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Football: Ex-Cal player sues over concussion malpractice

Former Cal safety Brandon Hicks is suing UC Berkeley, alleging malpractice involving the prevention and treatment of concussions, the Daily Californian first reported.

Hicks, who played for Cal from 2004 through 2008, suffered multiple concussions, according to the lawsuit, filed Aug. 3 against the UC Regents.

Hicks’ attorney, Matthew Whibley, told the Daily Cal the university did not inform players of the long-term neurological diseases associated with concussions and head injuries.

“The university is the players’ caretaker,” he said. “We think it would be fair for them to at least inform the players what they’re getting themselves into.”

Hicks has sustained “permanent and debilitating” neurological injuries that have caused depression, suicidal shots, dizziness, memory loss, and blurred and double vision, the lawsuit alleges.

Cal officials did not comment on the case, but issued a general statement which, in part, said “the medical care we provide our student-athletes meets or exceeds the standards in collegiate and national sports medicine.”

Defendants in the case include former head coach Jeff Tedford, team physician Cindy Chang and head athletic trainer Ryan Cobb.

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Football: No. 2 Cal QB job a complicated picture

Luke Rubenzer understands the No. 1 reality of Cal football when it comes to playing quarterback. “Obviously, they’re pretty comfortable with the guy they have now,” he said, referring to junior honors candidate Jared Goff.

The rest of the Bears’ quarterback picture has far less clarity.

Rubenzer was the backup a year ago as a true freshman, and provided 207 rushing yards and three touchdowns as a change-of-pace substitute.

Right now, however, redshirt freshman Chase Forrest is No. 2 and Rubenzer is vying for a starting job at safety. But that is by no means set in stone.

Rubenzer was moved to defense in the spring, mostly at his request, because Cal was short-handed at the position. “Honestly, I just want to see the field,” he said after Friday’s practice.

Coach Sonny Dykes said Rubenzer is doing a good job.

“He still needs reps – he’s still not smooth in some of the technical things – but he sees things well, he’s got good instincts,” Dykes said. “He’s not afraid to stick his head in there.”

At the same time, Forrest is ahead of schedule. “Chase’s level of play has been beyond what I could have imagined,” offensive coordinator Tony Franklin said.

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Basketball: Bears head Down Under

The Cal basketball season begins this week with trek halfway around the globe.

The Golden Bears, with a team expected to land in the preseason top-25, leave the Bay Area on Thursday for a four-game, 12-day tour of Australia.

The timing of the long-distance excursion is perfect.

“It will definitely give us a head start,” said Cal senior Tyrone Wallace, a returning all-Pac-12 point guard. “What do we have in our tank? We’re going to see what everybody can do.”

For the Bears, “everybody” now includes five-star recruits Jaylen Brown and Ivan Rabb, whose arrival as freshmen has elevated the program to national status. Cal also returns junior guards Jabari Bird and Jordan Mathews, both double-digit scorers a year ago.

Coach Cuonzo Martin will have conduced 10 practices before the Bears leave town, and he plans to experiment with different lineup combinations when the team plays Down Under.

“The biggest thing is for the new guys coming in, understanding what we want to do and what level we want to do it at,” Martin said. “They’re working extremely hard. As talented as they are, they’re very unselfish. They understand what it means to be successful. They do a tremendous job of fitting in.”

The Bears, who will visit Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, will play their first game will Saturday (California time) against Victoria Select at Melbourne.

Cal’s schedule in Australia
(Dates and times are PDT)
Aug. 15: vs. Victoria Select at Melbourne, 9 p.m.
Aug. 18: vs. Frankston Blues at Melbourne, 2 a.m.
Aug. 20: vs. Australia Center of Excellence at Canberra, midnight
Aug. 20: vs. Illawarra Hawks at Wollonwong, 11 p.m.

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Football: Rigsbee is fine moving back to center, says he just wants to win games and play in a bowl game

When the Cal center position unexpectedly was vacated, the Bears went to a familiar name to fill the void.

Senior Jordan Rigsbee, who has played all three positions on the offensive line and has started 36 consecutive games, quickly nailed down the spot in the first week of fall camp after would-be starter Matt Cochran was dropped from the team in late April.

There are no complaints from Rigsbee, who started at left guard as a redshirt reshman in 2012, was moved to center for the final eight games of 2013, then to right tackle last season. He was projected at right guard this fall before need prompted another move.

“On one hand it can be frustrating,” Rigsbee said of the constant shuffling. “On the other hand, center’s an important position on the O-line. So far with this coaching staff I’ve gone 1-11 and 5-7 and haven’t gone to a bowl game.

“It’s my fifth year and that’s what I plan to do. If me playing center gets us to a bowl game, then so be it. I just want to win games.”

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Basketball: My first up-close look at Jaylen Brown

I stopped by the RSF practice gym on Tuesday night to watch the Cal basketball team conduct its second-to-last workout prior to departing Thursday for Australia.

I took in a portion of practice last Wednesday, but freshman Jaylen Brown did not participate. Let me assure you, there was a difference this time. Big difference.

But before we discuss Brown, the five-star small forward from Marietta, Georgia, a few other observations:

— One of the big winners on the “new” Cal team looks like it could be Jabari Bird. With Brown and fellow freshman Ivan Rabb drawing more defensive attention, Bird should be freed up to play his game. On this night, the junior guard appeared relaxed and confident. I don’t remember him missing a shot. He looked like the player we’ve all waited to see, but has been inhibited by injuries and subsequent loss of rhythm his first two seasons.

— Center Kingsley Okoroh was taking a night class, but 7-footer Kameron Rooks played aggressively at both ends. He shows promise and should benefit greatly from four games against older pros in Australia.

— The most improved player on the floor, at least for one practice, was Roger Moute a Bidias. He has shown virtually no offensive aptitude for two seasons, but made outside shots and attacked the basket when shown even a crack in the defense. Not sure where he fits on a deep roster, but the guy has improved.

— Rabb, who says he has gained 11 pounds since arriving on campus early this summer, had a few terrific moments, including an impressive put-back flush. He rebounded well but also seems entirely comfortable at the high post. Still, he needs to continue to get stronger, as evidenced during a drill that pitted players against each other in the low post.

— Which brings us to Brown. He is strong, smooth, quick and calm. Doesn’t force anything, but plays both ends and plays unselfishly. After a steal at mid-court, he dashed to the hoop, throwing down a left-handed dunk. I observed just a small sample size and, to quote the loquacious Allen Iverson, we’re talking about practice. Even so, it’s pretty obvious the guy can play.

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Football: Bears in full pads and the defense shows up

Cal practiced in full pads Tuesday for the first time in fall camp and Coach Sonny Dykes liked what he saw: A fairly even battle between his high-powered offense and his beleaguered defense.

“They’re competing hard and they’re doing well. The offense made some plays today, which was encouraging. And the defense made some plays and that was encouraging,” Dykes said. “That’s what happens on good football teams. That’s what we want to see.”

Over much of the past two seasons, the duel usually was a mismatch. Cal’s defense, which allowed 39.8 points per game last season, typically was in over its head against Jared Goff and the offense.

Only a few times in 2013 could Dykes recall the defense enjoying such a productive day in practice.

“I don’t know if it was because we were good or if it was because the offense was that bad,” he said. “They were all not very good. The coaching wasn’t very good, the playing wasn’t very good.”

The Bears are getting more of a push up front and better coverage on the back end.

“I thought we tackled well,” Dykes said. “You could see our athleticism is much-improved. You can improve your tackling, but the easiest way to improve your tackling is in recruiting, quite frankly. We’ve become more athletic and as a result, I think, we’re tackling better.”

Dykes said junior defensive end – who arrived as a JC transfer in the spring – has made a big leap in recent days.

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Football: Player who punched Jets QB Geno Smith once suspended by Sonny Dykes at Louisiana Tech

IK Enemkpali, the New York Jets player who punched out quarterback Geno Smith and was subsequently cut from the team Tuesday, once ran afoul of the law while playing under coach Sonny Dykes at Louisiana Tech.

Enemkpali was arrested and charged with battery on a police officer and disturbing the peace after an April 2011 incident at a Ruston, Louisiana restaurant.

Dykes, then Enemkpali’s coach at La Tech, suspended him indefinitely, although he later was reinstated and played the 2011 season.

Enemkpali was involved in a fight at Rabb’s Steak House and eventually punched an off-duty, undercover police officer who was working security in the bar. Ultimately, he was subdued by a taser, according to various media reports.

Enemkpali later received probation on a simple battery charge.

The Jets say they were aware of his history before making the defensive end a sixth-round draft choice in 2014. Smith is out 6 to 10 weeks with a broken jaw.

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Basketball: Bears release nonconference schedule

Much-acclaimed freshmen Jaylen Brown and Ivan Rabb will make their official Cal basketball debuts on Friday, Nov. 13 against Rice at Haas Pavilion.

The Bears, expected to be a top-25 team with the return of three starters and the arrival of an elite recruiting class, announced Tuesday they will play eight nonconference home games, including a Dec. 28 contest against Davidson, alma mater of Warriors’ star Stephen Curry. Davidson was 24-8 and played in the NCAA tournament last season.

Cal fans hoping to get their first glimpse of Brown and Rabb can catch the Bears against Carroll College in a Nov. 9 exhibition at Haas.

The schedule also includes previously announced games in the Las Vegas Invitational and at Virginia.

The Bears will face San Diego State (27-9 in 2014-15) on Thanksgiving night, Nov. 27, in the opener of the Las Vegas Invitational at the Orleans Arena. Cal will play either West Virginia (25-10) or Richmond (21-14) the next night to close the event.

Cal visits Virginia – expected to be a top-five team in the preseason polls – on Dec. 22. The Cavaliers were 30-4 season and won the Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season title.

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Football: Bears eager to go full pads 1st time Tuesday; Dykes likes the look of rebuilt defensive line

On Tuesday, the pads go on and the gloves come off. The Bears will begin hitting on Day 5 of fall camp.

Coach Sonny Dykes is eager to see how his team looks when practices are closer to game conditions. He says you can’t fully evaluate the performance of linemen until tackling is allowed, but he has been encouraged by what he’s seen already from his defensive line.

The Bears now believe they have a dozen D-lineman – or more – who can play. “Now, we need our front-line guys to play at an elite level and we’re not there yet,” he said after Monday’s third practice. “But we do have a lot of depth.”

The biggest surprise of fall camp so far?

“It’s maybe David Davis,” Dykes said of the 6-foot, 285-pound senior defensive tackle. “He’s been very effective. He’s moving and playing very strong and very physical. It’s good to see that.”

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Football: Three days, four INTs for Evan Rambo

Freshman safety Evan Rambo had another big practice Sunday, securing two more interceptions to give him four in three days.

The 6-foot-3, 190-pounder had two all season last fall as a senior at La Salle High in Los Angeles.

“I don’t know that I’ve ever seen that – in three practices a guy’s got four picks. It’s good to see out of a true freshman,” said coach Sonny Dykes.

Finding help in the secondary is a major camp objective, but Dykes said it’s way too early to feel like there is any clarity there. Still, he is thrilled by what Rambo has shown so far.

“He’s just got a nose for the football,” Dykes said. “When you go back and look at the tape, he does a nice job breaking on the routes, he reads the quarterback’s eyes well, he’s getting himself in a good position, he’s long, he can run. It’s pretty impressive.”

*****

Another pleasant surprise in the secondary has been the early play of junior safety Damariay Drew, back at Cal after resolving legal issues following an incident on campus last year where he assaulted a fellow student.

Now a non-scholarship walkon, the Livermore native has played well through the first three practices.

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