Cal men's basketball open practice thoughts

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Amidst a busy Cal sports Saturday, the men's basketball program held an open scrimmage at Haas Pavilion in front of a few hundred fans, who came out to get their first glimpse of the 2013-14 team.

For the scrimmage, the men's basketball team was split up into a blue squad and a gold squad, and it was structured into multiple 12-15 minute mini-game sessions, with timeouts sprinkled in. After each session, the scoreboard was reset and the teams were mixed up a bit, thanks to the magic of reversible practice jerseys. Although the personnel shifted around somewhat, and I believe Wallace and Cobbs ended the day on the gold team, for much of the day, the blue team was largely made up of expected starters and heavy rotation guys and the gold team was made up largely of reserves and freshmen. I won't go into the actual game action because at the end of the day, it doesn't matter if the gold team or the blue team was ahead on the scoreboard. So instead, I'll try to offer my thoughts on the players individually. I'll start with the standouts and work my way down:

G Justin Cobbs (RS Sr.)

I'm sure the first question on people's minds is whether Justin's foot is completely healed. Well, he was moving around pretty well the entire game, and he ended the day on a dunk. He may not be completely 100% yet, but he's close enough to it that there was no visible evidence of the injury, and he seemed to be in good game shape. I believe he should be fine for the season, unless he suffers a setback of some sort. Anyway, Cobbs definitely looks like the captain of this team. Even moreso than last year, he was a vocal leader on the floor, making sure people knew where to be and what play to run, and getting on them when they made a mistake. He was aggressive on offense and probably took a few more shots than I'm used to seeing him take, but with Crabbe gone, I'm sure the coaches are expecting him to shoulder more of the load when it comes to scoring. He was matched up against freshman Jordan Mathews for most of the game, and they looked to have a very friendly mentor/mentee kind of rivalry brewing. Cobbs was very visibly talking good-natured smack with him during much of the scrimmage, and when Mathews finally got the better of him by forcing Cobbs into a turnover, the crowd let out a loud "OHHHHHH" and Justin had a good laugh. Anyway, this is clearly Cobbs' team this year, and I think that's a good thing.

G Jordan Mathews (Fr.)

Speaking of Mathews, he was a revelation. Reports of him being a scorer are absolutely correct. He looked legit, both with his fantastic 3-point shooting and a couple of nice plays around the basket. He played with effort on defense. He wasn't flashy, but he looked heady and poised, and seemed like a college-level player already. He had a quick release and was just very smooth all around. I was quite impressed, and I fully expect him to be a contributor this season.

F Richard Solomon (Sr.)

It looked like Solomon twisted his ankle about 2/3 of the way through the scrimmage, but while he was in, he was active and physical on both ends of the floor. He made some nice plays on defense, and I believe he had a block or two and a pass denial that led to a transition bucket. He was also more physical and showed better aggressiveness and finish down in the blocks, which is something that Cal fans have been looking for out of him for quite a while. He still took one very ill-advised long range jumpshot, but I guess we can live with a little bit of that if the improvement in the rest of his game is for real. Hopefully the ankle thing is minor. He was walking around afterward, at least.

G Jabari Bird (Fr.)

Ah yes, our McDonald's All-American. Bird definitely was an object of much fascination and anticipation at the scrimmage, and I can't say he disappointed. He rolled with the A-team for most of the day, and he definitely oozed athleticism, wowing the crowd with a few nice dunks over the course of the day. I think he'll be a good one down the line, but he's still not as polished as Mathews. Cobbs was on him a lot to make sure he was going where he was supposed to, so it looks like he's still learning Mike Montgomery's offense, but he showed a lot of good tools. Hopefully he's a fast learner. He looks almost as good as Wallace right now, and he's already a better shooter.

G Ricky Kreklow (RS Jr.)

Kreklow looked a bit more like the Kreklow that Cal fans have been hoping to see. He got on the floor hustling for loose balls a couple of times, but he still didn't look to be going quite 100% yet, and he wasn't really facilitating on offense as well as I believe he can. His shooting stroke looked a lot better though, as he knocked down a few long threes. I thought Kreklow had very nice form as a spot up-shooter, as he was really pure when he had the opportunity to get his feet set. Hopefully that gives us another solid outside threat to go along with Mathews and Cobbs. In fact, there were quite a few more three point attempts Saturday than we have generally seen the past few years. I'm starting to suspect the three ball may be a more prominent feature of the offense this year.

G Sam Singer (Fr.)

Singer was a lot like Mathews, but just slightly less impressive. During the scrimmage, Sam knocked down a few outside jumpers and made a few nice moves to the basket. He took on Kravish and Kameron Rooks on two strong drives. Singer made a couple of sloppy passes here and there, but all in all he was very composed and steady. I could see him playing this year, and maybe even backing up Cobbs at the point eventually.

F Roger Moute a Bidias (Fr.)

Roger was another intriguing new player to watch, and he also showed good athleticism and some of that defensive intensity that he had been reported to have. He was active around the basket, and he didn't really make any mistakes. If one of our forwards were to be out, I expect he'd get some good floor time this year. In an ideal world he'd probably benefit from redshirting, as the offensive part of his game was mostly limited to rebounds and putbacks. There's a lot to work with here, though.

C Kameron Rooks (Fr.)

Rooks is huge. He seems like a legit 7-footer. Though he has reportedly lost ~60 pounds since high school and seemed quite a bit slimmer than I expected, he's still got a pretty big frame to work with. He displayed some good hands around the basket and shot his free throws decently well for a big man, but he still is not very well-conditioned. He seemed to find a second wind by the final session, but he was noticeably dragging in the middle. He doesn't move very well yet, and isn't really ready to use his physicality. Maybe he's still getting used to his new body composition. He didn't play very assertively though, for his size, and even though I hate reading into things like demeanor, he really didn't seem very enthused or engaged throughout the scrimmage. Perhaps things are just moving quickly for him and he needs some time to find his bearings in his new college environment. I can see him being a quality player down the line but I'm not really expecting much from him this season, at least at the beginning. He just seems young for being such a large man.

F David Kravish (Jr.)

Kravish apparently also left midway through with a minor injury, but he wasn't really a big factor when he was in there. I believe he had a block or two at the beginning. He looked like his normal self that we've come to know over the past couple of years.

G Tyrone Wallace (So.)

Wallace definitely looks bigger and stronger than he was last year. He showed some flashes of his athleticism, but mostly had a steady and uneventful afternoon. He took a couple threes as well, and I don't think he made any. I didn't really notice a whole lot in the way of improvement to his shooting form, but with Kreklow and Mathews, hopefully we won't need to rely on Ty very much for outside shooting.

G Garret Galvin (So.)

Galvin, a walk-on PG, was solid if unspectacular. He was the gold team PG for most of the day, and looked like he could run the offense and distribute the ball competently. I don't think he took many shots; he mostly just passed the ball to Jordan Mathews and facilitated. I could imagine him starting at a lower-tier program somewhere. He was out there busting his tail and mostly held his own against more physically talented competition.

G/F Kahlil Johnson (So.)

Johnson didn't play as much as some of the others, but I remember he knocked down a 3 with his smooth lefty stroke, and he was active on the boards. All in all, he didn't look bad but he didn't really stand out.

G/F Jeff Powers (RS Sr.)

Powers was also pretty much himself. He made a couple threes, as he does, and didn't really make any glaring mistakes on defense that I noticed. Unfortunately he took a shot to the face in a scramble for a loose ball about midway through, and he didn't return. Someone said it looked like he was hit in the mouth, so hopefully it's not a big deal.

F Christian Behrens (RS So.)

I was very encouraged to see Behrens playing again, but he looked pretty tentative, and maybe a step slow. He's still wearing a knee brace, and I really don't think he's completely recovered yet from his knee surgery. Hopefully it's just a matter of time and reps though, because we really need some depth at the forward position, and he's got pretty decent size. He didn't really look very sharp at the scrimmage, but it could just be rust.

All in all, I saw a lot of things that were highly encouraging. Aside from being a forward short, I like the mix of players we have, and I saw at least 8 or 9 guys who could play significant minutes this year, plus a few more guys who might get a few minutes here and there in garbage time at least. I think this is a team that could compete for a conference championship, and if the young guys do some growing up by the end of the year, we could be dangerous in tournament season.

Looking at the guards, obviously Cobbs is the guy who is going to run the show for us. As one would expect from a senior PG with his talent level, he looks very much like a leader out there. Of the freshmen, Mathews really stood out and impressed me, and I could even imagine him starting over Wallace/Kreklow/Bird potentially, if he's truly as good as he looked. Bird was also impressive, but I suspect he'll be more prone to freshman mistakes early on than Mathews. Singer should also be in the rotation, especially if we go small and play with a lot of 4-guard sets. With all the shooters we have now, I wonder if Powers might not see the floor very much this year as a result.

Solomon and Kravish will be solid at the forward position, but there are a lot of question marks behind them. Maybe we toss Kameron Rooks out there early in the non-conference schedule just to try and get him up to speed, but he's pretty far from a finished product right now. If we still had a guy like Thurman on the roster, I'd expect we would redshirt Rooks, but we may not have that luxury. Moute and Johnson showed some flashes, but unless they progress quickly, I don't think they look like much more than role players this year. Behrens appears to still be recovering. Bottom line, Solomon and Kravish need to stay healthy if this team is to fulfill its conference and postseason aspirations.

Did anyone else go to this event? What are your thoughts?? Please share them in the comments!

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