We have one big loss in Jamal Boykin. But at least we aren't going to have to start clean like we will at the other positions. Here's what we have to work with.
Sanders-Frison has noticeably slimmed down, which should help a lot in keeping him on the court. Sometimes his inability to move at the faster paces of Pac-10 basketball got him into foul trouble, as college refs are noticeably trigger-happy when it comes to calling contact fouls. Hopefully he'll be ready to carry a bigger load as he'll probably be asked to play at least 20-25 minutes a game. I'm very excited to see Kamp back. He's not going to be an overpowering presence on offense, but he's going to make big men work on defense. Can't remember where I saw it, but Boykin said that he was tough as nails to go at in practice near the end of February/March, and I expect that he'll again dig inside on the post and really make guys take difficult shots. The wild-cards are Bak and Solomon. While Bak has a year's more of experience under his belt, Solomon is definitely the better athlete and I figure he'll be working his way into the rotation sooner than we think.
What do you think these guys are capable of?
Kodiak: Harper Kamp: It seems like it's been forever since we've seen this guy play. Good motor, high bball IQ, fundamentally sound, and strong. I'd expect tenacious defense and rebounding from him. I have no idea how much of an offensive game he's managed to develop while out. I seem to remember he had a little bit of a hook shot, and was comfortable taking (if not making) the elbow and foul line jumper. Until we see otherwise, I'd expect most of his offense to come off of pick n' rolls, and opportunistic put-backs. We also might see some high-low offense between Kamp and MSF - I recall that Monty liked to run those sets a lot when he had big guys capable of making those passes.
MSF: There was a huge difference last year between MSF for the first few minutes when he would play vs. extended time. I think lingering injuries really hurt his conditioning. He'd be just fine when he first came in, then get tired and start losing position and would reach instead of moving his feet. It's really promising to hear that he's slimmed down and really focused on his conditioning. He's shown glimpses of being able to score in the low post as well as hit the mid-range jumper. With the lack of dominant big guys in the league this year, he could make some noised if he takes that next step his senior year. I think he's really going to surprise some people.
Max: I think it's highly unlikely that we'll see him. But, for Max - it was all about confidence, aggression, and developing strength. It would be nice if he developed at least a drop step or hook. But, I'll take consistent effort and just knowing how to use his length to impact the game on both ends.
Bak Bak: Not sure if he's going to count as a post or as a wing. He showed more of a tendency to play a perimeter-based game on offense. On defense, we just need him to not get run over, and use his athleticism to help on the glass. We haven't seen enough of him to know what he's capable of. Last year, he needed to get stronger and was very, very raw. However, he showed some guard-like moves for a bigger guy. In Monty, we trust?
Richard Solomon: Our designated replacement for Amoke's "athletic, but raw minutes. He's the big guy most likely to struggle with foul position and getting pushed around on the block. (tied w/ Bak Bak, actually - but giving him the nod due to being a frosh) Whether he puts up a Hughes-like two fouls in under two minutes type of performance remains to be seen. However, he's the closest thing we have to length and shot-blocking without Max. He has a ton of potential, but it'll be up to the coaching staff to be careful about keeping him from trying to do too much, too soon. I hope the game slows down for him sooner rather than later - but it's likely he'll be up/down all year like most freshman bigs.
Robert Thurman: I know very little about him. He's probably a smart player who isn't going to jump out of the gym athletically. Monty does pretty well with those type of guys - so, maybe we'll get some emergency foul trouble minutes out of him as needed.
Ohio Bear: The key guy, to me, is Harper Kamp. When I think of Kamp, I don't think of his striking good looks or his injuries. Well, okay, maybe I think about injuries. But I do think of how much Bob Knight gushed over him when ESPN came to Haas Pavilion for the Cal-Ucla game a couple of years ago. To me, for Coach Knight to say a player "knows how to play" is high praise. And Kamp is certainly that kind of player: fundamentally sound, smart, and a very good passer. If he is healthy all year, he will definitely help us ease the loss of Jamal.
MSF was intriguing last year because we didn't what to make of him. MSF is intriguing this year because we still don't quite know what to make of him. Last year, he showed us he was foul prone and maybe had a need to drop some weight. Well, indications are that he's dropped the weight. We'll have to see if he steps up his game, avoid foul trouble, and give us something on offense. Between MSF and Kamp, I still view MSF as the guy more likely to be able to score down low.
Don't know what we're going to get out of Bak Bak or the freshman Solomon. I tend to view anything we get from them to be a bonus. Solomon will certainly have growing pains as a frosh and Bak Bak is practically a frosh because he played so little last year. If I see improvement in each of them as the season progresses, I will be happy.
Avinash: He looked good. I mean shockingly, surprisingly good. He was nailing threes from everywhere. His shooting motion is surprisingly fluid. He managed to play decent defense on the post on Harper Kamp. Very excited to seeing Bak in action. With Zhang gone, he's going to be a major contributor this season.
CBKWit: As I wrote in my notes, he was the best player on the court. His length and athleticism have always been there, but now he's actually using his physical tools to do things like rebound and shoot. And block block. I didn't see him miss a three, and I saw him make 3 or 4. Plus, he also was involved in the funniest moment of the night, when, in an otherwise silent gym, Monty asked him several times to tuck in his shirt.
HOWEVER, before we get too excited, the standout in last year's open scrimmage was DJ Seeley, and never once in his Cal career did he look half as good as he did during that practice. Bak's performance was exciting, but we have to see it in a game before we go too crazy.
Except for the fact that it is "Praise Be To Bak Bak" that is all very interesting stuff. Especially that our big man, Bak Bak, was draining 3s at will! Let's put Bak Bak at point!
LeonPowe: My only thought as a party pooper is - I love Harper Kamp, but I have never ever thought of him as a guy to build the team around.