California Week: Several Newcomers Join the Bear Roster, Two of Whom Should Have an Immediate ImpactPosted by Connor Pelton on June 23rd, 2012
After losing not only the Pac-12 Defensive and Player of the Year at guard, but also the leading scorer in the post, California will turn to the newcomers for a spark on both sides of the ball. Ricky Kreklow leads this group, already having experience after playing a year at Missouri before transferring to the Bay Area. Alongside the sharpshooter that sat out last season, Mike Montgomery will turn to incoming freshman Tyrone Wallace to help add depth to a solid but shallow rotation. Below we’ll take a look at these those who will be playing their first seasons in Berkeley, and gauge what type of impact they could have and what type of role they might play in their first year.
- Ricky Kreklow, Sophomore, Wing, 6’6” 220 lbs, Missouri – If there ever was a guy to fill in for the loss of Jorge Gutierrez, it’s Kreklow. And while those are big words, Kreklow proved he’s the right man for the job all of last season while practicing with the team. The best thing about Kreklow is his scrappiness. Rather than being a lock-down defender, Kreklow specializes in the type of pesky, “come up from behind and knock the ball lose” type of defense. And if that ball does come lose, you can bet that Kreklow will be the first one on the floor to get it. The wing/combo guard averaged 0.6 SPG while at Missouri, which is especially good considering that he only played an average of 9.8 MPG. However, Kreklow’s biggest contributions will come on the offensive end. He will play a similar role to the one that fellow guards Allen Crabbe and Justin Cobbs played in 2011-12, which kept opposing defenses from solely concentrating on Gutierrez. This season, Crabbe will step in to pick up the points that Jorge left behind, and Kreklow will have to prove himself as a viable threat from three-point range in order to free up Crabbe.
- Tyrone Wallace, Freshman, Combo Guard, 6’4” 180 lbs, Bakersfield High School, Bakersfield, CA – After losing five guards since January of 2011 (Emerson Murray, Alex Rossi, Nigel Carter, and Gary Franklin transferred, Gutierrez graduated), Wallace will have to play a bigger role than originally thought in his first season with the Golden Bears. A point guard by trade, Wallace will likely see more minutes at wing in 2012-13 due to Rossi’s transfer to Valparaiso. That, and as “LeonPowe” of California Golden Blogs put it, “I think unless you’re Jason Kidd (or Derrick Rose or John Wall), point guard is a difficult place to be as a freshman.” Called by many to be an “opportunistic scorer”, the wing will be a good place for Wallace to gain Pac-12 experience as he comes off the bench. However, don’t rule out Wallace gaining solid minutes at the point, either. As it is with most incoming freshman, a good October of practicing with the team could show the coaching staff that he is ready immediately to leap Brandon Smith on the depth chart and backup Cobbs.
- Garrett Galvin, Freshman, Combo Guard, 6’4” 190 lbs, Torrey Pines High School, San Diego, CA – Galvin chose to spurn offers from Cal Poly and Northern Arizona, along with interest from Denver and Columbia, to take a preferred walk-on spot with California. Galvin will likely only see garbage minutes in 2012-13 unless he can show the Cal coaching staff that he can be a lockdown defender in the Pac-12. He has the shooting ability and court vision to be a solid combo guard, but so does Jeff Powers. And Powers has only seen an average of 6.5 MPG in his first two season in Berkeley, largely because he is not a very good defender.
- Kaileb Rodriguez, Freshman, Power Forward, 6’8” 200 lbs, Thunder Ridge High School, Highlands Ranch, CO – Rodriguez is highly rated coming out of Thunder Ridge, but will likely redshirt due to being undersized and having five more experienced big men in front of him on the roster. Rodriguez should take on a David Kravish like role whether he plays this season or in 2013-14. He is lanky like Kravish, and opponents trying to drive into the lane will have a tough time getting a shot up over him. On offense, Rodriguez’s main strength is finishing around the basket. And while that seems pretty simple, it can be a tough thing for freshman to master in their first seasons going up against bigger and better defenses. Besides for Kravish, he has drawn comparisons to sophomore forward Christian Behrens; lanky and athletic, but with a lot to learn before he’s ready to gain substantial minutes. With Bak Bak and Robert Thurman graduating after this season, Rodriguez’s time to shine should be in 2013-14.
- Kahlil Johnson, Freshman, Power Forward/Wing, 6’7”, 200 lbs, Price High School, Los Angeles, CA – Johnson’s role with Cal on offense will mostly be as a “step-out four” kind of player. The Bears have missed this type of player in the past couple of years, one that can spread the defense and shoot the occasional three. Most of all, Johnson is known for his offensive rebounding ability also something that the Bears have sorely missed. If the matchup requires it, Johnson could see some solid minutes in certain situations.
- Sami Eleraky, Freshman, Center, 7’0” 242 lbs, Aalborg Vikings, Denmark – Eleraky’s main job in his freshman season is being a force on the glass. The golden Bears plan to ease Eleraky into action throughout November and December, but he should see an influx in playing time as the Bears will need his size against the bigger and stronger Pac-12 opponents. The Danish center chose to go to Berkeley instead of Texas, Marquette, and Virginia Tech.