Goodbye: My long run covering Cal sports for the Bay Area News Group comes to an end

Well, it’s time to say goodbye. It has been my great pleasure to bring you Cal sports news and commentary for more than 30 years, but I have taken a voluntary buyout and my time at the Bay Area News Group ends on Friday.

It’s been a blast! And rarely a dull moment.

I covered Kevin Johnson and Jason Kidd, Joe Kapp and Jared Goff.

I wrote the game story for the Big Game for the first time in 1982, and you all know what happened in that one. I watched grown men cry when the Bears ended their 52-game losing streak to UCLA.

I saw Cal knock off two-time national champion Duke to reach the Sweet 16 in 1993 and was there when Mike Montgomery’s 2010 team won the school’s first conference title in 50 years.

I had the joy of getting to know two late, great Cal men — Pete Newell and Bruce Snyder.

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Cal basketball: Jaylen Brown confident and comfortable with decision to enter NBA draft

Jaylen Brown made the expected announcement Thursday that he is entering the NBA, but the Cal freshman said his ambitions are broad.

“People come here to change the world,” he said of his experience at Cal, “and I’m one of those people.”

Cal coach Cuonzo Martin said Brown, a 6-foot-7 small forward, has the talent to become the No. 1 pick in the June 23 draft. Brown is a consensus top-10 pick in mock drafts.

“His biggest strength is willingness to learn and grow,” Martin said. “I think he has the potential to be one of the 10 best players when it’s all said and done.”

Brown, the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, said he did not make his final decision until Thursday morning, just prior to a news conference that was scheduled the day before.

“I really hadn’t decided,” he said. “I new I was going to make an announcement. I had to – the deadline’s coming.”

The only projected lottery pick still facing the Sunday deadline for underclassmen to announce entry into the draft is Brown’s fellow Cal freshman Ivan Rabb, the Oakland native.

One source close to Rabb believes it’s more than 50-50 that he remains at Cal, but Rabb said, “I’m still thinking about it. It’s a big decision – my life. It’s been hard to figure out what I want to do. I’m just being patient with myself.”

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Cal basketball: Jaylen Brown to make Thursday announcement — expected to head to NBA

Cal’s small forward Jaylen Brown will make an announcement Thursday morning about whether he intends to enter the NBA draft, and all signs point to the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year turning pro.

Brown, a 6-foot-7, 225-pound native of suburban Atlanta, is universally projected as a lottery pick, likely a top-10 selection. The website Draftexpress.com has him going No. 4 overall and NBADraft.net envisions him at No. 9.

Sources say Brown has spent recent weeks training in the Los Angeles area.

Sunday  Monday is the deadline for underclassmen to enter the NBA draft. Players who do not sign with an agent have until May 25 to change their minds and return to college.

Fellow Cal freshman Ivan Rabb of Oakland has not made an announcement, but sources indicate the 6-10 power forward may opt to return to school.

The NBA draft will be held June 23 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

A first-team all-Pac-12 selection, Brown is an explosive, physically mature player who attacks the basket and is terrific in the open court.

He averaged 14.6 points and 5.4 rebounds per game, and had 27 double-digit scoring games in 33 outings, including six of 20 points or more.

He earned Freshman All-America honors by the U.S. Basketball Writers Association of America.

But Brown was an erratic shooting, converting just 29.4 percent from the 3-point arc and 54.6 percent from the free throw lines. And he slumped late in the season, averaging just 7.8 points and shooting just 10 for 48 over the Bears’ final five games, including a season-low four points in Cal’s NCAA tournament opening-round loss to Hawaii.


Cal football: Bears make huge leap in latest Academic Progress Rate scores

Three years after he inherited a Cal football program with its academic reputation in shambles, coach Sonny Dykes’ team has earned its best Academic Progress Rate four-year average score since 2008-09.

The Bears scored 997 of a maximum 1,000 points on the APR scale for the 2014-15 academic year, raising their four-year average to 960, according to figures released by the NCAA on Wednesday.

Cal ranked last in the Pac-12 the past three years, but its four-year average now is tied for eighth in the conference. The 19-point jump from 941 last year was the best in the conference.

The Bears’ 997 score for 2014-15 ties for the highest in the Pac-12, and is the second-best in program history. Cal football had sub-930 scores in consecutive seasons before Dykes’ hiring.

“The issue we were dealing with early was we had some (academic) numbers that weren’t very good,” Dykes said. “A lot of these kids came to Cal with a leap of faith. They’re the guys that did it.

“To go from one of the worst to one of the best just shows what kind of hard work and effort and character these guys have.”

The NCAA uses APR to track eligibility, retention and graduation, providing a gauge for each team’s academic performance.

The Cal men’s basketball team was among a school-record 13 sports that posted scores of 1,000. The perfect score came in coach Cuonzo Martin’s first season of 2014-15 and boosted the program’s four-year average to 960, matching the football team’s score over the same span.

Cal athletic director Mike Williams was pleased by the progress of the Bears’ two most high-profile programs.

“Under Sonny Dykes, our football program’s trajectory remains on an upward path, and the first-year results for our men’s basketball team under Cuonzo Martin couldn’t be any better,” he said in a statement.

The Cal women’s basketball program scored 949 for 2014-15 and its four-year average of 973 represents a 13-point improvement from last year and ranks ninth in the Pac-12.

The Cal men’s tennis program scored 1,000 for the seventh straight season and the women’s tennis team has posted a perfect mark six years in a row.

Other Cal programs that scored 1,000 were women’s volleyball, men’s and women’s cross country, women’s golf, men’s gymnastics, women’s lacrosse, men’s soccer, men’s swimming & diving, and men’s and women’s water polo.


Cal women’s golf: Bears host Pac-12 tourney

Eight of the nation’s 20 top-rated women’s collegiate golf teams will compete in the three-day Pac-12 championships at Ruby Hill Golf Club in Pleasanton beginning Monday.

Tournament host Cal, rated No. 15 nationally and seeded No. 7, has finished among the top 10 in every event it’s competed this season.

But the field is ferocious, topped by No.2 USC, No. 4 UCLA and No. 10 Arizona State.

Twenty-nine of the nation’s top 100 players will compete for honors, including Cal’s top player, 41st-ranked Hannah Suh.

The 54-hole, par 72 event begins Monday at 9 a.m., and is open to the public.


Cal basketball: JC point guard makes it official

Don Coleman, a freshman point guard at Lawson State, a junior college in Birmingham, Alabama, signed his letter-of-intent to play for Cal, according to media sources.

Cal was yet to make an official announcement.

Coleman, who committed to the Bears during the season, will come to Berkeley next fall with three years of eligibility. He is expected to compete with Sam Singer for the starting point guard position.

A 6-foot-3, 190-pounder, Coleman averaged 20 points, 6.2 assists and 4.5 rebounds and shot 43 percent from the 3-point arc.


Cal basketball: Ex-aide Yann Hufnagel hired by Nevada

Former Cal basketball assistant coach Yann Hufnagel has a new job.

The day after he resigned his position at Cal amid an investigation of sexual harassment, Hufnagel was hired Friday as an assistant at the University of Nevada.

Cal announced Hufnagel’s dismissal on March 14, four days before the Bears opened play in the NCAA tournament, for his alleged sexual harassment of a female reporter. He was fighting the decision until Thursday when he withdrew his appeal, citing a “toxic environment” on a campus dealing with a widespread sexual harassment scandal.

Nevada coach Eric Musselman, a former Warriors coach, defended the controversial decision to hire Hufnagael.

“I’ve known Yann for nearly a decade and and he’s always been a guy who has an unbelievable work ethic and high character,” Musselman told the Reno Gazette-Journal. “I made more than 20-30 calls about him and everybody had great things to say about work ethic and character and he has a reputation for being one of the best recruiters in the country.

“Nobody can match his energy and enthusiasm and we’re excited to add him.”

In its investigation, Cal found that Hufnagel tried to lure a female reporter to his apartment and sent her sexually suggestive text messages over the course of several months.

Hufnagel was in his second season as an assistant coach to Cuonzo Martin. He was credited with having a hand in the successful recruitment of five-star prospects Jaylen Brown and Ivan Rabb.

Hufnagel previously worked as an assistant coach at Vanderbilt and Harvard, and served as an intern for the New Jersey Nets.


Cal football: Depth at safety to be tested if Damariay Drew’s knee injury is serious

Cal’s potential defensive renaissance took a hit this week when senior safety Damariay Drew suffered a knee injury that will require surgery and leaves his status for the fall season unclear.

Coach Sonny Dykes said Drew would have surgery within a week or two. He did not speculate on the nature or severity of the injury or Drew’s prognosis going forward.

The injury occurred during Wednesday’s spring practice.

The Bears expect their defense to be stronger this season, partly thanks for improved depth. That could be tested if Drew — one of the team’s hardest hitters and most experienced defenders — is sidelined. Senior Khari Vanderbilt was listed as Drew’s No. 2 on a spring depth chart released this week and sophomore Evan Rambo has performed well enough that he is penciled in as the other starting safety.

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Cal football: Prolific JC linebacker to join Bears

Cal has signed Jordan Kunaszyk, a 6-foot-3, 235-pound linebacker from American River College, who will join the Bears as a sophomore in the fall.

Kunaszyk led all California JC players with 118 tackles and earned Freshman All-American and Defensive Player of the Year honors for the NorCal division of the California Community College Athletic Association.

“Jordan was as productive as any junior college linebacker in the country last season,” Cal coach Sonny Dykes said in a statement. “He’s a good athlete with excellent size and great range. We expect him to compete for a starting spot at linebacker right away, as well as jump into the mix on special teams because of his size, strength and athleticism. Jordan is exactly the type of player we are looking for.”

A native of Roseville, led ARC to a 7-4 record and a bowl bid last season. He has three seasons to play for the Bears.


Cal basketball: Steve Kerr speaks up for Cuonzo Martin

Cal coach Cuonzo Martin got a vote of confidence Wednesday from Warriors coach Steve Kerr, whose son played this season for the Golden Bears.

First, Kerr posted a note of gratitude on Twitter:

Huge thank you to @CuonzoMartin and @CalMensBBall for taking care of my son @NickKerr this season. Fantastic experience, exceptional people.

Later, during an interview session, Kerr expanded on his reasons for reaching out on Martin’s behalf.

“My son was a walk-on there this year,” Kerr said. “He had an incredible experience with his teammates, with the coaching staff, with Cuonzo. I wanted to say thanks for the season that Cal had and for the experience that my son had.

“All I wanted to vouch for is (Martin’s) character. He’s been an incredible mentor for my son, phenomenal coach and I just wanted to say thanks for that.”

Martin was in the spotlight last week after questions arose about whether he promptly reported knowledge of sexual harassment claims against assistant coach Yann Hugnagel, who was fired four days before the Bears’ NCAA tournament opener.

The university said it planned to review the entire handling of the Hufnagel situation, including Martin’s role.

“I know that the program is going through some turmoil with the issue that’s happening. I don’t have any comment on that,” Kerr said.

“I just know from my son and getting to know Cuonzo what kind of person he is, and I wanted to support him.”