Knowing that, the Bears went out and got junior college center A.J. McCollum, who visited the Bears’ fall camp late last week. BearTerritory spoke with McCollum the day after his commitment in July, but given the fervor of the high school AAU open viewing period at that point, and given the fact that the trenches are shaping up to be one of the stories after six days of camp, now’s as good a time as any to get to know the man who figures to get in the mix right away once he arrives in January.
“Just from talking to them, I’m going to come in and contribute at center, right away. That’s the plan,” McCollum said.
McCollum committed on the night of Wednesday, July 21, and pulled the trigger the following day, but it was far from his first experience with the Berkeley campus.
“I had been out six weeks prior. I go out there a lot, because I live in the area, so I’m familiar with it,” McCollum said. “Wednesday, I got to see the campus, and I always thought it was a beautiful place, and everything was perfect.”
Once McCollum arrives, he’ll have two years to play two, and with the crunch at center, he’ll could be seeing first-team snaps as soon as spring ball, which is all the more remarkable given how little he was recruited out of Beaverton (Ore.) Aloha.
“Back in high school, Portland State said they were going to offer me within the first three games, and I was content with that, so I didn’t really try to get myself recruited, I would say,” McCollum said. “They just never ended up offering me, and I ended up signing with Western Oregon out of high school.”
The Wolves, though, wanted McCollum to redshirt.
“They wanted to redshirt me, and I didn’t want to redshirt, but I ended up redshirting, and I decided to take the JuCo route,” McCollum said.
The extra time, though, has benefitted McCollum. After coming out of high school at 6-foot-1, 260 (more appropriate for a linebacker), he’s now up to a barrel-chested 285 pounds.
“It’s funny, because I played linebacker in high school,” McCollum laughed. “I definitely feel like I got a lot stronger, and I put on some good weight. That’s really what got me from where I was to where I am now.”
After transferring to City College of San Francisco, McCollum started getting more recruiting attention than he ever did in high school, in part thanks to the additional weight and power.
“UTEP offered, Texas State was going to offer, then I got the Cal offer and never heard from them,” McCollum said. “ASU came to the school, Mizzou came to the school, Arizona came, Louisville came, but all of them wanted me to go to a camp and I wasn’t going to go to a camp.”
The Bears staff – including head coach Sonny Dykes, Mark Tommerdahl and offensive coordinator Tony Franklin -- liked what they saw on his film, thanks to CCSF head coach George Rush’s relationship with Tommerdahl.
“Coach Tommerdahl was my main recruiter, because he’s known coach Rush for a while, and he’s always over at City College,” McCollum said. “He was around. He was talking to the other coaches, and they talked to coach Rush about me, and it’s been them watching my film.”
Over the course of several weeks, McCollum’s attitude towards the recruiting process evolved.
“When I started talking to Cal, it was right before playoffs was when I was going to make a decision,” McCollum said. “I was hesitant, because I’d never been through the recruiting process. I was kind of trying to enjoy it, and I was trying to hold off as long as I could, but it really shows you how wonderful a place Cal is, because I told myself, before all of this happened, I wasn’t going to commit to anywhere until summer.”
His final visit sealed the deal.
“The coaches were showing me love, and it all felt right,” McCollum said. “They have all the academic stuff tee’d up for me, so I just have to follow the steps. They make it super easy for me.”
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