Dan Lachman: From the Rafters

<p>&quot;It's going to be a long season.&quot; <p>I don't know how many times I heard that said at Haas Pavilion during the first six weeks of the Cal basketball season. And I've certainly read similar sentiments on CyberBears.

The gloom and doom is easy to understand: the Bears’ best player, Leon Powe is out for the season; starting guard Ayinde Ubaka is down for six to eight weeks with a broken foot.

And yet, the Bears finished the non-conference part of the schedule 7-3, and earned a split in Washington over the weekend.

Sometimes I wonder if Cal fans are genetically predisposed toward pessimism. (Nah, couldn't be.)

Whether or not that's so, it does seem that a lot of the fans lack an historical perspective on the basketball program. For example, I found myself thinking back to the 1987-88 season. Now, that was a long season. Cal's best post-player, Leonard Taylor was out for the year with a broken foot. Freshman forward Roy Fisher missed 11 games with a stress fracture in his foot. The Bears ended the season starting three freshmen (Fisher, Ryan Drew and John Carty) and went 9-20, which still doesn't begin to tell the whole story.

After a decent start, including a blowout win over UCLA at Harmon, the Bears completely collapsed. You think this year's team struggles offensively?

I remember going to Ricky's Sports Bar on December 28, 1987 to watch Cal play Alabama-Birmingham in the Sun Bowl Classic in El Paso. The halftime score was UAB 32, Cal 8. (That's not a misprint.) The Bears lost 64-50. At Tucson, the Bears trailed Arizona 43-12 at the half on the way to a 29-point loss. The next week, Cal was booed off the court at halftime at Harmon, trailing Washington State 27-10. The final score was 59-37. Ugly doesn't begin to describe those games.

So maybe Cal's offense this year starts to look a little better?

The fact is, I'm really enjoying this team, and my goal here is to try and convince you CyberBears readers to enjoy it as well. For starters, we could look at this year as laying the foundation for what should be a terrific team next year, but it's more than that: these Bears are pretty entertaining on their own terms.

So, as a public service to you gloomy CyberBears readers, here are five reasons to enjoy the 2004-2005 season.

Defense. Learn to enjoy watching it. This team is playing really good defense. They were outstanding in the Pepperdine game, they held WSU to under 30% from the field, and I think they will continue to get better. Watch how they handle screens, watch the help defense, and count the charges taken. They block shots, they steal the ball. They are much better than last year's team on the defensive end. I enjoyed watching Amit Tamir play, but he wasn't the best defender, and he really limited what Cal could do defensively.

Consider how impressive it is to watch young players buy into defending. For example, I watched UCLA against Michigan State, and the Bruins have a lot of young, offensive talent, but they didn't guard anybody. Ben Braun's teams play defense first, and it's fun to watch.

Don't just follow the ball on offense. For the last few years, all I've ever heard was how the Bears don't move, how they don't screen. This team is setting screens on every possession. And they're not just ball screens, so if you don't look away from the ball, you're going to miss them.

The ball and player movement is much better. Against San Diego State, the Bears burned the Aztecs every time they doubled the post. (I hope Leon was watching those passes to DeVon Hardin.)

And, the Bears are looking to push the ball up the court, particularly when Martin Smith is playing. I'd be the first to agree that it would be nice to have more shooters, and things should get better when Ubaka returns. For now, the Bears are really vulnerable against a zone, as Colorado showed with their 1-3-1. Marquise Kately and Martin Smith continuing to bang those threes (sorry, I couldn't resist) will help as well.

Rod Benson, David Paris, DeVon Hardin, Martin Smith, and Dom McGuire. No, I’m not just listing players. These guys have shown tremendous improvement. Benson’s growth as a player is astonishing, Paris is making fewer mistakes and making free throws, Hardin gets better every week, Smith has been “solid” both off the bench and as a starter, and McGuire is finally finding his niche. I think it’s exciting to watch players develop, and there’s no doubt in my mind that they will continue to get better.

Richard Midgley. The guy isn’t particularly quick or athletic, but he’s a real battler. Every team needs someone like Midgely. He never gives up. In the Pepperdine game, his shooting stunk out the joint for 39 minutes, and then nailed two huge treys in the last minute to save the game. Against Washington, he was diving on the floor to deflect passes on defense, and even though he forced some things on the offensive end, his effort was outstanding. We can hope that the minutes he’s playing and the effort he’s putting out won’t wear him out.

It’s college basketball. It’s not life and death. It’s supposed to be entertaining and fun. It’s a great game (which would be better with a few rule changes, but that’s another article). Haas is a fun place to visit. The football season is over. Sit back and enjoy the ride. As some of you may remember, a season is a marathon, not a sprint. There will be ups and downs, good games and bad, offensive droughts, but what else would you rather be doing? Come out to Haas to watch the Arizona schools. There are at least 16 games to go.

And Have Fun!!!


©Copyright 2005, BearInsider.com and Scout.com. All rights reserved.

If you haven't done so already, subscribe to The Bear Insider so you can participate in this very active online Cal community and get access to the members-only content from the nation-wide Scout.com 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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The gloom and doom is easy to understand: the Bears’ best player, Leon Powe is out for the season; starting guard Ayinde Ubaka is down for six to eight weeks with a broken foot.

And yet, the Bears finished the non-conference part of the schedule 7-3, and earned a split in Washington over the weekend.

Sometimes I wonder if Cal fans are genetically predisposed toward pessimism. (Nah, couldn't be.)

Whether or not that's so, it does seem that a lot of the fans lack an historical perspective on the basketball program. For example, I found myself thinking back to the 1987-88 season. Now, that was a long season. Cal's best post-player, Leonard Taylor was out for the year with a broken foot. Freshman forward Roy Fisher missed 11 games with a stress fracture in his foot. The Bears ended the season starting three freshmen (Fisher, Ryan Drew and John Carty) and went 9-20, which still doesn't begin to tell the whole story.

After a decent start, including a blowout win over UCLA at Harmon, the Bears completely collapsed. You think this year's team struggles offensively?

I remember going to Ricky's Sports Bar on December 28, 1987 to watch Cal play Alabama-Birmingham in the Sun Bowl Classic in El Paso. The halftime score was UAB 32, Cal 8. (That's not a misprint.) The Bears lost 64-50. At Tucson, the Bears trailed Arizona 43-12 at the half on the way to a 29-point loss. The next week, Cal was booed off the court at halftime at Harmon, trailing Washington State 27-10. The final score was 59-37. Ugly doesn't begin to describe those games.

So maybe Cal's offense this year starts to look a little better?

The fact is, I'm really enjoying this team, and my goal here is to try and convince you CyberBears readers to enjoy it as well. For starters, we could look at this year as laying the foundation for what should be a terrific team next year, but it's more than that: these Bears are pretty entertaining on their own terms.

So, as a public service to you gloomy CyberBears readers, here are five reasons to enjoy the 2004-2005 season.

Defense. Learn to enjoy watching it. This team is playing really good defense. They were outstanding in the Pepperdine game, they held WSU to under 30% from the field, and I think they will continue to get better. Watch how they handle screens, watch the help defense, and count the charges taken. They block shots, they steal the ball. They are much better than last year's team on the defensive end. I enjoyed watching Amit Tamir play, but he wasn't the best defender, and he really limited what Cal could do defensively.

Consider how impressive it is to watch young players buy into defending. For example, I watched UCLA against Michigan State, and the Bruins have a lot of young, offensive talent, but they didn't guard anybody. Ben Braun's teams play defense first, and it's fun to watch.

Don't just follow the ball on offense. For the last few years, all I've ever heard was how the Bears don't move, how they don't screen. This team is setting screens on every possession. And they're not just ball screens, so if you don't look away from the ball, you're going to miss them.

The ball and player movement is much better. Against San Diego State, the Bears burned the Aztecs every time they doubled the post. (I hope Leon was watching those passes to DeVon Hardin.)

And, the Bears are looking to push the ball up the court, particularly when Martin Smith is playing. I'd be the first to agree that it would be nice to have more shooters, and things should get better when Ubaka returns. For now, the Bears are really vulnerable against a zone, as Colorado showed with their 1-3-1. Marquise Kately and Martin Smith continuing to bang those threes (sorry, I couldn't resist) will help as well.

Rod Benson, David Paris, DeVon Hardin, Martin Smith, and Dom McGuire. No, I’m not just listing players. These guys have shown tremendous improvement. Benson’s growth as a player is astonishing, Paris is making fewer mistakes and making free throws, Hardin gets better every week, Smith has been “solid” both off the bench and as a starter, and McGuire is finally finding his niche. I think it’s exciting to watch players develop, and there’s no doubt in my mind that they will continue to get better.

Richard Midgley. The guy isn’t particularly quick or athletic, but he’s a real battler. Every team needs someone like Midgely. He never gives up. In the Pepperdine game, his shooting stunk out the joint for 39 minutes, and then nailed two huge treys in the last minute to save the game. Against Washington, he was diving on the floor to deflect passes on defense, and even though he forced some things on the offensive end, his effort was outstanding. We can hope that the minutes he’s playing and the effort he’s putting out won’t wear him out.

It’s college basketball. It’s not life and death. It’s supposed to be entertaining and fun. It’s a great game (which would be better with a few rule changes, but that’s another article). Haas is a fun place to visit. The football season is over. Sit back and enjoy the ride. As some of you may remember, a season is a marathon, not a sprint. There will be ups and downs, good games and bad, offensive droughts, but what else would you rather be doing? Come out to Haas to watch the Arizona schools. There are at least 16 games to go.

And Have Fun!!!


©Copyright 2005, BearInsider.com and Scout.com. All rights reserved.

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