California Week: Q&A With California Golden BlogsPosted by Connor Pelton on June 24th, 2012
It’s been a fun week of California basketball coverage here on the Pac-12 Microsite, so we’ve decided to close it out with opinions from a couple of Golden Bear insiders. “Kodiak” and “LeonPowe” from California Golden Blogs agreed to kindly join us for a Q&A on the state of the Cal program. If you’re reading this, you no doubt already know the great work and comedic relief that they do over there covering the Golden Bears, but consider this a friendly reminder.
RTC: With the departure of Jorge Gutierrez, is Allen Crabbe firmly locked into the “main leader” role this season?
Kodiak: From a personality standpoint, Crabbe seems more of a lead by example type. However, when he was a high school player, he took control as an upperclassman and led that team to a state championship. It may be that he’s deferred because we’ve had such strong leaders in MSF (Markuri Sanders-Frison), Jorge Gutierrez, and Harper Kamp. He’s very respectful and may simply have been waiting his turn. The guy who is most likely to assert himself vocally would be point guard Justin Cobbs. He’ll have the ball in his hands a lot, so how he responds to Coach [Mike] 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. He improved throughout last year and did very well for a young point guard in his first year as a starter.
LeonPowe: In terms of most talented player – absolutely, but I think in terms of actual team leader, I think he’ll have strong competition from junior point guard Justin Cobbs. Crabbe is our best player and his performance will go a long way in how well or poorly we play this year, but Crabbe has also had a tendency to, well, not seize the game by its throat and play up to the level which we know he is capable of. On the other hand, Cobbs is the point guard and is a lot more aggressive than Crabbe has tended to be in the past two years, so I think a lot of the on-court leadership will come from Cobbs.
RTC: Are California fans excited for the Anaheim Classic? Is there any team besides Xavier that you see challenging Cal for the title, and what kind of atmosphere do you think Cal fans will bring to the Convention Center? Will The Bench make a road trip down to Disneyland?
Kodiak: To be brutally honest, not really. It’s during Thanksgiving week, right after the Big Game. It’s doubtful that Cal fans will make the trek in any great numbers to the Convention Center unless they’re unlucky enough to be from Southern California. The Bench and spirit groups usually send a contingent, however. There’s not a lot of pre-season buzz around this Cal team because of how we slumped at the end of the year last season. Sadly enough, Cal basketball attendance is usually a bit underwhelming until conference play starts. Besides Xavier, you have to look to St. Mary’s as a serious contender. Having lost our two best players with big question marks for our bench and in the post, it’s hard for us to say what our team will look like yet.
RTC: We hate to relive it, but what happened to the Golden Bear offense in the first 20 minutes against South Florida last March? Did Cal fans see any of that earlier in the season, or could it have been some postseason jitters?
Kodiak: I don’t know about jitters. The team was out of sync for the last several games. Coach Monty cited injuries, fatigue, and a lack of trust. It was the perfect storm of a really long, athletic team whose calling card is buzzsaw defense facing a team whose offense was faltering due to a contagious lack of confidence.
RTC: Sticking on the subject, going into Selection Sunday I certainly did not expect the Bears to be sent to Dayton. Was there some outrage in Berkeley over this, or did you guys sort of see it coming since they didn’t win the Pac-12 championship?
Kodiak: We’re Cal fans. We expect to be screwed over at any time in any way. We were just lucky to get in. I think we knew that we were in the driver seat and failed to close the deal. It goes to how down the league has been recently, too.
RTC: What happened in the final five games last season, a stretch in which Cal went just 1-4?
Kodiak: See above. Our best shooter (Crabbe) was struggling with injuries and shingles. With teams able to chase him off the three-point line, it fell to the other guys to make some shots. Both Jorge and Cobbs lost confidence in their outside shot. Teams were able to pack it in and take away Cal’s favorite high pick and roll or curl plays in the half court. The lack of depth really hurt down the stretch.
LeonPowe: Over the past few years we’ve lost a lot of depth to transfers (or early pro in the case of Max Zhang) – so the players who would’ve been the sixth, seventh, and eighth men (Amandi Omoyke, DJ Seeley, and Zhang) are now playing for Cal State Fullerton or are in China. We also lost our starting center/power forward Richard Solomon to academics (he’ll be back this year). Our players just wore down and gas tanks became empty – and guys on the deep bench never really earned Monty’s trust or had injury issues, so at the end we were playing five and a half players – and one of those was a walk-on.
RTC: Who do you want to punch in the face?
Kodiak: Tosh Lupoi
LeonPowe: Same answer since 1995 – Toby Bailey. But I’ll add in: Reggie Geary, Burt Harris, Jason Terry, Matt Barnes, Reeves Nelson, Tim Young, and Brevin Knight.
RTC: Coming off a very solid freshman campaign, what do you expect from David Kravish in 2012-13?
Kodiak: 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 basketball 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. He’ll certainly offer a wiry shotblocking presence next to Solomon on defense. I’d really enjoy watching a breakout year.
LeonPowe: We’re expecting him and Solomon to form a very athletic, lean and smart (academic issues notwithstanding) front line. We won’t have a lot of bulk, but we should be able to get up and down the court, rebound, block some shots, and be pretty big down there.
RTC: Which newcomer do you think will have the biggest impact in 2012-13?
Kodiak: Missouri transfer Ricky Kreklow will be counted on to step in and start at shooting guard. He only has to fill in for the 2011-12 Pac-12 overall and defensive player of the year. No pressure. He has a rep for being an outside shooter and a scrappy player. It’s certainly going to be different not having Jorge around to take over games with his intensity.
LeonPowe: Kreklow. I know a lot of people are excited about incoming freshman, four-star point guard Tyrone Wallace, but I think unless you’re Jason Kidd (or Derrick Rose or John Wall), point guard is a difficult place to be a freshman. But Kreklow will be a sophomore with already a year of practice and supposedly he’s in range as soon as he gets off the bus. I love shooters, so I’m excited about Kreklow.
RTC: Name a sleeper player if he isn’t different from the guy above?
Kodiak: Wallace is about as highly touted a guard recruit that Mike Montgomery has had at Cal. He’ll be counted on to back up the one, two, and three positions. Even the best guards usually struggle initially as true freshmen, however. I’d live with some growing pains if it means developing some depth. We got nothing from our backup guards last year and it really hurt us.
RTC: What has Jay John added to the coaching staff, and do you see him getting back into a head coaching role any time soon?
Kodiak: Reportedly, Jay John does some nice work with the bigs. We saw Harper Kamp really develop. Kravish was ready very quickly. The jury is still out on Bak Bak, and on whether Solomon can develop a consistent back to the basket game. I have no idea whether he’ll be a head coach or not.
RTC: Your way-too-early prediction for 2012-13?
Kodiak: My early pick for the league champ is Colorado. Arizona will be really tough, and it just seems strange that UCLA can keep squandering top-flight talent. So, best-case that puts us at fourth, maybe fighting for third if the Bruins remain headcases. I could see us finishing around fifth-sixth if the young guys aren’t ready.
RTC: Thanks guys!