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Remembering Jamal Boykin

TwistNHook:  And remember!

NorCalNick:  My favorite Jamal Boykin memory has nothing to do with events on a court.  In 2009 Cal was getting ready to play Wazzu at home.  My little bro's youth basketball team was going to be shooting free throws for charity during a couple of TV timeouts.  Because of this we all got to go into the game before the doors opened.  The kids all went down to the bleachers where Rally Com sits and watched the Bears warm up.  Because the players were in the middle of their pre-game preparation routine, none of them had any obligation to acknowledge the group of 10-year-olds watching in an empty gym.

Jamal walked over, thanked the kids for what they were doing, talked about how important charitable acts are, and signed the posters the kids had gotten at the gate.  It was a small gesture, but representative of the type of person Jamal is - thoughtful and intelligent.

Kodiak:  Getting to appreciate Jamal Boykin's game is a little like trying a new type of food.  You may not be blown away at first, but given enough time it really grows on you.   A little undersized for the post, and not quite quick enough for the perimeter, it took Jamal some time to learn how to maximize his strengths.  Where Randle made a huge leap from his sophomore to junior year, and Theo and PC showed steady improvement over time, Boykin saved his big jump until his senior year. 

This is one case where the stats don't tell the true tale of how efficient a player he became.  Let's put it this way, Senior Jamal wouldn't just drink Junior Boykin's milkshake, he'd also polish off the cheeseburger, fries, and snort the salt n' pepper packets.  Hustle and effort were never a problem - but early in his Cal career that frenetic energy translated too often into foul trouble or missed opportunities.  It wasn't until his final year that the game finally slowed down for Jamal.  All of those pump-fakes and intricate post-steps would turn into made baskets.  And hours in the gym turned that elbow jumper into money.  I don't remember another Cal post in the last several years who had such good footwork - maybe Shareef.  You could count on him to take good shots, play within himself, and make the extra pass.  The amazing thing to me was how much energy Jamal had to exert on the defensive end and on the glass against bigger players, yet he still had the legs to shoot such a high percentage.   



I was also impressed with how well Jamal embodied the "student" aspect of student-athlete.  After hearing a number of interviews, I was struck by how classy, thoughtful, and well-spoken he carried himself.  This is exactly the type of young man that I am proud to say represents our alma mater.

Ohio Bear:  I didn't know what to make of Jamal Boykin when he first donned the Cal uniform.  With his McDonald's All America credentials and year-plus at Duke, I wondered if he would be the savior that Cal basketball needed.  On the other hand, I wondered if he would be one of those "overrated Duke guys" who would just blend in with the roster.  After his first season (2007-08), I'd be lying if I said I wasn't leaning toward the latter. 

But when Monty took over the program, we saw a different Jamal Boykin beginning in the 2008-09 season.  He seemed more active on the defensive side of the floor and seemed a more intense competitor than we'd seen the previous year.  Then in his senior year, Boykin put it all together.  Maybe he didn't become the sort of star player that you associate with the tag, "McDonald's All American," but he became an important team-first guy.  He was an aggressive rebounder on both ends of the floor. And on top of that, he could contribute scoring for us, too -- and he seemed to do so in those rare instances when we weren't getting enough from our main three scorers (i.e., Randle, PC, and Theo).  By the end of the season, seeing a double double on the stat sheet was not unusual; it was just a normal Boykin game, some of them more prolific than others.  And along with Jorge Gutierrez, Boykin seemed like one of those guys who could fire up the other guys on the floor with his energy and passion.   
Off the basketball floor, I came to admire Boykin's demeanor, intelligence, and passion.  He is a dignified and articulate young man.  He was an exemplary student-athlete at Cal and, in many ways, epitomizes the type of player that I like to see in our program. 

TwistNHook:  There have been a lot of basketball players to go through the Cal program.  There will be leagues more.  But I'll never forget Boykin, but not only was he a great basketball player, but he was a well-rounded human being, too.  He wasn't just at Cal to play sports.  He was there to grow as a human being.  The election of Barack Obama clearly affected him strongly.  On one summer's night we saw what he had created (Part I is here and Part II is here). 


We got see some of his art:




We got to hear his thoughts on his art:


He was very busy, being mobbed by all his admirers, so I tried to minimize the questions.  I asked him about his creative process, also.  He told me that doing art was a New Year's resolution for him.  Similar to Patrick Christopher, I asked if he tries to sit down and create or does he just keep paper on him for when ideas arise?  He told me that things come to him spiritually.  He told me he loves to have people around him, because they give him the energy.  People would give him a magazine or something like that and he would view it as a sign to work with that.

We got to see him looking nice in a suit with a thin purple tie:


And we got to hear him wax poetically on what the art meant to him:

That, dear reader, was the sign of a true Berkeley student-athlete.

Avinash:  Boykin was kind of our clean-up man last season. He grabbed a lot of boards in 2009 (especially on the offensive end), clashed inside and placed it back in the basket. He had the 76th best offensive rebound rate in the country last season among all D-1 players, and had the second highest offensive rating on the team thanks to making things work that way.

This year, he really improved this season into a truly strong offensive threat. Not as consistent as Theo, PC or Jerome, but he could have his moments, and his contributions were really felt whenever one or two of those three weren't feeling it. A 15-15 against Kansas (most of that against Cole Aldrich), 25-10 in Tempe against his old Duke buddy Eric Boateng, eight double-doubles on the season, including five 20 point, 10 rebound performances!

His moves were mighty impressive. He couldn't traditionally post up because of his size, so he often received the ball outside the paint, hit a midrange jumper from 15-17 feet if no one came up on him, took bigger guys off the dribble when they closed out. If they caught up with him on his drive to the paint, he'd ball fake, pump fake, get his defender up in the air, and have the open look he desired. He had great footwork for a big, a lost art in hoops. If he were only a few inches taller he could've really made it in the pros.

Oh well. You do the most with what you have. Rock Europe up Jamal!