2002-03 Pac-10 Preview #3 - California GoldenBears

<p class=txt>No other program in the Pac-10 went through more changes in the Summer of 2002 than did the University of California, as it was an off-season of sometimes drastic and surreal changes. Heading into 2002-03, Ben Braun still has a solid core to work with…but a load of newcomers to mix in. <br>

In almost every program, there is going to be a certain amount of early subtraction…whether that be to the NBA, transfers, a recruit just not making it through the eligibility process, etc, etc. That's just the standard in today's collegiate game. It seemed the Bears certainly encountered every single subtraction possibility this summer, and it started off with the news of Jamal Sampson just two days after the season ended in Pittsburgh, against of all teams…the University of Pittsburgh. Sampson, a Pac-10 All-Freshman member in 2001, and the starting power forward/center for the Bears…quickly decided to enter the NBA Draft. Averaging just 6 pts & 6 rebounds per game, most scouts told Jamal to play at LEAST another year in College…however, Jamal, who was quite disinterested in Scholastics, decided to stay in the NBA Draft. In June, Sampson was drafted #47 overall and ended up being traded twice on draft night…finally signed by the Milwaukee Bucks. The next subtraction happened before the recruit had even enrolled at Cal, as 2-time Alabama State Player of the Year and 6'7 scoring wing, Kennedy Winston de-committed. Winston, who became the 1st predominately Southern State recruit in Ben Braun's tenure to date, signed a commitment to play at Cal during the early signing period. However, as the off-season rang in…Kennedy's plans changed with his mother's illness, which led to his decision to play locally for his 2nd choice, the University of Alabama. Winston's decision meant that for the 2nd straight year, Cal's top nationally recognized recruit did not enroll. In 2001, Julian Sensley could not find a way to get academically eligible despite 2 years of Prep School, and NCAA Appeals. 

And just when you thought the Summer had been crazy enough, four more stories broke. First off, Gabriel 
'Gabe' Hughes decided to transfer to Rutgers. Gabe, the younger sibling to graduating Senior Center Solomon Hughes, felt that due to playing time reduction over his 1st two years…it was time for him to move on, and his release was granted. Just after that news, Cal gave two scholarships to walk-on's A.J Diggs and Conor Famulener - to Juniors to be - who had played significant roles on the team. On the heels of that announcement came word on Yaniv Green, a talented 6'8 post player from Israel who was leaning heavily towards playing in the U.S. Green's commitment followed three weeks later, choosing Cal over UCLA & UConn…and giving the Bears a huge boost to their frontline. Green would have been the 3rd Israeli-born player to attend Cal too since 1998, joining current member Amit Tamir and former player, Shahar Gordon. But in perhaps the oddest tale of all, Green quickly reneged…as news surfaced that he was paid for playing during his military service time. After that twist, Gabe Hughes decided to return to Cal after reconsidering his options at Rutgers…and Coach Braun quickly re-confirmed his status. Lastly, in what would have to be the most surreal of all the summer stories surrounding Cal Basketball, Shantay Legans, a three-year starting PG for the Bears, and soon to be Senior…decided to transfer to Fresno State after the Bulldogs had made a coaching change. After some obviously heated exchanges, Legans was released…and completed enrollment at Fresno State.

After all that drama, the Bears recruiting staff was able to make some huge strides for the 2003 Freshman Class, as well as filling some spots on this year's roster. We'll talk more about the 2003 Class later, but first here's the Roster for the impending 2002-03 Cal Bears;

Projected Starting Lineup: (Returning Starters in Bold)
PG- A.J. Diggs, 5'9 165 Jr. (3.2 ppg, 1.8 rpg, 1.5 apg) 
SG- Brian Wethers, 6'5 215 Sr. (10.3 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 1.4 apg) 
SF- Joe Shipp, 6'5 220 Sr. SF (14.8 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 1.6 apg) 
F- Amit Tamir, 6'11 260 So. (9.9 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 1.8 apg) 
C- Gabriel Hughes, 6'11 230 Jr. (2.1 ppg, 1.5 rpg, 0.1 apg) 

Key Returning Reserves: 
Donte Smith, 6'2 190 Sr. (1.1 ppg, 0.6 rpg, 0.0 apg)
Erik Bond, 6'7 205 Fr. (Redshirt in 2001-02)
Conor Famulener, 6'6 230 Jr. (1.1 ppg, 0.9 rpg, 0.3 apg) 
Tashaan Forehan-Kelly, 6'3 170 So. (0.3 ppg, 0.4 rpg, 0.1 apg)

Recruiting Class;
Richard Midgley, 6'1 200 Fr. (Modesto Christian HS, Burgess Hill UK) 
David Paris, 6'9 260 Fr. (Modestor Christian HS, Modesto CA)
Jordi Geli Vilardell, 6'10 190 Fr. (Montessori-Palav HS, Girona Spain)
Rod Benson, 6'10 195 Fr. (Torrey Pines HS, San Diego CA)

The strength of this team really lies up-front in the starting five, and that's unquestionable when you look at the core of this team. Senior Shooting Guard Brian Wethers is probably the most athletic player overall in the conference, though sophomore's Errick Craven at `SC & Salim Stoudamire at Arizona might give him a run for his money. Wethers combines an abundance of aggressiveness with confidence in his athletic game, and shot 47% last year from the floor, as well as 71% from the free-throw line. His one weakness continues to be the trifecta, though over the off-season that's something Brian worked on quite a bit. Joining Wethers in the starting line-up will be A.J Diggs, a junior who plays arguably the most tenacious defense at the point in the Pac-10. Diggs is truly one of the best stories in Cal history, as this former walk-on during his 1st two seasons has been a major contributor to Cal's backcourt…and now steps into the starting line-up. Behind the starters, Cal has Senior Donte Smith, and Frosh Richard Midgley - two guards who are both talented, but will be limited with injuries at the start of the year. Smith suffered a torn quad during the summer, and after surgery…should be ready to go full steam at the start of the Pac-10 Season. Midgley is an extremely talented shooter and point-man, and originally hails from England…where he was a standout player. He sat out last year due to an eligibility controversy about his Grade Class, and recently suffered a quad injury. The injury is far less serious than Smith's however, and the schedule looks like Richard will be back in time for Game #1.

In the frontcourt, Amit Tamir will man the

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