2003 Pac-10 Preview: Cal

Part five in this ten-part series examines what might have been in Berkeley for the Cal Golden Bears. As has been the case since Jason Kidd left early back in 1994, Cal experienced more attrition this offseason with the losses of centers Jamal Sampson and Gabriel Hughes and then lost its best recruit to top it all off. Still, expect Ben Braun to have his team focused and ready come Pac-10 play.

Cal Golden Bears (Berkeley, CA)
2001-02 record:
23-9 (12-6, Pac-10)
Lost, NCAA second round
Returning starters: 2

Projected Lineup: (*=returning starter; Incoming recruit in BOLD)
PG-Shantay Legans*, 5-9, 170 Sr. (8.1 ppg, 3.7 apg, .382FG%, .315 3pt%, .895FT%)
SG-Joe Shipp*, 6-5, 220 Sr. (14.8 ppg, 4.7 rpg, .486FG%, .352 3pt%, .781FT%)
SF-Brian Wethers, 6-5, 215 Sr. (10.3 ppg, 4.2 rpg, .477FG%, .191 3pt%, .713FT%)
PF-Amit Tamir, 6-10, 240 So. (9.9 ppg, 3.5 rpg, .400FG%, .325 3pt%, .829FT%)
C-David Paris, 6-8, 260 Fr. (Top 100 prospect from Modesto)

Rod Benson, 6-9, 200 Fr. F/C (14 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 3.8 blks; No. 3 center on West Coast)
Erik Bond, 6-7, 190 Fr. F/G (Redshirted in 2002 due to ankle surgery)
Richard Midgley, 6-1, 175 Fr. PG (Top 150 prospect from Modesto)

Donte Smith, 6-2, 190 Sr. G (Valuable role player off the Bears' bench)
AJ Diggs, 5-10, 160 Jr. PG (3.2 ppg, 1.6 apg, 47 stls in 16.5 mpg)
Conor Famulener, 6-6, 225 Jr. SF (Should see increased playing time in 2003)

Recruiting class grade: B-
--Would have been an A had it not been for top 20 prospect Kennedy Winston's letter-of-intent release. Winston wanted to stay closer to home because a member of his family has serious health problems. He will suit up for Alabama this year and for the rest of his career. Paris and Benson will be needed immediately for the perimeter-heavy Bears and both should produce early on. Midgley had some eligibility questions that seem to have been straightened out recently. With Bond coming off a redshirt year, expect him to provide the outside shooting presence Cal has lacked in past years.
Gem of the Class
: David Paris, C
--He and Midgley were teammates at Modesto Christian High and should complement each other well over the next four years in Berkeley also. Paris is a big and strong center who has good bloodlines going for him. His father is former San Francisco 49er lineman Bubba Paris.

*Cal finished the 2002 season 17-1 at home with the lone defeat coming at the hands of Arizona, a team the Bears lost to three times a year ago.
*Juniors A.J. Diggs and Conor Famulener were both awarded full scholarships after two seasons on the team as walk-ons. Diggs played in all 32 games last year for Cal, starting in six of them while ranking 10th in the conference in steals (47).
*The loss of expected starting big men Gabriel Hughes (transfer) and Jamal Sampson (NBA) will hurt Cal until Paris and Benson get acclimated to Division I competition. With Hughes and Sampson, Cal could have been a Sweet 16-and-beyond team.
*Expect sophomore Amit Tamir to have a breakout season. The 6-10, 240 forward is not big on the glass but he can shoot well from outside and has outstanding passing skills for a guy his size.
*Cal will have two difficult non-conference games prior to the start of Pac-10 play when the Bears take on expected top five teams Georgia (December 7th in the Wooden Classic in Anaheim) and Kansas (in the Pete Newell Challenge December 28th in Oakland).
*Head coach Ben Braun has already received two oral commitments from the class of 2003. Top 100 prospects Wesley Washington (6-3 SG from Santa Ana Mater Dei HS) and Dominic McGuire (San Diego Lincoln HS) have already agreed to play in Berkeley. Expect more of the same from top 2003 and 2004 prospects since the Oakland area is loaded with elite-level players.

2003 Expectations:
--What was supposed to be a team that challenged Arizona for the Pac-10 title has instead become a team hoping to finish in the top half of the league. With athletic wings Joe Shipp and Brian Wethers, the Bears will be able to compete with just about everyone on the schedule. The problem areas are point guard, where senior Shantay Legans is a second-tier talent at best, and center, where inexperience will hurt the Bears. By the second half of the season, however, expect Cal to be a very tough and hungry team.

Pac-10 Projection: Fourth
Postseason chances:
NCAA bound

Ben Hansen can be reached at AZPointGuardU@yahoo.com.

June 25, ASU (5th)
June 26, USC (6th)
June 27, UCLA (3rd)
June 28, Stanford (9th)
TODAY, Cal (4th)
Tomorrow, Oregon
Monday, Oregon State
Tuesday, Washington
July 3, Washington State

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