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Basketball Preview Part 2: Shooting Guards/Wings

Basketball is almost here! Last week we took a look at the point guards and today we're analyzing the shooting guards and wings. So where do we stand heading into the season?

Gregory Shamus

NorCalNick: Before we start talking about who we've got coming back, we have to address who isn't here any more. For the first time in four years Cal won't have Jorge Gutierrez roaming the back court, harrassing the opponent's best perimeter player, making all the hustle plays, and at times carrying the offensive load.

But the cupboard is hardly bare. Allen Crabbe will contend for all-conference honors. Ricky Kreklow should be this year's Justin Cobbs. How difficult will it be to replace what Jorge did, and what do you expect from our returners and newcomers in 2012-13?

Kodiak: Oh btw, this update can't be good:

"Ricky Kreklow, projected as the Bears' starter at shooting guard, underwent surgery on his right foot and will be sidelined 6 to 8 weeks.

A sophomore transfer from Missouri, Kreklow had surgery to repair a stress reaction in his foot, coach Mike Montgomery said.

Kreklow joined the program a year ago and sat out last season, as per NCAA transfer rules. He was expected to fill the backcourt spot vacated by Jorge Gutierrez, the Pac-12 Player of the Year who has graduated.

Now expect senior Brandon Smith to move into the starting five, alongside Allen Crabbe and Justin Cobbs. Freshman guard Tyrone Wallace will get the chance to show early what he can do."

Avinash: Man, I'm getting so tired of waking up every season and seeing us play six-seven deep. It's like every year we have to play with a grading curve.

Six to eight weeks means he's out until UNLV. Looks like Tyrone Wallace is going to be getting his first start Opening Night. Frank, as our main Cal basketball recruiting expert, what can Wallace and Khalil Johnson immediately bring to the Bears?

FrankCohen: I think Wallace can make an immediate impact. I'm excited to see Cobbs and Wallace on the floor at the same time--both are big guards who can play the point effectively and are proficient scorers. Khalil Johnson (though I hope he proves me wrong!) seems more like a project to me. Right now, he is a bit of a tweener 3/4 hybrid (with limitations at both positions) who can make an impact down the line with some good coaching.

NorCalNick: Kreklow's injury, assuming it fully heals and only keeps him out for those 6-8 weeks, is one of those bad-but-not-disastrous injuries. He's had a full year to practice with the team and he should be back well before conference play begins, so the impact this has on the most important games should be minimal.
If nothing else, it might speed Wallace's development since he looks likely to get even more significant minutes in Ricky's absence. It could be a bumpy non-conference run, but hopefully the team will be primed for conference play.

LeonPowe: This stuff worries me because until his eventual transfer we heard Rossi was ready and just around the corner. I know totally different players, but it still affects my fan outlook.

Kodiak: Allen Crabbe really looked like he had taken that next step last year and was dominant during the 1st half of the season. He just wasn't the same guy after fighting injury and illness(shingles) down the stretch. It was a stark contrast. When he was full strength, he was able to put the ball on the floor and punish teams for overplaying him as just a three-point shooter. When he was hobbled, teams could take him out of the game by aggressively closing out on him.

Crabbe may not be the loudest or fieriest guy on the court, but I suspect that his leadership-by-example will be vital to this season. He's a team-first player and I think it really helps the whole team dynamic when your best player is unselfish. That being said, we'll need him to step up and realize that he's got to call his own number this year.

The great news is that Crabbe is a smart player who works really hard at his game. After his freshman year, he needed to work on defense and rebounding. Check. No issues on defense and he was one of the team's best rebounders as a soph. For this coming year, he needs to be more than just a 3-pt specialist. I have no doubt that he's going to be great.

With Kreklow out initially, depth on the wing is a concern. Out of necessity, we'll probably see Cobbs here with Smith running the point. I'd imagine that Wallace will get a lot of minutes here, too. Like Nick said, this might actually be a good thing. Monty would normally lean on his vets. We might see some early season growing pains, but the experience will pay off. Colorado played their youngsters early last year. Took their lumps. And were really tough in 2nd half of the season.

I'd agree with FrankCohen that I just don't expect to see Khalil Johnson doing anything other than blueshirting. And I absolutely agree that I'd love to be wrong.

The darkhorse here is Jeff Powers who started in place of Crabbe a couple of years ago. He was kind of the forgotten man last year. He can shoot the rock and move without the ball. But he was really, really abused defensively. If he's able to shore that area up to where he's not a match-up issue, I could see him getting minutes.

So basically, Crabbe and Cobbes need to train like iron men and stay healthy.

Vincent S: For the umpteenth straight season, depth appears to be a huge issue across the board. When healthy, Crabbe and Kreklow are right up there as one of the top sets of wings in the conference. If injuries hit (as they have already), the pieces we will need to use to plug the holes appear a bit more tenuous.

Jeff Powers has the requisite size and shooting skill, but has often fallen prey to more athletic opponents. Khalil Johnson is a guy that I think most expect to redshirt, though I could see him being pressed into service if the situation becomes dire. Christian Behrens (included here due to perceived playing style) has yet to show what he can do fully healthy.

As others have said, at the wings, Cal will live and die by Allen Crabbe. Hopefully Kreklow can provide a spark when he returns.

NorCalNick: Perhaps the biggest concern might be defense from these positions. As awesome as Jorge was, I think we can replace his offensive production (particularly if Ricky Kreklow comes back fully healthy) but do we have the type of players that can bring that defensive intensity?
Again, Kreklow is supposed to be the pesty, hustle type of player. But until we see it I'm going to assume that Cal's perimeter defense will take a step back this year. When you lose a player like Jorge, how can't it?!