Cal Men's Basketball Preview: The Post Players

Ezra Shaw

It's that time of year again, Cal fans. After just missing out on the conference title for the second year in a row, our sturdy Golden Bears are looking to build on an impressive post-season run. Despite losing Pac-12 POY Allen Crabbe to the NBA, Coach Mike Montgomery hopes to re-load instead of re-build by signing his best recruiting class to date headlined by McDonald's All-American Jabari Bird. With practice starting at the end of this week, first up in our preview series, the Bigs:

For most of Monty's tenure at Cal, we've been fortunate to have at least one reliable low-post threat. Whether it was Jamal Boykin's pump-fake wizardry, MSF's baby hook, or Harper Kamp's array of moves, we had a source of easy buckets inside to help balance out the offense.

Last season was the cliched tale of two halves. Earlier in the year, our low post production was inconsistent which put a lot of pressure on Crabbe and Cobbs to carry the team. Later in the year, better play from our bigs helped fuel an amazing run that almost brought home another conference banner.

If returning starters Solomon and Kravish can build on their late-season surge, there's a lot to like about the paint this year. When they're at their best, Kravish and Solo can be highly disruptive with their length defensively, and opportunistic offensively.

However, crowd-favorite and dunker supreme Robert Thurman has taken his talents overseas to play for a professional team in Germany. We'll need at least one of the young post players to work themselves into the rotation. If no one earns Monty's trust, the other possibility is to take advantage of our depth on the wing and play four out with one in.

Richard Solomon(Sr), 6'10, 235 lbs

As our best defender, shot-blocker, and rebounder, Solomon will be expected to anchor our front court. Although he's not built to be a bruiser inside, he's wiry-strong and extremely athletic. In the past, he's struggled with consistency and focus. Ironically, his versatility might almost have been a disadvantage with regards to his development. Like many bigs who possess some perimeter skills, there's a temptation to settle for the three-pointer or to try to put the ball on the floor instead of staying in the paint. As a senior, we'll need him to play tough inside and be selective about his outside game. The high-flying guards might put up flashy numbers, but how Solo goes will determine this team's ceiling. If he finds himself on the 1st team all-conference team, we're contending for the title and heading towards the Big Dance.

Per a Jeff Faraudo interview with Justin Cobbs:

"Richard's looking really good. He's still got that big frame, a 40-inch vertical. He's crazy athletic. He's got a jump hook, been working on his post moves."


David Kravish(Jr), 6'9, 221 lbs

As a true frosh, Kravish showed a nice combination of ball skills on offense and a knack for disrupting shots on defense. He went through a bit of the proverbial sophomore slump early last year when his shot just wouldn't go down. He rallied and became much more consistent as the season went on. Another guy who is more lanky than physically intimidating, he's had trouble holding position in the paint during his first two seasons. Consequently, he rarely gets to take advantage of his ability to finish around the rim. As a counter, he's worked hard at developing his mid-range game. Although not a true stretch four, his ability to hit the elbow and foul-line jumper helps open things up for Solo inside. Kravish has always been a heady player. If he continues to develop physically, he'll have more of an opportunity to show off a diverse offensive skill set while providing steady play on the other end.

Cobbs: "David's put on a lot of weight. His mid-range shot is automatic. His touch is amazing."

Christian Behrens(RSo), 6'9, 225 lbs

Behrens was more of a small forward in high school before a late growth spurt slotted him towards the 4-spot. In limited time, he's shown some nice footwork and ball-handling ability. However, he's also had to learn his way around the paint with regards to proper positioning on both ends. Unfortunately, a knee injury sidelined him last year just as he had earned his way into the playing rotation. Graduated senior Robert Thurman mentioned that Behrens could have a break-through year because his speed and athleticism make him tough for bigger/slower posts to handle. Sporadic reports seem to indicate that his rehab is going well. With limited depth in the post, we'll need him to contribute solid minutes as a reserve.

Kameron Rooks(Fr), 7'0, 270 lbs

As the son of former NBA player Sean Rooks, the bloodlines are certainly there. As the saying goes, "you can't coach size." Rooks is the only true center on the roster and offers a nice complement to our other bigs with his bulk. Due to depth issues in the post, he'll be pressed into duty sooner rather than later. Not known as an explosive athlete, he does have soft hands and a good feel around the basket. As a bonus, he also has a knack for passing the basketball which complements his high basketball IQ. For him to earn Monty's trust, he'll need to be sound defensively and on the glass. Listed in the Josh Smith weight range in high school, he has reportedly already worked really hard on his conditioning and is poised to earn playing time this year.

Frank Cohen has a great write-up and analysis of Rooks' signing here.


Roger Moute a Bidias(Fr), 6'7, 200 lbs

As a late signee, we hope that Moute a Bidias is a diamond in the rough that Monty and his staff can develop. He's smooth, athletic, and known for his high-motor. Because he just started playing organized basketball in 2009, his offensive game is still a work in progress. Even so, he's got a real knack for snagging rebounds ; that could be a much-needed boost to a Cal team which has struggled on the glass in recent years. It's unknown whether he'll contribute this year or not. If he does earn time, it'll be as an athletic defense and rebounding specialist; unless he turns himself into a poor man's Andre Roberson, it's tough to see him earning minutes this early in his career. More than likely, he's headed for a redshirt year to keep developing his game.



Overview:

Although early reports are promising, you have to take them with a grain of salt when considering the competition. Besides Solo and Kravish, the other post players are either undersized or inexperienced. We really won't know what we've got until facing tougher competition.

Establishing a solid low-post game would really help ease the pressure on Cal's young perimeter players. If our veteran bigs can develop their passing skills, it also opens up our high-low game and the elbow curl into the paint that was Jorge's best play.

In a perfect world, Solo is dominant, Kravish is a savvy-productive veteran, and both can be spelled by Rooks and Behrens, respectively. While it's likely that Solomon and Kravish can build off their strong play at the end of last season, the other part of the equation is impossible to predict. Let's hope that Behrens' knee is good to go and that Rooks will be ready sooner rather than later.

Go Bears!

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