2008-09 California Basketball Preview: #127
California Golden Bears
Overall Rank: #127
Conference Rank: #9 Pac-10
2007-08: 17-16, 6-12, 9th
2007-08 postseason: NIT
After 12 years, Coach Ben Braun was let go by California as the team’s head coach. The new man is definitely familiar with Pac-10 hoops in the Bay Area. Mike Montgomery turned Stanford into a consistent conference contender, and that was at a program that rarely was able to recruit top talent. At Cal, it will be scary to think what Coach Montgomery can do. But, for now, the Golden Bears have to take the first step and develop a winning mentality that slowly slipped away during the last few years.
Most of Cal’s victories during the 2007-2008 campaign came in shootouts. And their top scorer, Ryan Anderson, left early for the NBA Draft. The 6-10 Anderson not only stretched out the defense with his superb outside shooting and averaged 21.1 points per game, but he also tallied 9.9 rebounds per contest. Those numbers will be impossible to replace by any single player. DeVon Hardin and Eric Vierneisel started a majority of the games during their senior seasons. Hardin was a superb shot blocker and ended his career second on Cal’s all-time list with 132 blocked shots.
D.J. Seeley is the star of the class. The 6-4 shooting guard was a McDonald’s All-American nominee and can score in just about every way imaginable…and make it look easy. The expectations might have gotten a little high for the freshman, but he can at least find an important role off the bench during his first year with the Golden Bears. Jorge Gutierrez might not be as highly touted as Seeley, but he will fill a need in a couple years as a backup point guard. A handful of players redshirted or missed last season with an injury, including forwards Jordan Fillmore, Omondi Amoke and Theo Robertson and centers Taylor Harrison and Max Zhang. Robertson, who was sidelined with a hip injury, is the only one on that list that saw game action before last season. During the 2006-2007 season the 6-6 wing started all 33 games and averaged 8.8 points per game. However, it is his defense that Cal will be glad to have back. At 7-2, Zhang is the most intriguing prospect. The former China high school all-star can be a solid shot blocker if he can keep up with the game.
Who to Watch:
Nobody on the team will be as important as Jerome Randle. The junior point guard struggled defensively and had a bad habit of making mistakes, as his 3.0 turnovers per game would suggest. He is a good scorer and can consistently hit the outside shot, but the team did not really need him to score last year. They needed a ballhandler who could get the ball to the scorers and Randle did not do that effectively. His scoring abilities will be more appreciated this year now that Anderson is in the NBA, but he will have to keep the turnovers down if Cal wants to reach the NCAA Tournament. If Randle continues to struggle, Nikola Knezevic and Randle could spend more time on the floor together with Knezevic taking over a majority of the ballhandling duties.
Without Anderson, everybody will get more shots, but Patrick Christopher will be the guy who takes all the big shots. The 6-5 junior will get to the basket with ease and has a great mid-range game. Forwards Jamal Boykin and Harper Kamp and center Jordan Wilkes will have to pitch in and start scoring more consistently as well. Last year it was the defense that was a big problem, but that should be better this year with the return of Robertson. Now it will be about finding another scorer or two to help ease the pain of Anderson’s early departure to the NBA.
Projected Post-season Tournament: none
Projected Starting Five:
Jerome Randle, Junior, Guard, 11.8 points per game
Patrick Christopher, Junior, Guard, 15.2 points per game
Theo Robertson, Junior, Forward, DNP last season
Harper Kamp, Sophomore, Forward, 4.4 points per game
Jamal Boykin, Junior, Forward, 7.8 points per game