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Ivan Rabb on returning to Cal: I want to get better and be the leader

Rabb explains his rationale on coming back to the Bears.

John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

Ivan Rabb opened up to ESPN about his decision to return to Cal. Rabb was one of the highest projected lottery prospects, so his return for a sophomore season seemed to surprise a bunch of the major basketball pundits.

"I know I need to get stronger," Rabb said. "I want to come back better defensively, a better shooter, a better rebounder, more comfortable on the floor. I want to be the leader. I wanted to have a bigger role."

Rabb made some good points about what he could learn from another season at the collegiate level. Let's go through them.

Strength: If Rabb were to enter the league, it's unlikely he would be strong enough to withstand the rigors of an 82 game season. Rabb was really skinny his freshman season and probably needs to bulk up before he's ready to play. Returning stronger with dedicated offseason conditioning at Cal could get him in true professional shape.

"I just wanted to improve," Rabb said. "I didn't just want to be in the NBA. I wanted to make sure I was ready when I got there."

Defense: Rabb was a pretty impressive freshman defender and was a big part of Cal emerging as the top defense in the Pac-12. His ability to recover and help and move his feet on defense cut off so many options for college offenses. The only thing Rabb has to work on is his foul rate--Rabb sat on the bench in too many critical games because he picked up two quick fouls in a few minutes.

Leadership: Last season Rabb had to share the load with Jaylen Brown and Tyrone Wallace, two exceptionally talented players. This year Rabb clearly is the number one option on the team, and will be the alpha dog. Rabb will get a lot more touches next season and can learn how to be the focal point of a college offense before he makes the leap, and can learn more responsibilities before he's ready to jump.

One-and-done not the only way: Rabb chatted with several NBA players about the extra year, and enough of them seemed to indicate that there's no real reason not to come back for another season. Rabb cited Marcus Smart and Kris Dunn who came into the NBA more ready and didn't see their draft stock significantly impacted.

"Marcus Smart's stock may have dropped a bit, but he came in ready to play. Kris Dunn became an alpha dog this past year," Rabb said. "This year will be a chance for me to show what I can do."

It's really cool to see Rabb come back. It's not just because Cal basketball will be a better team, but that Rabb might end up being a better player and could go even higher in the draft if he figures out his game even further.