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Game #3: Howard vs Cal

<p class=txt>The Golden Bears look for a 3-0 Start as they welcome the Howard Bison in for their Home Opener.

A pretty good start for the Cal Bears here in 2002-03, with two wins in their first two games early on this season. Its been few and far between for any Cal team to ever play their first two games of a season on the road, but nonetheless…this squad handled both affairs rather well. The Bears showed poise, grit, and the ability to make deciding runs despite both contests being fairly nip & tuck. They also showed me the ability to stop teams when they had to, and pass the ball effectively. A home game is exactly what the Bears need right now though…to continue to build their early season momentum. I think this was a good schedule put together for this type of team.

Game #3 features the Howard Bison (1-2), who are at the conclusion of a very quick West Coast trip. The Bison actually played Cal State Northridge (CSUN) on Sunday Night in the CSUN Home Opener, and now play Cal in their home opener on Tuesday. I'd say it's a pretty tough trip for the small team from the MEAC, especially since Northridge lit the Bison up for 101 pts in a 21 point Matador blowout. It was actually a revenge game for CSUN, since they were destroyed a year ago by Howard in a 34-point loss. 

The Howard Bison are coached by Frankie Allen, a veteran coach who has been the head man at both Virginia Tech and Tennessee State prior to his arrival at Howard, the Washington DC based school, one year ago. Howard posted a 3-52 mark during 1999-2001 seasons before Allen's arrival, and Frankie quickly turned things around in a 10-18 record last year. In quickly looking at the other games that Howard has played so far this year, they dropped Game #1 at St Francis 70-68, and won Game #2 at Radford 62-58. It was Coach Allen's 200th Career Victory as an NCAA Div 1 Coach.

Lets quickly take a look at CSU's projected starting five, and the rest of their roster;

Projected Starting Lineup: (Returning starters in Bold - 2001-02 Stats) 
PG- Louis Ford 5'6 175 Fr (Rindge & Latin HS/Cambridge, MA)
SG- Ron Williamson 6'1 165 Sr (14.7 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 3.0 apg) 
SF- Kyle Williams 6'6, 215 Sr (18.0 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 1.9 spg)
PF- Mario Grove 6'7 210 Sr (4.2 ppg, 4.1 rpg) 

C- Qadir Habeeb 6'10 270 Jr (Transfer from St Bonaventure) 

Seye Aluko 6'6 190 Jr - (3.8 ppg, 3.0 rpg) 
Hekima Jackson 6'2 180 Jr -(0.4 ppg, 0.4 rpg)
Jonathan Stokes 6'3 180 Jr - (2.9 ppg, 1.3 rpg, 1.0 apg)
Daniel Wright 6'10 245 Fr - (Medical Redshirt in 2001-02)

Coach Allen's team has really been through some hard times, and this is definitely a veteran roster. The senior trio of Williamson, Williams, and Grove are really the key components to Howard's line-up…and they play the largest chunk of minutes. Kyle Williams is definitely the team leader, and is also the leading returning scorer. Along with Williamson, they are likely to shoot half of Howard's overall shots. Both of them have mid-range games, and fire the trifecta often (Williams shoots around 34%, and Williamson 42% from beyond the arc). In the post, the St. Bonnie transfer Qadir Habeeb will help out Grove…though Grove is a very limited scorer. Habeeb has excellent size, and has played well in limited minutes (posting 11 pts and 8 rebs in the loss to CSUN in just 22 minutes). Habeeb is foul prone though, and like most collegiate big men…struggles from the free throw line. Helping out off the bench is Seye Aluko, a player that I think should see more court time myself. 

In the backcourt, freshman Louis Ford is the dimunitive and energetic newcomer to the Bison, replacing one of Howard's best point guards…Darren Kennedy. Ford has great speed and excellent hands, but it very limited as a shooter…though that will not stop him from gunning it. A.J Diggs will have a very intriguing battle with Ford throughout this contest. Williamson will play most of the minutes at the 2-guard, though we will likely see Jonathan Stokes & Hakima Jackson for about 15 mins apiece. Stokes is originally from Los Angeles, and is an adept defender…but neither Stokes or Jackson score much. 

Offensively, the Bison use a passing game motion set, and they'll shoot the three ball when zoned. Like many teams, they try to stick with their big guns…using picks to free up Williams & Williamson. Defensively, they'll zone a lot…and you'll see some man to man with Stokes in the game instead of Ford. They definitely have lapses, and that's shown clearly at times in all three of their games this year. I believe Howard was picked to finish #3 in the MEAC.

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) 

Richard Midgley, 6'1 200 Fr. (Modesto Christian HS, Burgess Hill UK) 
David Paris, 6'9 260 Fr. (Modestor Christian HS, Modesto CA)
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)
Rod Benson, 6'10 195 Fr. (Torrey Pines HS, San Diego CA)
Jordi Geli Vilardell, 6'10 190 Fr. (Montessori-Palav HS, Girona Spain)
Donte Smith, 6'2 190 Sr. (1.1 ppg, 0.6 rpg, 0.0 apg)

Cal enters the game 2-0, and just two days off in between their last contest in Cleveland. I am sure it was a long trip back, but at the same time…I believe the Bears are looking forward to playing their home opener quite a bit. I think the guys will really enjoy seeing the students and fans again, and hearing the crowd behind them. 

In attacking Howard, the Bears will certainly use their big three. Amit Tamir's overall skills might be the most telling in this contest (ability to shoot the three, pass the ball), though I believe it'll be the Brian Wethers show tomorrow night. He's playing great basketball right now, and his defensive play has really sparked the Bears to a 2-0 record. Wethers can score against Williamson, both inside and out…and I look for Brian to shoot around 8-10 free throws. A.J Diggs should play very well too, and I think more than anyone…he'll enjoy his match-up against Ford. A.J loves to play at Haas Pavilion, and I am more than confident his stat line will be improved. 

As I mentioned in my article in the past game, most teams know way ahead of time what playing Cal is Top Stories