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Basketball: Cobbs to Memphis summer team

Former Cal point guard Justin Cobbs has signed to play for the Memphis Grizzles in the NBA summer league in Orlando, Fla.

Cobbs, a first-team all-Pac-12 selection as a senior this past season, will debut with the Grizzlies on Saturday against the Miami Heat. The team will play five games, which can be seen on NBA TV.

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BTW, I’m back from vacation. You cover college sports and you figure June is a safe month to be away. Go figure.

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Basketball: Ex-Cal star Justin Cobbs makes Warriors his latest stop on pre-NBA draft tour

I visited the Warriors’ practice facility in Oakland on Wednesday to talk with ex-Cal star Justin Cobbs, who was among six NBA draft hopefuls who worked out in front of club officials.

Here’s my story on how Cobbs and former Saint Mary’s College guard Stephen Holt are faring in the leadup to the June 26 NBA draft.

Cobbs also said he and his Cal teammates were completely surprised when coach Mike Montgomery announced his retirement after the season.

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Football: Chris McCain signs with Dolphins

Linebacker Chris McCain signed a free-agent contract with the Miami Dolphins, making him the sixth former Cal player to land a spot with an NFL team since the draft two weekends ago.

McCain played two-plus seasons at Cal before being dismissed from the program for conduct detrimental to the team after four games of his 2013 junior campaign.

He finished his collegiate career with 90 tackles, 14.5 tackles for 50 yards in lost yardage, 5.0 sacks, one pass breakup, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery in 24 games played and 18 starts.

McCain’s top season came as a 2012 sophomore when he was an honorable mention All-Pac-12 selection.

McCain is the fourth ex-Cal player to either sign or agree to terms as a free agent with an NFL team. Running back Brendan Bigelow (Tampa Bay), cornerback Kameron Jackson (Indianapolis) and defensive tackle Deandre Coleman Jacksonville) previously did so.

Tight end Richard Rodgers (Green Bay) and linebacker Khairi Fortt (New Orleans) were selected in the third and fourth rounds, respectively, of the NFL draft.

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Basketball: Nets sign Jorge Gutierrez

Jorge Gutierrez, who went undrafted by the NBA after winning 2012 Pac-12 Player of the Year honors as a senior at Cal, has signed a 10-day contract with the Brooklyn Nets.

Gutierrez was averaging 13.9 points, 5.7 rebounds, 6.9 assists and 1.2 steals for the Canton Charge of the NBA Developmental League. With the Nets, he will play under coach Jason Kidd, another former Cal point guard.

A native of Chihuahua, Mexico, Gutierrez, 25, will become just the fourth player from Mexico to reach the NBA.

One of the popular Cal players in recent years, Gutierrez initially made his mark as a defensive specialist. Coach Mike Montgomery’s first recruit to Berkeley. Gutierrez became a starter by his sophomore season and as a senior averaged 13.0 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.1 assists for a 24-10 team that tied for second in the Pac-12.

“We are absolutely delighted for Jorge,” Montgomery said. “He is one of my favorite kids I have ever coached. He deserves it. I hope he makes his mark in the NBA.

“He will help regardless because he is that type of kid. We are all really happy for him.”

A year ago, Gutierrez was named to the D-League’s all-defensive and all-rookie teams. Last summer he helped Mexico to a victory over Puerto Rico in the gold medal game of the FIBA Americas Championships.

Signed to the Nets training camp roster last fall, he appeared in five preseason games, averaging 1.8 points and 3.0 rebounds before being waived on Oct. 26.

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Basketball: Earl Shultz ready for his big day

Sunday’s game against USC is big for Cal, coming four days after a lopsided loss to UCLA.

But the occasion is no less significant for Dr. Earl Shultz, who will be honored at halftime with the Pete Newell Career Achievement Award.

For Shultz, who played on Newell’s two Final Four teams at Cal and became a lifelong close friend of the late coaching legend, there can be bigger honor.

“For the guys who played for Pete,” Shultz said this week, “it’s the ultimate to be associated with Pete.”

Shultz was a sophomore reserve guard on the 1959 Cal team that won the NCAA title, then became a starter the next season when the Bears returned to the Final Four at the Cow Palace, losing to Ohio State in the title game.

He jokingly refers to himself and his teammates as “dinosaurs,” but these were Cal’s greatest teams. His first two seasons as a varsity player, the Bears went 53-6, won a pair of conference titles and helped Newell close out his career with the last of eight straight victories over John Wooden and UCLA.

The Bears haven’t been back to the Final Four since.

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Basketball: Dave Butler to Pac-12 Hall of Honor

Dave Butler, a four-year (1983-86) starting forward who helped Cal to its first postseason bid in 26 seasons, will be inducted into the Pac-12 Basketball Hall of Honor on March 14 during the conference tournament at Las Vegas.

Butler still ranks 19th on Cal’s career scoring list (1,291 points) and sixth in rebounding (814). He was Pac-10 Freshman of the Year in 1983 and led the Bears in rebounding three times.

He still holds the Cal record of 113 career starts and set single-game school marks of 20 free throws made and 24 attempts against Arizona State in 1987.

Butler and the Bears ended a 26-year postseason drought with an NIT appearance in 1986, and they returned the next year, advancing to the tournament’s quarterfinals.

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Football: Jahvid Best says he’s healthy, excited to be back at school to help coach running backs

Jahvid Best, back at Cal as a student assistant running backs coach, said he currently has no lingering effects from the series of concussions that ended his NFL career in 2011 after just 22 games.

“My health is fine,” he said Thursday during an informal media gathering to announce his return to school as a student and part-time coach. “I have no issues that are dragging on. It’s good that I left the game healthy. That’s very important to me.”

Best, 25, whose All-America career at Cal was ended when he suffered a head injury on a spectacular fall after a midair collision during the 2009 season, suffered two additional concussions in his second season with the Detroit Lions. He hasn’t played in a game since Oct. 16, 2011.

The Lions kept Best on the payroll through the 2012 season, but he never was cleared to play and the team finally released him last July.

“Oh man, that was tough for me,” Best said of leaving the game. “My playing days are over. I knew it was going to happen eventually. It happened a lot quicker than I wanted it to. So now I’ve decided to come back to school and figure out what’s next for me.”

Click here to read the rest of my story.

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Football: Ex-Cal players get NFL combine invites

Former Cal players Deandre Coleman, Khairi Fortt and Richard Rodgers have received invitations to the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, Feb. 19-25.

 Here are thumbnails on all three (courtesy of Cal athletics):

* Deandre Coleman, DL, 6-5, 315, Seattle, WA (Garfield HS)

Coleman played in all 49 games possible with 25 starts during his career at Cal over the past four seasons after redshirting as a true freshman in 2009. He finished his career with 125 tackles, 26.5 tackles for loss (-89 yards), 7.5 sacks (-39 yards), three pass breakups, two fumble recoveries and four quarterback hurries. Coleman was a third-team All-Pac-12 selection of Phil Steele and an honorable mention All-Pac-12 choice by the league’s coaches as one of three Cal players to start all 12 games in 2013. He led the Golden Bears in tackles for loss (career-high 9.0) and tackle for loss yardage (-27 yards), while ranking third in sacks (2.5, -4 yards) and first among defensive linemen in tackles (40). Coleman played in the 2014 Senior Bowl following his senior collegiate season and contributed two tackles and a half tackle for loss for the winning South team.

* Khairi Fortt, LB, 6-2, 240 (Seattle, WA/Garfield HS)

Fortt was one of 12 national semifinalists for the 2013 Butkus Award at the collegiate level for the award given annually to the nation’s top linebackers at the high school, collegiate and professional levels. Fortt started the first nine games of the 2013 season at Cal in his first and only year of action for the Golden Bears after redshirting in 2012 following his transfer from Penn State. Fortt, who missed the final three games of the 2013 campaign due to injury, recorded 64 tackles to rank third on the team after leading the squad for most of the season. He was 18th in the Pac-12 with an average of 7.1 stops per game. He added 3.5 tackles for loss (-5 yards) and 0.5 sacks (-1 yard). In two seasons at Penn State from 2010-11, Fortt played in 22 contests and compiled totals of 50 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss (-23 yards) and 2.5 sacks (-16 yards). Fortt was an early entry for the 2014 NFL Draft who is foregoing his final season of collegiate eligibility.

* Richard Rodgers, TE/WR, 6-4, 245 (Worcester, MA/St. John’s HS)

Rodgers played in 35 of 37 possible games while starting 11 contests during three seasons at Cal from 2011-13. He finished his career with 59 receptions for 896 yards receiving (15.2 ypr) and two touchdown catches. Rodgers had his best campaign as a junior in 2013 when he totaled career highs of 39 receptions and 608 yards receiving to rank third on the team in both categories. He had 20 catches for 288 yards as a 2012 sophomore. Rodgers was an early entry for the 2014 NFL Draft who is foregoing his final season of collegiate eligibility.