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Golden Nuggets: Cuonzo Martin's Big Strategy

Ivan Rabb and Marcus Lee set the tone for Cuonzo Martin's strategy to build around bigs.

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Baseball

Cal Quartet Earns All-Academic Honors

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. - Pac-12 Scholar-Athlete of the Year Nick Halamandaris led a group of four Cal baseball players that earned All-Academic honors from the Pac-12 as the conference announced its annual list of award winners on Monday.

Halamandaris earned a spot on the first team for the third year in a row after the senior compiled a 3.43 GPA with a major in English. Three other Bears earned honorable mention as sophomore Erik Martinez and seniors Devin Pearson and Sean Peters all landed a spot on the list. To be eligible for selection to the academic team, a student-athlete must have a minimum 3.0 overall grade point average and be either a starter or significant contributor.

A's sign Cal pitcher Daulton Jefferies

OAKLAND -- Cal pitcher Daulton Jefferies couldn't conjure a better landing spot than the A's. The second pick in the draft for Oakland and the 37th overall, Jefferies signed a contract Tuesday, one of 24 signings announced by the club.

For Jefferies, the Coliseum is a two-hour drive from his home in Merced. So is the Stockton Ports home in the Class-A California League.

Jefferies, 21, is from Atwater and figures to land in Stockton. For now, though, he leaves Thursday for Mesa, Ariz., and the A's minor league facility. He'll continue to do rehabbing from the shoulder injury that cost him eight weeks of the Golden Bears' season.

Once, as a 7-year-old, he met A's executive vice president Billy Beane, "although I doubt he remembers that,'' Jefferies said.

Men's Tennis

Bergevi, Lakat Claim All-America Honors

BERKELEY - Filip Bergevi and Florian Lakat officially became California's latest All-Americans when the ITA announced its singles and doubles honorees last week. The doubles All-America honors are the first for each of the Golden Bears.

The Cal pair earned the accolades based on its seeding - Nos. 5-8 - in the NCAA Doubles Championship in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The two juniors would also have become All-Americans by reaching the NCAA round of 16 - they ended reaching the quarterfinals - or by being ranked in the top 10 of the final Oracle/ITA poll; they wound up ranked eighth.

Men's Basketball

With Marcus Lee, Cuonzo Martin building Cal around bigs

One of college basketball's more intriguing big-man battles will play out at Cal Golden Bears practices next season, with Kentucky transfer Marcus Lee matching up opposite Ivan Rabb.

Lee must sit out next season per NCAA transfer rules, but his move into the Cal lineup come 2017-'18 should be rather seamless. The 2015 5-star recruit Rabb could be bound for the NBA draft by this time next year, leaving the role of athletic 4/5-spot player to the talented Lee.

A year of practices against each other should benefit both players, and give Cal a similar identity for consecutive seasons — an identity reflective of its head coach's background.

Cuonzo Martin's teams have flourished with a post player as a focal point, if not two post players starring. Martin's final Missouri State squad, which won 26 games, relied on a tandem of Kyle Weems and Will Creekmore to provide nearly 27 points and 14 rebounds per game combined. Jarnell Stokes shined on Tennessee's Sweet 16 team in 2014, and Rabb should take over as Cal's star player in the coming campaign.

With Jaylon Brown bound for the draft, and Jordan Mathews transferring, Rabb becomes the Golden Bears' center of attention in 2016-'17. Rabb developed quite nicely through his freshman campaign, arguably playing the best basketball of anyone on the Cal roster for the final few weeks of the season. He averaged 12.5 points, 8.6 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game, and recorded double-doubles in four of the Golden Bears' final six contests.

Rabb's length played a vital role to Cal's stifling defense, the hallmark of Martin's coaching philosophy. The Golden Bears ranked No. 17 in adjusted defense last season per KenPom.com, often enveloping the court in bodies. Pairing the 6-foot-11 Rabb with 7-foot-1 Kingsley Okoroh gave Cal unparalleled size Martin is likely to exploit further in 2016-'17.

The coming together of a massive and defensively dominant front-court is the manifestation of Martin's intense approach on defense, and Lee's arrival ensures it's the long-term identity for Cal basketball.