This week we venture into the Pappy Waldorf Region with two 2000s-era players who led their teams to Pac-10 titles (or a share of the title) for the first time in decades. Check out the latest results in the bracket here.
Randle's evolution as a player was remarkable. When I first watched him sophomore year I cringed watching him run the offense. I don't play much basketball, but when I do I'm usually the point guard, and the things Randle did are NOT things that would make my teammates happy. The shots themselves weren't that bad. I'm guessing if he was taking them in the first place he was hitting them in practice, and the next two years proved he could make those shots.
No, it was the lack of ball movement and inability to get the ball to the bigs that really exasperated me. The process of watching our plays developed was chaotic, and not in an enjoyable Nellie-ball sort of way. You could see the team unravel during conference play as they ran into smarter and more efficient teams. That's the point guard mantra--run the offense, make your teammates make happy. Bad point guards lead to bad teams, and that was what Cal was in 2008.
(The most curious thing was that Randle and Ryan Anderson never really gelled. Although people opine what would've been if Ryan had returned for a year (or two) with Monty, Jerome probably would've left as he was already on the fence after the Braun firing, and we'd have probably had two years of Nikola Knezevic running point guard. Think we're Pac-10 champions this year if that happens?)
His maturation was exceptional under Monty though. First he got the alpha dog streak as the team's on-the-court leader in his junior campaign. That he went from an inconsistent shooter shooter to one of college's most efficent offensive players (53rd in the nation in 09) in a year without great bigs to set picks for him lends credence to Montgomery's teaching methods. Amazing what putting a system in place does for good players.
Second, his endurance for a guy his size was exceptional. He played an average of 35 minutes the past two seasons, and that's including blowouts. And it wasn't like the guy was taking plays off either--he handled the ball on over a fourth of our possessions the past two seasons. It not only underscored the importance of Randle, but the faith Monty had in letting him play those long minutes. It wore him out last season, but his performances were solid from beginning to end this year.
Finally, he embraced his teammates and ran with them as they ran with each other. Although his 2009 campaign was more spectacular than his 2010 season, I felt he played even better this year. He sublimated his individual talents in search of the team goal, which was the conference crown. The final stretch of the Pac-10 season (where they won nine out of their last ten games) was perhaps the best basketball he ever played as a Bear. He stepped up when they needed him, he stepped aside when others were ready to carry the load. And they got that conference ring.
(16) Nate Longshore
Nate Longshore Extended Highlights Part 1 (via ronenlish1)
Just the mere utterance of his name can make even the most loyal Cal fan feel a mix of emotions. Some love him. Some hate him. Some love him and hate him. Some hate him and love him. We Cal fans as conflicted about him. Heck we even have a Hall of Fame fanpost CGB by the legendary danzig entitled "Nate Longshore: Setting the Record Straight." For what other player have we devoted such emotional angst? Okay, besides Kevin Riley. And Zach Maynard. And Zach Kline. And basically every QB since Longshore. Anyone? Anyone?
"He was the quarterback of Cal's 2006 Pac-10 co-champions, Cal's first share of a conference championship since 1975. He had particularly great performances that season against Oregon (on national TV) and at Oregon State. Until his injury in 2007 took us to the great "Nate or Kevin" debate to end all debates, Nate was the clear starter and a guy we had confidence in.
"[And] Nate was a Duck killer! 3-0 vs. Oregon!"
The fact of the matter is, Nate gave Cal football fans a lot of wonderful moments. He enjoyed a very good 2006 season, particularly his games against Oregon, Oregon State, Ucla, and the Holiday Bowl against Texas A&M. Pre-injury in 2007, Longshore looked the part of an elite Pac-10 quarterback in Cal's win against Tennessee and was as gritty as anyone in helping Cal beat Oregon at Autzen Stadium, one of the greatest Cal wins of the decade. Were it not for the ankle injury at the end of the Oregon game in 2007, which changed the course of Longshore's career, who knows where he would have ended up in the hearts and minds of Cal fans? We'll never know. But what we do know is that there have been few players for whom we've devoted as much mental energy in debating his merit and his place in the Cal program. There have been even fewer Cal players who quarterbacked Cal to a share of a Pac-10 championship.
Last Week's Results
(15) Mike Pawlawski (58%) upsets (2) DeSean Jackson (42%)
(7) Russell White (87%) defeats (10) Tyson Alualu (13%)
In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.