 loss to Stanford as progress.

The Bears played hard, they played with passion, they played together.

The were up 31-26 at halftime against a more experienced team, and trailed just 53-51 late in the game. Stanford’s seniors took over late and the Bears couldn’t answer back.

The aggressive start was the key, according to forward David Kravish.

“It’s something we haven’t done in a while. We got really juiced for this game,” he said. “We had been coming out really slow. One of our focuses is we had to come out with that fire and passion from the very beginning. We did that.

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