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Crabbe, Franklin, Rossi, Solomon Showcase Their Talents At Academic All-American Classic





Allen Crabbe (Price)
Gary Franklin (Mater Dei)




Alex Rossi (New Trier)
Richard Solomon (Price)

A week ago, Kodiak and i shared our what we saw out of our incoming freshman class at the Academic All-American Classic (if you missed it, you can watch the entire video replay of the game here) featuring the recruits listed above. It's good to know we have Golden Bears dedicated to their studies as much as they're dedicated to their game, and it's good to know that the original four will be showcasing their talents on the hardwood and in the textbooks.

Let's be clear. It's impossible to glean a lot of useful information from an All-Star event. Defensive ability is almost impossible to figure out; no one plays a lot of anything on that side of the ball. But this is the best opportunity any of us will get to make observations of game and style, so let's go at what we see on the offensive side!

We start with overall player observations, with a play-by-play recap of Monty's Ballers at the end.

Kodiak: With Franklin, I didn't see him hit any outside shots(apparently he hit a three in the 1st quarter), but he has a quick, good-looking release.  Was strong with the ball, made good decisions, and showed good vision.  Didn't throw any bad passes or turn it over while I was watching.(had a TO in the 1st quarter off a dble team)  Showed an ability to finish at the rim with either hand.  As mentioned above, completely dominated a several minute sequence.  Had a couple of steals and several boards.  Liked his scrappiness on the glass.

He's not a blur on the court, but has a variety of stutter steps, and stop-start moves...I like his ability to change speeds to set up his defender instead of just relying on out athleting him.  He's got good size for a PG...definitely more like a Deron Williams, Andre Miller, Jason Kidd body-type than our recent run of waterbugs.(Randle, Diggs, Legans) 

Avinash: This early on, I'd expect him to be alright running the break, where everything is helter-skelter and the defenses aren't set in to target the point guard. He does seem to have the game to break loose at faster tempos.

Halfcourt game though? There's always an adjustment level you have to make on the college level. In Monty's offense, you have to be able to move the ball and reverse it when necessary. You have to be able to run plays. It has less to do with your individual game and the ability to run the offense. Since Franklin was a Mater Dei product, he's probably polished, but he also had the blessing of playing with pretty gifted talent all the way (Tyler Lamb (UCLA), Anthony Brown (Stanford), and the Wear twins). Although I don't think our talent is worse than Mater Dei's, it could take a bit of an adjustment having to work with developing bigs and young shooters in the big bad Pac-10.

From what I saw of Franklin in that third quarter when he put his stamp on the game, he really took advantage of the fast pace and ran free with the ball, making great decisions and putting guys in position to score. Very promising stuff; if he can do that in a halfcourt pace, the future is bright.

Kodiak on Crabbe:  Was active on the offensive glass and had several putbacks.  Didn't get a lot of PT or see the ball too much in quarters 2-4.  Won the 3 pt shooting contest, so obviously, he's got a stroke.  Wish I had more, but he just didn't get much run. 

Avinash: I watched most of the three point shooting contest. He has a very interesting release, very slow and deliberate. It takes a little bit longer than usual to release from his grasp, something he's going to have to learn to get out a little faster or risk getting blocked a lot. Still, it's a nice windup with good rotation. Really commits to the follow-through.

Hey, plus he won the contest! So you know he can make them on a consistent basis.

I'm not really that worried about how little we saw of Allen. I'm sure he felt a little out of place not being the main scoring option after Price relied on him all year. All he needs to learn is a little assertion and ability to work off the ball so that he gets the best open shot. He seems to have good instinct on when to crash the boards (just what you want your small forward to do), so maybe Amoke's loss won't be felt that badly. Of all the positions in basketball that are interchangeable, the 2 and the 3 spots are the most easily filled.

Of all the Bears, I'm most confident he'll be the one stepping up to the plate next year. Someone's gotta score. Why not him?

Kodiak on Solomon:  Didn't get many opportunities in the 1st half.  Didn't show great hands and missed a couple of shots around the basket.  I had him pegged as our raw but athletic project until he went nuts in the 4th quarter.  At 6'9, he's slotted for the post, but showed some wing ability by putting it on the floor, pulling up for a step-back J, and hitting a 3.  I don't know if this display of an outside game is just a fluke or if he does this all the time.  If so, I can see why Cal's coaches would be high on his potential and versatility.  Like many young bigs, he's skinny and needs to add strength. 

Avinash: Looks like this year's more complete version of Bak Bak. Lots of potential, needs more muscle. In a year or two he could be a real exciting option down low. Considering the new age of basketball is all about speed and athleticism, Solomon might be making his mark sooner rather than later. But he still needs to develop that body to bang inside.

Kodiak on Rossi:  You hate to stereotype pigmentally challenged players as the fundamentally sound not-so-athletic guys, but...I liked Rossi's game.  He showed hustle and good fundamentals.  Apparently his specialty is the catch and shoot, but he showed an ability to put it on the floor and made good decisions - no forced shots or bad passes.  He got abused on D which is probably something we'll see a lot of this year, unfortunately - but has the basketball IQ to play right away and contribute.  Gotta love a guy who's able to move without the ball to get himself open a nail a game-winning 3.  He looks like a 4-year guy who you're absolutely going to love when he's a senior - classic Monty sharpshooting guard who will get better and better as he gets stronger and learns how to disguise his weaknesses with anticipation.

Avinash: You've gotta respect Monty's acumen for knowing more than talent is needed. Although recruiting has a lot to do with getting the best talents, it's also about making sure the pieces fit. With Rossi you have your pure shooter that can work off screens from our many bigs to get open looks. Hopefully he develops into our own version of Kyle Singler (sans the Twilight vampire lookalike) that can explode on a team whenever he has the stroke going. It'd be hard to expect Rossi to come out and scorch teams, but it'd be nice to have a Ray Allen type who makes the defense work with him when he gets those jumpers instead of having to dig in and having to go at it.

That game winner too. Nice to have a guy who's not afraid to take the shot at the end. 

While I doubt we'll see that much polish in his freshman campaign, imagining him down the road when the whole team starts playing better together...kinda makes you giddy inside to have a shooter like that who can get his.

Other observations.

The Farm was also a big deal here, and their recruits look polished. Their one big advantage? Size. Dwight Powell looks legit, as he spent most of the game dunking over anyone he could. Anthony Brown was the Player of the Game, so he can put points in the bucket. Josh Huestis won the dunk contest. Great, just what we need, more athleticism at the Cardinal. So at the very least the Furd will give us plenty of competition next season as they go young and skilled.

The star of the first half was Keala King, on his way to Arizona State. He looked like the most complete player on the floor. Executed flashy passes, crashed the boards, finished at the rims, pulled up with a nice J...just a lot of good things going on there. A cynic might say he was showing off, but whatever, it's an All-Star game. Good job by Sendek, who seems to have another James Harden in the making.

Texas A&M bound Tobi Oyedeji also impressed me with some rather unorthodox moves for a big man (probably the best big there), but since I don't think Cal will ever encounter him I'll be quite happy to say he is worth keeping your eye on for the future. Maybe he'll be on a pro court one day. Or MAYBE HE WON'T.

Golden Recruits Play-by-play recap

1st quarter
Crabbe with a spin dribble to the basket (spins but keeps the dribble alive), misses the first shot but stays with it and gets a putback.
Franklin sets, fires, hits a three!
Harold blows by Crabbe (again, defense means nothing in these games. These are exhibits for athleticism and ability)
Franklin wedged into a double team and forced into a jump ball
Rossi misses a 3

Crabbe wins a three point shooting contest, after taking the MIT-bound kid to sudden death by nailing the tying money ball at the buzzer. Then the MIT kid had nothing left for overtime and it was done.

Kodiak takes you home. Everything below this is his.

2nd quarter:
Rossi had a nice drive and reverse layup.
Crabbe answered with a drive of his own.
Rossi air-balled a 3.
Crabbe missed a wing 3.
Solomon fumbled away a loose ball, and committed a reach foul.

Half:  Solomon competed in the dunk contest.  Looked a lot more athletic here than on the court.  Franklin tried to throw him a pass from the top of the bleachers for an alley oop, but they couldn't make it work.

3rd quarter:  Nice to see the three Bears on the floor at the same time.  Franklin misses a 3, but Crabbe with the putback.  Then Franklin looks ahead and finds Solomon for the breakaway.
For about a five minute stretch, Franklin was the best player on the floor:
Snags a board.  Penetrates.  Nice dish to Solomon who gets fouled.  (Solomon splits the free throws.  Has a decent looking stroke, though.)
Franklin with another board.  Finds Kind for a layup.
Franklin with yet another board.  Penetrates and throws a sweet behind the back pass to a cutter for a layup.
Franklin with a good vision, finds Solomon for an alley oop but Solomon fumbles the pass and can't throw it down.

Rossi hits a nice baseline jumper.  He gets worked on D by a much bigger guy on back to back possessions.  But on possession #3, he shows some hustle with a nice show, recover, and knocks the ball away.

4th quarter:  Avi logged off just before they had a really hawt salsa exhibition.  You missed out, man.  I think everyone, players, announcers, coaches, audience were distracted for several minutes.

Solomon comes alive!  Nice post move for a score.  Strong rebound in traffic.  Misses a pull-up jumper off the dribble...Runs back hard on D and gets a clean block from behind.  Hits a three.(I kid you not!)  Gets a steal, goes coast-to-coast, dishes behind the back to Crabbe.  Crabbe misses the first layup, makes the put back.
Franklin misses a step-back three.  First bad shot/decision I've seen him make, but in fairness it's an all-star game and he's been sitting for a long time.
Franklin looks very strong and poised with the ball...drives and gets fouled.  Splits his free throws.

Franklin with a stutter, inside-out dribble, finds open shooter for a three - another assist!
Franklin with a drive, head-fake, blow-by and left hand layup.

Rossi in.  Stops a fast break with a steal.  Leads the break and makes a nice bounce pass that his guy fumbles away.
Rossi grabs a defensive board...unlike everyone else in this all-star game, he actually paid attention to boxing out.
Rossi gets the ball, goes triple threat, drives, penetrates, dishes to an open shooter who misses a 3.
Rossi with a foul...he was closing out on a guy who just hit a 3 last possession, and was a little slow moving his feet on the drive. 
Rossi with the ball.  Triple threat.  Left hand drive.  Cut off.  Stops and makes a good decision to pass it out.
Game tied, 5 seconds to go, inbounds play to Rossi at the 3pt line and he hits it for the win!!!  Announcers spend the next two minutes talking about how Rossi is known as a deadly catch and shoot guy.

Anthony Brown (future Furd) was POTG with 24 points. (*cough*ballhog*cough*)

I would have given it to Franklin.  His team was down by double digits and he singlehandedly lead them back to tie everything up.  Not his fault the coach sat him almost the entire 4th quarter.  I am willing to admit that I might be slightly biased.

Franklin - PG (Better size and scoring ability than Smith.  Might start the year coming off the bench - My guess is that he's too good to sit.)
Jorge - SG (Can he channel his game to stay on the court as a starter instead of as a 6th man?  If he improves mid-range game and outside shot, could be all-league.)
Crabbe - WF (Someone's going to have to score.)
Kamp - PF (Stay healthy.  All we need is defense and rebounding)
MSF - C (Stay healthy.  Might surprise some people with more opportunities to score in the low post.)

Smith - backs up 1(Showed good poise in limited action during the beginning of last year, but didn't get a lot of opportunities later when Monty shortened his bench.  Needs to put a lot of work in during the summer to hold off the talented newcomers.  Might end up as the classic steady backup.) 
Zhang - Backs up both 4 and 5 (Contributed more and earlier than expected this past year.  With more confidence, could definitely be a difference-maker.)
Rossi - backs up 2/3 (Will struggle on D, but should offset that by being a threat on O that the other team will have to watch.  Monty's going to have him running through all sorts of screens.)
Murray - backs up 1/2 (Don't know too much about him besides the fact that he's an athletic combo guard.  Supposedly, he has great hops for his size.  If he plays defense, he'll get minutes.)
Solomon - Backs up 4 and 5 (Would be great to blueshirt, but we need bodies.  Takes over Amoke's role as our most athletic big - but has more size, shows more of an all-around game, and hopefully is not a kleptomaniac)
Bak Bak - backs up 3/4(Someone sign him up for ballroom dancing.  Showed some surprising skills and agility for a big guy in glimpses.  His improvement might determine whether we can blueshirt one of the fab 5.)
Thurman - Backs up 5(Don't know anything about him except that he's big.  If all goes well, he's a practice body.  It might be nice to be able to blueshirt him, actually.  If he's seeing a lot of minutes, he's either waaay better than expected, or we've got issues.)

Should be a fun year.  Like all young teams, we're going to beat some teams we shouldn't and lose a few head-scratchers.  Monty's got some nice new pieces to work with and it's going to be great watching them learn to play together.  The most reasonable expectation is that we're middle of the pack and an NIT team.  As great as these guys were in HS, it's a big difference stepping up to Pac-10 level competition.  It's unlikely that any of them are going to have an impact their 1st year like Kidd, Shareef, Powe, or Anderson...but I'd love to be pleasantly surprised.  

Thanks to Kodiak for all the help!