Pac-10 Hoops Preview - Cal

Over the next several weeks will bring you a comprehensive breakdown of the upcoming 2002-2003 basketball season in the Pacific-10 conference. Included in this analysis will be the projection of team records, and post-season individual awards. The fifth section of this multi-part series looks at the California Golden Bears.

California Golden Bears (Berkeley, California)

2001-2002 Record: 23-9 Postseason: NCAA Returning Starter: 2

Projected Starting Lineup: (Returning Starters in Bold)

PG-A.J. Diggs, 5'9, 165 Jr. (3.2 ppg, 1.6 apg,
SG-Brian Wethers, 6'5, 215 Sr. (10.3 ppg, 4.2 rpg, .477 FG%, .193 3Pt%)
SF-Joe Shipp, 6'5, 220, Sr. (14.8 ppg, 4.7 rpg, .486 FG%, .352 3 Pt%)
PF-Amit Tamir, 6'11, 260 So. (9.9 ppg, 3.5 rpg, .400 FG%, .325 3 Pt%)
C –Gabriel Hughes, 6'11, 225 Jr. (limited minutes)

Key Returning Reserves:

Donte Smith, 6'2, 190 Sr.
Erik Bond, 6'7, 205 Fr. (redshirt after injury)

Recruiting Class:

Richard Midgley, 6'1, 200, PG (Modesto Christian HS, Modesto, CA)
David Paris, 6'9, 260, C/PF (Modesto Christian HS, Modesto, CA)
Jordi Geli Vilardell,6'10, 190, F(Montessori-Palav HS, Spain)
Rod Benson, 6'10, 195, C/PF (Torrey Pines HS, San Diego, CA)

The Ben Braun-led California Golden Bears would like nothing better than to put a tumultuous off-season behind them and attempt to duplicate a terrific 2001-02 campaign in which the squad went 23-9 overall including a remarkable 17-1 at home. Cal will be forced to overcome key early defections, with three year starting point guard Shantay Legans transferring to Fresno State just a month before the start of the fall quarter and freshmen center Jamal Sampson declaring for the NBA draft after just one year at the University. The Bears did receive good news when it was learned that center Gabriel Hughes would re-join the team after declaring his intention to transfer earlier in the year.

Though Hughes was not a key contributor last season his presence will be needed in the paint where the Bears only other returning player is 22 year-old Israeli sophomore Amit Tamir. Recognizing the lack of depth up-front, Head Coach Ben Braun has added a trio of freshmen post-players, in David Paris, Rod Benson, and Spaniard Jordi Geli Vilardell, at least one of whom will need to contribute heavy minutes in a backup role. The Bears are most solid on the wing where seniors Brian Weathers and Joe Shipp anchor the team with tenacious defense and veteran leadership. The point guard position is perhaps the biggest question mark with former walk-on A.J. Diggs the leading candidate to replace the void left by Legans. Heralded true freshmen point guard Richard Midgley recently suffered an injured quadriceps muscle and is expected to be sidelined for 4-6 weeks, even longer if surgery is needed. The Bears also will look for significant contributions from redshirt freshmen Erik Bond, a highly regarded and multi-talented player who missed last season due to an ankle injury and 5th year senior guard Donte Smith who will miss the first portion of the season after surgery to repair a partially torn muscle in his leg.

Recruiting Class Grade: C+

The three post players are all guys who can and will contribute at some point though how soon remains to be seen. Paris is the most likely candidate for early minutes backing up Hughes. He's a steady player with a big, strong body, more proficient on the defensive side of the court right now though he does have a developing post game. Conditioning may be a bit of an issue, especially early in the season, though Paris has been playing in a Pro-Am league in the Bay Area. Benson is thin and may prove to have the most upside of the group, but is currently the furthest away from contribution. He could probably use a redshirt year, but that may not be possible. Vilardell is an extremely late addition after Yaniv Green, another Israeli player, reneged on a verbal commitment once it was learned that there would be a challenge to his amateur eligibility. He's a tall, long finesse player like so many European athletes and it's unclear just how much of an impact he'll be able to have. Richard Midgley could play heavy minutes at point guard if he recovers from a quad injury, but he could just be a role player once elite prep Ayinde Ubaka steps foot on campus in 2003.


-Incoming recruit David Paris is the son of former San Francisco 49'er star Bubba Paris.
-Paris and another incoming recruit, Richard Midgley played together in HS, but Midgley is originally from Burgess Hill, England.
-Conor Famulener both are former walk-ons who have now earned scholarships.
-Despite a 12-6 conference record last season the Golden Bears did not place a player on the all-conference squad. This is a tribute to the defensive coaching philosophy of Ben Braun and a team that was first in the league in field-goal percentage defense and second in point against average by a mere .1 to Oregon State.
-The leading returning rebounder for the Bears is Joe Shipp at 4.7 per contest. The team will need to have someone become more of a factor under the glass now that Jamal Sampson is gone.
-In December Cal will participate in both the Wooden Classic and Pete Newel Challenge.
-Ben Braun is well on his way to securing a top 5 national 2003 recruiting class. He already has oral commitments from top 20 national player Leon Powe, and top 100 players Ayinde Ubaka, Dominic McGuire, and Marquise Kately.
-Amit Tamir has gained 15-20 pounds in an effort to be more of an interior force.

Outlook: With both backup scholarship point guards injured and a real lack of veteran depth in the post this is a Bears team that a lot of uncertainty. Shipp, Tamir and Wethers make for a very strong threesome, but beyond that someone will have to step up in a big way if this team is to have any hope of returning to the NCAA tournament. Defense is a given, especially considering that Diggs is arguably better than Legans in this area, but this team will need someone to take charge on the glass and also shoot the ball better from the perimeter as a team. Gabe Hughes is going to need to improve from a near invisible 5 minutes a game player to a 25 minute per game heavy contributor and at least one freshmen post player will be forced into a lot of early action. It's possible this team could get back to the dance, but it will take a supreme effort by Braun and a full realization of the young talent on this squad.

Pac-10 Prediction: 8-10 Postseason: NIT

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