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.


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.


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.


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.


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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Football: Signing day thread

DE Kennedy Emesibe of Oaks Hills HS has signed, meaning the Bears landed all 15 players on Wednesday who previously had committed to them. Unless there is a late surprise — and you never know — Cal looks to be done.


Here are the current Pac-12 team rankings from Scout.com and Rivals.com:

Scout: 12. Stanford; 14. ASU; 19. UCLA; 21. Arizona; 23. Oregon; 30. USC; 38. UW; 43. Cal; 47. OSU; 59. WSU; 71. Utah; 72. Colorado.

Rivals: 13. Stanford; 16. UCLA; 19. ASU; 24. USC; 27. Arizona; 30. Oregon; 39. UW; 45. Cal; 52. OSU; 63. Colorado; 67. WSU; 72. Utah. 


Still awaiting word on DE Kennedy Emesibe of Oak Hills HS. Otherwise, the Bears have signed paperwork from each of the remaining 15 prospects they anticipated signing today. Word is an offer has gone out to one more player. Will keep you posted.


Nifae Lealao, the 4-star DE from Capital Christian-Sacramento, fooled no one when he lined up four hats — including Cal, but not Vanderbilt — on a table in front of him as he made his college announcement. The 6-foot-6, 290-pounder chose Vandy, whose new HC Derek Mason, recruited him for Stanford last fall.


We’re not sure why Saf Sam Atoe of College of San Mateo — a mid-year signee — is not listed with Cal’s other signees on its website. An oversight or a hint that he is not enrolled in school after all? We’ll find out at Sonny Dykes’ signing day news conference this afternoon. Update: Atoe had paperwork that needed finishing; his signing is now complete and official.

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Football: Strong finishing run helps Golden Bears assemble solid — not great — recruiting class

UPDATE: As first reported by Rivals.com and later by Scout.com, outside linebacker Hamilton Anoa’l, a 3-star prospect from Serra-San Mateo, flipped from Northwestern to Cal on Tuesday night. That would boost the Bears’ class to 21 players.

Anoa’l becomes the seventh player Cal’s coaching staff has lured out of a commitment to another school. And the second player they’ve flipped from Northwestern — the Bears’ 2014 season-opening foe. Recruiting grand theft.


Don’t count on much signing-day drama from Cal, which expects to complete a 20-player class Wednesday that represents a decent comeback from a 1-11 season last fall.

“I think they’ve actually closed pretty well, all things considered,” said Brandon Huffman, national recruiting analyst for Scout.com.

Six weeks ago, coach Sonny Dykes boldly predicted a top-3 class in the Pac-12. “I don’t think it’s going to be top three,” Huffman said, “but probably in the top half.”

Click here for the rest of my story.


Player  Pos.  Hometown  Ht.  Wt.
*Sam Atoe, Saf, San Mateo, 6-0 205
Kamryn Bennett, OG Peoria, Ariz., 6-3 275
Erik Brown, WR, Fontana, 6-1 175
* David Davis, DT, Long Beach, 6-2 295
* Devante Downs, FB, Mountlake Terrace, Wa., 6-3 230
Kennedy Emesibe, DE, Hesperia, 6-3 275
Vic Enwere, RB, Missouri City, Texas, 6-1 213
Chase Forrest, QB, Santa Ana, 6-3 180
Dominic Granado, OT, Huntington Beach, 6-5 270
* Jonathan Johnson, DE, Woodland Hills, 6-4 240
* Trevor Kelly, DT, San Mateo, 6-3 305
Chandler Leniu, MLB, Bellflower, 6-1 225
John Porchivina, OLB, Petaluma, 6-1 212
Luke Rubenzer, QB, Scottsdale, ArIz., 6-0 185
Quentin Tartabull, Saf, Mission Hills, 6-0 200
Aisea Tongilava, OLB, Orange, 6-0 210
Michael Trani, C, La Mirada, 6-4 285
Tre Watson, RB, Corona, 5-9 185
Noah Westerfield, DE, Frisco, Texas, 6-3 210
Darius White, CB, Grenada, Miss., 6-1 180

* Midyear signees


Football: Cal’s recruiting class taking shape, but a few key questions remain unanswered

Signing day is two days away and Cal’s recruiting class is pretty much set.

The Bears have commitments from 20 players (including five who signed at mid-year) and, despite taking some substantial hits along the way, they have climbed to No. 43 nationally, according to both Scout.com and Rivals.com.

Rivals ranks Cal’s class as the seventh-best in the Pac-12 and Scout has the Bears at No. 8 in the conference.

Not great, especially by the program’s standards over most of the past decade, but a sizable improvement from a month ago.

The coaching staff has secured seven commitments since Art Kaufman was hired as defensive coordinator two weeks ago, and has made strides to address some of the team’s biggest needs, including defensive line and linebacker.

Between now and Wednesday, there are three main questions to be answered:

— Can the Bears hold onto Centennial-Corona running back Tre Watson? Washington is making a late push for the 5-foot-9, 185-pounder, who rushed for more than 3,400 yards and scored 48 touchdowns last fall.

Update: Both Brandon Huffman of Scout.com and Adam Gorney of Rivals.com told me this afternoon they expect Watson to stay with Cal.

– Will the Bears land four-star defensive end Nifae Lealao of Capital Christian in Sacramento. The 6-foot-5, 280-pounder, who is rated as the top DE in the West by Scout and originally committed to Stanford, visited Vanderbilt last weekend.

Update: The consensus between Huffman and Gorney is that Lealao will wind up at Vandy, although he hasn’t announced yet.

– Can Cal sneak in and grab four-star defensive tackle Marcus Griffin? Originally committed to Washington State, the Bellevue, Wash., prospect visited Cal, Arizona and Mississippi State the past three weekends. Griffin recently suggested he will wait until signing day to announce his plans.

Update: Huffman believes Griffin will sign with Arizona while Gorney suggests that Griffin’s friendship with Cal mid-year signee Devante Downs of Washington could give the Bears an edge.

Stay tuned.


Football: Bears to sign a second QB prospect

After getting commitments from four defensive players the previous three days, Cal pulled a minor surprise by landing its second quarterback prospect, the Los Angeles Times first reported.

Chase Forrest, who led Mater Dei-Santa Ana to an 11-3 record and into the championship game of the Pac-5 Division, committed to the Bears after Cal made an in-home visit Tuesday night.

Forrest is the 20th player to commit to the Bears, including five who signed at mid-year, and the second quarterback. Also expected to make his commitment official on signing day next Wednesday is Luke Rubenzer of Saguaro High in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Forrest, 6-foot-3, 180 pounds, threw three touchdown passes in Mater Dei’s 30-0 win over Long Beach Poly in the Pac-5 semifinals. Rated a two-star prospect by Scout.com and Rivals.com, he is regarded as a passer/runner, as is Rubenzer.

“With his running ability and their offense and his live arm, they got a good quarterback,” Mater Dei coach Bruce Rollinson told the Los Angeles Times.

According to MaxPreps, Forrest passed for 2,001 yards and 14 touchdowns this season.

The 6-foot, 185-pound Rubenzer, a three-star prospect, passed for more than 4,200 yards with 61 TDs this season, and also ran for more than 1,000 yards.


Football: At last, some big recruiting news

Cal’s beleaguered football recruiting class got a boost Tuesday with a commitment from middle linebacker Chandler Leniu, a consensus four-star prospect from St. John Bosco High in Bellflower, according to multiple recruiting websites.

A 6-foot-1, 225-pounder who originally planned to attend Washington State, Leniu visited Cal over the weekend and committed to the Bears on Saturday, he told Scout.com.

He is one of Cal’s top-rated recruits, ranked 11th nationally at his position by Rivals.com, 12th by Scout. Leniu becomes the third Rivals four-star player to commit to Cal, just the second according to Scout’s ratings.

Cal has moved up about 10 spots to No. 42 in Scout’s national team rankings, No. 44 according to Rivals.

Leniu becomes the Bears’ 19th commit, including five players who signed a midyear.

Commitments cannot become binding until the Feb. 5 national signing day.