California forward Ivan Rabb is tabbed an Associated Press Preseason All-American

Ivan Rabb is named a preseason All-American by the Associated Press as he returns for his sophomore season.

With California's first action of the season set for Thursday, Nov. 3 -- an exhibition against Cal Baptist at 7 p.m. -- sophomore forward Ivan Rabb was tabbed an Associated Press Preseason All-American on Wednesday, the only underclassman to earn the honor. The other players named were Duke’s Grayson Allen, Villanova’s Josh Hart, Iowa State’s Monté Morris and Oregon’s Dillon Brooks.

Rabb’s 57 votes are the second-most on the team this year, and the third-most by any player named a preseason All-American in the last three seasons. Allen was the top vote-getter with 61 total votes. In 2014-15, Marcus Paige earned 58 votes.

Rabb is the second Golden Bear to earn preseason All-America honors since the poll began in 1986-87. Jason Kidd earned the honor in 1993-94. Rabb, along with Brooks, became the first Pac-12 players to earn the AP preseason honors since UCLA's Darren Collison in 2008-09.

Rabb is one of 20 players on the preseason watch list for the Karl Malone Award, which goes to the nation's best power forward, and was named a first-team Preseason All-American by Blue Ribbon and Athlon Sports, and a second-team All-American by The Sporting News.

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Last season, Rabb averaged 12.5 points and 8.6 rebounds, was named to the Pac-12 All-Freshman team, was a second-team All-Pac-12 honoree and was named to the All-Pac-12 Tournament Team.

"I know that I made progress throughout the whole year," Rabb said. "I know I was never really nervous playing, but I got more and more comfortable on the floor. Towards the end of the year, they looked to me to score the ball a lot more. I was a big piece to the puzzle last year, and I'm excited to be a bigger piece this year."

Between the end of the season and the deadline to declare for the NBA Draft, Rabb consulted with head coach Cuonzo Martin, his mother, brother and former high school coach Lou Ritchie, before making his decision on whether to stay or go pro.

"I had to do a lot of thinking on my own, more than anything," Rabb said. "I tried to avoid thinking about it as long as I could. People cornered me to talk about it, and that's when I would start thinking about it."

"I was coming to him, because I wanted him to stay," said senior wing Jabari Bird. "Mostly, I wanted him to make the best decision for him and his family. When you're that talented, and have a chance to be a one-and-done player, I think that's a great opportunity to have, but I wanted him to stay and win games."

Rabb returned to Berkeley after that stellar freshman season because he felt there were still things he needed to improve before entering the NBA Draft, where he was a near-consensus top-15 pick.

"I just really want to win games, and improve in being an all-around player, and also improve my leadership," Rabb said. "That's something that, last year, seemed lacking a little bit. Me stepping up and being one of the leaders, we'll benefit a lot from it."

Rabb, who sat out an early practice after the scrimmage against St. Mary's last week because of an injured foot, is healthy now, and has gotten up to 225 pounds this offseason, up from his playing weight of 217 last season (he started out at 206 at the beginning of the season).

"I think, with Ivan, he continues to develop as a basketball player," said Martin. "He's done a good job with his body. I think the biggest thing with him is just demanding the ball, having the presence to where he demands the ball, where it's not so much, 'Run the play for him,' or, 'Sam [Singer], give him the ball.' Give him the ball without him saying it. He does a great job rebounding the basketball, keeping balls alive, and really has the confidence to shoot the perimeter shot in games, as well. He has to want the ball every time down. My thing with Ivan, he wants the ball, but he has to want it every possession down the floor to be a threat." Rabb said that he's been improving in that regard, saying that whenever he gets the ball, he now has the mentality to score first.

"It's been working, so it's something that I want to translate to the season," Rabb said.

Rabb's usage rate (the percentage of possessions that ended with a score or a turnover by Rabb) was 20% last season, far below the rates of Jaylen Brown (31.5%) and Tyrone Wallace (28.6%).

That will change this year, as the staff has said that the offense will run primarily through Rabb and Bird. While he won't say that's one of the reasons he chose to eschew the NBA to return to college, it likely was a factor.

"We're ready for it," Rabb said. "We worked in the gym together all summer. We put in a lot of time this summer, working, expanding our games, and that's what you prepare for: To be the guy."

This offseason, Rabb worked with Bird, and the two rubbed off on one another, working every day, with Bird polishing his post moves, and Rabb stretching out to beyond the arc.

"We did a lot of ball handling together," Rabb said, as Bird smirked, "a ton of shooting. It's always good to compete against somebody who can shoo the ball. He pushed me every day to make more shots, and he worked on his post game. That's why you see him, today, posting guys up, having the right mindset to look to the basket every time."

The Bears officially begin their season on Nov. 11 at 7 p.m., against South Dakota State, at Haas Pavilion, where they were 18-0 last season.

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