Basketball: Get your fill of Pac-12 hoops on Friday

Ready for some Pac-12 basketball?

Ten teams from the Pac-12 Conference will debut Friday — with nine of them playing on the various Pac-12 Networks. Here’s the schedule:

No. 7 Iowa State vs. COLORADO (1) 3 p.m. MT ESPN2
Sacramento State at ARIZONA STATE 5:30 p.m. MT PAC12
San Diego at USC 5 p.m. PT PAC12
Northern Arizona at WASHINGTON STATE 5:30 p.m. PT PAC12
Wisconsin Green Bay at STANFORD 6 p.m. PT PAC12
Pacific at No. 12 ARIZONA 7:30 p.m. MT PAC12
Jackson State at OREGON 7 p.m. PT PAC12
Southern Utah at No. 16 UTAH 8:30 p.m. MT PAC12
Monmouth at UCLA 8 p.m. PT PAC12
Rice at No. 14 CALIFORNIA 8:30 p.m. PT PAC12

By the way, handling game analysis for the Cal-Rice match will be Ben Braun — who coached at both schools.


Basketball: Key for Cal is putting the pieces together

For the Cal basketball team, picked to finish second in the Pac-12 Conference in the annual media poll, talent is not the issue.

“They’re talented,” said Mike Montgomery, the former Cal and Stanford coach. “How they’re going to fit together is the question.”

The Bears return starting guards Tyrone Wallace, Jordan Mathews and Jabari Bird from a year ago and have added freshmen forwards Jaylen Brown and Ivan Rabb, a pair of five-star recruits.

“Cal is going to be a terrific team,” said Arizona coach Sean Miller, whose Wildcats were tabbed to win the Pac-12 on Thursday at the league’s annual media day gathering. “What they have going for them is that blend of talent – both old and new – and that can be a powerful thing.”

Second-year coach Cuonzo Martin understands developing chemistry on his roster will dictate the Bears’ success. Martin had a good read on Brown and Rabb before signing them, and says the team’s summer tour of Australia helped bring players together.

But he understands his role in the equation.

“It’s your job as a coach to make them understand what it means to be part of a team, to be successful,” Martin said.

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Women’s basketball: Cal upbeat despite departures

Here is staff writer Elliott Almond’s report on the Cal women from Wednesday’s Pac-12 basketball media day in San Francisco. I will be attend the men’s event on Thursday:

Cal coach Lindsay Gottlieb opened practice this month with a daunting realization: “OK, no Brittany and no Reshanda. What do we do now?”

Good question.

Gottlieb enters her fifth season at Berkeley with the challenge of replacing All-American point guard Brittany Boyd and Pac-12 player of the year Reshanda Gray.

The loss of the two graduated seniors has led to downgraded expectations. The Golden Bears were picked to finish tied with UCLA for fourth place in a preseason coaches poll announced Wednesday.

But Gottlieb isn’t concerned about prognostications. The Pac-12 has improved from top to bottom, and leading pick Oregon State returns four starters from a team that won 27 games last season.

“We have a young group that says this is just the beginning,” Gottlieb said at Pac-12 media day in San Francisco. “They are locked into meeting those challenges and being better than people expect us to be.”

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Basketball: Cal teammates say Jaylen Brown and Ivan Rabb have maturity to match their talent

Junior guard Stephen Domingo says there is more to Cal’s elite freshman duo of Jaylen Brown and Ivan Rabb than jaw-dropping video highlights on YouTube.

“These are some of the most mature freshmen I’ve ever met. They’re just like us,” said Domingo, a San Francisco native who transferred to Cal from Georgetown and becomes eligible this season. “They’re super mature. They know how to carry conversations past basketball.

“I think it’s a great group of guys coach brought in.”

Junior guard Sam Singer laughed while comparing this freshman class to his own. “We had a bunch of goofballs,” he said.

Brown, a 6-foot-7, 225-pound small forward from Marietta, Georgia, was rated one of the nation’s top five high school prospects last season. Rabb, a 6-11 power forward from Oakland’s Bishop O’Dowd, was a consensus top-10 recruit.

With the core of last year’s team also back – including starting guards Tyrone Wallace, Jabari Bird and Jordan Mathews – the Bears are expected to challenge for the Pac-12 title. They are ranked in the top-15 in most preseason national polls.

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Basketball: Sporting News pegs Bears at No. 13

Mike DeCourcy of The Sporting News, who knows his stuff, has projected the Bears as the nation’s No. 13 team entering next season.

Heady stuff for a program that finished in a three-way tie for eighth place in the Pac-12 last season and did not participate in the postseason.

DeCourcy notes that Cal has three double-figure scorers returning in the backcourt — Tyrone Wallace, Jordan Mathews and Jabari Bird. “Elite recruit Jaylen Brown is better than all of them,” he writes. “McDonald’s All-American Ivan Rabb was one of the most coveted frontcourt recruits.”

But DeCourcy also points out, “What’s worrisome about the Bears is how truly mediocre with a fairly solid roster last season. We’re supposed to be excited about Jordan, Mathews and Bird returning, but they’re returning from a team that lost six of its final eight games and barely competed in two losses to Arizona.”

Here’s The Sporting News’ entire top-25:

1. Kansas; 2. Maryland; 3. North Carolina; 4. Kentucky; 5. Duke; 6. Virginia; 7. Iowa State; 8. Arizona; 9. Wichita State; 10. Gonzaga; 11. Oklahoma; 12. Villanova; 13. Cal; 14. North Carolina State; 15. Indiana; 16. West Virginia; 17. Cincinnati; 18. Michigan; 19. Oregon; 20. Wisconsin; 21. Florida State; 22. Butler; 23. Michigan State; 24. LSU; 25. Xavier.


Football: Four key issues entering fall camp

As Cal prepares to open fall training camp Monday, here are four issues the Golden Bears must resolve before their season opener on Aug. 30 at Northwestern.

Only four, you say? My editors asked for four; as we know, the list is potentially longer:

* Is there sufficient depth and talent at defensive tackle?

Harrison Wilfley and Marcus Manley emerged from spring ball on the top line of the depth chart after lone returning starter Jacobi Hunter transferred. The Bears are hoping junior Mustafa Jalil will be a force after sitting out last season with knee problems. Two more JC players, Trevor Kelly and David Davis, will be in the mix at a position coach Sonny Dykes hopes can become an area of depth. For now, it’s a big question.

* Who wins the running back job?

Junior Daniel Lasco emerged as the leader after spring ball, but he was a bit fragile last season. Versatile speedster Khalfani Muhammad was productive as a freshman last fall, but hardly seems an every-down back. Then there are two promising freshmen, Tre Watson and Vic Enwere. Watson rushed for 3,734 yards and 50 touchdowns last season at Corona-Centennial, while the 6-foot-1, 215-pound Enwere gained more than 1,500 yards each of the past two seasons in Missouri City, Texas. The Bears need a more productive running game, whether one player carries the load or it’s shouldered by committee.

* How will the defensive backfield sort out?

Coach Sonny Dykes said the secondary is the Bears’ biggest area of concern. The staff wants to pair former cornerback McClure alongside Sebastian at safety, but they are coming off injuries that limited them to a combined six games last season. The key is whether the Bears can find a three or four capable corners among returnees Darius Allensworth, Cameron Walker, Cedric Dozier and Trey Cheek and JC transfer Darius White.

* Can the offensive line gel into a capable unit?

Injuries and subpar performance resulted in the Bears using nine different O-line starters last season in six different lineup combinations. The result was Cal quarterbacks were sacked 34 times and the running game failed to crack 150 yards in the team’s first nine games. The Bears are hoping for more production and consistency this fall. The tentative starting five: LT Steven Moore, LG Chris Borrayo, C Chris Adcock, RG Alejandro Crosthwaite, RT Jordan Rigsbee.



Football: Cal to keep most August practices open to public

Beginning Monday at Memorial Stadium, Cal will hold 12 practices that are open to the public in the three weeks leading to the Golden Bear Day on Saturday, Aug. 23.

Six of the team’s seven scheduled practices for next week are open to fans. Practice runs from 3:30 to 6 p.m. next Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Thursday’s workout is closed, but Friday (3:30 p.m.), Saturday (noon) and Sunday (3:30) are open.

Week 2 practices that are open are Tuesday, Aug. 12, Friday, Aug. 14 and Friday, Aug. 15, all beginning at 3:30 p.m.

During Week 3, Monday, August 18 (3:30 p.m.) and both sessions on Tuesday, Aug. 19 (10 a.m./3:30 p.m.) are open.

The team will hold a short practice that is closed to fans on Saturday, Aug. 23, prior to Golden Bear Day activities, from 2 to 4 p.m. The free event will be held at Goldman Plaza and at the concourse level of Memorial Stadium.

Football players and coaches will attend, as will dozens of other athletes representing many of Cal’s 30 sports teams. Fans can talk with players and coaches and get autographs. There will be concession stands and a ticket booth open.


Football: Ted Agu continues to inspire teammates

Nearly four months after his death following an offseason training run, Ted Agu continues to inspire his teammates.

Asked about Agu during Wednesday’s Bay Area College Football Media Day at Levi’s Stadium, junior defensive end Brennan Scarlett said Agu’s influence won’t soon disappear.

“It’s crazy how something like that can really bring a group of people together. Because it’s hard to shoulder something like that on your own,” Scarlett said. “It’ll be huge for us, one of the biggest motivational factors for out team. I don’t think it will fade away for years to come.”

Scarlett, asked several times about Agu during an informal interview session, said his unfluence extends beyond football.

“It’s football, obviously, with workouts and on the field. But Ted was a great student. Ted was going to go to med school. He was a great person. He was friendly to everyone. That’s influenced a lot of people on our team to be more like that.

“For me, and I can speak for a lot of other guys, as far as who I am as a person and who we are as a team, it’s changed a lot for us.”


Football: Three newcomers added to roster

Three new defensive players have enrolled in school and will join the Bears for workouts beginning Monday, coach Sonny Dykes confirmed at Wednesday’s Bay Area College Football Media Day at Levi’s Stadium.

Cornerback A.J. Greathouse is a freshman from Chandler, Arizona, linebacker Jake Kearney is a sophomore from Livermore by way of College of San Mateo and linebacker Arthur Wainwright is a junior from College of Sequoias.

“We recruited them all because they’re very good athletes. I know they can run fast, physically they look good, they’ve been productive,” Dykes said. “How do they fit, what kind of shape are they in? We’ll know more Monday, but we’ll really know a lot more the following Monday.

“A couple of them will really jump off early, then kind of get overwhelmed and take a step back. So it’s really a week in before we can say we’re going to get something out of this guy.”


Dykes said he doesn’t expect sophomore defensive tackle James Looney to be granted a transfer waiver to be immediately eligible. A week ago he was hopeful Looney, from WakeForest, would be cleared.

The younger brother of 49ers offensive lineman Joe Looney is enrolled in school but will likely have to sit out this season.


Bay Area football media day: Bears anxious to see how defense looks with all hands on deck

Monday is not merely the first day of football training camp for Cal. It’s a reunion of sorts for a handful of the Bears’ best defensive players who missed most or all of last season.

Defensive end Brennan Scarlett, tackle Mustafa Jalil, linebacker Nathan Broussard and safeties Stefan McClure and Avery Sebastian combined to play just six games last fall when Cal’s defense surrendered nearly 46 points per game.

All of them have recovered from injury and they figure to dramatically improve the Bears’ defense.

“Seeing these guys in summer workouts, how strong and fast they’re looking, I think when we all get together on the field it’s going to be something special,” said Scarlett, sidelined all of last season by complications from a broken hand.

Coach Sonny Dykes, speaking at Bay Area College Football Media Day at Levi’s Stadium, shares Scarlett’s eagerness, but also is a bit anxious.

“It’s going to be fun seeing them all lined up out there. It certainly hasn’t happened yet,” he said.

Will they all be on the field for the Aug. 30 opener at Northwestern?

“That’s the goal,” Dykes said. “To have those guys out there, we’ll actually look like a good football team, a team that’s ready to play some good defense and have some experience and some size and some strength.”

Broussard, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in camp last August, has been moved from outside to middle linebacker.

“We think Nathan Broussard’s got a chance to be really good,” Dykes said. “You throw him into the mix and you can make the argument that maybe five of the top six or seven guys (on defense) didn’t play last year or played very little.”

Scarlett agreed. “I think Broussard will be a big surprise for people. No one’s seen him play inside linebacker.”

Jalil, highly rated out of high school, returns after a nagging knee injury that kept him sidelined all of last season. Dykes’ only up-close impressions of him so far came during 2013 spring ball.

“He’s like a phantom. You hear about him and you think he really exists, but you’re not quite sure,” said Dykes, beginning is second season in Berkeley. “In the spring (of 2013), the offense really had a hard time blocking him.”