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Cal basketball: Cuonzo Martin says scandal won’t be a distraction in NCAA opener

On the eve of his team’s opening game in the NCAA tournament, Cal coach Cuonzo Martin said the firing of assistant coach Yann Hufnagel will not be a distraction or obstacle for the Bears.

Martin took at least a half-dozen questions related to the scandal that broke Monday, and did his best to calmly deflect them while painting a picture of focus in his team’s locker room.

“We talk about how things happen in life, whether it’s basketball, the classroom, family members,” he said of how he addressed the issue with his players this week. “It’s a bump in the road, you keep moving forward.

“We don’t spend a lot of time on it. We’re not consumed by it. We talk about it, deal with it, that’s life.”

Hufnagel was fired following a campus investigation in which he acknowledged inappropriate dealings with a female reporter. The university has since said it will review the entire situation, including whether Martin promptly reported the news to the university after learning what happened.

“I’m not going to deal with that right now because we’re playing in the NCAA tournament. It’s a university issue right now,” he said during a podium interview. “Right now the biggest concern is our basketball team in the NCAA tournament.”

Asked if he’s concerned there could be fallout that could put his own job in jeopardy, Martin said it’s not his priority right now.

“I don’t worry about those things, to be totally honest with you,” he said. “My job with this basketball team is to win games, graduate young men and develop young men. Anything else is a waste of time.”

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Cal basketball: Tyrone Wallace injury confirmed as broken right hand — he’s out

UPDATED

Cal confirmed Thursday morning that senior point guard Tyrone Wallace broke his right hand and will miss the NCAA tournament.

A spokesman said it’s the same hand, but a different bone than he broke in January. Cal said the recovery time for this injury is 3 to 5 weeks.

The Bears open NCAA play Friday morning against Hawaii. Coach Cuonzo Martin said junior Sam Singer will start at point guard.

Cal was 3-2, including a win over Arizona, during the five games Wallace missed the first time he broke his hand.

Wallace is the Bears’ leading scorer at 15.3 points per game and also contributes 5.3 rebounds and 4.4 assists. A first-team all-Pac-12 selection as a junior, he was coming off a season-high 26-point performance in Cal’s overtime loss to Utah in the Pac-12 tournament semifinals.

A 6-foot-6 senior from Bakersfield, Wallace considered entering the NBA draft after his junior season in 2015, but returned in order to complete his degree and to play in the NCAA with a young, talented team that includes Brown and Ivan Rabb.

The news is the latest in a tumultuous week for the program. Assistant coach Yann Hufnagel was fired Monday for sexual harassment of a female report, and Martin is part of a campus review to determine whether his response to the Hufnagel situation was prompt and appropriate.

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Cal basketball: Jabari Bird’s late-season surge coincides with Bears’ improvement

A funny thing happened this season when Jabari Bird finally hit his stride. So did the Cal basketball team.

The Bears open NCAA tournament play Friday against Hawaii, but they wouldn’t own their best-ever No. 4 seeding without winning nine of their past 11 games.

And they wouldn’t have done that except that Bird found his rhythm midway through his third college season.

“A long journey,” said Bird, who is averaging 14.0 points and shooting 54.5 percent from the 3-point arc the past 11 games “After three long years, waiting and waiting and waiting, it’s a great time to be a Bear right now.

“I’m just happy, period. We won some ballgames down the stretch of the season. I’ve been playing a lot better. For the two to go hand in hand, is definitely big. Let’s keep it going.”

No one is happier than Carl Bird, a two-year starter at Cal who led the team in scoring as a senior in 1976, but never played in the NCAA tournament.

“I’m a proud father,” Carl said. “I wanted to see him get to March Madness. I hope they go all the way. They can make some history. Why not us, man?”

Bird was a McDonald’s All-American at Salesian High in Richmond, one of the nation’s elite prospects. But the 6-foot-6 guard battled injuries and inconsistency his first two seasons at Cal and showed only glimpses of his significant potential.

Now he has become the Bears’ clutch shot-maker. He beat Saint Mary’s early in the season by hitting a 3-pointer with 15 seconds left. He delivered three second-half 3-pointers in a Pac-12 tournament win over Oregon State. And he twice scored go-ahead baskets in the final minute overtime the next night against Utah in a last-second defeat.

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Cal basketball: Some instructive NCAA tournament history for the sky-is-falling crowd

If senior point guard Tyrone Wallace’s injured hand prevents him from playing Friday when Cal opens the NCAA tournament against Hawaii, it won’t be the first time the Bears tackled the event without a critical player lost late in the season.

It all worked out OK last time.

Back in 1997, the Bears lost Ed Gray — the Pac-12’s leading scorer at 24.8 points per game — to a broken foot in a Feb. 22 game at Washington State in which he scored a school-record 48 points.

Cal had two weeks — not just two days, as is the case here — to adjust before the NCAAs began.

But they did adapt to the loss, beating Princeton and Villanova to advance to the Sweet 16. Of course, that Cal team had a tight end/power forward named Tony Gonzalez, whose physical play — and 23 points — terrorized Villanova star freshman Tim Thomas.

These Bears will have to make due with freshmen Jaylen Brown and Ivan Rabb, among others.

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Cal basketball: Point guard Tyrone Wallace breaks hand again, per report

More bad news for the Cal basketball program.

Tyrone Wallace, the Bears’ starting point guard and only scholarship senior, has broken his right hand for the second time this season and is unlikely to play Friday when the Bears face Hawaii in the NCAA tournament, according to a report by Yahoo Sports!

Cal issued a statement late Wednesday night acknowledging Wallace injured his hand in practice. But the school did not confirm his hand is broken. It said Wallace was being evaluated and an update on his status would be provided Thursday morning.

Wallace is the Bears’ leading scorer at 15.3 points per game and also contributes 5.3 rebounds and 4.4 assists. He was coming off a season-high 26-point performance in Cal’s overtime loss to Utah in the Pac-12 tournament semifinals.

The report said Wallace suffered the injury in practice at Berkeley on Wednesday before the team traveled to Spokane.

It’s the same (non-shooting) hand he broke in January, causing him to miss five games.

If Wallace cannot play, coach Cuonzo Martin likely would start junior Sam Singer in his place.

A 6-foot-6 senior from Bakersfield, Wallace considered entering the NBA draft after his junior season in 2015, but returned in order to complete his degree and to play in the NCAA with a young, talented team that includes freshmen Jaylen Brown and Ivan Rabb.

The news is the latest in a tumultuous week for the program. Assistant coach Yann Hufnagel was fired Monday for sexual harassment of a female report, and Martin is part of a campus review to determine whether his response to the Hufnagel situation was prompt and appropriate.

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Cal basketball: Three freshmen who delivered for the Bears in March Madness

Cal freshmen Ivan Rabb (who has played well in recent weeks) and Jaylen Brown (who has not) both will be critical as the Bears began NCAA tournament play Friday against Hawaii and try to advance through the bracket.

Which got us thinking . . . what have been the best performances by Cal freshmen in the NCAA?

To qualify, first of of all you’ve got to play in the event as a freshman. That rules out Kevin Johnson, Lamond Murray, Leon Powe, Ryan Anderson and others of note.

One of Cal’s very best freshmen, one-year wonder Shareef Abdur-Rahim, picked the absolute wrong night to suffer through one of his worst games of his season. Abdur-Rahim, who led the Pac-10 in scoring in 1996, shot 1 for 6 and totaled just seven points in a loss to Iowa State at Dallas.

But it’s not all bad. Here are three Cal freshmen who blossomed on college basketball’s biggest stage:

— 1990: Forward Brian Hendrick had 13 points and 10 rebounds as the Bears played and won their first NCAA game in 30 years, a 65-63 victory over coach Bob Knight’s Indiana team at Hartford, Conn. Cal’s stay in the tournament ended two days later with a 74-54 loss to UConn, but Hendrick showed up and scored 12.

— 1993: Few freshmen anywhere have made their NCAA debut more impressively than Jason Kidd, who contributed 16 points, seven rebounds and the game-winning shot to a 66-64 win over LSU at Rosemont, Ill. He topped that performance by posting 11 points and 14 rebounds as the Bears ousted two-time defending national champion Duke 82-77. The Bears lost to Kansas 93-76 in the Sweet 16 at St. Louis, but Kidd had 13 points and 10 assists. Three games: 40 points, 31 assists, dozens of drooling NBA scouts.

— 2003: A decade later, Great Britain’s gift to Cal basketball delivered a dramatic game-winning 3-pointer with 3.9 seconds left in overtime for a 76-74 victory over North Carolina State in Oklahoma City. Midgley finished with 11 points, although two days later he was scoreless and the Bears went home after a 74-65 loss to hometown favorite Oklahoma.

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Cal basketball: University to look at Cuonzo Martin’s role in handling of sexual harassment scandal

Here is colleague Katy Murphy’s story (updated Wednesday afternoon) on Cal announcing it will review coach Cuonzo Martin’s role in the handling of the Yann Hufnagel sexual harassment scandal:

UC Berkeley is taking a closer look at the role of basketball head coach Cuonzo Martin in the handling of a sexual harassment scandal involving assistant coach Yann Hufnagel, who was fired on Monday.

The review, the campus said Wednesday, is to “dispel any doubts” about whether Martin responded properly to complaints made by a female reporter, who contacted him directly about his coach’s conduct.

“We firmly believe the results will support our confidence in Coach Martin,” athletic director Mike Williams said in a statement.

Cal Athletics later downplayed the statement, saying Martin was merely part of a broader, routine inquiry about whether anyone knew about Hufnagel’s alleged conduct — but failed to report it — before July 5, when Martin received an email from the reporter detailing her complaint.

“Coach Martin is included among this group of people, but is not a target of an investigation,” the updated statement from the department said, the line bold-faced for emphasis.

Click here to read the rest of this story.

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Cal basketball: Decision day will follow NCAA tournament for NBA prospect Ivan Rabb

Some time in the next two months, Ivan Rabb will make the biggest decision of his life. Will he leave Cal after his freshman season to enter the NBA and become very rich?

Right now, the 19-year-old from Oakland doesn’t want to think about it.

Front and center this week for Rabb is the NCAA tournament. Cal opens Friday in Spokane, Washington, as a No. 4 seed matched against Hawaii.

“It gives me another chance to help my team, to make a name for myself,” Rabb said.

Tami Rabb can’t stop thinking about the decision that is coming.

“As a mother, all you want is for your child to do well,” she said. “I’m probably more consumed with it than he is because I’m trying to look out for his interests.”

From the outside, the decision can appear to be a no-brainer. Who wouldn’t jump at the money NBA teams pay to top rookies?

The website DraftExpress.com projects Rabb, a 6-foot-11 forward, as the No. 14 pick in the June 23 draft. That would be worth $1,743,500 for his rookie season. If he went No. 10, as NBADraft.net suggests, that salary swells to $2,140,500.

“It’s something I’ve dreamed about growing up,” Rabb conceded. “It can change my life, change my family’s lives.”

Click here to read the rest of this story.

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Cal basketball: Rival coach says Hawaii won’t back down

Coach Bob Williams, whose UC Santa Barbara team lost to Cal early in the season and to Hawaii three times in Big West Conference play, said the Rainbow Warriors won’t back down but will have to bring their “A” game to topple the Bears in Friday’s NCAA tournament opener.

“I’m hopeful they will make it a game, but they will have to play very well,” he said of Hawaii. “Cal is awfully difficult, athletically. They are so long.

“Hawaii will be ready to play. They played Oklahoma — they’re not going to be intimidated. They have a big enough chip on their shoulder, but they would have to shoot the lights out to be in the hunt.”

Williams said Hawaii’s most difficult matchup is 6-foot-11 junior forward Stefan Jankovic, who was MVP of the Big West. The Serbian-born big man can score inside but also shoots 39 percent from the 3-point arc and has the quickness to attack bigger defenders off the dribble.

The 23rd-ranked Bears may be better equipped to defend Jankovic than most Big West teams.

“He doesn’t play against someone like Ivan Rabb in our league,” Williams said of Cal’s gifted 6-11 freshman.

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Cal basketball: Assistant coach Yann Hufnagel fired amid allegations of sexual harassment

UPDATED: Here is our final version of the story on Cal assistant coach Yann Hufnagel’s firing Monday following allegations of sexual harassment. Staff writer Katy Murphy collaborated on the story with me:

In a growing scandal spreading across campus, UC Berkeley on Monday fired assistant basketball coach Yann Hufnagel after an investigation found he violated the university’s sexual harassment policy.

The coach’s firing — four days before Cal is to begin play in the NCAA tournament — marked the campus’ third sexual harassment case to come to light in five months and the second in the past week.

UC Berkeley officials did not detail the specific allegations it substantiated against Hufnagel; Cal Athletics spokesman Wesley Mallette said they are related to “a series of communications and behaviors” between November 2014 and August 2015, when the investigation began.

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