The dormant offseason is upon us, but that doesn't mean we can't look ahead. There have been a lot of posts about Cal football recently, but none about Cal basketball. I find this to be a shame, because it is looking like we will have a damn good team this year. Ranked as high as number 9 by some sources, Cal basketball is on a major upswing from the mediocre days of Ben Braun. We'll look ahead to see what our expectations are for the whole team, and for each individual player.
Big 3. Big is obviously a relative term when talking about Jerome Randle.
As you all know, 08-09 was NOT supposed to be a good year for Cal basketball. Sure, we had a highly touted new coach in Mike Montgomery, but no matter how good your coach is, you still can't win in a tough league without major talent. Cal was predicted to finish 9th in the Pac-10, and most Cal fans did not object to this ranking. We had lost our star player to the NBA. All we had was a good but not great swingman, a point guard who turned the ball over every other possession, and a good perimeter defender who hadn't played a big time game in over a year. Doesn't sound like the makings of an eventual single digit seed in the NCAA tournament. But somehow, those 3, with the help of an awkward undersized white guy, an artist, a Mexican late signee who hadn't been recruited by any major schools, and a clumsy center with no knees managed to give us a 20 win team. How the hell did they do it? Short answer: balls. Lots and lots of balls. This was a ballsy team. The long answer brings us to our first player.
You think that is a look of fear? Jerome doesn't experience that feeling.
What we got: The MVP of our 2008 team. As a sophomore, Jerome liked to turn over the ball. A lot. He liked doing it so much, he did it 10 times in one game. He was an enigma. He showed great talent in flashes, but those flashes really seemed to be few and far between. Then Monty came to town. One of the best examples I have ever seen of what good coaching can do for you was Jerome Randle last year. Under Monty's guidance, he found himself as a player. He emerged as a distributor and a scorer. Dude has range. My god. I think he shot one from 3/4 court last year, just to see if he could do it. He could. And he loved bombing it from deep. Some of them were a solid 5 feet beyond the line. Any other player takes that shot, you pull out your hair. Jerome takes that shot? You put a smug smile on your face (am I the only one who noticed that it seemed he never missed the super long ones, only the ones closer to the line?). Sure, his turnovers per game only went down 0.1, but he had an authority and confidence to his game that wasn't really seen under Braun. Monty let him loose, and it payed off big time.
What we want: Honestly, if he had the exact same season as last year I would be happy (of course, I am expecting improvement). Sure, I would like his turnover rate to go down a bit, but any faults I complain about is just me being nitpicky. Stay the same, Jerome.
What we got: Going into the season, it looked like PChris would be our lone bright spot. While he wasn't our only one, he sure as hell was still a bright spot. He developed a great chemistry with Randle, and continued to grow as a player. He, like Randle, has the killer instinct to completely take over a game. His stats went down a bit, but that was because he wasn't as heavily relied on. Also, his poetry is killer.
What we want: We all know Patrick's biggest flaw: he disappears. While most of the time he is very good, there are times when you forget he is even on the court. He needs to be more consistent. You can't have a star player who disappears. There was a 3 game stretch in late January/early February where he had 6, 4, and 3 points, while still playing at least 33 minutes in all of those games. Not surprisingly, we lost 2 of those 3 games. If this team wants to make a deep run in the tourney (and you know they do), it is unacceptable for your 2nd best player to disappear like that. I remember interviews where PChris said he was frustrated about being inconsistent. It is good that he recognizes his flaw. Now he needs to go about fixing it.
What we got: Honestly, most of us didn't know what to expect from Theo this past year. He had redshirted the previous year because he was recovering from hip surgery. Would he be the same? He would be even better. Theo started the season absolutely stroking it from long range. For a few weeks he led the nation in 3pt %. He had a very good year and is a great 3rd option. We all hope to see even more improvement this year.
What we want: I got on Theo a lot this season, because at times he was infuriating to watch. He played timidly on the offensive end. He passed up a bit too many open 3s for my taste. What I want this year: just let it rip Theo. You think Jerome ever has doubts when he bombs it from 80 feet away? Nope. Theo shouldn't either. Be less timid on the offensive end.
Part 2 coming sometime soon, when I get around to it.