WWith Jaylen Brown and Ivan Rabb all set to come to Cal, let's take a look back. Which class (football, basketball, other) was the most hyped coming into Cal, and how did they perform?
Avinash Kunnath: For football in terms of hype, it's gotta be 2005. That was a top ten recruiting class in both name and in results.
- DeSean Jackson, first ever five star football commit to Cal.
- Desmond Bishop, one of the best inside linebackers to ever play with the Bears, Super Bowl champ.
- Tyson Alualu, top ten draft pick and stalwart in the 3-4.
- Syd'Quan Thompson, back when we really really loved the name Thompson.
- Zack Follett, all aboard the Pain Train
- Lavelle Hawkins, provided the 1-2 punch with Desean
- Cameron Morrah, who proved to be our most reliable pass catcher his final season
- Marcus Ezeff, who had one of the five most clutch plays of the Tedford era
- Solid college starters in Nu'u Tafisi, Anthony Felder, Eddie Young, Brett Johnson and Mickey Pimentel
That team formed the foundation of a squad that had their way in the North for four years (if the North existed, which I'm going to pretend existed). Good times.
Trace Travers: 2003 Cal Basketball was a big one that was well hyped. Leon Powe, Marquise Kately, Ayinde Ubaka, and Dominic McGuire were supposed to lead a resurgence of Cal basketball. Within a year, Powe tore his ACL, Kately transferred to Morgan State, and McGuire transferred to Fresno (yes, Fresno). Ubaka was left to lead a team in 2004-05 which could not live up to those lofty expectations, though Rod Benson did shine that year. Powe did come back in 05-06, but the promise of that freshman group had gone away.
Nick Kranz: Cal women's basketball brought in a program changing class for the 2009-10 season. To the extent that WBB gets 'hype,' that class was a huge deal. More interestingly, that class ended up being a fascinating story on how great recruiting guarantees nothing, but also how incredibly important recruiting is.
Cal's class was generally ranked somewhere between 5-10 nationally, in part because it was a huge, seven player class. Joanne Boyle brought in Gennifer Brandon, Talia Caldwell, Layshia Clarendon, Brenna Heater, Eliza Pierre, Tierra Rogers, and DeNesha Stallworth. And for two years, a seven player, top 10 class didn't result in a single NCAA tournament
spot. Why? Well, Brenna Heater had injury issues and ended up quitting basketball after one year. DeNesha Stallworth transferred away after two years. The highest rated player in the class, Tierra Rogers, was diagnosed with a heart condition and never had an opportunity to play. Everybody else needed time to develop. Recruiting offers no guarantees.
But if you bring in lots of talent, it usually wins out in the end. It ended up taking 3-4 years of development and the right coaching staff to mold that talent into a cohesive team, but we all know how the story ends. Talia Caldwell grew into one of the most fundamentally sound, efficient low post players Cal has ever seen. Gennifer Brandon became the best rebounder in program history. Eliza Pierre offered invaluable, intense defense off the bench, and Layshia Clarendon became one of the best all-around players ever to suit up at Haas. Add in another excellent recruiting class that included the star point guard needed to run the show, and the Bears made the Final Four.
TwistNHook: Extremely interesting analysis, Nick. Thanks for providing.
HydroTech: 2005 football for sure. 4 star guys: Ayoob, Bishop, Bemoll, Felder, Follett, Hawkins, Morrah, Reed, Thompson. 5 star guy: Jackson. Actually, I think Ayoob was rated 5 stars by Scout or something.
That 2003 Cal Men's Basketball class was pretty highly hyped. Yet, we lost the season opener at home on a buzzer beater putback by Cal Poly (I recall one Cal Poly student/fan tried to rush the court and was promptly tackled by the security staff). Sadly, it turned out that despite all of their athleticism, studs from that class apparently have not played in organized basketball for too long and there were apparently little that Ben Braun could have done to implant any kind of game plan. Nevertheless, both Leon Powe and Domonic McGuire made the NBA. Ayinde Ubaka had the longest Cal career of the 4 and was pretty solid, if ultimately unspectacular.
This was also the year where I recall standing right in front (and below) Pat Riley who was scouting the Bears. I literally noticed Riley only because his championship ring was doing some serious reflecting of light. I also recall running into Brian Shaw scouting at Haas that year as well (true, they could always have been scouting our opponents too, but I think the hype of that class was a big part of why they came to Berkeley).
As for a group that may be in the conversation in the future, the incoming recruiting class to essentially replace Missy Franklin for Cal Women's Swimming is quite a haul. While the Bears didn't get Katie Ledecky, who is going to Stanford and may swim for them for an year or more...maybe, the Bears got the next 4 of the top 5 recruits in Kathleen Baker, Amy Bilquist, Katie McLaughlin, and Abbey Weitzeil. Bears' recruiting class also includes distance swimmer Jennifer Campbell and diver Phoebe Lamay. Certainly, the standard for the non-revenue sports are higher, but if the Bears can win 3 or sweep the next 4 National Titles in swimming, this class would be a huge reason why the Cal swimming dynasty may improve in the coming years upon the already very good haul of 4 titles in the last 7 years.
1991 Cal basketball - Lamond Murray, Al Grigsby, KJ Roberts, Monty Buckley, Ryan Jamison.
The first real recruiting basketball class we had. Lamond went on to lead the Pac-10 in scoring and rebounding as a junior and left an NBA lottery pick. KJ Roberts ended up transferring to UC riverside as a junior, grigs dealt with injury issues his whole career, while Buckley was a solid but ultimately unspectacular four player and Jamo may have been one of the most picked on players by the Cal fanbase- I felt unfairly so.