On Saturday — two weeks before Cal kicks off its season at home against Grambling State — the Bears will hold their final practice of fall camp before hosting a pair of fans events: Golden Bear Day and Pigskins & Pearls.
The Bears will return home having learned a lot about themselves during a four-game tour of Australia, including how they must get off to better starts.
Cal trailed early in three of four games Down Under, winning the first two times that happened. The Bears could not finish the deal Friday at Wollongong, losing 110-99 to the Illawarra Hawks, no doubt easily the best opponent they faced.
Fouls – the stunning total of 40 of them – did in the Bears against the pros from the National Basketball League team. Australian commentators sympathized with Cal’s players, who were not prepared for even the lightest touches being whistled as fouls.
But the Bears must take a piece of the responsibility. They were lost defensively early, allowing the Hawks to consistently find open 3-point shots. And when they became came alive defensively, they often were too aggressive.
Eight Cal players finished with at least four fouls, with Jaylen Brown, Ivan Rabb, Tyrone Wallace and Kingsley Okoroh each fouling out.
But there was a lot for coach Cuonzo Martin to like about his team’s performances. Although Brown, the 6-foot-7 freshman forward, showed himself to be an elite talent, Cal displayed terrific unselfishness and scoring balance.
Consider these final four-game scoring numbers:
Jaylen Brown 17.8 points per game
Jabari Bird 15.5 ppg
Tyrone Wallace 14.8 ppg
Jordan Mathews 13.8 ppg
Ivan Rabb 12.8 ppg, 9.8 rpg
Cal battled back from 17 points down, but lost 110-99 in overtime to a veteran Illawarra Hawks professional team in the finale of the Bears’ four-game Australian tour at Wollongong on Friday.
The Bears, who won their first three Down Under, were led by 24 points from junior guard Jordan Mathews. Freshman Jaylen Brown added 19 points, Jabari Bird had 17, Tyrone Wallace had 14 points and six assists, and freshman Ivan Rabb had his third double-double of the trip with 11 points and 10 rebounds.
The epic game ended at 3:23 a.m. PDT.
Ultimately, Cal could not overcome being whistled for 40 personal fouls, which allowed the Hawks to shoot 55 free throws. The hosts outscored the Bears 40-19 at the free throw line.
Four Cal players – including Brown, Rabb and Wallace – fouled out, and four more finished the game with four fouls.
“It was a good test for us,” Brown told the Aussie commentators afterward. “The Australian team was really good. We didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into. There’s nothing to hang our heads down about. I think we did pretty well.”
He weighs 310 pounds and was considered too small to play major college football.
Well, too short, anyway.
Walk-on Malik McMorris is the Bears’ big fall camp experiment, a 5-foot-11 freshman defensive lineman from Mater Dei High in Santa Ana, who is trying to find a niche as a fullback.
McMorris had scholarship offers from Army, Cal Poly, UC Davis and Holy Cross. He was recruited to Berkeley, not by the coaching staff, but by former Mater Dei teammates Chase Forrest, Addison Ooms and Matt Rockett.
“I think Malik’s pretty similar to me – a lot of people told him he’s too small and couldn’t play at the next level,” said Rockett, a 5-9 sophomore wide receiver. “I know Malik and I know what he’s capable of. I told him, `This is your shot. Don’t let anyone tell you you can’t do something.’ “
“If he was 6-2 he could have gone anywhere in the country,” Cal coach Sonny Dykes said. “But he’s not. We’re lucky he’s here.”
* NOTE: Tonight’s game vs. Illawarra Hawks tips off at 1 a.m. PT.
Cal built a 25-point lead after three quarters and held on to beat Australia’s Center of Excellence 94-86 on Thursday in Canberra, improving to 3-0 on its tour Down Under.
Jabari Bird led Cal with 19 points and five rebounds and Tyrone Wallace contributed 17 points and four rebounds.
Freshman Jaylen Brown, the Bears’ leading scorer in their first two games, scored 14 of his 16 points in the first half. The 6-foot-7 small forward is averaging 17.3 points through three games. Fellow freshman Ivan Rabb coupled 15 points with 12 rebounds for his second double-double of the trip and is averaging 13.points and 9.7 rebounds.
Jordan Mathews added 10 points.
Cal turns around quickly to play its final game in Australia against the Illawarra Hawks of the professional National Basketball League on Thursday night at Wollongong. The Bears figure to face their most serious challenge of the tour in front of what the team website reported is a sold-out arena.
The Hawks feature a veteran roster of post-collegiate players, including former Vanderbilt star Andrew Ogilvy, a 6-10 center, who averaged 15.3 points in three college seasons through 2010.
Former Illawarra players include Cal grads Butch Hays and Ayinde Ubaka.
The Bears held their second of three practices this week at De La Salle High in Concord on Wednesday morning, and got a visit from the man who built the school’s football dynasty.
Former DLS head coach Bob Ladoceur spoke to the Cal team after its workout, and Bears linebacker Michael Barton said the experience brought back special memories from his time in high school.
“Oh, it was awesome,” Barton said after the Bears’ afternoon practice at Memorial Stadium. “He’s one of my biggest role models in life, teaching me more about becoming a man than football. Applying football to life lessons was the most important thing I learned from coach Ladoceur.”
Barton said Ladoceur’s words had all his Cal teammates tuned in.
“Usually, when someone is coming up to speak to the team, guys are just looking down, kind of whispering here and there,” Barton said. “It was the first time I’ve seen guys just looking straight up, eye to eye with the utmost respect. He’s one of the most respected people in all of football, period.”
He said his former coach introduced himself to Cal’s players, including a mention of The Streak – the Spartans’ 151-game record-setting win streak that spanned 12 seasons.
“That’ll get your attention,” Barton said, laughing. “Some of the guys on the team wanted me to introduce them after. They really enjoyed it. They really took it to heart.”
Ladoceur’s message was straight forward: Work hard and work together.
“He was just explaining how there’s no real secret formula for success or else he would have written a book and become famous and retired years ago,” Barton said. “He was just talking about what it takes to make a great team, what he’s learned from his success.
“Every team will be different, he said. Our team is not going to be like any other Cal Bear team that ever existed. He said what’s going to help us is us being brothers and doing our jobs.”
The Bears hold an open practice Thursday morning at 10:15 at Memorial Stadium. They are back at De La Salle for a closed Friday morning practice.
Senior safety Stefan McClure, who has been handled with kid gloves while coming back from spring surgery on his right quad, finally was out of his red jersey Tuesday at practice.
Still no contact, but coach Sonny Dykes said he expects McClure to get some live action early next week and is confident he could be ready to play Sept. 5 in the opener against Grambling State.
No doubt about it, McClure said.
“I’ll be ready for the first game,” he said. “If we had a game this weekend, I’d be ready to go.”
McClure said his quad feels great, but that he’s anxious to be freed up to practice full out.
“It is driving me crazy. I want to get back out there,” he said. “They’re still not letting me hit anybody – no contact. I’m doing everything that’s not live, so it’s good.”
Without McClure and Griffin Piatt – who is farther behind in his recovery from knee surgery – the Bears have experimented with a variety of players at safety. Quarterback Luke Rubenzer is getting first-team reps and Damariay Drew – back after a year away to resolve legal issues – was impressive early.
But Drew missed at least five straight practices and was wearing a red jersey Tuesday, limiting his activity. Dykes, who had been vague for several days about Drew’s situation, said, “We’re trying to limit his collisions right now. He’ll be fine.”
Sounded like code for a possible head injury.
Athlon Sports polled 19 media members who follow the Pac-12 (including me), asking us to rank the best players in the conference.
Arizona linebacker Scooby Wright was a near-unanimous pick, earning 16 first-place votes to easily outdistance runnerup Myles Jack, a linebacker from UCLA.
USC quarterback Cody Kessler earned two first-place votes and finished third in the poll, with Cal QB Jared Goff fourth. The only other Cal player to receive votes was wide receiver Kenny Lawler, who finished tied for 30th.
A few curiosities:
— USC players grabbed five of the top 16 spots.
— QB Vernon Adams, who just arrived at Oregon this week as a graduate transfer from Eastern Washington, checks in at No. 20.
— Stanford QB Kevin Hogan, despite a sparkling career win-loss record, is tied for 25th.
Here’s the full list:
1. Scooby Wright, LB, Arizona (16 first-place votes) 282; 2. Myles Jack, LB, UCLA (1) 234; 3. Cody Kessler, QB, USC (2) 208; 4. Jared Goff, QB, Cal 181; 5 tie. Devontae Booker, RB, Utah & Su’a Cravens, LB, USC, 175; 7. DeForest Buckner, DL, Oregon, 160; 8. Royce Freeman, RB, Oregon 154; 9. Adoree Jackson, CB/WR, USC 151; 10. Paul Perkins, RB, UCLA 82.
11. Max Tuerk, C, USC 81; 12. D.J. Foster, WR, Arizona State 61; 13. Nelson Spruce, WR, Colorado 48; 14. Kyle Murphy, OL, Stanford 44; 15. Kenny Clark, DL, UCLA 43; 16. JuJu Smith, WR, USC 27; 17. Nick Wilson, FB, Arizona 24; 18. Budda Baker, Saf, Washington 21; 19. Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford 20; 20. Vernon Adams, QB, Oregon 19.
21. Byron Marshall, WR, Oregon 16; 22. Hunter Dimick, DE, Utah 9; 23. Cayleb Jones, WR, Arizona 8; 24. Bralon Addison, WR, Oregon 7; 25 tie. Mike Bercovici, QB, Arizona State and Kevin Hogan, QB, Stanford 6; 27 tie. Victor Bolden, WR, Oregon State, Pharoh Brown, TE, Oregon, Eddie Vanderdoes, DL, UCLA 5; 30 tie. Demario Richard, RB, Arizona State and Kenny Lawler, WR, Cal 4.
32 tie. Gionni Paul, LB, Utah, Tom Hackett, P, Utah, and Jake Brendel, C, UCLA 3; 35. Joshua Garnett, OL, Stanford 2; 36 tie. Sefo Liufau, QB, Colorado, Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA, Tyler Johnstone, OT, Oregon, and Deon Hollins, LB, UCLA 1.
My votes: 1. Scooby Wright, LB, Arizona; 2. Jared Goff, QB, Cal; 3. Myles Jack, LB, UCLA; 4. Cody Kessler, QB, USC; 5. DeForest Buckner, DL, Oregon; 6. Royce Freeman, RB, Oregon; 7. Su’a Cravens, LB, USC; 8. Kyle Murphy, OT, Stanford; 9. Max Tuerk, C, USC; 10. Kevin Hogan, QB, Stanford; 11. Paul Perkins, RB, UCLA; 12. Kenny Lawler, WR, Cal; 13. Devontae Booker, RB, Utah; 14. Adoree Jackson, DB, UCLA; 15. D.J. Foster, WR, Arizona State.
Jaylen Brown scored 19 points and Tyrone Wallace had 18 as the Cal basketball team rallied from 11 points down to beat the Frankston Blues 84-76 on Tuesday at Melbourne to improve to 2-0 on its Australian summer tour.
Two nights after a 37-point victory, the Bears had to work this time. They trailed 49-42 at halftime and did not secure the lead for good until a basketball by Jabari Bird put them up 68-66 with 7:50 left.
“We did not do a good job out the gate,” Cal coach Cuonzo Martin said. “I thought we played more as individuals than as a team at the start . . . but we put in a defensive lineup that got us over the hump. Guys really started to play hard and get after it.
“Stephen Domingo did an exceptional job really setting the tone defensively. That’s where it started for us. We started to get stops and we played well from that point.”
Martin said the Bears will benefit from the struggles they faced.
“This was a physical opponent, a veteran opponent with older guys, but it was a great experience for our guys to be down by 10 points against a team like this and have to fight their way back and find a way to win the game,” he said.
Brown, the Bears’ touted freshman forward, was the team’s top scorer for the second straight game, and also contributed five rebounds and four steals. Wallace, a senior point guard, had five rebounds and four assists.
Freshman Ivan Rabb of Oakland scored 14 points on 7 for 9 from the field and led the Bears with seven rebounds. Bird added 13 points and six rebounds.
Frankston gave the Bears a serious scare despite its lowly position as the last-place team in the South East Australian Basketball League with a 3-21 record.
“This was a tough game. We had to overcome some adversity at the beginning and throughout the game,” Wallace said. “As the game went on, we found ways to come together and make the stops we needed to down the stretch.”
After scoring 15 points in the first game, junior shooting guard Jordan Mathews was limited to six points on 2 for 10 from the field. Center Kameron Rooks, who had 14 against Victoria Select, was limited by foul trouble to one point in just nine minutes.
Center Kingsley Okoroh provided Cal seven rebounds.
Cal resumes its tour Down Under against the Australia Center of Excellence, formerly known as the Australian Institute of Sport, in a game that tips off Wednesday night at midnight PDT.
Even in the Pac-12 Conference, with its annual collection of top-flight quarterbacks and high-octane offenses, one football reality slammed Cal in the face last season: The best teams play defense.
The eight conference schools that allowed the fewest points played in bowl games. The other four stayed home.
Cal, which ranked last among that group, giving up 39.8 points per game, is determined to provide its offense a credible complement on defense in 2015.
“We’re going to have to play a lot better defense to have the kind of football team we want to have,” Cal coach Sonny Dykes said.
On the heels of going 1-11 and 5-7 in Dykes’ first two seasons, the Bears have designs on playing in their first bowl game since 2011. They believe their defense is deeper, more talented and more experienced.
No one is a bigger believer than quarterback Jared Goff, who says the push up front and play in the secondary are on a different level than a year ago.
“If they’re doing it well against us, I’d like to think they’ll do it well against almost anybody,” said Goff, who directed the Pac-12’s second-most potent offense a year ago. “It’s going to be fun to watch them make plays in a real live setting.”
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