Cal Basketball Preview: #15
Overall Rank: #15
Conference Rank: #2 Pacific 10 Conference
2008-09: 22-11, 11-7
2008-09 postseason: NCAA
Coach: Mike Montgomery (22-11 at California, 569-255 overall)
The expectations were quite low for Coach Mike Montgomery during his first season as the head coach at California. However, the Golden Bears easily exceeded those expectations and finished the season with 22 wins and a trip to the NCAA Tournament. With six of their seven major contributors returning, there is good reason to expect Cal to be even better this year and compete for a Pac-10 title.
Key Losses: C Jordan Wilkes
Center Jordan Wilkes is the lone departure and a couple newcomers will attempt to fill that void. Markhuri Sanders-Frison, a junior college transfer, has the most experience and could play 10 to 15 minutes per game. Bak Bak is certain to be a fan favorite with such a great name. But the 6-10, 200-pounder can play some ball too. He will need some time to develop and put on weight, but he could be an impact player sooner than later. Brandon Smith, generously listed at 5-11, is a smooth point guard who will spend the year learning behind senior Jerome Randle.
Patrick Christopher and Theo Robertson both averaged over 33 minutes per game last year, but that is not a bad thing since they are both such great players. Christopher emerged as more than just a shooter and averaged 14.5 points per game. Robertson had a great year, connecting on 48.7 percent of his three-point attempts. For a 6-6 forward, he is extremely difficult to defend when his shot keeps falling. However, those two may not have to play so many minutes this time around thanks to the emergence of Jorge Gutierrez. As a freshman he never started a game, but by the end of the season he was playing a lot more minutes. Fellow sophomore D.J. Seeley and experienced senior Nikola Knezevic will provide plenty of depth.
Jamal Boykin may not put up great numbers, although he did average 9.6 points and led the team with 6.4 rebounds, but he never lacks hustle. Boykin will hit the glass hard and always plays tough and smart. He will once again man the four spot and the only question remaining is who replaces Wilkes at the center position. Wilkes only averaged 17.8 minutes per game, so plugging in Harper Kamp, who averaged nearly 20 minutes per contest, should work out just fine. Kamp has never been that productive on paper, but he is an upperclassman now who could surprise. However, the Golden Bears just need his 6-8, 255 pound frame to play decent defense and grab a few rebounds. If the team needs more size, they can look to 7-3 sophomore Max Zhang who played in just 15 contests as a freshman.
Who to Watch:
The talent is in the backcourt, but the most talented player of them all is Jerome Randle. The 5-10 point guard averaged 18.3 points and 5.0 assists last season and is the sparkplug that makes this team go. Randle is amazingly quick and can set up easy buckets for the shooters on the wings. But he is obviously capable of scoring himself too. And in many cases the opposing defense is worried about Christopher and Robertson and Randle will simply walk up the court and knock down a three-pointer.
With Randle’s ability to do about everything, Cal is very difficult to stop. This is a team that was very consistent on offense last season thanks to the efficient shooting of Randle and Robertson and the capable ball handling of Randle. The expectations for this team are growing and most expect Coach Montgomery to take his team back to the NCAA Tournament and then do some damage once they are there.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Jerome Randle, Senior, Guard, 18.3 points per game
Patrick Christopher, Senior, Guard, 14.5 points per game
Theo Robertson, Senior, Forward, 13.1 points per game
Jamal Boykin, Senior, Forward, 9.6 points per game
Harper Kamp, Junior, Forward, 3.8 points per game
Next Top 144 Teams