Make no mistake: Losing Ricky Kreklow is tough sledding for a team already losing a key player at the point and in the post. It would not be a stretch to say that Cal is losing its three best defenders from a team that was already pretty disappointing defensively.
In terms of man-to-man defense, Kreklow was the best wing defender we had. The team played harder when he was on the floor, and our defense was generally at its best when he was out there. Unfortunately, he never became offensively efficient, and team were generally happy to chase him off the three point line and test him off the dribble.
Why would Kreklow leave? Simplest reason: He has his degree. Perhaps he wanted to play closer to home, and didn't want to spend an extra year in Berkeley. He wouldn't be the first athlete to feel that way. Additionally, it did seem like there were too many bodies out there among our wings last year, and Roger Moute a Bidias figures to join that group. There might be a big fight for minutes, and there is a decent possibility Kreklow loses his starting spot.
I thought I’d list the things Ricky Kreklow does well that most of the rest of the roster does not (currently) do well.
Offensively: spacing, moving without the ball, cutting (which is a subset, but by my definition a different skill), keeping the ball moving and sending it to the correct area of the floor, making entry passes
Defensively: switching, calling for the proper switches, finding and calling out adjustments to mismatches, re-positioning teammates, boxing out bigger players, getting to loose balls
All of that is separate from the hustle that does not seem to be particularly controversial. Who knows whether it will make a difference for one year? It certainly didn’t seem to rub off on anyone else last year. Who knows how much it mattered that he was injured and not in practice much of the season? Who knows whether he can, at this point, teach and lead on this squad?
It’s not the end of the world, but it’s a loss of a bunch of skills we do not have in abundance, so it’s not nearly as simple as “I don’t remember him doing anything awesome so this is NBD.”
Cuonzo Martin will have his hands full trying to mold this group into a first-rate defensive unit--particularly at the wing spots, where breakdown after breakdown killed us game after game. Our rotation next year looks like the following.
PG: Sam Singer & Ahmad Rorie (?) (maybe some Tyrone Wallace too)
Wings (SG/SF): Tyrone Wallace, Jabari Bird, Jordan Mathews, Roger Moute a Bidias
Bigs: David Kravish, Kameron Rooks, Christian Behrens, Idrissa Diallo & Kingsley Okoroh (?)
This is a bit of a curiosity. I'm not exactly sure what the strength of this squad is at this point. I will be very interested to see how Martin can mold his defensive philosophy around a group of players that still have a lot to learn about that side of the basketball. I'd feel a bit more at ease with Kreklow in there, but I'm not alarmed. Just concerned.
Now with Kreklow gone, Martin's most urgent job other than finding his final assistant is retaining the recruits that Mike Montgomery's coaching staff managed to haul for 2013-14. A lot hinges on the meetings he had with Los Angeles (Ca.) Cathedral big man Idrissa Diallo and will have with Tacoma (Wa.) Lincoln point guard Ahmad Rorie.
At the moment, it seems as if Diallo remains undecided. Georgetown, Oregon and Boston College have been taking peaks, and Diallo will be headed East to see what the Screaming Eagles have to offer.
2014 Los Angeles Cathedral Prep center Idrissa Diallo picked up an offer from #BostonCollege. He'll officially visit BC.— Josh Gershon (@JoshGershon) April 23, 2014
It has been commented that keeping Gregg Gottlieb on staff would probably ensure Diallo stays, but I doubt Martin will be making staff decisions based on what his recruits want. We shall see.
Sources say retaining Gregg Gottlieb critical to landing Cal de-commit Idrissa Diallo— Cal Rivals (@CalRivals) April 17, 2014
As for Rorie, Martin is headed up there this weekend. Rorie was unhappy that Travis DeCuire was not hired, but he seems to be pretty level-headed at this point. Bear Insider has more.
"Coach Martin seems like a really cool guy," said Rorie. "I enjoyed talking with him.
"It seems like he has lots of energy and is really ready to get things rolling at Cal."
The news of Montgomery's retirement initially hit Rorie fairly hard, leaving him wondering what his place may be in the new Cal regime, but those questions were quickly answered.
"I told coach that I'd like to know where things stand with me and he told me that I'm absolutely a high priority to the new staff and that they want me to be their point guard. I didn't know if they'd want to bring in another point early on so that was good to hear."
Scoring point guard with deep range and a quick release RT @aaronwbeach: Hearing Ahmad Rorie has interest in UW after Cal coaching change— Ben Knibbe (@KnibbeBen) April 20, 2014
Until Rorie officially firms up, this will be a situation worth monitoring.
If Martin does end up losing one or two of these recruits, he might have some options with the players he just recruited to Tennessee. Guards Larry Austin Jr. and Jordan Cornish have been granted releases from their letters of intent to Tennessee by new head coach Donnie Tyndall, and Madison (Ga.) Morgan County power forward CJ Turman figures to be next up.
Austin is a Springfield (Ill.) Lanphier point guard and ranked similarly to Rorie (129th overall and 28th point guard in the 247Composite, compared to 91st nationally and 20th point guard for Rorie). Cornish is a New Orleans (La.) Brother Martin shooting guard (181st overall and 45th shooting guard in the 247Composite) who had offers from Vanderbilt, VCU, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Purdue, UCLA and SMU. Jon Harris was his primary recruiter, and Harris has joined the Cal coaching staff recently (Kent Williams was Austin's primary recruiter, and he is unlikely to join Martin at Cal). Turman (154th overall and 38th power forward in the 247Composite) has offers from a bunch of SEC schools, with Tracy Webster being his primary recruiter.
Hopefully Martin can keep this class stable. If there's space, perhaps he can get one of his former Tennessee recruits to join Kingsley Okoroh in a cross-country migration to ensure the Bears have fewer depth concerns going forward.