Pac-10 Preview – #9 California

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by Craig Yamada

At the #9 spot, we have a very young and different looking team in the California Golden Bears. Let’s take a look under the hood:

The 2009 season has come and gone for the defending regular season Pac-10 champion. They had their run and rebuilding has commenced. Mike Montgomery will have his handful after losing four of his five starters to graduation. They take with them a 60 ppg  aggregate scoring average night in and night out.

Key Losses:

  1. Jerome Randle (18.6 ppg) – graduated
  2. Patrick Christopher (15.6 ppg) – graduated
  3. Theo Robertson(14.2 ppg) – graduated
  4. Jamal Boykin (11.9 ppg) – graduated
  5. Omondi Amoke (4.8 ppg) – kicked off the team
  6. Max Zhang (3.1 ppg) – returned to China
  7. DJ Seeley (2.4 ppg) – transferred out of Cal

So Who’s Left?

The lone remaining starter is defensive pest Jorge Gutierrez (5.5 ppg) who will resume his starting spot at SG to begin his Junior year. Joining him will likely be Harper Kamp, a 6-8 forward who red-shirted the 2009 season with a lingering knee injury. Kamp is a mid sized PF who likes to make a living on the block. Kamp didn’t play big minutes as a freshman or sophomore as he played behind Theo Robertson and Boykin from the get go. Although he is bringing a modest 4.4 ppg average, look for him to be a key cog in Montgomery’s offensive scheme and average double digits this year. Markhur Sanders-Frison looks to be in line for a big boost in minutes at the center position after averaging 3.3 ppg and 3.0 rebounds each contest.

Cal welcomes in a large wave of freshman talent in 2010. Headlining this class is Allen Crabbe, a 6’6” SG, from Los Angeles, California. Crabbe’s game reminds me a little of CJ Wilcox. Similar size and excellent range from deep. He’s also very athletic as he can get up and down the floor with ease. He seems like a perfect replacement for Patrick Christopher in the near future. Look for Crabbe to start from the get go at the 3 spot. Joining him in the back court will likely be his freshman counterpart, Gary Franklin Jr. Gary is a 6’2” PG out of Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, CA. He is a score first style PG, much like Jerome Randle, but not as quick. He definitely can slash if he is pressured in a half court setting and get to the basket at will. Look for him to be their PG of the future, most likely right of the gates. Other key Freshman additions include SG Alex Rossi, PF Richard Solomon and SG Emerson Murray. All could see significant playing time off the bench for Montgomery’s Bears.

Projected Starting Line up:

PG – Gary Franklin Jr. – 6’3″

SG – Jorge Gutierrez – 6’3″

SF – Allen Crabbe – 6’6″

PF – Harper Kamp – 6’8″

C – Markhur Sanders-Frison –  6’7″

Outlook:

There is very little veteran leadership on this squad and youth will reign supreme on this roster. I hate to call this a rebuilding year for a Montgomery coached squad but I don’t know any other way to coin this situation. However, definitely not a team UW should take lightly.

They certainly look like they will struggle early on trying to find cohesion with a young team. Their success will largely depend on the development of Crabbe and Franklin, their two freshman studs. Harper Kemp will have to carry this team in the early going before the freshmen find their legs. They are another year from putting together a contending team, but have the right pieces in the place a bright future.

Prediction:

Look for the Bears to go 6-12 this season and edge out UO for the cellar position. This could be one of the longest years for Montgomery, but I won’t bet against this team for very long.

How UW beats them:

Given their youth, UW will need to deploy a full court man to man defense to get their young players rattled. Given their range from the 3 pt arc, they will need to extend their perimeter defense just as they would have guarded the 2009 Golden Bears.

Look for Justin Holiday and Venoy Overton to play a key role in taking their freshmen backcourt out of rhythm. Gant/MBA/Aziz can surely handle the key with Cal’s undersized squad. They will need to keep Kamp and Sanders-Frison off the boards as a majority of their points come from garbage put backs.

Offensively, look for IT, Ross, Suggs, and Wilcox to break down Montgomery’s 2-3 zone with a barrage of 3 point shots. That will eventually open up the post for MBA and Aziz to go to work. We likely can go with a smaller line up to match up to this team from the opening tip.

UW will go 2-0 against Cal this year.