Basketball: With Ivan Rabb in the fold, Cuonzo Martin expects Bears to compete for Pac-12 title

With top-10 prospect Ivan Rabb now on board, Cal basketball coach Cuonzo Martin said fans should have high expectations for the Golden Bears in the Pac-12 next season.

“I think we’ll fight for the top spot,” said Martin, whose team finished in a tie for eighth in the Pac-12 this season and did not participate in the postseason.

Pac-12 champ Arizona has landed a superb recruiting class, but is expected to lose four starters, and Utah, Oregon, UCLA and Stanford also must rebuild.

Cal, with potentially four starters back, should be positioned to make a move.

“It’s exciting times,” Martin said.

Martin, beginning his second season in Berkeley, said Rabb, a 6-foot-10 forward from Bishop O’Dowd, won’t be expected to shoulder the entire load.

“The biggest key is having great guys around him,” Martin said. “He’s coming in as a highly touted player, a very talented young man. He has a lot of skills – a guy who plays inside, outside, handles the ball, plays well on the defensive side.

“He’ll be able to come in and play the way he knows how to play. He won’t be pressing, because he has experienced guards around him.”

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Basketball: Bears get signed letter from Ivan Rabb

Five-star prospect Ivan Rabb’s signed letter-of-intent arrived at the Cal basketball office Wednesday evening — all the way from New York, where the Bishop O’Dowd forward is preparing to play in the Jordan Brand Classic all-star game on Friday.

“From day one, Ivan Rabb was a priority for our program,” Cal coach Cuonzo Martin said in a statement. “He is important to us not only for our basketball team, but for our program for years to come. When you have a guy of this magnitude and caliber of talent in your backyard, you want to do everything in your power to make it work for him.

“He made it a priority to give us every opportunity to show him what we are about. It is very important to keep your local guys home. We built a great relationship with Ivan and landed one of the best in the country.”

The Bears also announced the official signing of shooting guard Tyson Jolly of Oklahoma City.

“The thing we saw in Tyson Jolly, he is a great young man who we love to be around,” Martin said. “He has great passion and wants to be a part of what we are trying to do.

“Tyson’s athleticism and level of toughness is exactly what we want. He has a will to win basketball games, whether it is blocking a shot, getting a big rebound, scoring a big basket or making a big free throw. He does all those things to help his team win and does it with a tremendous level of passion.”

The Bears also have landed small forward Davon Dillard of Gary, Indiana. Cal made no official announcement about Dillard on Wednesday, but he reported via his Twitter account that he has signed.


Basketball: Who will be the last piece in Bears’ puzzle?

We don’t know how much influence Ivan Rabb actually can have on uncommitted five-star recruit Jaylen Brown of Georgia. Rabb said at his news conference Monday he planned to call Brown afterward, but he still hadn’t had the chance by 9 p.m.

Either way, Brown still has eight schools on his list and it’s anyone’s guess whether he actually winds up at Cal. Seems like — and always has seemed like — a longshot.

Coach Cuonzo Martin, who will sign three players on Wednesday, still will have one available scholarship. Certainly make sense that on a guard-heavy team, that spot will go to a forward, someone who can complement Rabb up front while centers Kameron Rooks and Kingsley Okoroh continue to develop.

Here are some transfers — including a few names that have been out there for weeks — that may be considering Cal, courtesy of ESPN.com’s Jeff Goodman:

*  Shonn Miller, Cornell: Immediately eligible as a graduate transfer, Miller averaged 16.8 points and 8.5 rebounds this season. At 6-7, 210 pounds, sounds like a somewhat more productive version of Dwight Tarwater, the Big Red transfer who played at Cal this season.

* Ricky Tarrant, Alabama: Began his career at Tulane, then transferred to Alabama before leaving after coach when coach Anthony Grant was fired after this season. Averaged 13.1 points for the Tide, and is immediately eligible. But do the Bears need another shooting guard?

* Mark Tollefsen, USF: The Danville native, a 6-9, 199-pound combo forward, is more scorer than rebounder/defender. He averaged 14.0 points and 5.4 rebounds this season and will be eligible to play immediately as a grad transfer.

* Anthony Collins, South Florida: Given a medical waiver (following a 20-13-14 knee injury) and immediate eligibility at a new school, the 6-1 senior point guard could be valuable if Tyrone Wallace opts to enter the NBA draft.  Collins averaged 7.1 points and 5.2 assists this past season and has 569 career assists.


Basketball: What can Bears expect from Rabb?

How good will consensus top-10 recruit Ivan Rabb be for Cal?

Here’s a look back at the Bears’ top-50 prospects from the past quarter century (the source of their national rating in parenthesis) and how they performed in Berkeley:

No. 1: Jason Kidd, 1992 (Naismith Award)
Led Cal to the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA tournament as a freshman, was consensus All-America point guard as a sophomore and is two years removed from what will be a Hall of Fame career in the NBA.

No. 4: Shareef Abdur-Rahim, 1995 (Blue Chip Illustrated)
Was spectacular in is lone collegiate season, averaging 21.1 points and becoming first freshman to win Pac-10 Player of the Year. Went on to productive NBA career.

No. 6: Leon Powe, 2003 (Prep Stars)
Plagued by knee problems, Powe nonetheless twice was an all-Pac-10 pick before entering the NBA, where he won a title with the Boston Celtics.

No. 11: Jelani Gardner, 1994 (Sporting News)
Played two uneven seasons for the Bears before his father admitted that he was paid $30,000 by coach Todd Bozeman. Gardner then transferred to Pepperdine amid the scandal.

No. 13: Jabari Bird, 2013 (Scout)
Slowed by injuries each of his first two seasons at Cal, Bird has shown flashes of his potential but has yet to blossom as a college star.

No. 21 Jamal Sampson, 2001 (CBS Sports)
Averaged 6.4 points and 6.5 rebounds in his only season at Cal, then jumped to NBA, where he totaled 142 points with five teams in five seasons.

No. 25 Brian Wethers, 1999 (Recruiting USA)
Improved each season at Cal, averaging 15.1 points as a senior on a team that reached the second round of the NCAA tournament.

No. 26: Tony Gonzalez, 1994 (Sporting News)
Future star NFL tight end enjoyed his finest basketball moment in the 1997 NCAA tournament, scoring 23 points in a win over Villanova.

No. 27: Al Grigsby, 1991 (Bob Gibbons)
Constantly sidelined by injuries, the power forward still managed to play a starting role on two different Cal teams that reached the Sweet 16.

No. 32: Tremaine Fowlkes, 1994 (Sporting News)
Scored a career-high 26 points as a sophomore in an NCAA tournament loss to Iowa State, then transferred to Fresno State.

No. 42: Lamond Murray, 1991
Averaged 24.3 points as a junior before departing for the NBA as the program’s career scoring leader.

No. 44: Patrick Christopher, 2006 (Rivals)
Cal’s No. 3 career scorer averaged 15.6 points as a senior on the Bears’ first conference championship team in 50 years.

No. 46: Marquise Kately, 2003 (Rivals)
Teased more than he delivered, averaging 9.9 points over two seasons before transferring to Morgan State.

Note: Lamond Murray’s ranking from non-specific source, per Cal media guide.


Basketball: `I haven’t been this happy for a long time’ — Ivan Rabb, after announcing he will attend Cal

Ivan Rabb walked through the back door of the Old Yeller Café N Market, where his mother works, and could barely digest the scene in front of him. More than 100 people — twice what the fire marshal would allow — crammed the room, waiting for one of the nation’s elite high school basketball players to announce his college decision.

“I’m going to the University of Cal Berkeley,” Rabb said, triggering a wave of cheers.

Rabb, a 6-foot-10 forward from Bishop O’Dowd High, actually made the announcement four minutes before his scheduled 7 p.m. news conference Monday.

“I lost track of time. I didn’t prepare anything because I wanted to speak from the heart,” he said. The reception included a contingent of Cal students, hoping they’d have reason to celebrate. “I didn’t realize there would be that many actual students from Cal here. It was crazy.

“I haven’t been this happy for a long time, to be honest.”

The second-happiest person in the Bay Area quite likely is second-year Cal coach Cuonzo Martin, who scored a major recruiting coup by beating Arizona for the consensus top-10 national prospect. Rabb also had been courted by the likes of Kentucky, Kansas and North Carolina, and said Kentucky continued to call his mother daily.

Rabb’s commitment cannot become official until the spring signing period begins Wednesday.

Rabb said Martin called him for the first time within two or three days of getting the Cal job at this time last year and impressed him with honesty and determination.

“Everything he said sounded so sincere. I’m a person who gets vibes from people,” Rabb said. “Coach Martin brought so much energy, so much hunger to the campus.”

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Basketball: Ivan Rabb to name college Monday night

Bishop O’Dowd High five-star forward Ivan Rabb will announce his college choice Monday night at 7 p.m., according to his coach.

O’Dowd coach Lou Richie said the 6-foot-10 senior has not told him what his decision will be.

Rabb announced a couple weeks ago that he had trimmed his list of suitors to Cal and Arizona.

Rated a consensus top-10 prospect, Rabb would be Cal’s highest-rated recruit in years and the centerpiece in second-year coach Cuonzo Martin’s second recruiting class. Already, the Bears have commitments from three-star wing players Davon Dillard and Tyson Jolly.

Caleb Swanigan, a five-star center from Fort Wayne, Indiana, was expected to pick Cal but surprised everyone Friday by announcing he will sign with Michigan State.

The official spring signing period begins Wednesday.

Rabb led O’Dowd to the California state open-division title and has played in two prestigious postseason all-star games, the McDonald’s All-American Game and the Hoop Summit. He is scheduled to participate Friday in the Jordan Brand Classic at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

Rabb’s resume includes winning gold medals the past two summers with USA national age-group teams. He helped win the FIBA Americas U16 Championships in 2013 and the FIBA U17 World Championships in 2014.


Basketball: Bears get commit from 3-star Tyson Jolly

Tyson Jolly, a three-star shooting guard from the Oklahoma City area, gave Cal an oral commitment Friday night after an official campus visit.

“I really already had my mind set. Nobody knew, but I had my mind set,” Jolly said in a phone interview Saturday morning. “Getting there and seeing everybody . . . everybody looked happy. Playing with the team, they were talking up the coaches.

“It just felt like a home environment.”

Jolly picked Cal over Gonzaga and Minnesota, both of whom also had made scholarship offers.

Jolly said Cal fans should be optimistic that five-star power forward Ivan Rabb of Oakland’s Bishop O’Dowd High will choose the Bears.

“I think we are going to get him,” Jolly said.

A 6-foot-4 senior at Putnam City West in the Oklahoma City suburb of Bethany, Jolly averaged 20 points and nine rebounds this season, leading his team to a 24-3 record and into the state semifinals.

Jolly is rated a three-star prospect by both Scout and Rivals.

Jolly’s road to Berkeley was at times a frightening one. He overcame a health ordeal a year ago when pulmonary embolism blood clots in his legs and lungs threatened more than his basketball career.

“Doctors told me I could have been dead seven times,” Jolly said.

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Recruiting: A win for football, a big loss for hoops

The news on two recruiting fronts came back-to-back Friday:

— Five-star basketball center Caleb Swanigan of Fort Wayne, Indiana, announced a day ahead of his own schedule that he will attend Michigan State. The news apparently was a surprise to coach Tom Izzo’s staff, as it likely was to Cal coach Cuonzo Martin.

Swanigan originally said he would announce Saturday at the Hoop Summit all-star game in Portland. Swanigan and Bishop O’Dowd High’s Ivan Rabb were thought to be plotting a joint commitment somewhere — possibly to Cal.

Cal has been considered the favorite for Rabb, a 6-foot-11 five-star power forward. But he didn’t announce two weeks ago after winning the state title — at Haas Pavilion, no less — and still hasn’t shared his decision.

It’s just speculation, but you have to wonder if Rabb delayed his announcement because he was trying to close the deal with Swanigan.

I am hearing Rabb is unlikely to announce Saturday. Perhaps he is planning something when he returns to the Bay Area.

— The news was better for football, where the Bears nabbed their second quarterback in the class of 2016. Max Gilliam, a 6-3, 192-pounder from Thousand Oaks High, was on campus Friday for an unofficial visit. Cal offered and he accepted, then tweeted his decision.

Gilliam is rated as a three-star prospect by Rivals, Scout and 247 Sports.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Gilliam passed for 2,920 yards and 29 touchdowns as a junior last fall and rushed for 625 yards and 12 TDs.

He joins Armani Rogers, a 6-5 dual-threat quarterback from Hamilton High in Los Angeles in the Bears’ 2016 class. Cal also got a commitment earlier this week from offensive lineman Daniel Juarez, a 6-5, 292-pounder from Corona-Centennial.