California Week: Several Newcomers Join the Bear Roster, Two of Whom Should Have an Immediate Impact

Posted 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.

The Missouri Transfer’s Long Arms Should Annoy Pac-12 Guards All Season Long. (credit: Prker Eshelman)

  • 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. Read the rest of this entry »
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California Week: Players Not Returning

Posted by Connor Pelton on June 20th, 2012

While California will return four different players from its 2011-12 seven-man rotation, there are three players who saw significant time last year that will be departing. The two players that coach Mike Montgomery will miss the most are seniors, but two promising guards will be transferring out of the program as well due to the logjam at the position. Below, we’ll take a look at the four players who have moved on from the program and how big of an impact their losses will have.

  • Harper Kamp – The loss of Kamp will do the most damage early on in the 2012-13 season. Throughout stretches of last season’s campaign, Kamp was the only Bear in the low post who could score the ball consistently. Until the Bears are able to find a solid replacement for Kamp, they will struggle balancing out the already guard-heavy offense. Junior forward Richard Solomon will be the best immediate option as he had shown flashes of brilliance before being declared academically ineligible halfway through last season. Highly touted power forward signee Kaileb Rodriguez will also garner a lot of looks early on, where hopefully he’ll be able to hone his game against lesser competition before facing the rigors of a Pac-12 schedule. Kamp will likely go undrafted in the June 28 NBA Draft, but with his style of play, he will certainly end up competing professionally somewhere.

Kamp Gets Ready To Tap In A Missed Shot

  • Jorge Gutierrez - Anytime you lose the conference’s player of the year, it’s tough. Cal has always been deep at the guard position, but when shots weren’t falling, Gutierrez was the man you could rely on to knock down a clutch jumper. Even if his own shots weren’t going down, he still impacted the game through something else (steals, defense, etc.). If it wasn’t through just plain hustle (i.e., getting every lose ball in his general vicinity, choking defense), it was on the glass or finding the open man. The stats, even if they are ridiculous (13.1 PPG, 5.3 RPG, and 4.1 APG), don’t begin to explain how much the guard will be missed for his hustle and heart.
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California: 2011-12 Post-Mortem

Posted by Connor Pelton on May 1st, 2012

Over the course of the next two weeks, the Pac-12 Microsite will break down each team’s season: what went well, what didn’t, and a look ahead at the future. Today’s subject: California.

What Went Wrong

Sophomore forward Richard Solomon was a key contributor when he was playing, but due to being suspended, injured, and then academically ineligible, Solomon only appeared in 13 games. His main contributions were on the glass, where he averaged 5.9 RPG, but he also added a not-too-shabby 5.6 PPG. The Golden Bears only lost two games with Solomon in uniform, and while that could very well be a useless stat, it should also be noted that the Bears dropped a game in each of Solomon’s brief absences early in the year. But besides the losses, his absence put more pressure on Harper Kamp on both sides of the ball, something Kamp did not handle well when facing bigger, talented teams like San Diego State, Arizona, and UNLV. Another big problem was the disappearance of junior guard Brandon Smith. A starter coming into the season, Smith was outperformed by Justin Cobbs in big games, which led to dwindling playing time and dwindling confidence. Smith only had six points and zero assists against Missouri early in the year, and after turning in a zero-point, two-assist performance against San Diego State, he completely fell off the map. Smith was needed the most late in the season as Cal’s shooting woes began, but by then he was buried deep on the bench and only played a combined 13 minutes in each of Cal’s final games, both 11-point losses.

Even Mike Montgomery had a tough time watching California's NCAA Tournament loss to South Florida. (credit: Doug Benc)

What Went Right

All three starters at guard could score consistently, with Cobbs, Jorge Gutierrez, and Allen Crabbe all averaging in double figures. The biggest (good) surprise of the season was the play of freshman forward David Kravish. Kravish immediately made a splash in the low post for the Golden Bears and would finish the season averaging 7.0 PPG and 5.7 RPG. He finished the season with nine games in which he scored in double-figures, but by playing in an already potent offense, his most important contributions would come on the glass. Kravish pulled down a monstrous 18 rebounds in Cal’s 75-49 win against USC to go with two other double-figure rebounding nights. Having your most consistent rebounder being just a freshman has the future looking bright for coach Mike Montgomery’s squad, especially at a position that the Bears haven’t always been very deep at the past few years.

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Pac-12 Afternoon Five: Signing Day Edition

Posted by AMurawa on April 11th, 2012

  1. Today’s the big day in college basketball recruiting as the spring signing period officially opens. While most of the 2012 recruiting class is already accounted for, there are a couple teams around the conference today who are waiting on some big decisions. The biggest, of course, is the decision from Shabazz Muhammad – the number two prospect in the class – as to whether he will attend UCLA, Kentucky or Duke. However, he’s not the only unsigned recruit who has a Pac-12 school on his mind. Tony Parker, a 6’9” power forward out of Georgia, is also strongly considering UCLA, but he is not expected to make his announcement on Wednesday. Anthony Bennett, the number seven recruit in the country according to ESPNU is still considering Oregon, but he may be weeks away from making a final decision. ESPNU, for their part, listed the predictions from seven of their recruiting experts as to where each of these guys (and all the other elite unsigned recruits) will land, and they have Muhammad and Parker going to UCLA, with Bennett winding up in Florida.
  2. Arizona’s recruiting class for 2012 was thought to be done, but they added a junior college transferMatt Korcheck – who is expected to sign his commitment this week. Korcheck is a 6’9” forward who is jumping into a crowded frontcourt in Tucson, so he is expected to redshirt next season and retain two years of collegiate eligibility. More importantly for the future of the program, Sean Miller earned a commitment from Duquesne transfer T.J. McConnell. McConnell could well be the point guard that Arizona has been lacking, but he’ll have to sit out next year before becoming eligible in 2013-14. The next big question for the Wildcats will be the future of freshman point guard Josiah Turner, who was suspended indefinitely prior to the Pac-12 tournament. With Turner and junior Jordin Mayes the only point guards on the Arizona roster, the fate of the mercurial lead guard could go a long way towards determining just how much should be expected of the Wildcats next season.
  3. Not all of the talk around the conference is of players coming in; at Oregon State, the big news is that junior guard Jared Cunningham will forego his final season of eligibility and enter his name into the NBA Draft. Cunningham was a first-team all-conference selection and averaged nearly 18 points per game, but his decision to remain in the draft is a bit of a head scratcher. Draft Express currently has him being picked towards the back of the second round of the draft, meaning he would not earn a guaranteed contract. He’s got plenty of physical skills, but his inability to consistently hit a jump shot and his gambling style on defense are just two traits that make him a questionable NBA prospect at this point.
  4. In Berkeley, Emerson Murray and Alex Rossi will be transferring out of Mike Montgomery’s program, joining graduates Harper Kamp and Jorge Gutierrez on the way out the door. Murray was unable to earn any significant minutes in his first two seasons on campus, so he’ll move north to play for Cameron Dollar at Seattle. Rossi struggled with health problems during his entire California career and leaves having played 16 minutes in two seasons on campus. A landing spot for Rossi is not yet known, and there is speculation that his hernia injury that limited his minutes with the Bears may limit his basketball playing future.
  5. Lastly, the Pac-12 All-Academic team was announced last week, and not surprisingly featured two Stanford players on the first team, two on the second team and four more among the honorable mentions. The first team was made up of Sabatino Chen from Colorado, Rhys Murphy from Oregon State, Trent Lockett from Arizona State and John Gage and Jack Trotter from the Cardinal. The team featured all 20 players in the conference who were not only regular players for their teams but also students who earned at least a 3.0 GPA. Arizona, Washington, USC and Utah were the only four schools to not have a player anywhere on the list. I’m not sayin’, I’m just sayin’.
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Pac-12 Final Power Rankings

Posted by Connor Pelton on March 6th, 2012

1. California (23-8, 13-5) Projected NCAA Seed: #10

Here it is, the only team locked into the NCAA Tournament no matter what happens this week in Los Angeles. With only eight losses and wins against Oregon and Washington on the road and Colorado at home, even a loss to or Stanford or Arizona State on Thursday wouldn’t knock them out of the Tournament. However, I could see them moving up to a nine seed (which is exactly like an eight) if they win two games at Staples and have teams in front of them (Long Beach State, Alabama, and Kansas State, to name a few) lose early on in their respective conference tournaments. While we could see any team from Cal to UCLA win the Pac-12 Tournament, the Golden Bears are the definite favorite coming in. They’ve got a near-elite to elite player in Allen Crabbe, and with a supporting cast made up of Jorge Gutierrez, Justin Cobbs, and a sleeper player that I think will come alive this week, Emerson Murray, the Golden Bears have unrivaled depth in this conference.

Allen Crabbe, California

Allen Crabbe and The Cal Bears Appear To Be Headed To The Big Dance (Ben Margot/AP)

2. Oregon (22-8, 13-5), NIT

The Ducks remain on the outside looking in heading into the Tournament, but I’m of the belief that if they win two games and play in the Pac-12 Championship, regardless of what happens there, the Ducks will be included in the field of 68. Oregon has been on the bubble for the better part of conference play, but the real noise in Eugene began when it went down to the desert and took both games from the Arizona schools. Before that trip, Oregon was embarrassed by a 77-60 loss to California at home. Since then it has gone 11-3, with the biggest margin of defeat coming in a 76-71 loss at home against rival Oregon State. Besides Cal, the Ducks have the best chance to make a run in the Pac-12 Tournament; it’s almost like their team was built for it. To win any college basketball tournament, whether it is the Maui Invitational or NIT, you need to be able to shoot lights out, and two, have depth off the bench. As of late, the Ducks have been making everything they put up, and they put up a lot of shots. Watch for Devoe Joseph, E.J. Singler, and Garrett Sim to go off on any given night, considering all three are capable of creating and making their own shot. Look for junior forward Carlos Emory to have a big tournament coming off the bench.

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