Photo: Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

The Bears travel south along the California coast to face their 3rd Mountain West Conference opponent of the season, the San Diego State Aztecs, in the finale of the inaugural San Diego Slam!

"> Photo: Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

The Bears travel south along the California coast to face their 3rd Mountain West Conference opponent of the season, the San Diego State Aztecs, in the finale of the inaugural San Diego Slam!

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Tonight: Cal vs San Diego St.

<p><font size="-2"><em>Photo: Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press</em></font></p> <p>The Bears travel south along the California coast to face their 3rd Mountain West Conference opponent of the season, the San Diego State Aztecs, in the finale of the inaugural San Diego Slam!</p>

Game #8: Cal (4-3) vs. San Diego State (4-2)
Location: Cox Arena, San Diego CA
Date: Dec 11th, 2004 (scheduled for 7:30 PM PST start time)

A Look at the San Diego State Aztecs:

SDSU Coaching Staff

Head Coach: Steve Fisher (5th year at SDSU)
Assistants: Brian Dutcher, Gregg Gotlieb, Mark Hughes

Projected Starting Five (returning starters in bold; 2004-05 statistics):

PG – John Sharper 6’0 185 Jr; (8.8 ppg, 1.0 rpg, 1.5 apg, 50% 3-Ptr) – Low turnover PG who made 5 starts in 03-04
SG – Brandon Heath 6’4 180 So; (17.0 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 4.5 apg, 42% 3-Ptr, 90% FT) – Led all-MWC Frosh in pts, stls, and 3-pntrs
PF – Marcus Slaughter 6’8 220 So; (20.5 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 43% 3-Ptr, 57% FG) – Best young post player in the MWC
C – Chris Manker 7’0 225 Sr; (14.0 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 35% 3-Ptr) – Quality shooting big man
C – Mohamed Camara 6’11 260 Jr; (3.0 ppg, 5.3 rpg) – Riverside CC/Riverside CA

Key Reserves:

PG – Trimaine Davis 6’8 225 Jr; (2.7 ppg, 2.0 apg) – Played in 17 gms as a redshirt Soph last year
SG – Tommy Johnson 6’3 190 Sr; (0.7 ppg, 0.7 rpg) – Played in 29 of 30 games last year
C – Tyler Smith 6’2 205 Fr; (1.2 ppg, 1.2 rpg, 1.3 apg) – Santa Margarita Catholic HS/San Clemente CA
SG – Matt Thomas 6’3 190 Fr; (6.2 ppg, 3.3 rpg) – Martin Luther King HS/Riverside CA

The Mountain West Conference (MWC) has a lot of young teams this year, San Diego State among them. The same can be said for the Pac-10 conference with few teams younger than Cal. With youth comes inconsistency. The Aztecs made an NCAA Tournament appearance in 2002 and an NIT appearance in 2003 but, like the Bears, were shut out last season after going through a significant roster change. Cal missed the NCAA Tournament last year for the first time since 2000. So both teams are rebuilding; they also are on similar in-season paths - a few good games mixed in with some tough losses. In what should be a quality match-up between two talented programs, the Bears and Aztecs face off for the first time in 63 years – just one month after Pearl Harbor.

San Diego State started the 2004 season with a bang and matched their best start (4-1) in twenty years. It was the first time SDSU had won 4 consecutive games since a December 2002. The Aztecs 73-55 victory on the road over UC Santa Barbara also marked the first time that they’d won an away game in 11 tries (they went winless on the road last year in conference play).

But this year’s four game win streak came to a crashing halt when the Aztecs squared off with Pac-10 force Washington last Tuesday. UW ran over SDSU 98-69 like they were Hernan Cortes. “This was worse than Illinois,” said Aztecs head coach Steve Fisher, remembering another 29-point loss the Aztecs suffered two years ago in the 1st round of the NCAA Tournament. “Every fear we had became reality during the first seven possessions of the game. I told our kids (Washington) is a terrific team. We're not as bad as we looked. They made us play bad. We're a pretty good team, but their defense relegated us to the minor, minor leagues. This was about a good team taking on another in their home building and spanking them good.”

Coach Steve Fisher is well known around college basketball circles. He’s one of the good guys and has always had a keen eye for talent and ability. He’s won a National Championship (1989) and coached in three National Title games. Fisher’s work with Michigan before and after the “Fab-Five” era will be a tough symbol to shake, just as Rollie Masimino’s days with Villanova will outshine his days at UNLV or Cleveland State. But despite his legacy and his upcoming 60th birthday, Fisher has succeeded in rebuilding what was a failed SDSU program. In fact, the Aztecs job has been a coaches graveyard for years. Before his arrival in San Diego, the Aztecs had 13 losing seasons in 14 years. The members from the last SDSU team to make the NCAA Tournament are middle-aged. It was a brutal job that many found to be career killers.

But in five seasons Coach Fisher has rebuilt the SDSU program. After collecting 19 wins in his first 24 months, the Aztecs won 21 in 2002-03 plus an MWC Championship. Then when some of the talent on that team graduated, the program slid to an NIT appearance two years ago - and last year, the team had to rebuild completely. However, Coach Fisher remains the only SDSU coach to ever get a postseason victory for the Aztecs (2003 NIT). He’s done more with the program than many could have imagined.

The future of the San Diego State program looks solid. Next year’s recruiting class is promising (led by NorCal star Kyle Spain and Orange County big man Brett Hoerner). The team’s current inside-outside sophomore duo is excellent. The tandem is led by Marcus Slaughter, a 6’8 220 lbs combo forward who can score in the paint, on the break, or from three. Slaughter is an excellent rebounder and posted some of the best numbers in the MWC a year ago despite being a reserve; 6th in rebounding (finished 5th on the offensive glass and 8th on the defensive glass). Unlike some freshman, Slaughter actually got stronger as the year played out. Now starting, Slaughter’s numbers have shot way up this year. He’s raised his scoring average from 7.9 ppg to 20.5 ppg. The former standout at J.W North HS in Riverside CA didn’t even start playing organized basketball until his junior year.

The other half of the sophomore SDSU scoring tandem is Brandon Heath, a slender 6’4 combo guard who is also off to a great start this year. The former LA area prep star at Westchester HS was a three-time All-State selection and combined with Arizona’s Hassan Adams to lead the Comets to the 2001 California State Championship - and will score for Coach Fisher in a variety of ways. Heath has added some muscle to his frame and has seen his scoring jump from 13 ppg to 17 ppg this season. He’s quick and can stop and pop the 15 footer. Both Slaughter and Heath are shooting 40% from behind the arc and are tough guys to guard.

Starting alongside Heath in the SDSU backcourt is former walk-on and Berkeley native John Sharper. This junior who prepped at St. Mary’s HS in Berkeley and led the Panthers to a Division IV State Championship his junior year has been a terrific story for the Aztecs. He’s competed in nearly every game the Aztecs have played in his 2+ seasons, and prior to his sophomore year in San Diego Sharper earned a scholarship. Offensively, Sharper is strictly a three point shooter – something he’s pretty good at – as 80% of his career shots have come from behind the arc. Sharper is starting at the point now because last year’s starter and senior veteran Wesley Stokes is working to regain his eligibility. Stokes, a Long Beach native who transferred to SDSU from Missouri, led the MWC in steals a year ago and has solid experience.

Playing behind Heath and Sharper are senior Tommy Johnson, freshman Matt Thomas, and freshman walk-on Tyler Smith. Johnson is the former LA City Player of the Year (2000) who has had a shaky college career in San Diego after initially signing with Washington State out of Crenshaw High. Freshman Matt Thomas has already jumped over him in the rotation and is coming off a career high against Washington. Thomas could play between 20-25 minutes against Cal, and right now is the best Aztec off the bench.

Of these, Tyler Smith is the best story on the team. The reigning California Division III-AA Player of the Year and Orange County Player of the Year turned down numerous scholarship offers to play at San Diego State despite not being offered a scholarship elsewhere. Jerry Debusk, Smith’s prep coach at Santa Margarita Catholic High School (where Smith played with 7’0 UCSB freshman Todd Follmer and current SMC star James Keefe) tried to get his star guard to look at other opportunities but Smith had his heart set on attending SDSU. Everything now seems to be on track for Tyler. He is far from flashy but has a great feel for the game and should only get better.

In the frontcourt along with Slaughter, the Aztecs are a bit short at the moment without Chris Walton. The younger brother of former Arizona star Luke Walton and the son of Hall of Famer Bill Walton, Chris is a mid-range option who finished 2nd last year in assists, 3rd in rebounding, and 4th in scoring for the Aztecs. He’s only played in one game this year and didn’t score in 29 minutes of action, suffering a hip flexor/groin injury that night. Walton has thought about sitting out this year and applying for a 6th year of eligibility. Additionally, Arizona transfer Travis Hanour has only played once this season due to his chronic knee condition. Both are likely to sit this game out as well.

Without Walton, the Aztecs are relying on three other frontcourt upperclassmen to share the load. The best of the group is senior Chris Manker, an Iowa native who prepped his final season at Laguna Beach HS and signed with Oregon State. After playing just one season in Corvallis, Manker transferred to SDSU. He’s played a reserve role the past two seasons but has stepped up his senior year and is averaging close to 15 ppg. Manker is a 7’0 center who prefers to play out on the perimeter but will mix it up and take some shots in the post as well. He’s weak defensively. Riverside CC transfer Mohamed Camara has been the Aztecs 2nd best rebounder early on in his career and the widebody who prepped at Moore HS in Louisville KY should continue to take up the space in the lane that Coach Fisher wanted from a big man. Junior reserve and NorCal native Trimaine Davis has an impressive physique but has played sparingly in his SDSU career.

San Diego State plays mostly man-to-man defense, but might use a zone against Cal. They’ve outrebounded every opponent except for Washington. As a team the Aztecs do not commit many fouls. Teams are averaging 68 points per game against them. Offensively, the Aztecs have shot 60% or better in two of their six games this year, way up from last year. They were the worst shooting team in the MWC a year ago. Heath and Slaughter will likely take over half of their team’s shots. Overall, the Aztecs have shot 48% as a team, which includes 40% from three and 69% from the foul line. They are getting very little production from their bench - which can happen when a team loses their starting PG due to academics and starting forward due to injury. On most nights, SDSU is playing 7 scholarship players.

Another team who can relate to that storyline is ... California.

A Look at the California Golden Bears:

Cal Coaching Staff:

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

Projected Starting Five (returning starters in bold; 2004-05 statistics):

PG – Richard Midgley 6'2 210 Jr; (16.7 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 1.7 apg, 52% 3-Ptr) – 2-year starter; Top 3-point shooter
SG – Marquise Kately 6’5 220 So; (11.1 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 1.8 apg, 43% FG) – Third in scoring; 2nd in rebounding
SF – Dominic McGuire 6’9 215 So; (5.4 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 2.4 apg) – 3rd in rebounding in 2004-05
PF – Rod Benson 6’10 215 Jr; (13.3 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 65% FG) – Shooting 65% as a 1st year starter
C – DeVon Hardin 6’10 245 Fr; (5.1 ppg, 5.9 rpg) – Newark HS, Newark CA – Tied for tops in rebounding

Key Reserves:

PG – Martin Smith 5’11 170 Jr; (3.6 ppg, 0.7 rpg, 3.4 apg) – Averaging 19 minutes per game as a walk-on reserve PG
PF – David Paris 6’9 245 Jr; (6.4 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 1.2 apg, 50% FG, 81% FT) – 4th in FG%; #1 in Free Throws
SF – Eric Vierneisel 6’7 200 Fr; (3.3 ppg, 1.7 rpg, 1.7 apg, 33% 3-Ptr) – Jacobs HS, Algonquin IL
PF – Kevin Langford 6’9 215 Fr; (1.3 ppg, 2.0 rpg) – North Crowley HS, Fort Worth TX

Three Bears return to their hometown San Diego this weekend for the inaugural San Diego Slam event hosted by San Diego State, put on by the San Diego International Sports Council. Martin Smith (The Bishop’s School in Escondido), Dominic McGuire (Lincoln HS in San Diego), and Rod Benson (Torrey Pines HS in San Diego) will all be playing in front of family and friends when the Bears take on the Aztecs. Even Cal freshman walk-on Brett Lowenthal (Poway HS) will be in home territory.

There will be no more important match-up on the court than sophomore’s Dominic McGuire going up against Marcus Slaughter. The two friends who played together on the AAU scene have similar styles though Slaughter is a bit more physical and possesses a much more accurate jump shot. Both have a nose for the ball. Despite their scoring differences and the fact that McGuire has really floated around the court, California Head Coach Ben Braun sees great things from his sophomore.

“We try not to classify players at specific positions,” Braun said. “There is a mistake in doing that. A basketball player is a basketball player. Find out his strengths and play to them. (McGuire) could literally play every position on the floor if he wanted and do a decent job. He is not a dominant player in any area but he's a guy who brings good skills and works extremely hard. He really has the potential to be much better. He has only scratched the surface.”

It will be interesting to see how McGuire takes on the challenge of guarding arguably the Aztecs best player in Marcus Slaughter.

Rod Benson is in line to have the best game of anyone on Cal’s roster. The junior is shooting at a 65% clip at this point and is the number one post option on the floor. He’ll be guarded by the slow footed Chris Manker - and while Manker has the same size, Benson’s maneuverability provides him with a clear advantage. Over the past four games Benson has knocked down big shot after big shot for the Bears. His versatility has allowed him to take turn around jumpers and finish on the break. Cal will look to Benson repeatedly in this contest.

Richard Midgley also has an interesting match-up against Sharper or Smith.

Like SDSU, Cal has suffered through a number of injuries. Reigning Pac-10 Freshman of the Year Leon Powe is probably out for the season and fellow starting sophomore Ayinde Ubaka is out til January with a broken foot. Despite the injuries and the tough losses, this is a group who remain upbeat and positive about their season and future.

“Our challenge is how competitive we are and how well we play as a team; how scrappy we can be,” Braun said. “I'm an optimist. Our players are optimists. We're all competitors. We're not the only team in the country that's going to lose players this year. We were as young as any team in the nation last year and this season we have no seniors. That's OK with me. It's all part of the process. Having (Powe and Kansas transfer Omar Wilkes) back comes with next season, next year. Right now, what we do this season is more important than anything else.”

The winner of this game should control the glass and with the energy up, we may see more fouls and more aggressive play. The winner will probably have to break 70 points, though the game could feature two teams in the 60’s. With both teams shooting similarly from the floor, the line, and the three-point stripe, this should be a very competitive game. The key might be who plays more actively and more aggressively.

For Cal, that means sophomore Marquise Kately has to step up. He’s committed just 9 fouls in 7 games, but has turned the ball over 24 times. Kately has made a few big baskets but appears to be putting too much pressure on himself. Unlike many other wing prospects, Kately has the type of athleticism that few prospects do - but he's off-track right now. Cal needs Marquise to get his game together soon.



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Game #8: Cal (4-3) vs. San Diego State (4-2)
Location: Cox Arena, San Diego CA
Date: Dec 11th, 2004 (scheduled for 7:30 PM PST start time)

A Look at the San Diego State Aztecs:

SDSU Coaching Staff

Head Coach: Steve Fisher (5th year at SDSU)
Assistants: Brian Dutcher, Gregg Gotlieb, Mark Hughes

Projected Starting Five (returning starters in bold; 2004-05 statistics):

PG – John Sharper 6’0 185 Jr; (8.8 ppg, 1.0 rpg, 1.5 apg, 50% 3-Ptr) – Low turnover PG who made 5 starts in 03-04
SG – Brandon Heath 6’4 180 So; (17.0 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 4.5 apg, 42% 3-Ptr, 90% FT) – Led all-MWC Frosh in pts, stls, and 3-pntrs
PF – Marcus Slaughter 6’8 220 So; (20.5 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 43% 3-Ptr, 57% FG) – Best young post player in the MWC
C – Chris Manker 7’0 225 Sr; (14.0 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 35% 3-Ptr) – Quality shooting big man
C – Mohamed Camara 6’11 260 Jr; (3.0 ppg, 5.3 rpg) – Riverside CC/Riverside CA

Key Reserves:

PG – Trimaine Davis 6’8 225 Jr; (2.7 ppg, 2.0 apg) – Played in 17 gms as a redshirt Soph last year
SG – Tommy Johnson 6’3 190 Sr; (0.7 ppg, 0.7 rpg) – Played in 29 of 30 games last year
C – Tyler Smith 6’2 205 Fr; (1.2 ppg, 1.2 rpg, 1.3 apg) – Santa Margarita Catholic HS/San Clemente CA
SG – Matt Thomas 6’3 190 Fr; (6.2 ppg, 3.3 rpg) – Martin Luther King HS/Riverside CA

The Mountain West Conference (MWC) has a lot of young teams this year, San Diego State among them. The same can be said for the Pac-10 conference with few teams younger than Cal. With youth comes inconsistency. The Aztecs made an NCAA Tournament appearance in 2002 and an NIT appearance in 2003 but, like the Bears, were shut out last season after going through a significant roster change. Cal missed the NCAA Tournament last year for the first time since 2000. So both teams are rebuilding; they also are on similar in-season paths - a few good games mixed in with some tough losses. In what should be a quality match-up between two talented programs, the Bears and Aztecs face off for the first time in 63 years – just one month after Pearl Harbor.

San Diego State started the 2004 season with a bang and matched their best start (4-1) in twenty years. It was the first time SDSU had won 4 consecutive games since a December 2002. The Aztecs 73-55 victory on the road over UC Santa Barbara also marked the first time that they’d won an away game in 11 tries (they went winless on the road last year in conference play).

But this year’s four game win streak came to a crashing halt when the Aztecs squared off with Pac-10 force Washington last Tuesday. UW ran over SDSU 98-69 like they were Hernan Cortes. “This was worse than Illinois,” said Aztecs head coach Steve Fisher, remembering another 29-point loss the Aztecs suffered two years ago in the 1st round of the NCAA Tournament. “Every fear we had became reality during the first seven possessions of the game. I told our kids (Washington) is a terrific team. We're not as bad as we looked. They made us play bad. We're a pretty good team, but their defense relegated us to the minor, minor leagues. This was about a good team taking on another in their home building and spanking them good.”

Coach Steve Fisher is well known around college basketball circles. He’s one of the good guys and has always had a keen eye for talent and ability. He’s won a National Championship (1989) and coached in three National Title games. Fisher’s work with Michigan before and after the “Fab-Five” era will be a tough symbol to shake, just as Rollie Masimino’s days with Villanova will outshine his days at UNLV or Cleveland State. But despite his legacy and his upcoming 60th birthday, Fisher has succeeded in rebuilding what was a failed SDSU program. In fact, the Aztecs job has been a coaches graveyard for years. Before his arrival in San Diego, the Aztecs had 13 losing seasons in 14 years. The members from the last SDSU team to make the NCAA Tournament are middle-aged. It was a brutal job that many found to be career killers.

But in five seasons Coach Fisher has rebuilt the SDSU program. After collecting 19 wins in his first 24 months, the Aztecs won 21 in 2002-03 plus an MWC Championship. Then when some of the talent on that team graduated, the program slid to an NIT appearance two years ago - and last year, the team had to rebuild completely. However, Coach Fisher remains the only SDSU coach to ever get a postseason victory for the Aztecs (2003 NIT). He’s done more with the program than many could have imagined.

The future of the San Diego State program looks solid. Next year’s recruiting class is promising (led by NorCal star Kyle Spain and Orange County big man Brett Hoerner). The team’s current inside-outside sophomore duo is excellent. The tandem is led by Marcus Slaughter, a 6’8 220 lbs combo forward who can score in the paint, on the break, or from three. Slaughter is an excellent rebounder and posted some of the best numbers in the MWC a year ago despite being a reserve; 6th in rebounding (finished 5th on the offensive glass and 8th on the defensive glass). Unlike some freshman, Slaughter actually got stronger as the year played out. Now starting, Slaughter’s numbers have shot way up this year. He’s raised his scoring average from 7.9 ppg to 20.5 ppg. The former standout at J.W North HS in Riverside CA didn’t even start playing organized basketball until his junior year.

The other half of the sophomore SDSU scoring tandem is Brandon Heath, a slender 6’4 combo guard who is also off to a great start this year. The former LA area prep star at Westchester HS was a three-time All-State selection and combined with Arizona’s Hassan Adams to lead the Comets to the 2001 California State Championship - and will score for Coach Fisher in a variety of ways. Heath has added some muscle to his frame and has seen his scoring jump from 13 ppg to 17 ppg this season. He’s quick and can stop and pop the 15 footer. Both Slaughter and Heath are shooting 40% from behind the arc and are tough guys to guard.

Starting alongside Heath in the SDSU backcourt is former walk-on and Berkeley native John Sharper. This junior who prepped at St. Mary’s HS in Berkeley and led the Panthers to a Division IV State Championship his junior year has been a terrific story for the Aztecs. He’s competed in nearly every game the Aztecs have played in his 2+ seasons, and prior to his sophomore year in San Diego Sharper earned a scholarship. Offensively, Sharper is strictly a three point shooter – something he’s pretty good at – as 80% of his career shots have come from behind the arc. Sharper is starting at the point now because last year’s starter and senior veteran Wesley Stokes is working to regain his eligibility. Stokes, a Long Beach native who transferred to SDSU from Missouri, led the MWC in steals a year ago and has solid experience.

Playing behind Heath and Sharper are senior Tommy Johnson, freshman Matt Thomas, and freshman walk-on Tyler Smith. Johnson is the former LA City Player of the Year (2000) who has had a shaky college career in San Diego after initially signing with Washington State out of Crenshaw High. Freshman Matt Thomas has already jumped over him in the rotation and is coming off a career high against Washington. Thomas could play between 20-25 minutes against Cal, and right now is the best Aztec off the bench.

Of these, Tyler Smith is the best story on the team. The reigning California Division III-AA Player of the Year and Orange County Player of the Year turned down numerous scholarship offers to play at San Diego State despite not being offered a scholarship elsewhere. Jerry Debusk, Smith’s prep coach at Santa Margarita Catholic High School (where Smith played with 7’0 UCSB freshman Todd Follmer and current SMC star James Keefe) tried to get his star guard to look at other opportunities but Smith had his heart set on attending SDSU. Everything now seems to be on track for Tyler. He is far from flashy but has a great feel for the game and should only get better.

In the frontcourt along with Slaughter, the Aztecs are a bit short at the moment without Chris Walton. The younger brother of former Arizona star Luke Walton and the son of Hall of Famer Bill Walton, Chris is a mid-range option who finished 2nd last year in assists, 3rd in rebounding, and 4th in scoring for the Aztecs. He’s only played in one game this year and didn’t score in 29 minutes of action, suffering a hip flexor/groin injury that night. Walton has thought about sitting out this year and applying for a 6th year of eligibility. Additionally, Arizona transfer Travis Hanour has only played once this season due to his chronic knee condition. Both are likely to sit this game out as well.

Without Walton, the Aztecs are relying on three other frontcourt upperclassmen to share the load. The best of the group is senior Chris Manker, an Iowa native who prepped his final season at Laguna Beach HS and signed with Oregon State. After playing just one season in Corvallis, Manker transferred to SDSU. He’s played a reserve role the past two seasons but has stepped up his senior year and is averaging close to 15 ppg. Manker is a 7’0 center who prefers to play out on the perimeter but will mix it up and take some shots in the post as well. He’s weak defensively. Riverside CC transfer Mohamed Camara has been the Aztecs 2nd best rebounder early on in his career and the widebody who prepped at Moore HS in Louisville KY should continue to take up the space in the lane that Coach Fisher wanted from a big man. Junior reserve and NorCal native Trimaine Davis has an impressive physique but has played sparingly in his SDSU career.

San Diego State plays mostly man-to-man defense, but might use a zone against Cal. They’ve outrebounded every opponent except for Washington. As a team the Aztecs do not commit many fouls. Teams are averaging 68 points per game against them. Offensively, the Aztecs have shot 60% or better in two of their six games this year, way up from last year. They were the worst shooting team in the MWC a year ago. Heath and Slaughter will likely take over half of their team’s shots. Overall, the Aztecs have shot 48% as a team, which includes 40% from three and 69% from the foul line. They are getting very little production from their bench - which can happen when a team loses their starting PG due to academics and starting forward due to injury. On most nights, SDSU is playing 7 scholarship players.

Another team who can relate to that storyline is ... California.

A Look at the California Golden Bears:

Cal Coaching Staff:

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

Projected Starting Five (returning starters in bold; 2004-05 statistics):

PG – Richard Midgley 6'2 210 Jr; (16.7 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 1.7 apg, 52% 3-Ptr) – 2-year starter; Top 3-point shooter
SG – Marquise Kately 6’5 220 So; (11.1 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 1.8 apg, 43% FG) – Third in scoring; 2nd in rebounding
SF – Dominic McGuire 6’9 215 So; (5.4 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 2.4 apg) – 3rd in rebounding in 2004-05
PF – Rod Benson 6’10 215 Jr; (13.3 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 65% FG) – Shooting 65% as a 1st year starter
C – DeVon Hardin 6’10 245 Fr; (5.1 ppg, 5.9 rpg) – Newark HS, Newark CA – Tied for tops in rebounding

Key Reserves:

PG – Martin Smith 5’11 170 Jr; (3.6 ppg, 0.7 rpg, 3.4 apg) – Averaging 19 minutes per game as a walk-on reserve PG
PF – David Paris 6’9 245 Jr; (6.4 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 1.2 apg, 50% FG, 81% FT) – 4th in FG%; #1 in Free Throws
SF – Eric Vierneisel 6’7 200 Fr; (3.3 ppg, 1.7 rpg, 1.7 apg, 33% 3-Ptr) – Jacobs HS, Algonquin IL
PF – Kevin Langford 6’9 215 Fr; (1.3 ppg, 2.0 rpg) – North Crowley HS, Fort Worth TX

Three Bears return to their hometown San Diego this weekend for the inaugural San Diego Slam event hosted by San Diego State, put on by the San Diego International Sports Council. Martin Smith (The Bishop’s School in Escondido), Dominic McGuire (Lincoln HS in San Diego), and Rod Benson (Torrey Pines HS in San Diego) will all be playing in front of family and friends when the Bears take on the Aztecs. Even Cal freshman walk-on Brett Lowenthal (Poway HS) will be in home territory.

There will be no more important match-up on the court than sophomore’s Dominic McGuire going up against Marcus Slaughter. The two friends who played together on the AAU scene have similar styles though Slaughter is a bit more physical and possesses a much more accurate jump shot. Both have a nose for the ball. Despite their scoring differences and the fact that McGuire has really floated around the court, California Head Coach Ben Braun sees great things from his sophomore.

“We try not to classify players at specific positions,” Braun said. “There is a mistake in doing that. A basketball player is a basketball player. Find out his strengths and play to them. (McGuire) could literally play every position on the floor if he wanted and do a decent job. He is not a dominant player in any area but he's a guy who brings good skills and works extremely hard. He really has the potential to be much better. He has only scratched the surface.”

It will be interesting to see how McGuire takes on the challenge of guarding arguably the Aztecs best player in Marcus Slaughter.

Rod Benson is in line to have the best game of anyone on Cal’s roster. The junior is shooting at a 65% clip at this point and is the number one post option on the floor. He’ll be guarded by the slow footed Chris Manker - and while Manker has the same size, Benson’s maneuverability provides him with a clear advantage. Over the past four games Benson has knocked down big shot after big shot for the Bears. His versatility has allowed him to take turn around jumpers and finish on the break. Cal will look to Benson repeatedly in this contest.

Richard Midgley also has an interesting match-up against Sharper or Smith.

Like SDSU, Cal has suffered through a number of injuries. Reigning Pac-10 Freshman of the Year Leon Powe is probably out for the season and fellow starting sophomore Ayinde Ubaka is out til January with a broken foot. Despite the injuries and the tough losses, this is a group who remain upbeat and positive about their season and future.

“Our challenge is how competitive we are and how well we play as a team; how scrappy we can be,” Braun said. “I'm an optimist. Our players are optimists. We're all competitors. We're not the only team in the country that's going to lose players this year. We were as young as any team in the nation last year and this season we have no seniors. That's OK with me. It's all part of the process. Having (Powe and Kansas transfer Omar Wilkes) back comes with next season, next year. Right now, what we do this season is more important than anything else.”

The winner of this game should control the glass and with the energy up, we may see more fouls and more aggressive play. The winner will probably have to break 70 points, though the game could feature two teams in the 60’s. With both teams shooting similarly from the floor, the line, and the three-point stripe, this should be a very competitive game. The key might be who plays more actively and more aggressively.

For Cal, that means sophomore Marquise Kately has to step up. He’s committed just 9 fouls in 7 games, but has turned the ball over 24 times. Kately has made a few big baskets but appears to be putting too much pressure on himself. Unlike many other wing prospects, Kately has the type of athleticism that few prospects do - but he's off-track right now. Cal needs Marquise to get his game together soon.



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