Cal Men's Basketball: A Look Forward at the Guards

Our next All-Pac-12 candidate?

In a college landscape which increasingly correlates success to having one-and-done talent, can a school remain competitive by slowly developing players? Can a team where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts hold its own against the onslaught of diaper dandies?

Cal fans everywhere had better hope this true because we've got huge voids to fill. In some ways, moving on to next year is comparable to losing Jerome, PChris, Theo, and Boykins simply due to how much Jorge and Harper meant to the team in ways that transcend mere statistics.

Who steps up into the mantle of leadership? Who will provide heart and backbone in times of adversity?

The Guards:

Point guard Justin Cobbs is most likely to assert himself as a team leader. He's one of the few players that has the ability to create shots for himself off the dribble. Besides being a threat from deep, he also has a nice mid-range game that is tough to stop when it's on. Shot selection, decision-making, and consistency are on the off-season wish-list. However, it's important to keep in mind that he was only a sophomore last year and that it was the first extended playing time as a starter in his young career. For perspective's sake, he's well ahead of the curve when you look at the typical career-arc for 2nd year point guards. With further development and maturation, there's a lot to like. The tricky balancing point for Monty and Justin will be to find the right blend between calling his own number versus setting up his teammates. Considering the lack of a proven low-post threat and Crabbe's previous tendency to go with the flow of the offense, there's a risk that the offense becomes a one-man show. However, considering that Monty was able to develop another shoot-first point guard, Mr. Randle, into the Pac-10 POY, chances are good that this will be a position of strength.

Brandon Smith needs to re-discover his mojo. At his best, he's a steady facilitator who will make an occasional drive and hit the open jumper. I don't believe that last year was indicative of the type of play that he's capable of. It appeared that he had trouble adapting from being a starter to coming off the bench and started pressing mightily to make something happen during his limited minutes. He needs to go back to being the guy we saw at the end of the previous season; the tough ball-handler who played gritty defense and had a knack for making the clutch three pointer. Normally, players improve as seniors. If not, I think that Monty will go elsewhere for the backup point.

Emerson Murray has been an athlete first, basketball player second the past two years. He's quick, but his jumpshot has remained a work in progress. For him to earn more time, the game needs to slow down to where he knows exactly where he's supposed to be on both ends. I liked what I saw in limited time this past year and didn't really understand why he didn't get more run. Reportedly, he's a gym rat who spends a lot of time with Cobbs working on his game. We could really use some production out of him next year.

Um. Nevermind. He's transferring, reportedly to Seattle University. 'Can't say that I blame him. It had to be frustrating to see Monty continue to give minutes to Smith who was ineffective at best.

Thanks to the gaping holes in the depth chart, (Franklin, Rossi, Murray...not present) incoming frosh Tyrone Wallace will need to be ready to back up either guard position and perhaps even play a little wing. In the past, Monty has tended to play his young guards more off the ball so that they won't have to worry about the responsibilities that come with ball-handling and running the offense. If Brandon Smith reverts to form, Wallace can focus on being a spark off the bench with tough defense and opportunistic scoring. On the other hand, I wouldn't be heartbroken if Wallace proves to be that rare true frosh who is savvy and mentally tough enough from get-go to hold down the point in spot duty. This write-up speaks very highly of his ball-handling and passing as well as his diverse offensive repertoire.

Other write-ups are here, here, and here.


California head coach Mike Montgomery on his two-man class: "The first time we saw Tyrone Wallace, we felt like he was exactly what we needed. He was our number one priority since last spring. We're really excited to have him come onboard. He's the perfect combo guard with his ability to play the one and run a club, while big enough to defend, rebound and score the ball.

And for those who just can't get enough, check out the youtube video highlights.



Garrett Galvin, PG/SG, 6'4, 190 lbs. FrankCohen has a nice write-up on Galvin's commitment.

"Galvin had scholarship offers from schools like Northern Arizona and Cal Poly and interest from others, but opted instead for an opportunity to walk on for the Bears. ESPN ranks Galvin as the 47th overall prospect in the state of California. Here's some footage of Garrett in action.
As a senior at Torrey Pines, Galvin often ran the point and put up some big numbers: 18.5 PPG, 6.2 RPG, and 3.2 APG. What Galvin lacks in quickness, he makes up for in basketball IQ, shooting ability, and court vision. Though he is coming to Cal as a walk-on, it wouldn't be surprising at all if Galvin were to earn some early playing time and provide the squad with some added depth."


I'll politely disagree with Frank here regarding early playing time for a true frosh walk-on. Unless you have serious depth issues and a special player, walk-ons just don't see the court for meaningful minutes. Furthermore, Monty has demonstrated rather definitively the past few seasons that he'll ride his starters into the ground at the expense of developing his bench. If he's not going to play scholarship players like Murray and Rossi despite the obvious struggles of Brandon Smith, it's sadly doubtful that he'll turn to a true frosh walk-on. The one caveat is if Galvin is tough and heady enough to play capable defense at a Div-I level. Again, the odds are against him. Jeff Powers can shoot the rock and really would have helped our struggling offense last year. But, he didn't see the court due because of his defense.

Even so, it's a nice addition for the Bears. There's nothing wrong with having another high bball IQ player with good size to develop.

Summary:

Between Cobbs and Wallace, there's a lot of potential to like on offense. However, there's no way to avoid taking a huge step backwards defensively. You simply don't replace the Pac-12 Defensive POY with a true freshman without taking your lumps. Brandon Smith is the X-factor. It would help this team immeasurably if he could provide capable depth and production backing up the point.

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