Allen Crabbe took a step forward from his Freshman POY campaign for most of this past season. Perhaps as much as anyone on the team, his end of the year production dropped significantly. Whether this was due to a nagging injury (abdominal strain, plantar fasciitis), persistent illness (shingles), or opposing teams scheming to take him out of the game is up for debate. Unfortunately, with the other Cal perimeter players also struggling, it was easy for other teams to sag off, hedge, shade, and focus on chasing Crabbe off the three point line. Late season struggles aside, let's not forget that this was largely a successful step forward for Allen. After taking his lumps defensively as a frosh, he was a solid defender as a sophomore. And when Solomon was unable to play, Crabbe really stepped up his production as a rebounder. The off-season wishlist here is pretty straightforward; develop the ability to make teams pay for overplaying the outside shot. Whether this is a dribble-drive game, mid-range pull-ups, post moves, or some combination, we need Crabbe to become more versatile offensively. Fortunately, he's a smart player who has a proven track record of working hard at shoring up weaknesses in his game.
At the risk of a bad-cliche, can we assume that a former Mr. Basketball from the "Show-Me" state will be ready to live up to his press clippings? Ricky Kreklow will likely be counted on to start and play significant minutes after sitting out last year as a transfer from Missouri. All he has to do is fill in for Jorge Gutierrez. No pressure. He may not have the same luxurious hair, but the fact that he's known for floor burns and scrapes from diving after loose balls isn't a bad start. Although Kreklow doesn't have the same quicks or ability to take it to the basket and create, he does offer good size (6'6) and has a rep for being a dangerous 3-point shooter. As a true frosh at Missouri, he had a decent steal %, but is more of a scrappy, pesky defender than a true lock-down presence. Best-case, he's another tough, smart Montyball player who knows how to make the extra pass and will help spread the floor while preventing other teams from exclusively focusing on Allen Crabbe.
From his Missouri Team Profile:
2010-11: Played in 32 games as a true freshman and averaged 2.1 points and 1.3 rebounds in 9.8 minutes per game ... Finished his rookie campaign off by scoring three points in 12 minutes in NCAA Tournament play vs. Cincinnati ... Twice topped double figures, initially with 11 points on 4-of-4 shooting and 3-of-3 three-point shooting vs. Central Arkansas ... Nabbed his first career double-double vs. North Alabama with 10 boards and 10 boards ... Had four games with multiple steals, including a career-high four steals in eight minutes vs. Nebraska ... Scored seven points in back-to-back Big 12 games at home vs. Oklahoma and Texas Tech.
Standout for Rock Bridge High School in Columbia, twice earning all-state honors and helping Rock Bridge to the state playoffs each of his seasons on varsity ... Three-year varsity letterwinner at Rock Bridge ... Averaged 16.8 points, 6.0 rebounds, 2.2 steals and 3.5 assists for the 20-6 Bruins as a senior ... Connected on 73-of-201 triples in 2009-10 (.363) and finished his high school tenure with 1,108 points en route to back-to-back all-state honors ... Named Mr. Show-Me Basketball in the state of Missouri in 2010 ... Also named to the MBCA All-Star Team ... Was a Missouri Basketball Coaches Association all-state performer as a junior as well ... Averaged better than 14 points for the 28-3 Bruins, who finished third in the Missouri Class 5A state finals ... Selected MVP of the Demetrius Johnson All-Star Game in June after scoring 25 points on 9-of-13 shooting, including 6-of-9 shooting from three-point range.
Christian Behrens was originally slated to play the small forward, but was played more as a swing 3/4 in his cameos last year because of our lack of depth in the post. We might need him back at the three now that we have depth issues on the wing. It was a bit surprising that Monty chose to burn his blueshirt year and then played him so sparingly. When it happened, it seemed to suggest that Behrens had moved ahead of Bak Bak in the rotation. Christian certainly offers a more athletic presence that was missing with Solomon's absence. Without having seen his skillset, it looks like Behrens will need to be our hustle and energy guy. If he can play tough D, crash the glass, and score when set up, that would be just fine.
Jeff Powers surprised me with his lack of playing time this past year. After getting the start when Crabbe was hurt the prior year, I would have thought that he'd at least be an option to spread the floor in certain situations. Although he has issues matching up defensively, he provides a mismatch with his height and shooting ability on offense. I would have thought that Monty would try to take advantage of that. This might have been one of the quieter results from losing Solomon; without the centerpiece to our defense, Monty couldn't afford to hide a relatively poor one on one defender on the floor. It's a complete mystery to me whether Powers will get time this next year or become the new Human victory cigar.
Alex Rossi is transferring to Valparaiso. There are rumors that he's going back home due to an undisclosed family issue. It's a shame because his high basketball IQ, grit, and shooting ability would have been a good fit for Monty's system.
Khalil Johnson (6'7, 205lbs) chose Cal during the late signing period over ASU, Utah, and USC.
For what it's worth, SoCal Hoops pundit Dinos Trigonis likes him, "One of the most improved players in the 2012 class, Khalil has transferred to Price for his senior season. Long and athletic, Johnson is extremely agile and has intriguing upside."
In what was hopefully a preview of future Bear intra-squad scrimmaging, Johnson ended his high school career with a loss to Salesian's Jabari Bird. In defeat, Johnson led Price with 17 points.
Although he's designated as a power forward, he's more of a tweener with a face-up game. It'll be interesting to see if they develop him as a step-out four who can spread the defense or if he can adapt his game to be more of a traditional three. Depending on match-ups, I could see him being used in both roles. His nose for offensive rebounds is what has me most excited because that's often an innate talent which cannot be easily taught.
Noted CGB hoops authority Reef had this to say, "I like his frame, length, and quick bounce on the boards much more than I like his J or his handle (which seem ill-suited to the next level). I think it's more likely he projects into the next Sean Lampley, rather than the next Lamond Murray."
Again, it will be his ability to learn his defensive assignments and role within the offense which may be the key factor in determining how much early playing time he earns. From a basketball skills standpoint, he might be more polished than Behrens was at this stage. Considering the number of players ahead of him on the depth chart at both the 3 and 4 spots, I wouldn't be surprised to see him blueshirt.
There are some highlights of him playing for Price against Gardena Serra in a regional playoff game here.
In Crabbe we trust? His high school coach was very proud of the fact that Allen improved every year and specifically worked on facets of his game that the team needed. We don't know yet what we'll get out of Kreklow, Behrens, Wallace, and the other reserves. We do know what Crabbe can do when he's healthy and confident. The key here is for Crabbe to assert himself where other teams cannot take him out of the game by chasing him off the three-point line. That could mean working on his first-step, ball-handling, and mid-range game. Or, he could follow the route of former Cal sharpshooter, Joe Shipp, and add a post-up game to his offensive arsenal. And if this isn't enough, we also need Crabbe to step forward and assume the mantle of leadership as one of the veterans on a young Bear squad.