California Week: Running Down the ReturneesPosted by Connor Pelton on June 20th, 2012
Five different players who earned significant playing time in 2011-12 return for California. Despite losing the Pac-12 Defensive and Player of the Year and their top scorer in the post, the Golden Bears return a solid foundation that should lead them to a second straight NCAA Tournament and fifth consecutive postseason berth. Below we’ll take a look at those five players, in order of last season’s scoring average.
- Allen Crabbe, Junior, Wing (15.3 PPG, 5.7 RPG) – Out of California’s 34 games in 2011-12, Crabbe played 30+ minutes in 28 of them. The sophomore wing was a workhorse, consistently scoring in double digits (28 times in 34 games) and pulling down five or more rebounds a night (24 times). If you look at his stat sheet throughout the season, you will only find a few games in which Crabbe didn’t have a “good” night, according to his averages. And even in those three games, Cal won all three times by a combined 41 points, so he obviously knew when to take his off nights. Another sign of his consistency is in his numbers from his freshman to sophomore years – they barely change. Crabbe played a third of a minute more in 2011-12, scored 1.8 more points, pulled down 0.4 more rebounds, and 0.1 more assists and blocks. The only statistic that decreased was in the steals category – by 0.4. It’s kind of eerie in a way, but it is also a testament to how consistent Crabbe is. Mike Montgomery and staff have to like the fact that night in and night out, they know they are going to get a solid performance from him.
- Justin Cobbs, Junior, Point Guard (12.9 PPG, 5.0 APG, 41.3 3FG%) – Cobbs got off to just about as good a start as any transfer player can have. The sophomore point guard averaged 11 points in his first seven games, good enough to take Brandon Smith’s starting spot right out from underneath him. Cobb’s best game came right in the middle of a six-game winning streak for the Golden Bears, when he exploded for 28 points, eight assists, and four steals in a crucial 86-83 victory over Oregon. From a scoring and sharing the ball standpoint, Cobbs did an outstanding job in his sophomore year. As we progress through the summer and into the fall, the next step is for Cobbs to become a more vocal leader on the court. “He’ll have the ball in his hands a lot, so how he responds to Coach Montgomery will have a huge impact on team chemistry. He has a lot of potential, but it’s things like leadership, decision-making, body language, and consistency that are on the wish list,” says “Kodiak” of California Golden Blogs.
- David Kravish, Sophomore, Forward (7.0 PPG, 0.5 APG) – Going into the 2011-12 season, a big question in Berkeley was who was going to help Harper Kamp shoulder the load after the loss of Markhuri Sanders-Frison. Coach Montgomery and assistant coach Jay John quickly found the answer in Kravish. Despite the freshman’s wiry frame, he was able to hold his own on the block and average 5.7 RPG. He was really called upon after Richard Solomon was lost for the season in mid-January, and he responded by averaging 5.5 rebounds in Cal’s next six games. However, the biggest highlight of his freshman campaign came on February 18 against Oregon State, where he led the Bears with 17 points, seven rebounds, and three blocks. “We’re expecting him and Richard Solomon to form a very athletic, lean and smart (academic issues notwithstanding) front line,” says CGB. “(We expect him to be) in the mix for 3rd team All-Pac-12. He’s in the same league as Shareef (Abdur-Rahim) and Ryan Anderson with regards to poise and bball IQ, if not possessing the same skill set. With increased strength and more confidence, I think he could be our primary scoring option in the post.” Obviously, the expectations are high for Kravish in his sophomore year. Taking the examples that CGB gave us, let’s take a look at Anderson’s sophomore season. He saw an increase in 4.8 PPG and 1.7 RPG, resulting in the 6’10″ forward to forgo his final two seasons in Berkeley and head to the NBA. Cal fans hope that Kravish will see similar improvements in his second season. They’ll need it in order to fill the shoes that Kamp is leaving behind.
- Richard Solomon, Junior, Forward (5.6 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 1.1 BPG) – Solomon had a solid year statistically, but his off the court problems made things tough on both his game and Cal’s season. The sophomore forward had a great start to the season, averaging 6.0 PPG, 7.2 RPG, and 1.5 BPG in Cal’s first seven games. But after getting suspended for the next two games due to to conduct contrary to athletic department values, Solomon was never the same. The first game of his suspension was a 64-63 loss at San Diego State, a game that would have really helped the Bears come March if they had pulled out a win. But they were without Solomon, got killed in the post, and ended up being sent north with just their second loss of the season. Solomon wasn’t the same type of player when he returned from his mini-break, and he would only play in six more games the rest of the way due to a left foot injury and being academically ineligible.
- Brandon Smith, Senior, Facilitator (2.9 PPG, 1.3 RPG) – Smith took a major step backward in 2011-12. After averaging 29.4 MPG and being an integral passer in Cal’s offense in his sophomore season, the point guard saw his playing time dip by nearly 13 MPG in his junior year. Coming into the season, hopes were high that Smith could build off a solid sophomore campaign and be more of a scoring threat in 2011-12. He picked up where he left off passing wise, but unfortunately for him, Montgomery found a point guard that could both dish and score regularly in Cobbs. Smith then began to press, and before he knew it he was out of the starting lineup and nearly out of the regular rotation. If Smith has a good summer and can get a confident jumper working, he should gain back some of the minutes he lost last season. Cal is in need of some serious senior leadership for the upcoming year, and Smith will be the first one looked at to provide it.