#76 California: 2010-11 Basketball Preview
Overall Rank: #76
Conference Rank: #6 Pacific 10 Conference
2009-10: 24-11, 13-5
2009-10 postseason: NCAA
Coach: Mike Montgomery (46-22 at California, 593-266 overall)
Coach Mike Montgomery has done his job during his first two seasons at California, leading the Golden Bears to a couple of NCAA Tournament appearances. His true test will come this season when the top four scorers and everybody who started over 13 games are gone. It is not uncommon to expect miracles from Coach Montgomery, but another NCAA Tournament may be asking too much.
Key Losses: F Omondi Amoke, F Jamal Boykin, G Patrick Christopher, G Jerome Randle, F Theo Robertson
The good news is the future looks pretty bright with another solid recruiting class headed to Berkley. Guards Gary Franklin and Allen Crabbe are the most heralded newcomers and could find themselves in the starting lineup from day one. Emerson Murray, Alex Rossi and big 6-9 wing Jeff Powers may have something to say about that, but it is pretty much Franklin and Crabbe’s job to lose at this point. Robert Thurman, a walk-on transfer from Norwich University, is the only other newcomer. The five scholarship guys who can play on the wing better be ready for quality minutes right away or California will come out of the gates very slowly.
The need for the newcomers to perform is due to the absence of point guard Jerome Randle, shooting guard Patrick Christopher and small forward Theo Robertson. Those were the three main reasons Cal went to the NCAA Tournament during the last two years and the lone returning perimeter player who averaged over ten minutes per game last year is Jorge Gutierrez. Saying Gutierrez has played second fiddle to the rest of the backcourt during his two years with the Golden Bears would be an understatement. Despite that, Gutierrez came into his own a little bit last year, ranking fifth on the team with 5.5 points per game and second with 2.7 assists. He is a good shooter when he actually shoots, but more importantly than filling the scoring column, Gutierrez needs to become the leader on and off the floor.
The frontcourt has a few more returning options. Markhuri Sanders-Frison started ten games during his junior campaign and proved to at least be a capable rebounder under the basket. Sanders-Frison is a big bodied player at 275 pounds, but Max Zhang is just big. At 7-3 and 240 pounds, he is an imposing figure under the basket. Like Sanders-Frison, he is not much of a threat to score a ton of points, but Zhang is a superb shot blocker. It would be very beneficial if those two can combine to stay on the floor for 40 minutes per game and handle all the minutes at the five spot.
Who to Watch:
The return of Harper Kamp will give Coach Montgomery another player who can play at the five spot, but Kamp should spend most of his time at the power forward position unless this team wants to play really young and really small. Kamp missed all of last season with a knee injury, but was starting to develop into a solid all-around post player two years ago. He will not be the interior scorer that Jamal Boykin was last year, neither will Sanders-Frison or Zhang, but Kamp will do the dirty work under the basket and could be the best interior scorer on the team if he can stay healthy.
The success or failures of this group will likely come down to the freshmen. They are a talented bunch, but it is tough to rely too heavily on inexperienced players. By March it may not be an issue at all, but early in the 2010-2011 campaign California may struggle while the newcomers are learning their roles and Gutierrez is trying to hold the team together. Coach Montgomery will get the best out of his team, but their best will not likely result in another trip to the NCAA Tournament. However, an NIT bid is not bad for a team that has so much rebuilding to do.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NIT
Projected Starting Five:
Jorge Gutierrez, Junior, Guard, 5.5 ppg
Gary Franklin, Freshman, Guard, DNP last season
Allen Crabbe, Freshman, Guard, DNP last season
Harper Kamp, Junior, Forward, DNP last season
Markhuri Sanders-Frison, Senior, Center, 3.3 ppg
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