Pac-10 Preview: California Golden Bears

<p class=sml><em>Marquise Kately vs USC<br>Photo: GoldenBearSports</em></p> <p class=txt>A comprehensive review of the Cal Bears Men's Basketball team as they approach the 2004-05 basketball season. </p>

Coaches:

Head Coach: Ben Braun (9th Year) Assistants: Louis Reynaud, Joe Pasternack, George Nessman

2003-04 Records:

Pac-10: 9-9 (finished 4th)
Pac-10 Tournament: 1st round loss to Oregon 87-82
Overall: 13-15

Players Lost, with 2003-04 Stats:

C – Amit Tamir 6'10 250 Sr (12.6 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 1.6 apg, 35% 3-Ptr
  Finished 3-year Cal career with 1,054 points
C – Gabriel Hughes 6'11 230 Sr (0.9 ppg, 1.0 rpg)
  Averaged 5 mpg in 14 games during the 2003-04 season
PF – Conor Famulener 6'6 220 Sr (1.2 ppg, 1.8 rpg)
  Played in 58 of 59 games during his Junior & Senior seasons
PG – A.J. Diggs 5'10 170 Sr (2.0 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 2.0 apg, 1.4 spg)
  Finished career with 158 steals; 3rd best in Cal history

Projected Starting Five (returning starters in Bold):

PG – Ayinde Ubaka 6'3 200 So (6.4 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 3.9 apg, 25% 3-Ptr)
  Led team in assists; Avg nearly 30 mpg
SG – Richard Midgley 6'2 210 Jr (10.6 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 2.1 apg, 35% 3-Ptr)
  2-year starter; Top 3-point shooter
SF – Marquise Kately 6'5 220 So (10.5 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 1.3 apg, 1.2 spg, 53% FG)
  Finished 9th in FG% in Pac-10
PF – Dominic McGuire 6'9 215 So (4.3 ppg, 3.4 rpg)
  Led team as a frosh with 22 blocks during the 2003-04 season
C – Rod Benson 6'10 215 Jr (2.6 ppg, 1.7 rpg)
  Finished 3rd with 15 blocks and 7th in points during sophomore year

Key Returning Reserves:

PG – Martin Smith 5'11 170 Jr (1.8 ppg, 0.7 rpg, 1.0 apg)
  Competed in 23 of 28 games as a walk-on last year
PF – David Paris 6'9 245 Jr (1.5 ppg, 0.8 rpg)
  Averaged 5 minutes in 22 of Cal's 28 games

Recruiting Class:

SF – Eric Vierneisel 6'7 200 Fr – Jacobs HS, Algonquin IL
  Led HS team in ppg, apg, and rpg; 3rd team all-State
PF – DeVon Hardin 6'10 235 Fr – Newark HS, Newark CA
  Athletic PF who averaged 13 ppg, 12 rpg, and 4.4 bpg
PF – Kevin Langford 6'9 215 Fr – North Crowley HS, Fort Worth TX
  Avg 19 points & 12 boards for #1 TX HS team

Redshirts:

PF – Leon Powe 6'8 245 So (15.1 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 48% FG)
  Reigning Pac-10 Freshman of the Year'; possible redshirt
C – Sam Rayburn 6'11 260 Fr – Sunset HS, Portland OR
  Redshirt in 2004-05
PF – Jordi Geli 6'10 200 Jr
  Played in just two games during 2003-04, will miss all of 2004-05 with torn ACL
SG – Omar Wilkes 6'4 195 So – Transfer for Kansas
  Redshirt in 2004-05

Team Review:

After four straight seasons of placing 4th or higher in the Pac-10 Conference, the California Golden Bears face a tough task in staying near the top in 2004-05. One of the younger teams on the west coast last year is even younger this year – adding four new freshmen to a squad that got nearly 80% of its scoring from underclassmen a year ago. While everyone sees the youth, the real question is "will the Bears be better?"

Without the services of 2004 Pac-10 Freshman of the Year Leon Powe and his nightly double-double work in the paint, the Bears lost their best interior option. One of the most skilled freshman low post players in the country a year ago, Powe brought energy, toughness, and excitement to a Cal team that badly needed an identity. The Oakland native, who had his final reconstructive knee surgery during the first week of September, will be particularly missed on the boards where he garnered nearly 30% of Cal's total rebounds last year. Powe led the Pac-10 in rebounding (9.5 rpg) and offensive rebounding (3.4 offensive boards a game).

How does a young program rebound from losing their best statistical player, especially a Leon Powe? While nobody can replace the likeable Powe and his endearing smile, California Head Coach Ben Braun does have some sound options. The Bears have undersized but rising athletic sophomore Dominic McGuire, a 6'9 combo forward who mostly spent time as a face-up player on the perimeter during his first season.

The Bears also have returning junior big man David Paris, a 6'9 physically stronger bigger option. Paris, a Modesto native and the son of former 49'ers offensive lineman star Bubba, has the body to handle to handle anyone in the Pac-10 in the paint while holding his ground. He has improved his agility with summer work but still doesn't't possess a true go-to move on the offensive end. Paris also can get beat to the spot on boards due to his footwork.

McGuire is an outstanding athlete and might be the Bears best true shot blocker. He has developed a few impressive moves in the paint and can fall away or get his opponent in the air then lean up for the score. McGuire can also rebound effectively (he is very impressive at rebounding and getting out on the break) and looks to have improved his jumper considerably from the arc. While making the right decisions with the basketball in his hand will still be a challenge, McGuire has all the ingredients to be a breakout player: court time, scoring range, and rapid improvement. McGuire should dramatically improve on his 2003-04 38% field goal shooting and 13% three point shooting. He is much better than his first season statistics appear.

"It will be an adjustment for me as far as post defense," McGuire said, commenting on his role this year. "I am going to have to use my quickness and shot blocking skills. Truthfully, you have to hang tough when you give up weight like I will. But my blocks and rebounds will likely go way up this year and I am excited about playing defense. Offensively, I feel better because I can use my speed more now and beat opponents off the dribble or just by making quick post moves. I feel I can score from the perimeter too. I just feel there's more court for my game then there was before."

The McGuire-Paris tandem will be one of the more compelling stories to watch as the season progresses for Cal. While both players missed a few games at the end of last season for disciplinary reasons, they have the skills and size to be major contributors to Cal's success in 2004-05.

Cal will have a new starter at the center position for the 5th straight season. Following in the footsteps of Solomon Hughes, Jamal Sampson, Gabriel Hughes, and Amit Tamir will likely be junior Rod Benson or freshman DeVon Hardin.

Benson, a former standout volleyball player during his prep career in San Diego, has the early lead but will be pushed by Hardin as the year moves on. In games that Benson played double-digit minutes last year he averaged 5.6 points and 3.0 rebounds. He showed his ability to shoot the 10-12 footer, was very active, and played with confidence. Benson is also one of the toughest guys on the roster and enjoys the contact side of the game despite not having a wide frame. He's willing to mix it up. In early practices, Rod has shown an impressive touch around the rim too.

Hardin is already having an impressive early practice rotation and goes from being a Newark Bear to a Cal Bear. Hardin possesses impressive leaping ability and upper body strength, and combines that with a passion to play the game. While he might sub in early in the season, DeVon brings a number of intangibles to the court with his speed, defense, and rebounding. He might run the court better than any Cal center in Ben Braun's tenure. Though refining his footwork and post moves on the block is still a hot topic, his upside is unlimited. He's added plenty of muscle during the off-season and looks stronger and wider. Folks that don't know much about Hardin will immediately see a fine prospect that can guard anyone.

What stands out about Hardin is his passion for the game. "The goal is to win the game and you can't win if you are playing defense all the time," said Hardin, speaking about his passion for rebounding. "I enjoy working the offensive boards and keeping the ball alive."

Because Hardin and Benson are similar in height but play with different styles, their practice against each other will make each a better player.

Coach Braun also has some newcomers that he can mix and match in the back court or front court. Texas-native Kevin Langford, the younger brother of Kansas All-American candidate Keith, is a tweener who can score from a variety of spots on the court. Langford played in the post a lot during his high school career, but he has good range and a terrific fade away jumper. Freshman Eric Vierneisel from Chicago will be another key contributor. A steady three point shooting threat from the perimeter, Vierneisel will pick up valuable minutes during his freshman season. The adjustment to the wing is an arduous challenge for most players at the collegiate level and both Langford and Vierneisel will be facing that this year as they learn how fast the game is played at the D-1 level.

"It's already been a big adjustment as far as the speed of the game," said Langford. "Everyone has speed at this level. My brother told me that you are going to have some up's and down's early on. You just have to keep playing hard."

While their scoring opportunities will fluctuate, look for Langford to be more effective from 12-15 feet with a nice turnaround jumper and Vierneisel to score more from the arc. After working out in Berkeley the entire summer, both players have added strength.

While Langford and Vierneisel will play valuable first-year minutes off the bench, their court time will not come at the expense of returning sophomore sensation Marquise Kately. Cal's first true highlight reel player since Ed Gray (who won the 1997 Pac-10 Player of the Year award), Kately can put points up with anyone in the country. He combines offensive skills with lock-down defense. While his freshman season did not get the notoriety nationally that Powe did, Marquise outshone Powe at times. His explosive ability sent fans roaring and his defensive prowess on smaller or even larger foes was infectious. This San Francisco native who led Archbishop Riordan to a California High School State Championship in 2002 never seemed to hit the so-called "freshman wall" where 1st year players typically tire after the increased practice, game-to-game stress, and the academic-challenge jump.

Contrast that with Kately, who just kept playing. While he struggled from the free throw line (46%) and three point stripe early in the season (ending up at 29%), Kately finished 9th in the Pac-10 in field goal percentage at 53% clip – an incredible achievement for a non-post player and the only freshman to make the top 10.

Kately also developed some confidence in his three-point shooting by hitting four of seven during Cal's final 7 games, and by making it to the free throw line an impressive 30 times during Cal's final 8 games. So the statistical trends say that as Kately became more comfortable with the speed of the game, his shooting confidence went up. Without Powe, Marquise will be the Bears primary offensive weapon. With improvement from the stripe and arc he'll become a nationally recognized player - and has a chance to become a 1st team All Pac-10 performer as soon as this season. Kately's goals for 2004-05 are about putting it all together.

"I've worked on my free throw, mid-range, and three point shooting skills everyday," said Kately. "I'm just trying to become a complete player. Passing, shooting, defense, whatever it takes. I'm looking forward to helping my teammates however I can. That's how I feel."

Along with Kately, the Bears also feature the return of their starting back court from 2003-04. Point guard Ayinde Ubaka and shooting guard Richard Midgley are a year older and a year wiser from playing together. A versatile pair that can reverse roles from time to time (and will in 2004-05), Ubaka looks to put last year behind him.

The 6'3 200 lbs sophomore from Oakland is an impressive ball-handler who gained immeasurable experience last year by playing against some of the country's most talented point guards. A complete perfectionist who had one of the toughest jobs any young player can face (playing the point as a freshman in the Pac-10), Ubaka went head-to-head with numerous top college basketball point guards last year. Jay Wright, Jameer Nelson, Nate Robinson, Mustafa Shakur, Aaron Brooks, and Chris Hernandez were just a few.

Ubaka averaged 30 minutes a game and appeared in all 28 Cal contests. He showed flashes of his potential in almost every game and sported the Pac-10's 3rd best assist to turnover ratio (1.96). Ubaka seemed to struggle from inexperience, though, and the perfectionist in him was troubled. He needs to make quicker decisions and get the ball to other players when they are more in rhythm. Junior walk-on Martin Smith will continue to back up Ayinde, but Ubaka will get the predominant minutes.

As he looks ahead to his sophomore season, Ubaka has a fresh outlook as well as a better understanding of who he is.

"I felt last year I just didn't play well," said Ubaka. "I know what I can do on the court and I've worked really hard this summer on improving my game; improving my mental approach. I'm excited about this season. I'm concentrating on making quicker decisions and shooting the ball much better."

Ubaka has already done that in early practices. He's consistently been one of the better shooters from deep.

The captain of the 2004-05 Bears is junior Richard Midgley. The British born combo guard had a bit of a sophomore slump from the 3-point arc (dropping from 44% during his freshman season to 35% last year), possibly due to the transition from the point to off-guard. In some games, Midgley struggled to look for his shot and to move without the ball. However, a year of experience should do him well. Midgley possesses a deadly stroke and a soft touch and combines those with outstanding range. He's tough as nails and has become more vocal as the leader. Richard can handle the ball well and has proven to be a clutch performer. He'll do whatever it takes to win. As the captain, he'll take over the responsibility for getting the youthful Bears to play with his drive.

"We definitely have some youth this year and being the captain means helping out the younger guys," said Midgley. "We've made a conscious effort to improve the chemistry of this team. Everyone understands that they'll have a role. Everyone is accountable."

Among the other players that will be practicing and supporting the team are freshman Sam Rayburn, junior Jordi Geli, and sophomore transfer Omar Wilkes. Rayburn is trying to rebuild the strength in his knee and is gnawing at the restraints that keep him off the court. Geli suffered a torn ACL two months ago that will sideline him during his junior season. Omar Wilkes has looked fantastic during early practices and definitely figures to be a major part of the Bears next season. He has already pushed Ubaka and Midgley in practice and has shown a strong all-around game. With his younger brother Jordan still a year away from becoming a freshman at Cal, Omar is truly excited about his future, even if sitting out a full season isn't going to be easy.

"This is the first time I haven't played in games in forever," said Wilkes, smirking about the layoff. "But I'm just really happy to be in school and be a part of this team. It's great to be at Cal."

The Bears in 2004-05 again have a young group of players to work with - but Coach Ben Braun knows his team has a number of scoring possibilities, is developing good team chemistry, and has a core that posted the third best scoring defense in the Pac-10 last season.

"My focus on offense is getting the team to think about finishing at the rim, scoring in transition, and getting easy baskets," said Coach Braun. "We'll certainly need some players to step up. Defensively, I am not so concerned with our scoring defense or how many points a team scores but more what our opponents shooting percentage is. I think we can improve on that."

The Bears open the pre-season with an exhibition game against Chico State on Nov 2nd and then tip-off the regular season in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic against UC-Riverside on Nov 11th. Both games are at Haas Pavilion.

©Copyright 2004, TheBearInsider.com and The Insiders. All rights reserved.

If you haven't done so already, subscribe to The Bear Insider so you can participate in this online community and get access to the members-only content from the nation-wide Insider's network.

Bear Insider staff writers visit the Insider discussion board regularly, and are available to discuss questions you may have about this article and Cal Athletics.


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","mobileBody":"

Coaches:

Head Coach: Ben Braun (9th Year) Assistants: Louis Reynaud, Joe Pasternack, George Nessman

2003-04 Records:

Pac-10: 9-9 (finished 4th)
Pac-10 Tournament: 1st round loss to Oregon 87-82
Overall: 13-15

Players Lost, with 2003-04 Stats:

Projected Starting Five (returning starters in Bold):

Key Returning Reserves:

Recruiting Class:

Redshirts:

Team Review:

After four straight seasons of placing 4th or higher in the Pac-10 Conference, the California Golden Bears face a tough task in staying near the top in 2004-05. One of the younger teams on the west coast last year is even younger this year – adding four new freshmen to a squad that got nearly 80% of its scoring from underclassmen a year ago. While everyone sees the youth, the real question is "will the Bears be better?"

Without the services of 2004 Pac-10 Freshman of the Year Leon Powe and his nightly double-double work in the paint, the Bears lost their best interior option. One of the most skilled freshman low post players in the country a year ago, Powe brought energy, toughness, and excitement to a Cal team that badly needed an identity. The Oakland native, who had his final reconstructive knee surgery during the first week of September, will be particularly missed on the boards where he garnered nearly 30% of Cal's total rebounds last year. Powe led the Pac-10 in rebounding (9.5 rpg) and offensive rebounding (3.4 offensive boards a game).

How does a young program rebound from losing their best statistical player, especially a Leon Powe? While nobody can replace the likeable Powe and his endearing smile, California Head Coach Ben Braun does have some sound options. The Bears have undersized but rising athletic sophomore Dominic McGuire, a 6'9 combo forward who mostly spent time as a face-up player on the perimeter during his first season.

The Bears also have returning junior big man David Paris, a 6'9 physically stronger bigger option. Paris, a Modesto native and the son of former 49'ers offensive lineman star Bubba, has the body to handle to handle anyone in the Pac-10 in the paint while holding his ground. He has improved his agility with summer work but still doesn't't possess a true go-to move on the offensive end. Paris also can get beat to the spot on boards due to his footwork.

McGuire is an outstanding athlete and might be the Bears best true shot blocker. He has developed a few impressive moves in the paint and can fall away or get his opponent in the air then lean up for the score. McGuire can also rebound effectively (he is very impressive at rebounding and getting out on the break) and looks to have improved his jumper considerably from the arc. While making the right decisions with the basketball in his hand will still be a challenge, McGuire has all the ingredients to be a breakout player: court time, scoring range, and rapid improvement. McGuire should dramatically improve on his 2003-04 38% field goal shooting and 13% three point shooting. He is much better than his first season statistics appear.

"It will be an adjustment for me as far as post defense," McGuire said, commenting on his role this year. "I am going to have to use my quickness and shot blocking skills. Truthfully, you have to hang tough when you give up weight like I will. But my blocks and rebounds will likely go way up this year and I am excited about playing defense. Offensively, I feel better because I can use my speed more now and beat opponents off the dribble or just by making quick post moves. I feel I can score from the perimeter too. I just feel there's more court for my game then there was before."

The McGuire-Paris tandem will be one of the more compelling stories to watch as the season progresses for Cal. While both players missed a few games at the end of last season for disciplinary reasons, they have the skills and size to be major contributors to Cal's success in 2004-05.

Cal will have a new starter at the center position for the 5th straight season. Following in the footsteps of Solomon Hughes, Jamal Sampson, Gabriel Hughes, and Amit Tamir will likely be junior Rod Benson or freshman DeVon Hardin.

Benson, a former standout volleyball player during his prep career in San Diego, has the early lead but will be pushed by Hardin as the year moves on. In games that Benson played double-digit minutes last year he averaged 5.6 points and 3.0 rebounds. He showed his ability to shoot the 10-12 footer, was very active, and played with confidence. Benson is also one of the toughest guys on the roster and enjoys the contact side of the game despite not having a wide frame. He's willing to mix it up. In early practices, Rod has shown an impressive touch around the rim too.

Hardin is already having an impressive early practice rotation and goes from being a Newark Bear to a Cal Bear. Hardin possesses impressive leaping ability and upper body strength, and combines that with a passion to play the game. While he might sub in early in the season, DeVon brings a number of intangibles to the court with his speed, defense, and rebounding. He might run the court better than any Cal center in Ben Braun's tenure. Though refining his footwork and post moves on the block is still a hot topic, his upside is unlimited. He's added plenty of muscle during the off-season and looks stronger and wider. Folks that don't know much about Hardin will immediately see a fine prospect that can guard anyone.

What stands out about Hardin is his passion for the game. "The goal is to win the game and you can't win if you are playing defense all the time," said Hardin, speaking about his passion for rebounding. "I enjoy working the offensive boards and keeping the ball alive."

Because Hardin and Benson are similar in height but play with different styles, their practice against each other will make each a better player.

Coach Braun also has some newcomers that he can mix and match in the back court or front court. Texas-native Kevin Langford, the younger brother of Kansas All-American candidate Keith, is a tweener who can score from a variety of spots on the court. Langford played in the post a lot during his high school career, but he has good range and a terrific fade away jumper. Freshman Eric Vierneisel from Chicago will be another key contributor. A steady three point shooting threat from the perimeter, Vierneisel will pick up valuable minutes during his freshman season. The adjustment to the wing is an arduous challenge for most players at the collegiate level and both Langford and Vierneisel will be facing that this year as they learn how fast the game is played at the D-1 level.

"It's already been a big adjustment as far as the speed of the game," said Langford. "Everyone has speed at this level. My brother told me that you are going to have some up's and down's early on. You just have to keep playing hard."

While their scoring opportunities will fluctuate, look for Langford to be more effective from 12-15 feet with a nice turnaround jumper and Vierneisel to score more from the arc. After working out in Berkeley the entire summer, both players have added strength.

While Langford and Vierneisel will play valuable first-year minutes off the bench, their court time will not come at the expense of returning sophomore sensation Marquise Kately. Cal's first true highlight reel player since Ed Gray (who won the 1997 Pac-10 Player of the Year award), Kately can put points up with anyone in the country. He combines offensive skills with lock-down defense. While his freshman season did not get the notoriety nationally that Powe did, Marquise outshone Powe at times. His explosive ability sent fans roaring and his defensive prowess on smaller or even larger foes was infectious. This San Francisco native who led Archbishop Riordan to a California High School State Championship in 2002 never seemed to hit the so-called "freshman wall" where 1st year players typically tire after the increased practice, game-to-game stress, and the academic-challenge jump.

Contrast that with Kately, who just kept playing. While he struggled from the free throw line (46%) and three point stripe early in the season (ending up at 29%), Kately finished 9th in the Pac-10 in field goal percentage at 53% clip – an incredible achievement for a non-post player and the only freshman to make the top 10.

Kately also developed some confidence in his three-point shooting by hitting four of seven during Cal's final 7 games, and by making it to the free throw line an impressive 30 times during Cal's final 8 games. So the statistical trends say that as Kately became more comfortable with the speed of the game, his shooting confidence went up. Without Powe, Marquise will be the Bears primary offensive weapon. With improvement from the stripe and arc he'll become a nationally recognized player - and has a chance to become a 1st team All Pac-10 performer as soon as this season. Kately's goals for 2004-05 are about putting it all together.

"I've worked on my free throw, mid-range, and three point shooting skills everyday," said Kately. "I'm just trying to become a complete player. Passing, shooting, defense, whatever it takes. I'm looking forward to helping my teammates however I can. That's how I feel."

Along with Kately, the Bears also feature the return of their starting back court from 2003-04. Point guard Ayinde Ubaka and shooting guard Richard Midgley are a year older and a year wiser from playing together. A versatile pair that can reverse roles from time to time (and will in 2004-05), Ubaka looks to put last year behind him.

The 6'3 200 lbs sophomore from Oakland is an impressive ball-handler who gained immeasurable experience last year by playing against some of the country's most talented point guards. A complete perfectionist who had one of the toughest jobs any young player can face (playing the point as a freshman in the Pac-10), Ubaka went head-to-head with numerous top college basketball point guards last year. Jay Wright, Jameer Nelson, Nate Robinson, Mustafa Shakur, Aaron Brooks, and Chris Hernandez were just a few.

Ubaka averaged 30 minutes a game and appeared in all 28 Cal contests. He showed flashes of his potential in almost every game and sported the Pac-10's 3rd best assist to turnover ratio (1.96). Ubaka seemed to struggle from inexperience, though, and the perfectionist in him was troubled. He needs to make quicker decisions and get the ball to other players when they are more in rhythm. Junior walk-on Martin Smith will continue to back up Ayinde, but Ubaka will get the predominant minutes.

As he looks ahead to his sophomore season, Ubaka has a fresh outlook as well as a better understanding of who he is.

"I felt last year I just didn't play well," said Ubaka. "I know what I can do on the court and I've worked really hard this summer on improving my game; improving my mental approach. I'm excited about this season. I'm concentrating on making quicker decisions and shooting the ball much better."

Ubaka has already done that in early practices. He's consistently been one of the better shooters from deep.

The captain of the 2004-05 Bears is junior Richard Midgley. The British born combo guard had a bit of a sophomore slump from the 3-point arc (dropping from 44% during his freshman season to 35% last year), possibly due to the transition from the point to off-guard. In some games, Midgley struggled to look for his shot and to move without the ball. However, a year of experience should do him well. Midgley possesses a deadly stroke and a soft touch and combines those with outstanding range. He's tough as nails and has become more vocal as the leader. Richard can handle the ball well and has proven to be a clutch performer. He'll do whatever it takes to win. As the captain, he'll take over the responsibility for getting the youthful Bears to play with his drive.

"We definitely have some youth this year and being the captain means helping out the younger guys," said Midgley. "We've made a conscious effort to improve the chemistry of this team. Everyone understands that they'll have a role. Everyone is accountable."

Among the other players that will be practicing and supporting the team are freshman Sam Rayburn, junior Jordi Geli, and sophomore transfer Omar Wilkes. Rayburn is trying to rebuild the strength in his knee and is gnawing at the restraints that keep him off the court. Geli suffered a torn ACL two months ago that will sideline him during his junior season. Omar Wilkes has looked fantastic during early practices and definitely figures to be a major part of the Bears next season. He has already pushed Ubaka and Midgley in practice and has shown a strong all-around game. With his younger brother Jordan still a year away from becoming a freshman at Cal, Omar is truly excited about his future, even if sitting out a full season isn't going to be easy.

"This is the first time I haven't played in games in forever," said Wilkes, smirking about the layoff. "But I'm just really happy to be in school and be a part of this team. It's great to be at Cal."

The Bears in 2004-05 again have a young group of players to work with - but Coach Ben Braun knows his team has a number of scoring possibilities, is developing good team chemistry, and has a core that posted the third best scoring defense in the Pac-10 last season.

"My focus on offense is getting the team to think about finishing at the rim, scoring in transition, and getting easy baskets," said Coach Braun. "We'll certainly need some players to step up. Defensively, I am not so concerned with our scoring defense or how many points a team scores but more what our opponents shooting percentage is. I think we can improve on that."

The Bears open the pre-season with an exhibition game against Chico State on Nov 2nd and then tip-off the regular season in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic against UC-Riverside on Nov 11th. Both games are at Haas Pavilion.

©Copyright 2004, TheBearInsider.com and The Insiders. All rights reserved.

If you haven't done so already, subscribe to The Bear Insider so you can participate in this online community and get access to the members-only content from the nation-wide Insider's network.

Bear Insider staff writers visit the Insider discussion board regularly, and are available to discuss questions you may have about this article and Cal Athletics.

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