Basketball season is finally upon us. After last weekend's football disaster, it couldn't have come soon enough. JABear and I headed down to Haas for the basketball team's open scrimmage on Sunday to drown out the frustration of the gridiron with the optimism and excitement of some good old hoops. There is definitely a lot to be excited about.
JABear: Overall, the players were as advertised. While it previously has been speculated that Justin Cobbs would steal the starting spot from Brandon Smith, I’m not so sure of that now. Smith looked extremely comfortable with the offense, and even showed off his jumper on occasion. He also began the scrimmage with the starters, so it seems very likely that our starting five will be Smith/Gutierrez/Crabbe/Kamp/Solomon. I’m personally excited for this lineup because Cobbs coming off the bench gives our team the possibility of some unique rotations. Essentially, Cobbs can come in for Smith, Gutierrez, or Crabbe. If Monty wants to run a bigger lineup, Cobbs can play the point. If Jorge needs to sit, Cobbs can play the 2. If Crabbe needs to sit, Cobbs can play the 2 and Jorge can slide over to the 3.
Cobbs won’t be the only one in the mix. Murray and Powers showed competence at their positions, and have improved enough to earn some minutes. I don’t expect to see much of the freshmen this year, but it’s always good to have depth. By the looks of it, we won’t be abusing our starters this season.
While the backcourt seems secure, the frontcourt is going to make or break this team. Health is an issue as Harper Kamp only competed in half of the scrimmage. Harper is an essential piece of this team and was brilliant when he was on the floor. Solomon, Thurman, and Bak Bak will have to come up big for this team to live up to its hype. Personally, I’m optimistic, as the frontcourt showed promise and potential throughout the scrimmage. After the jump, let's look at individual player evaluations.
Justin Cobbs: There’s a lot to be excited about here. Cobbs is extremely quick, strong, assertive, and can be an absolute pest on defense. He dished out nine assists, a few of which rightfully inspired some "oohs" and "ahs" from the impressed crowd in attendance. He appears to have a pretty good mid-range game and can get to the basket at will. It does appear that, as of now, he will be coming off the bench, as Smith was playing with the starters for the majority of the practice, but he’ll undoubtedly be getting major minutes to spell Smith, Jorge, and Crabbe.
Jorge Gutierrez: What can I say that you guys don’t know already? He’s tough. He’s smart. He’s gritty. He exhibits maximum effort all the time, in any situation. Jorge is the heart and soul of the team and nobody wants to see this guy defending them (including his own teammates in practice).
Richard Solomon: Solomon looks poised for a breakout season. He is visibly stronger and more confident than he was last season, displaying a low-post game with a nice baby hook that was absent last year. Solo also displayed some quick hands and good anticipation with a couple of nice steals. Richard has improved greatly, a much needed development after the loss of MSF.
Alex Rossi: Rossi was absent from the open scrimmage/practice.
Brandon Smith: Man, has Smith improved since his freshman season. He is clearly extremely comfortable leading this team and constantly exhibits terrific leadership and decision-making skills. His jump shot looks good, his defense looks good, and he looks more assertive than he was last season. It also appears as though he’ll be starting if the lineups in this practice were any indication.
Raffi Chalian: Chalian, expectedly, didn’t wow anybody with any particular attribute, but he seemed to hold his own against the more experienced Cobbs and Smith during the scrimmage. He is very generously listed at 5’11" (he was clearly an inch or so shorter than Smith) but he is fairly strong and quick. Chalian seemed extremely hesitant most of the time, but he did hit one uncontested three. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Chalian getting some minutes by the time he is an upperclassman, but for now, he’s going to be buried on bench.
Christian Behrens: Behrens looks long and athletic and his potential is evident, but he’s not quite there yet. He displayed occasional flashes, but he was pretty hesitant, failed to consistently get good position in the post and was pushed around by the bigger bodies. I think he’ll be a good one after a couple of seasons under Monty, but I don’t view him as a major contributor this season.
Bak Bak: Oh, Bak Bak. Why must you tempt us so? The shooting star of last season’s open scrimmage once again displayed a nice shooting touch during this practice. But we know how last year turned out, so I’m going to reserve my optimism for a couple of weeks.
Rob Filley: Filley didn’t do much during the scrimmage and lacked assertiveness, but he has a nice looking shot and has decent size. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Rob getting some minutes as a shooter off the bench by the time he’s an upperclassman, but he probably won’t see the court much this season.
Jeff Powers: Powers looks much like he did last season. He’s big. He can shoot. He’s not very quick and thus gets beat somewhat frequently on defense. He shouldn’t be getting too many minutes this season, but he could come off the bench occasionally if Rossi’s injury lingers.
Harper Kamp: If he stays healthy, Harper will have a very nice senior season. Kamp looked surprisingly agile and displayed his patented low-post craftiness, but was (rightfully) pulled out of the scrimmage early, as Monty seems to be approaching his potential injury situation very cautiously. Kamp wasn’t nearly so cautious during the scrimmage, diving for loose balls and exhibiting the grit that we have witnessed over his Cal career. Every time he hit the floor, I found myself holding my breath. Cross your fingers and pray to Bak Bak that Harper can have the full, healthy senior season that he deserves, as he is a major key to a successful year.
Allen Crabbe: Crabbe exhibited his picture-perfect stroke on his way to a perfect game from behind the arc, hitting all five of his long range attempts. As JABear puts it, the dude is poetry in motion. He’s a straight up stud and should be one of the frontrunners for Pac-12 Player of the Year.
Ricky Kreklow: Kreklow is going to be a very good player for us in 2012-2013. He seems like a very effective, vocal leader and he has a sweet stroke. Assuming Crabbe stays another year, those two will be creating major matchup issues when they’re on the court at the same time.
Emerson Murray: Emerson is one dreamy dude, on and off the court. Charming the ladies in the post-practice autograph session, "E" showed his patented flashes of brilliance during the practice, displaying more confidence and assertiveness than he did last season. His jump shot looks improved and he just oozes athleticism. If he puts it together, we could have a special player on our hands eventually, but I don’t think he’ll be getting a large chunk of playing time this season.
Robert Thurman: As reported earlier in the summer, Thurman is definitely improved. He has always been a big body, but he’s finally starting to develop some nice low-post moves and uses his body well. He’s still a bit raw, particularly on the defensive end, but he should be able to provide us with some nice minutes off the bench.
David Kravish: My first thought on Kravish was that he is very skinny and will need to bulk up to really hold his own against Pac-12 level competition. Like Behrens, he was bullied a bit by the bigger bodies. That being said, the quiet freshman seems like he has a very high hoops IQ; he knows what he’s doing out there, and once his body catches up to his intelligence, he can be a very special player under Monty’s tutelage.
How excited are all of you for Cal Men's Basketball? What are your expectation for the upcoming season? For those of you who were also in attendance for the open practice, did you have any different observations? Let's hear your thoughts!