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Health For Harper! A Look At The Cal Men's Basketball Bigs In 2011-2012

Kodiak:  What do we think of Cal's big men this year?  Besides his mad face, how much will we miss MSF?  How screwed are we if Harper Kamp's knee gives out?  Is Richard Solomon ready to take the next step?  Will Bak Bak finally figure things out and be more than extra set of fouls?  Can we expect Robert Thurman to continue the production evidenced by the Euro trip?  Is Kravish going to play or blueshirt?

NorCalNick:  I'm really excited to see what Richard Solomon can do as a sophomore.  The Pac-12 lost a ton of post talent from 2011 and I think he could really blossom.  He showed just about every physical tool you'd want to see last year, while also showing the work ethic and humility to acknowledge his shortcomings and improve where he needs to.

With defenses likely focusing on Harper down low Solomon will likely have the chance to step up in a big way.

LeonPowe:  I agree with NorCalNick. Dick Solo is going to be the real x-factor for the front court and along with Cobbs - those two and how much they can play to their potential will determine how the. 11-12 bears will be remembered. We know our Big 3 and we know the limits of the Big 3 so if we get good performances from Solomon and Cobbs we could be elite. If they don't come through, we'll be a 3 player team that makes the tourney but doesn't do anything. 

Not sure we'll get anything more than spot minutes out of Bak, Kravish, and Thurman.

We are really going to miss MSF's rebounding and when he had the left hook going - a steady diet of easy points. Senior year MSF could sometimes be a beast. I worry that we'll have trouble with UCLA's Josh Smith without our own large around the middle post to counter.

NorCalNick:  The bad news with losing MSF is that he was an excellent defensive rebounder, which was absolutely necessary because for all his strengths, defensive rebounding isn't Harper's forte.  And in MSF's case it's a situation when your eyes and the stats agree.  Markhuri was 3rd in the conference in Defensive Rebounding % and 8th in the conference in Offensive Rebounding %.

The good new is that Richard Solomon just might be able to replace that production.  In an admiteddly small sample size, Dick Solo had an identical DR% and a slightly higher OR%.  He's not a master of positioning and boxing out the way MSF was, but he makes up for it in length and sheer athleticism.  It's not insane to wonder if, with a year of coaching and strength training, Solomon might actually surpass MSF's rebounding numbers.


Kodiak:  Besides being able to use his...bulk on the glass, MSF was underrated as a passer.  Between Jorge, Kamp, and MSF, you always had three guys on the floor who knew where the ball was supposed to go.  Take any one of them out, and the offense wasn't nearly as potent.  This did change towards the end of the year as the younger players got up to speed.  But, it's something to keep an eye on, especially when we play against teams who are adept at playing zone.

Solomon has so many athletic tools that I think he sometimes tries to do too much.  We just need him to clean the glass, block shots from the weak side, and be opportunistic on offense.  Although he's shown the ability to shoot the outside jumper and handle the ball a little bit, we really need him to just focus on his post play.  Fortunately, Monty is proven developer of big men and I expect to see Solo make a big leap forward.

I'm not sure what to expect from Robert Thurman.  He certainly looked active in the scrimmages and was the most consistent player for the Cal team on their Euro Trip.  The quality of competition is the big question mark, but he held his own against more experienced players who had decent size.  I hope his confidence carries over to this season because we could really use a quality big off the bench to rotate with Kamp and Solomon.  Best-case, he's one of those prototypically annoying Monty big men who are fundamentally sound and knows how to play the game.  Worst-case, he's five more fouls to bounce off of Josh Smith.

I knew that Kamp was a smart player who was really tough on D.  I didn't know that he had such an array of offensive moves with great footwork.  He'll need to dial up a little bit of the Boykin pump-fake to deal with some of the taller players in the conference, but I'm sure he'll be fine.  I do worry about the health of his knee over the long grind of the season.  

True frosh Kravish will probably be better off blue-shirting to get stronger.  However, he might be pressed into action early if there are injuries or foul issues.  He's lanky, but he really shows a nice shooting touch and a high bball IQ.

NorCalNick:  For me the biggest question is if we have the frontcourt depth to play man-to-man. Because MSF was so foul prone we essentially had to play zone to protect him specifically and our lack of depth in the post generally. And as I'm sure you all recall, our zone defense was baaaaaaad.

And yet, despite that lack of depth, the man-to-man defense was occasionally great. Holding UCLA to 18 points in the first half never happens if Cal plays a zone. So the questions are: 1. How foul prone is Solomon? He picked up plenty last year, but that's not surprising for a true freshmen aggressively playing limited minutes. 2. Can two bigs off the bench provide reasonable production on both ends in, say, 10-15 minutes/game? They don't need to set the world on fire, they just need to play well enough that we're not screwed if Harper or Dick Solo pick up two fouls in 10 minutes.

I don't know the answer to either question but I'm hoping we find a pleasant answer!


Avinash:  Here are some discussion questions:

1. Which Pac-12 team will have the strongest set of bigs in the conference? Which Pac-12 team will have the weakest set?

2. Who will give Solomon and Kamp the most trouble in the conference on offense and/or defense?

3. What plays would you like to see run for the bigs to maximize their strengths and minimize their weaknesses?