Montgomery gets Cal win in first game back

586330.jpg

Montgomery gets Cal win in first game back

BOX SCORE

BERKELEY -- Mike Montgomery wasted little time providing the update everybody wanted to hear.

"I'm fine," he said in his typical matter-of-fact tone.

California's fourth-year coach returned to the bench three-plus weeks after undergoing surgery for bladder cancer and guided the 24th-ranked Golden Bears to a 77-56 season-opening victory over UC Irvine and former assistant Russell Turner on Friday night.

Allen Crabbe scored 24 points, Jorge Gutierrez had 11 points, nine rebounds, seven assists and two steals, and Cal shot 45.9 percent. The Bears jumped out to a 19-7 lead and controlled the game the entire way.

Montgomery moved well on the sideline and showed no signs of being limited. He spent a short stint away from the team to recover following the procedure on Oct. 19 and said he is now cancer-free.

He said he still has to be careful not to overexert himself.

"I get tired," Montgomery said. "You don't really realize what's going on. It's not something overt where there's specifics. But all of a sudden you go home and you're kind of, Whoa, I'm tired.' You do have to be aware of that. If you're going to do your job and be sharp, you've just got to make sure you don't do too much too fast."

Montgomery faced his former assistant from his days at both Stanford and the Golden State Warriors in Turner, the second-year Anteaters coach who worked under Montgomery at Stanford from 2000-04 and then in the NBA from '04-06.

Turner invited Montgomery to meet his team before the game.

"I doubt coaches really get all that wrapped up in coaching matchups but there's no question that Mike Montgomery is a man who's had tremendous influence on me," Turner said. "He's someone that I truly admire. I introduced him to my team today because he's going to be in the Hall of Fame as a college coach one day. I want to do at Irvine what he's done at Montana and Stanford and Cal. He showed me how to do it, so he's had a huge impact on my career and my life."

At one point, Montgomery showed some of his typical emotion and fire when he caught an errant pass thrown out of bounds by Cal reserve center Bak Bak with just under 10 minutes to go. Montgomery strongly bounced the ball in frustration before talking to guard Justin Cobbs.

"This is what he does and obviously it's what he loves," senior forward Harper Kamp said of Montgomery. "He's excited to be back out there. Everyone knows that kind of thing gives you a little bit of perspective. I'm happy to see he has some energy. He's the same old same old."

A sophomore guard, Cobbs made his Cal debut after sitting out last season following his transfer from Minnesota.

The Bears, who beat UC San Diego 88-53 in their lone exhibition game last week, shot 53.3 percent in the first half on the way to a 48-23 lead at the break and only built on that over the final 20 minutes.

Chris McNealy scored 14 points for the overmatched Anteaters, who shot 39.3 percent and were outrebounded 47-28.

Richard Solomon and Kamp each grabbed eight rebounds for a Cal team picked to finish second in the Pac-12 after going 18-15 last season and reaching the second round of the National Invitation Tournament.

Cal is in the preseason rankings for the fourth time in program history and first since it was 13th in 2009, when the Bears went on to win their first Pac-10 crown in 50 years and advance to the second round of the NCAA tournament.

Gutierrez, Cal's senior leader and top returning scorer after averaging 14.6 points per game last season, Crabbe and Kamp give the Bears a formidable trio of scorers and also are the team's most experienced players.

Crabbe, the Pac-10 Freshman of the Year last season, shot 10 for 19 and scored Cal's first seven points of the second half and had a steal in the backcourt followed by a pretty one-handed dunk to put the Bears ahead 55-30 with 17:37 remaining to liven up the crowd at Haas Pavilion.

Cal made eight of its first 14 shots on the way to a 21-9 lead 8:21 into the game, with Crabbe scoring eight and hitting two 3s. Eight Bears players had a basket in the first half.

UC Irvine freshman Will Davis II had double-doubles in both of the Anteaters' two exhibition wins - averaging 11.5 points and 10.5 rebounds - but went 4 for 14 from the floor for eight points to go with nine rebounds.

Turner, who has one of the country's youngest rosters with only five returning players, eight freshmen and no seniors will keep his team in the Bay Area to play at San Jose State on Monday night.

"That's a different level of competition that we faced for the first time with a young team, and I thought it just looked like that," Turner said.

UC Irvine has not won in its last five season openers since 2007. The Anteaters haven't beaten a team from the Pac-12 since a 79-63 win at Stanford on Nov. 19, 2005.

This marked the schools' first meeting since Cal's 65-57 victory on Dec. 3, 2003, in Berkeley. Cal, 4-0 in season openers under Montgomery, leads the series 5-2.

Stanford star McCaffrey boosts NFL Draft stock with special teams skills

Stanford star McCaffrey boosts NFL Draft stock with special teams skills

INDIANAPOLIS -- More and more college coaches are putting their starters and even their stars on special teams as they seek to pile up every possible point in an era of pedal-to-the-metal shootouts and never-safe leads.

Fading fast are the days when superstars would catch their breath on the sideline when the kicker or punter trotted onto the field with the scrubs.

NFL teams love it.

Watching how players handle themselves as a blocker, gunner or returner provides a glimpse into a prospect's range, selflessness and versatility. It also delivers a sneak peek into how coachable he'll be, says Phil Savage, the SiriusXM NFL Radio host who spent two decades as an NFL coach, scout and executive and now oversees the Senior Bowl.

"I think because of the landscape of college football where scoring is at a premium, you've got to figure out a way to put points on the board not only on offense but through your special teams and defensively, as well," Savage says. "These coaches want to get these young players on the field as soon as possible, and a way to do that is utilize them on special teams."

These tapes provide a bonus to pro scouts.

"Now you have a vision of what that player might forecast to in the NFL as a young player and, specifically, as a rookie," Savage said.

Offensive and defensive coaches have a better idea of the types of players they're integrating into their schemes, and special teams coaches no longer get blank stares and blank canvases from the rookie class.

"Not only do you like the fact that they come in and have experience doing it, but you love the mentality if you're a coach and a decision maker that this guy isn't a diva, he's got no ego about it, he understands the team and puts team before self," says ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay.

"And he comes in with the mindset of 'What can I do to help the team and how can I contribute?' Those are the guys that seem to make it and last longer in the league because they're just willing to do different things and whatever it takes."

The prime example in this year's draft class is Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey , a "dynamic player than can do it all," according to Broncos GM John Elway.

McCaffrey gained more than 5,000 yards from scrimmage in his college career and added almost 2,000 more as a returner.

"There's just a lot of big plays open in the return game," McCaffrey says. "You see special teams have such an impact on the game today. Any time I can have the ball in my hands, I feel like I can do something dangerous, and that's really why I love the return game."

Other highly touted draft prospects who polished their resumes on special teams include Michigan safety Jabrill Peppers, LSU safety Jamal Adams, Washington wide receiver John Ross, and USC cornerback Adroee' Jackson, all of whom are projected as high selections.

McShay says "we're seeing more and more programs put an emphasis on special teams and having their key players contribute in one or more areas on special teams."

He pointed to Ohio State, where Urban Myers coaches special teams himself.

"It's a major emphasis there, and so you'll see some more guys typically lined up and contributing that are starters and stars," McShay says. "It's an honor to be on special teams."

Not a burden.

"It is not uncommon now to see people that are going to be picked in the first round having 100-plus special teams plays," suggests NFL draft consultant and former Dallas Cowboys executive Gil Brandt.

He pointed to the University of Florida, where Gators defensive backs cover kickoffs as well as they do receivers.

"Everyone's always trying to get their best guys on the field," Brandt says.

That's a change from years past when coaches feared exposing their star players to the extra hits.

The added value benefits the players, whose multiple talents allow NFL general managers to address many needs.

"We're seeing more emphasis on it in college, and I think NFL teams love to see it because if just means you're getting a bit more for your buck," McShay says.

Top talents who bolstered their value by playing special teams:

CHRISTIAN McCAFFREY , RB, STANFORD: He shined at the combine working out with the running backs and was as impressive running routes. Asked if there was anything he couldn't do, the son of former NFL wide receiver Ed McCaffrey said then: "I can't sing."

JABRILL PEPPERS , S, MICHIGAN: He worked out with safeties and linebackers at the combine, where teams talked of him playing RB and WR in addition to returning kicks. "The bottom line is I'm a ballplayer and I'm a hell of a ballplayer," Peppers said.

JOHN ROSS , WR, WASHINGTON: He caught 81 passes with 17 TDs last season but actually posted more return yards (2,069) than scrimmage yards (1,924) in his college career.

ADOREE' JACKSON , CB, USC: One of the best special teams coverage players in the NCAA, Jackson also scored eight TDs on punt and kick returns in college. His punt return averages rose from 6.0 yards to 10.5 and 15.8.

JAMAL ADAMS , S, LSU: Another star in coverage, Adams' defensive mentality extends to special teams. "I love being on the field and just playing football," said Adams, whose father, George, was a first-round pick by the Giants in 1985.

ALVIN KAMARA , RB, TENNESSEE: In a deep running back group, Kamara separates himself with his special teams acumen. "A lot of teams have been bringing up special teams," Kamara said.

DESMOND KING , CB, IOWA: He had eight interceptions as a junior and three as a senior. "I had a really good special teams season," King said. "Not being targeted as much, I still went out there and competed the best I could and was still making plays."

CHRIS WORMLEY , DE, MICHIGAN: Wormley touts playing for Jim Harbaugh as one of his attributes. "Coach Harbaugh came in and ran our program like an NFL program, like he had with the 49ers," said Wormley, who blocked three kicks his senior season.

ZAY JONES , WR, EAST CAROLINA: Like McCaffrey, he has good NFL bloodlines (son of Robert Jones, brother of Cayleb Jones). He caught 158 passes as a senior, but spent his first two seasons in college also making his mark as a returner.

Former Napa star Josh Jackson leaving Kansas, entering NBA Draft

josh-jackson-kansas-ap.jpg

Former Napa star Josh Jackson leaving Kansas, entering NBA Draft

LAWRENCE, Kan. -- Josh Jackson declared for the NBA draft on Monday after one of the best freshman seasons in Kansas history, one marked by plenty of highlights on the floor and a few distractions off it.

The 6-foot-8 swingman, who is considered a certain lottery pick, was the Big 12 newcomer of the year after averaging 16.3 points and 7.4 rebounds. He helped the Jayhawks to a 31-5 record and its 13th straight regular season Big 12 title before losing to Oregon in the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament.

Jackson signed with former NBA player B.J. Armstrong of Wasserman Media Group.

"After thoroughly consulting with my family, I have decided to enter the 2017 NBA draft and pursue my dream of playing professional basketball," Jackson said in a statement Monday.

"I am very thankful for all of the support I have received from my coaches and teammates at Kansas," he said, "and I look forward to starting my career in the NBA."

Jackson was the nation's No. 1 recruit when he signed with the Jayhawks out of Prolific Prep Academy in California. He immediately earned a spot in the starting lineup, teaming with national player of the year Frank Mason III and Devonte Graham to form one of the nation's top backcourts.

With natural athleticism and ability to slash to the basket - not to mention defensive chops that are rare among freshmen - Jackson quickly established himself as one of the nation's top draft prospects.

His importance was never more evident than in the Big 12 Tournament, when he was suspended by coach Bill Self following a series of off-the-court issues. The top-seeded Jayhawks stumbled in a quarterfinal loss to TCU, ending their run at the conference tournament before it really began.

He returned for the NCAA Tournament and played well in wins over UC Davis, Michigan State and Purdue, but was hamstrung by foul trouble and managed just 10 points in a season-ending loss to the Ducks.

Jackson's suspension came following an incident outside a Lawrence bar in December, when a member of the Kansas women's basketball team got into an altercation with Jackson's teammate, Lagerald Vick.

Jackson followed the woman to the parking lot and the woman said he kicked her car and caused hundreds of dollars in damage. He pleaded not guilty last week in Douglas County District Court to one misdemeanor count of criminal damage to property and a trial is scheduled for May 24.

His attorney, Hatem Chahine, said he was planning to file for diversion.

Jackson also was ticketed in February after he struck a parked car and fled the scene, and that drew Self's ire when he didn't tell his coach about the incident until several weeks later.

His decision to declare for the draft came a week after teammate Svi Mykhailiuk announced he would skip his senior season. But unlike Jackson, the 6-8 sharpshooter has not hired an agent and could withdraw his name by May 24 and return to the Jayhawks.