With the 2014 early-signing period just around the corner, the California basketball staff isn't just looking at its hopeful class of Ahmaad Rorie, Idrissa Diallo and Thomas Welsh. The Bears have long had their eye on 2015, and on Sunday, hosted a fast-rising four-star power forward for an unofficial visit -- Marquese Chriss out of Elk Grove (Calif.) Pleasant Grove.
"I got there around 12, and then I sat down and watched a little bit of their practice and I went over and went and looked in the weight room to see what that was like," Chriss said. "I went and toured around the school and talked to coach Mike Montgomery and walked around with his son."
Chriss was supposed to visit Berkeley back during the second week of the football season, but an illness prevented him from joining Nor Cal Wildcats AAU teammates Christian Terrell, Solomon Young and Tre Finch.
"I think they're a really good team," Chriss said. "They have a good structure going on, how they control their recruiting and stuff. John Montgomery is in charge of it, kind of, but it still goes through coach Mike. It's a really beautiful school. I liked it up there."
Chriss is a bouncy forward with a good sense about himself on the offensive and defensive glass. He can finish above the rim and block shots, at 6-foot-7, 180 pounds.
"They said that I liked the way that I play, and that I've got to keep working and getting better," Chriss said.
Chriss already has offers from Arizona State, Boise State, Northern Arizona, Vanderbilt and Washington, but has interest from over 20 schools.
"We talked about their education a lot," said Chriss, who has long wanted to go into engineering.
"Since I was little, I've wanted to be an engineer," Chriss said. "That's what I'm planning on majoring in, and that's going to be a big factor in my college choice."
With junior David Kravish pursuing a pre-med concentration, the Bears have experience with high-academic-profile targets.
"I like a lot of math," said Chriss, who's currently taking Algebra 2. "He said that they have the top engineering program in the country, and said, ‘I'm not going to lie: It's going to take a lot of time management, because that requires a bunch of your time, plus basketball and adding on a social life.'"
Chriss got a chance to talk with one of the team's tutors to get an idea about what it would take to major in both engineering and basketball. Currently, Chriss has between a 3.1 and 3.2 GPA.
This Sunday was Chriss's first visit to any campus, and was on campus right before the Cal women's hoops team squared off with Duke.
"I thought it was really cool, seeing the whole college atmosphere for myself," Chriss said. "Plus, the girls had a game today, so I got to see how the arena looked when it was filled up. I didn't get to watch the game, but before I took the tour around the campus, we looked into the gym, and the crowd was really full."
Chriss is used to big crowds, having taken the state title as a sophomore against a vaunted Antioch (Calif.) Deer Valley squad armed with five-star Marcus Lee.
In that game, Chriss scored 10 points, pulled down eight rebounds and added two blocks.
"When we played Deer Valley, I got elbowed in my face by Marcus Lee, and he split open my eyebrow, right over my eyelid," Chriss said. "I was really mad during the game, but my coach pulled me to the side on the bench and he said, ‘There's not a very high chance of you being back here,' so he told me that all my emotions were irrelevant right now, and that changed my mindset. It made me think. We had seven seniors, and thinking that that was their last season, I didn't want to lose because I had a hot flash or just got mad at someone. I had to take everything away from myself and focus on our team.
"[Lee] had elbowed me and was kind of mocking me, saying, ‘I'm a five-star,' and talking about himself, so at the end of the game, we ended up with the same amount of points, so I thought that was funny."
Not only did Chriss wind up getting the better of Lee, but he has one thing Lee doesn't: A state title ring.
Visit Raises Eyebrow for Chriss
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