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Football: Bears add DT to 2014 incoming class

Cal added depth and size to a position that needs both, signing 6-foot-3, 300-pound defensive tackle Chris Palmer of Lawrenceville, Ga., to a financial aid agreement.

Palmer played high school ball at Collins Hill High School in the Atlanta in the fall of 2011 and 2012 and is attending the Naval Preparatory School this year.

As the Bears finished spring ball a week ago, the team’s top four defensive tackles have never played in a major college game. Junior Mustafa Jalil, who sat out spring ball, is expected back in August after missing last season due to a knee injury. And sophomore Jacobi Hunter’s status is in question after he took personal leave from the team a couple weeks ago.

Palmer earned preseason All-State honors prior to his senior season and played in the Rivalries of Gwinnett All-Star Football Game. He was a second-team All-Region selection in 2011.

“We are excited to have Chris as part of the Cal football program,” coach Sonny Dykes said. “He’s a good fit for us both academically and athletically. On the field, he will give us some size inside. We were fortunate to find him.”

Palmer’s addition boosts Cal’s 2014 class to 23 players, class 13 of them on the defensive side of the ball.

 

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Football: Bears get commitment from 3-star WR but lose elite QB prospect to Arizona State

Cal got its third verbal commitment in the class of 2015 when three-star wide receiver Greyson Bankhead of Centennial-Corona picked the Bears over SMU and Arizona, according to Scout.com.

A 5-foot-9, 155-pounder, Bankhead caught 73 passes for 1,031 yards on the same Centennial team that is sending running back Tre Watson to Berkeley this fall.

Meanwhile, Cal recruiting target Brady White, rated the nation’s No. 9 quarterback prospect in the class of 2015 by Scout.com, announced he will attend Arizona State. 

White, from Hart-Newhall — the same high school that produced Joe Kapp — had narrowed his choices to ASU, Cal and Oregon before choosing the Sun Devils.

White passed for 4,535 yards and 41 touchdowns while rushing for 320 yards and nine more scores as a junior last season.

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Basketball: Cal signs 7-foot-1 Kingsley Okoroh; Point guard Ahmaad Rorie asks for release

New Cal basketball coach Cuonzo Martin signed his first recruit, adding center Kingsley Okoroh, a 7-foot-1, 260-pound native of England, to the Bears’ roster for the 2014-15 season.

Okoroh played last season at Westwind Prep in Phoenix, where he averaged 16 points, 12 rebounds, six blocked shots and four assists.

“I like Kingsley’s ability to block shots and protect the rim,” Martin said. “He continues to make great strides with his offense. I think he has a bright future in front of him and has a chance to be really good.”

Meanwhile, the Bears lost four-star point guard Ahmaad Rorie of Tacoma, Wash., who asked to be released from the letter-of-intent he signed in November. Cal still has four available scholarships.

Okoroh, unrated among  the nation’s top high school prospects, nonetheless provides the Bears with size they badly need.

A native of Derby, England, Okoroh originally attended Findlay Prep in Henderson, Nev., where he played alongside current Cleveland Cavaliers forward and 2013 No. 1 draft pick Anthony Bennett. Okoroh then returned home to England to complete high school before enrolling at Westwind Prep for a post-graduate year.

Okoroh is ranked as the fifth-best prospect in Europe by ESPN’s recruiting services.

Okoroh also has four years of international playing experience as a member of England’s junior national team. In nine games at the 2013 U18 European Championship (Division A) in Latvia, he averaged 8.9 points, 8.0 rebounds and 2.2 blocks in 29.8 minutes per game. His best outing was a 16-point, 15-rebound performance during a 71-58 win over Ukraine.

At the 2011 U16 European Championship (Division B), Okoroh earned All-Tournament Team honors after leading the tournament in both rebounding (11.4 rpg) and blocks (4.3 bpg).

In March 2011, Okoroh was one of 40 elite European players to receive an invitation to the Jordan Brand Classic event in Surrey, England.

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Football: Cal lands 1st two commits for 2015 class

Wide receiver Austin Aaron of Napa HS became the first member of the 2015 graduating class to commit to Cal. Then safety Malik Psalms of Chino Hills also said he will accept a scholarship from the Bears.

Rated a 3-star prospect by both Scout.com and Rivals.com, Aaron is 6-foot-5, 200 pounds. Rivals lists him as the No. 62 overall prospect in the state.

His father played baseball at Cal, according to Rivals, and his grandfather also attended the university.

Aaron picked Cal over offers from Utah, Washington State, Duke, Harvard, Penn, Nevada and San Jose State.

Psalms, from Ayala HS, is a 6-1, 174-pound prospects who picked Cal over San Diego State and San Jose State. He is not rated by either Scout or Rivals.

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Women’s basketball: Bears ink New Zealander

The Cal women’s basketball team has signed Penina Davidson, a 6-foot-3 forward who plays for the New Zealand national team.

A native of Auckland — the same hometown as former Cal player Sean Marks — Davidson joins a Cal recruiting class that already was ranked among the top 20 in the nation.

“We are thrilled to add a person and player of Penina’s caliber in the late signing period,” Cal coach Lindsay Gottlieb said. “Nina comes from a ‘basketball family’, and that’s evident in her versatile game and high basketball intellect. She’s big and strong and will provide a solid post presence, but also has an array of skills facing the basket.”

Davidson is a member of the New Zealand women’s national team where she most recently competed at the 2013 FIBA Oceania Championships, scoring five points and pulling down eight rebounds for the Tall Ferns in the championship series against the Australia senior national team that was coming off a bronze medal finish at the London Olympics.

Davidson also competed for New Zealand at the 2012 Four Nations Challenge in China where she averaged 15 points and 9.2 rebounds per game in nine total games against China, the United States and Australia. She was named to the final all-tournament team, one of just two non-Americans selected.

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Basketball: Austrian 7-foot prospect undecided

The general manager of an Austrian first-division team said 7-foot teen-age prospect Jakob Poeltl, who visited Cal in early February, “will wait a few more weeks before he makes a decision.”

I exchanged emails this week with Helmut Niederhofer, general manager of the Arkadia Traiskirchen Lions of the Austrian A Bundesliga, who gave high praise to Poeltl.

“He has great potential,” Niederhofer said. “His biggest strength is his brain. He learns incredibly fast and has a great presence on the court.”

Niederhofer said that because Poeltl, an 18-year-old native of Vienna, attends classes during the day, he practices only in the evenings.

In 2011, Poeltl was named MVP of the Austrian U16 national championships.

Poeltl visited Cal, Arizona and Utah on his trip through the U.S. If he signs with Cal, he would arrive on campus next fall and be part of the 2014-15 team.

The 225-pound power forward averages 12.1 points, 6.7 rebounds and 2.2 blocked shots for Arkadia, and shoots a remarkable 72.3 percent (81 for 112) from the floor. He has four double-doubles.

Poeltl scored a season-high 24 points in an Oct. 26 game vs, Gussing and had 18 on Oct. 7 against Zepter Vienna. In his most recent game, Feb. 16, Peoltl had 11 points and 10 rebounds in a 102-55 win over UBSC Graz.

The Lions play next on Sunday against Furstenfield.

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Football: Rubenzer inspired by Russell Wilson

Cal signee Luke Rubenzer has a new, two-word response whenever someone suggests he’s too short to play quarterback: Russell Wilson.

Rubenzer, listed at 6 feet, was out and about in his hometown of Scottsdale, Ariz., earlier this week when someone questioned his physical qualifications to play the position.

“I almost said, ‘Did you watch the Super Bowl?’” he said. “I’ll probably use that next time.”

Rubenzer, who made his commitment to Cal official on Wednesday, is modestly rated as a three-star prospect by most recruiting services. He knows the scouts graded him down because he’s not the prototype quarterback at 6-4.

Wilson, the former Wisconsin star who led the Seattle Seahawks to victory Sunday in the Super Bowl, is Rubenzer’s response to the stereotype.

“It’s really cool a guy like that, who is actually shorter than I am, having a big game in the Super Bowl,” Rubenzer said.

Click here for the rest of my Cal recruiting notebook.

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Football: Updated team rankings

Here are the latest recruiting class team rankings:

Scout.com: 10. USC; 15. Stanford; 17. Arizona State; 19. UCLA; 22. Oregon; 30. Arizona; 36. Washington; 43. Cal; 48. Oregon State; 59. Washington State; 68, Utah; 72. Colorado.

Rivals.com: 10. USC; 14. Stanford; 18. UCLA; 21. Arizona State; 26. Oregon; 28. Arizona; 36. Washington; 45. Cal; 49. Oregon State; 64. Colorado; 68. Utah; 71. Washington State.

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Football: Dykes labels Golden Bears’ recruiting class solid, but group lacks usual local flavor

Cal coach Sonny Dykes called his recruiting class “solid” given the club’s ghastly 2013 season, but he knows his regime must do a better job of convincing local talent to stay home.

Cal’s 21-member class includes just two high school prospects from the greater Bay Area — San Mateo’s Hamilton Anoa’i and Petaluma’s John Porchivina. The Bears got no one from the East Bay, where in past years they have mined future stars such as Marshawn Lynch.

At least 15 local high school players signed with other Pac-12 Conference schools Wednesday, and the Bears also whiffed on five-star running back Joe Mixon of Oakley, who picked Oklahoma.

“There were a couple kids we went heavy on that we didn’t get. That was disappointing,” said Dykes, who suggested that academics were an issue with a couple of prospects. “Any good football program must protect its own backyard. It’s important for us to do that.”

Click here for the rest of my story.

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Football: Sonny Dykes’ early remarks

Here’s what Cal coach Sonny Dykes had to say about players the Bears signed on Wednesday, courtesy of Cal’s sports information department:

 – Dykes on running back Tre Watson: “He’s probably as productive as anybody anywhere. He just had a great year and played on a great football team. He’s an instinctual runner with great lateral movement and finishes runs very well. He plays with really good leverage and makes a lot of big plays. He has an ability to be patient but at the same time anticipate things. He’s just kind of what you are looking for from a running back. He just has a lot of natural instincts and natural ability.”

– Dykes on linebacker Hamilton A’noa’i: “He’s a very versatile athlete. He did a lot of things for his high school team – in the defensive backfield, played some at linebacker, played some tight end, threw passes – he’s just a very productive football player. He was a team captain, high character and academic guy and a local kid. I’m just excited. I think he’s a great fit for our program. We were fortunate to kind of get on him late. He wanted to stay close to home. I think he really has a chance to be a good football player. He has a lot of length and can do a lot of different things.”

– Dykes onquarterback Chase Forrest: “We felt like he came in and performed well. He showed good strength, good mid-range accuracy. We thought he was a really good football player. He can move, he’s athletic. I think he’s got a lot of upside. He’s got good size. He moves his feet well for someone his size. He has the arm strength to make the throws.”

– Dykes on linebacker Aisea Tongliva: “He can run, plays physical and is a really smart kid. He has good football instincts. I think the thing that stands out with him is his athletic ability. I think he can really change directions and run. He’s an explosive player.”

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