Cal Basketball Preview

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Cal Basketball Preview

HISTORY From 1954-1960, Pete Newell was the head coach of the California Golden Bears. In his six years at the helm, Cal won four straight Pac-8 titles from 1957-1960. Even more impressive1959: NCAA National Champions The Bears defeated Oscar Robertson and Cincinnati in the Final Four, and outlasted Jerry West and West Virginia in the title game. 1960: NCAA National Runner-Up The Bears once again defeated Oscar Robertson and Cincinnati in the Final Four, but fell to Ohio State with the likes of John Havlicek, Jerry Lucas, and Bobby Knight in the title game (at the Cow Palace in Daly City). Cal didnt reach the NCAA Tournament again until 1990! Jason Kidd and Lamond Murray led the Bears to the Sweet 16 in 1993, and Tony Gonzalez of NFL fame was a member of the 1997 Sweet 16 squad. Ben Braun coached the Bears to four additional NCAA Tournament appearances in 01, 02, 03, and 06 but was replaced by Mike Montgomery following the 2007-2008 season. In 2010, the former Stanford coach guided the Bears to their first conference championship since 1960. LAST SEASONFour starters Pac-10 Player of the Year Jerome Randle, Team MVP Theo Robertson, Patrick Christopher, and Jamal Boykin were lost from the 2010 Pac-10 Championship squad. Consequently, the Bears were picked seventh in the 2010-2011 Pac-10 Preseason Media Poll. They didnt listen to the media, and instead finished tied for fourth. Jorge Gutierrez earned Firs-Team All-Conference honors after averaging 16 points and 5 assists per game. Harper Kamp received Second-Team honors with his 16 points and 6 rebounds per game. Allen Crabbe became the first Bear to be named Freshman of the Year since Leon Powe in 2004. However, he was mysteriously left off the All-Conference teams despite the fact he led the Bears in scoring (16.4 ppg), second in rebounding (5.8 rpg), and led the league in 3-point percentage (.481 percent) and minutes played (36.6 mpg). I mean, are you serious? The Bears NCAA Tournament hopes were dashed with a first-round loss in the Pac-10 Tournament to USC. However, they did advance to the second round of the NIT where they fell to future Pac-12 foe Colorado. 2011-2012 SEASON PREVIEWWith the returning trio of Jorge Gutierrez, Harper Kamp, and Allen Crabbe, expectations are high in Berkeley. However, you cant win a Pac-12 championship with just three players. Who else will be in the rotation? Projected StartersPG: Brandon Smith (junior) -- After a historic career at De La Salle High School, Smith played sparingly behind Jerome Randle as a freshman. Thirteen games into last season, after Gary Franklin announced he would transfer, Smith replaced him in the starting lineup and never looked back. Over the final 20 games of the season, Smith averaged just under 8 points and 5 assists in 36 minutes per game. He isnt flashy, quick, or explosive, but he runs the team and gets the ball where it needs to be, when it needs to be there. If hes knocking down the 3 (20-45 the final 20 games last season) he makes Cal extremely dangerous. SG: Jorge Gutierrez (senior) -- The first recruit Montgomery signed at Cal is the Bears heart, soul, brains, guts, ligaments, you name it. There isnt a coach in the country who wouldnt want Gutierrez on his team, because you know what youre going to get on a nightly basis toughness, leadership, hustle, defense, clutch play-making, etc. If you walked by him on the street you wouldnt believe he is one of the 50 players in the country on the John Wooden Award Preseason list. However, if Cal wins the league, Gutierrez will most likely be the inaugural Pac-12 Player of the Year. SF: Allen Crabbe (sophomore) -- Crabbe was robbed when he was left off the All-Conference teams last season. He wont be absent again this year. After setting the single-season school record for a freshman with 62 made 3s last year, that number could be closer to 80 or 90 treys this season. However, his offensive game is way more than just his 3-point ability, so look for him to get to the paint more as a sophomore. Although he still has room to grow (strength, explosiveness) hes one of the best pro prospects in the Pac-12 and if he stays in school for four years, should break the 2,000- point plateau for his career. PF: Harper Kamp (redshirt senior) -- After being slowed by nagging knee injuries his first two seasons, Kamp redshirted in 09-10 to fully recover following offseason knee injury. Mission accomplished. The 68 southpaw averaged 14 points and 5.6 rebounds per game last season, after averaging 8 points and 6 rebounds combined his first two seasons. Cal needed someone to step up and score last season, and a healthy Kamp was clearly more than capable. You cant foul him either he shot just below 82 percent from the free-throw line a season ago. C: Richard Solomon (sophomore) -- The 611 high-school teammate of Crabbe could be the difference between a Pac-12 championshipdeep NCAA Tournament run, and a third-place finishearly tournament exit (its pretty safe to say the Bears will hear their name called on Selection Sunday). At times last season he showed flashes of being the dominant big man the Cal coaching staff recruited him to be (14 points against Washington, 11 points6 rebounds vs. USC, 10 rebounds vs. Colorado in the NIT). However, like most freshman, he was inconsistent. Cals one question mark is its frontcourt depth, which places a premium on Solomon staying out of foul trouble. He should be the Bears leading rebounder and shot-blocker as he continues to develop his low-post game. Other key returneesPF: Bak Bak (junior) -- The 69 rebounding machine was the first big off the bench in Cals 88-53 win over UC San Diego on Nov. 1. In nine minutes, he produced four rebounds, but also committed three fouls. In Cals NIT loss last season, the Sudan native chipped in nine points and 11 rebounds. The Bears dont need him to score a single point this year just rebound and defend. C: Robert Thurman (redshirt junior) -- At 610 and 250 pounds, he is the biggest body Cal can put on the court. If Solomon struggles early, Thurman will be needed to play more minutes than expected. Like Bak, he just needs to rebound and defend. SG: Emerson Murray (sophomore) He played sparingly as a freshman and it will once again be difficult to see extended playing time. However, should any of the guards go down with an injury, Murray is more than capable to fill in. He isnt a difference-maker, but could be a solid backup. SG: Jeff Powers (redshirt sophomore) The high school teammate of Smith at De La Salle transferred to Cal midway through the 2009-2010 season, and became eligible following the 2011 fall semester. In 11 minutes off the bench at Washington, he chipped in 13 points. When Crabbe missed the next game at Washington State, Powers started and delivered 14 points in 31 minutes. He started one more game, and then played a combined 24 minutes over the teams final seven games. He wont be able to sneak up on anybody this season. NewcomersPGSG: Justin Cobbs (redshirt sophomore) Cobbs becomes eligible after spending his freshman season at Minnesota and sitting out last season due to NCAA transfer rules. The combo guard led the Bears with 17 points and 4 assists in the teams exhibition win over UC San Diego. He can knock down the 3, but hes at his best when hes attacking the rim and getting to the free throw line (6-for-8 in exhibition win). Whether he starts or comes off the bench doesnt matter. He will play 20-25 minutes a game and lead Cal in scoring on occasion. PF: David Kravish (freshman) -- The long and lanky freshman led the Bears with eight rebounds (four offensive) in just 16 minutes against UC San Diego. He is the Bears most skilled big man off the bench and gives Cal a shot-blocking presence inside. He should have a fantastic career. ScheduleAlthough Cals non-conference schedule isnt as brutal as it was last season (New Mexico, Temple, Notre Dame, Boston College, Iowa State, San Diego State, Kansas) the Bears will meet Georgia in Kansas City at the CBE Classic, followed by either Notre Dame or Missouri. Other games include road tests at Mountain West foes San Diego State and UNLV, and home meetings with San Jose State and UC Santa Barbara. PredictionThe 2011-2012 Pac-12 Preseason Media Poll projected Cal with a second-place finish (one first-place vote behind UCLA). The Bruins may have one of the best frontcourts in the country, but Cal has a better backcourt and boasts the most cohesive starting five in the league. The one thing that could prevent Cal from winning the conference is their lack of depth in the frontcourt, or a significant injury. That being said, the Bears will enter the Pac-12 Tournament at24-7 overall, 13-5 conference (Co-CHAMPIONS), NCAA Tournament BirthLet the game begin...
Drew Shiller is a Web Producer for CSNBayArea.com. You can follow him on Twitter @DrewShiller

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

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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.