Ubaka might be cornerstone of Cal's future

Cal has an idea and although it is not an original one, it has proven successful enough to win a national championship in the past. In order for the plan to work, however, Oakland PG prospect Ayinde Ubaka has to be willing to make a commitment. If it does work, the Pac-10 capital might be based in Berkeley.

The West Coast's best junior point guard is Oakland High's Ayinde Ubaka. Three of the nation's preeminent basketball schools are listed among his favorites as to where he'd like to play college ball: Arizona, Florida and Cal. It looks like one school now has the decisive advantage.

A few years ago, Michigan State coach Tom Izzo made a brilliant move when he decided to start mining the talent-rich Flint area for prospects to fill up his roster. He signed Morris Peterson, Mateen Cleaves, Charlie Bell, Andre Hutson, Jason Richardson and Marcus Taylor, all guys from the Flint area, and in 2000, the Spartans won a national championship thanks to that Flint Pipeline.

Cal head coach Ben Braun now apparently has a similar idea. This time, however, instead of mining for Flintstones, he's going for some East Bay Funk, as J.R. (Isaiah) Rider would say. Welcome to the Oakland-to-Berkeley connection and if it works out the way Braun hopes it will, the Pac-10's balance of power might shift big time in a year or two.

Just like Arizona found its cornerstone in hometown recruit Sean Elliott, Braun hopes to find Cal's cornerstone in Ubaka. The 6-3 ½, 190-pound point guard understands what Braun is trying to do and likes the concept very much.

"Cal is trying to build things around us," Ubaka said. "It's just like Michigan State did with the guys from Flint. You'd have me, Leon (Powe), Marquise (Kately) and then there's some really good sophomores around here too."

Getting commitments from Ubaka and the 6-7 manchild PF Powe would be a huge coup for the Bears. Both are the best on the West Coast at their respective position and both are consensus top 20 recruits nationally. While they are currently crosstown rivals in high school, Ubaka doesn't think that trend will continue into college.

"No (we won't be rivals)," he said. "We'll probably go to the same school together. I feel most comfortable with Cal, it's close to home, get to play in front of friends, all that. (Cal) definitely has the most advantages."

Ah, but as it is with every 17-year-old kid, the situation is still cloudy. Florida and Arizona (and potentially even one more big time school) are still in the running. Here's what he had to say.

"Arizona and Florida are my two other favorites, but it wouldn't hurt to have Duke come in. Billy Donovan (Florida's coach) was definitely the most impressive when he came to my school to talk to me. That school has everything I want. Duke is far away but, I mean, it's Duke. You get so much exposure there. But I probably should go to Arizona because of the way they develop guards. Everyone that goes there gets better and it seems like they all make it to the NBA. I know all about Arizona and guards."

Ubaka will have plenty of time to decide where he'll play his college ball. He hasn't scheduled any official visits yet but says that he will do so sometime soon. He will definitely take trips to Cal, Arizona and Florida, he said.

For the time being, however, he will participate in several summer all-star camps with his Oakland Warriors team. That team is about as loaded as it gets. Ubaka runs the show but is joined by Powe, NBA super-prospect LeBron James, 6-7 sophomore (and potential Oakland-to-Cal recruit) Tim Pierce and Kately.

"Pierce is a scoring machine," Ubaka said. "He's from Fremont High and he's the future of the Slam ‘n Jam team. He's about 6-7 and plays the three-guard. He can play the two or the three. He's going to be a star."

Another guy from Oakland that both Ubaka and Cal like is 6-2 sophomore PG Quentin Thomas from Oakland Tech, the same school as Powe.

"He's really good," Ubaka said. "But he doesn't get that much pub because he plays on this little 17-and-under team. I'd love to have him on our team though."

So what it looks like is that Cal has the potential in 2003 and 2004 to have a team like this:

PG-Ayinde Ubaka

SG-Wesley Washington

SF-Dominic McGuire

PF-Leon Powe

C-David Paris

Bench-Marquise Kately

Bench-Amit Tamir

Bench-Tim Pierce

Bench-Quentin Thomas

That roster might do its best Michigan State impression and take home some serious hardware. And it all starts with Ubaka.

{TheThrill22 can be reached via e-mail at Bh6677@aol.com}

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