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Cal Basketball Monday Thoughts: Ivan Rabb decision can rewrite 2016 legacy

Plus some thoughts on the latest WBB recruiting news, both good and bad

This picture is everything I want Cal/UCLA basketball games to be in perpituity
This picture is everything I want Cal/UCLA basketball games to be in perpituity
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Ivan Rabb decision allows Cal a chance to rewrite the legacy of the 2015-16 Bears

It's always hard to predict exactly what a team's legacy will be. Which games will end up standing out in the memory? Which achievements (or failures) will last in the minds of fans?

And this last season presents a dilemma. Which event weighs heavier in your mind:

  • 18-0 at Haas
  • Virginia, Arizona, Utah, Hawaii
I was lucky enough to have season tickets (for the first time since I was a student) this past year, and that perfect home season means a lot to me because I was able to watch so many of them in person. But those four losses listed above? They were all brutally painful, and they were games in which a large percentage of the fan base was paying attention.

If a random team with mild expectations had the same season, fans could probably gloss over the blemishes. But this was the team with three NBA-level talents, the team that was supposed to win the conference, or make the Sweet 16, or both. We all knew going in that Ty, Ivan, and Jaylen were going to be gone at the end of the season, which meant that every single set back was going to be magnified. The legacy was going to be close but no cigar.

Except, what if somebody came back? And what if that somebody happens to be the most important of the trio positionally? Then the story of the 2015-16 team isn't quite over, is it?

Now, the 2016-17 Bears are much more of an extension of the 2015-16 Bears. Will Jabari Bird get a chance to cap a painfully unlucky Cal career with a senior season unmarred by horribly timed injuries? Can Jordan Mathews cement his legacy as the second-best shooter in Cal history? Can Sam Singer step out from Ty's shadow and make Bill Walton look like a genius? Can Grant Mullins (and potential grad transfer TBA) add a few key extra ingredients to the stew? Can Kam and King cut down on the fouling to combine with Ivan for the most dominant interior defense Cal will likely ever see?

And looming above it all--can the local recruit who revived Cal basketball lead his team to a higher level? Because as good as the Bears were last year (arguably the best team in modern Cal history), they could be better next year. #teamhype lives.

WBB recruiting update

Let's get the bad news out of the way

It's not officially over (no LOI has been signed), but it's over. Sabrina Ionescu has eliminated Cal (and Oregon State) and will choose between Oregon and Washington.

I don't think there's any way to sugar coat this one: It's as devastating a recruiting loss as you can come up with. When you have a local 5 star who is arguably the best recruit in the nation, and that player just so happens to play your biggest position of need . . . well, there's no upside to losing that battle. Imagine Cal MBB if Ivan Rabb had picked Arizona. To make matters worse, Ionescu dragged out her decision late into the spring signing period, meaning Cal doesn't have any fallback options for the 2016-17 season.

Ionescu, a ball dominant combo guard with a knack for scoring all over the court, gives you an immediate sense of deja vu. Remember when Kelsey Plum was reportedly choosing between Cal and UW? It's hard not to agonize over what Cal might have been able to accomplish over the last few years if you slot in Plum alongside all of the other talent that has come through Berkeley. Now it's looking possible that Ionescu might head to Seattle to build on Plum's legacy.

It's not all bad news. Cal picked up a commitment from 2017 3/4-star combo guard Kianna Smith, and signed UT San Antonio transfer wing Sara Anastasieska. Both players will help fill an obvious gap as true guards . . . in 2017-18. Smith will likely immediately enter the rotation as a freshman next year, while Anastasieska will provide depth. Neither, however, will be eligible to play next season. It's a little concerning that Cal was only able to bring in two eligible players to fill in a roster that was so thin at times in 2015-16. Meanwhile, Cal is chasing a few other high profile 2017 targets in what has become an even more critical class.