There are so many new faces in the Golden Bear basketball program that the following exercise is inexact by nature. More than half the current roster has never played a game for Cal, and even many of the returning players have appeared sparingly in college games. Several of the upperclassmen have only spent a year as a Cal player. Wyking Jones has already praised the leadership skills of guard Paris Austin, who transferred in from Boise State. However, he won’t be available for game action until 2018-19.
With all that said, here’s my attempt at an opening night starting lineup:
#22, C Kingsley Okoroh (7’1”, 267 lbs.)
The man who would be King of the current roster is one of the only sure things about coach Wyking Jones’ team. With a whopping 135 blocks on his resume, the senior is the best rim protector Cal has to offer. What’s more, Okoroh scored nearly 5 points per game last season to go with another 5+ rebounds a night. Did I mention that nobody else is even listed as a center on the official Cal Athletics site?
#24, F Marcus Lee (6’11”, 225 lbs.)
Lee, a fifth-year senior, has never played a game in blue and gold. Nevertheless, the University of Kentucky transfer got to know the Cal culture last season and now will be a critical piece on the floor. During his last action in 2015-16, he shot an impressive 68% from the floor while averaging 6.4 points and 6 boards despite playing 20 minutes a game. That’s not an easy feat on a team as stacked as the Wildcats always seem to be. He’s another intimidating presence underneath and piled up 59 swats during that season alone (1.6 bpg). Just about the only knock on him is the 40% free throw conversion percentage.
#10, F Justice Sueing (6’7”, 209 lbs.)
Sueing has been battling a leg injury but is expected to be available for the beginning of the season. The freshman wing who played high school ball at Mater Dei isn’t a lock for a starting role, but he has considerable upside. Whether Sueing is a true starter or a key reserve, the Bears can use his size and finishing ability. He averaged 17 points, 6.6 rebounds, 2.1 assists, and 1.5 steals per contest for the Monarchs as a senior.
#14, G Don Coleman (6’3”, 193 lbs.)
The knock on Coleman is that he can play out of control, but he seems an obvious candidate for the starting rotation at this juncture. The junior who arrived last season from junior college is aggressive with the ability to get to the free-throw line. He had far and away the most points for the Bears during the aforementioned NIT game with 26, and there will be ample opportunities for him to contribute throughout the season. He went just 4-20 behind the arc in 2016-17, but a consistent role could help in improving his shooting touch from distance.
#1, G Darius McNeill (6’3”, 175 lbs.)
McNeill, a four-star incoming freshman according to ESPN, originally committed to Iowa State but switched to Cal back in June. Reef’s reaction to that news was “This is good” and I must say that I agree. McNeill is known for his quickness and was ranked the #21 player in Texas while grabbing his district’s MVP award. He’s a threat to score the ball who can also facilitate (4.2 apg as a senior). That’s going to be especially important now that Charlie Moore has transferred out.
Potentially key reserves:
#2, G Juhwan Harris-Dyson (6’5”, 198 lbs.)
Harris-Dyson projects as a freshman difference-maker on defense to go with the offensive potential needed to play a lot out of the gate. With the ball, he’s an athletic slasher with the mind of a floor general. I’ve heard that Harris-Dyson has improved his shooting range of late, which is a good sign for a player in the running for the sixth man spot, if not a starting role.
#25, G Deschon Winston (6’2”, 175 lbs.)
Another freshman guard, Winston could end up as part of a point guard platoon or possibly spell Coleman at times. Winston came onto Cal’s radar after he scored 43 points against Harris-Dyson’s Heritage Christian squad back in January. Winston scored 17.6 points per game last season and earned an Honorable Mention from MaxPreps in their All-State Boys Basketball Team feature.
#42, F Cole Welle (6’8”, 230 lbs.)
I almost penciled him into the starting lineup due to the lack of experienced forwards. The truth is that Welle would have probably just been a nominal starter before reserves entered the game. He’s a senior with a newly minted scholarship who won’t try to do too much. Welle was a bright spot in the otherwise forgettable NIT loss to Cal State Bakersfield back in March. He scored 6 points on 3-4 shooting to go with 7 rebounds despite Cuonzo Martin tapping him for only 12 minutes. Welle averaged a double-double as a senior at Aptos High and his defense alone should provide the opportunity to play more than just garbage time.
#15, F Roman Davis (6’7”, 204 lbs.)
The sophomore played just 49 minutes last year, but--you guessed it--he may well occupy a vital role going forward. In high school, he demonstrated inside scoring ability and a good feel for pulling down rebounds. Davis can also run the floor quite well for an athlete of his height.
#12, G Austin McCullough (6’4”, 197 lbs.)
Associate coach Tim O’Toole scouted McCullough in the spring and came away impressed with his stroke. Several of last year’s snipers have departed, and the freshman from Alabama could be a guy who makes the big shot down the road.
#21, G Nick Hamilton (6’3”, 201 lbs.)
Hamilton took a step forward with 36 minutes played last year, and that trend could continue as he enters his senior season. He seems to have gained the trust of coach Jones heading into non-conference play. The former Westchester High standout made his first collegiate three-pointer last campaign in a December 10 victory over UC Davis.
#34, F Grant Anticevich (6’8”, 217 lbs.)
As someone with family ties to Saint Mary’s, I’ve grown to appreciate how many Australian players play fundamentally sound ball. Anticevich enjoyed major secondary school basketball success for Newington College in Sydney where he also was a track star. From the limited video I’ve seen, the freshman has some range from the perimeter. Also of note: Anticevich totaled 175 rebounds during his senior campaign.
#0, G Jacob Orender (6’0”, 175 lbs.)
Orender enters the Cal program as a junior, having already played at Lafayette. His career there spanned just 18 minutes of play, but he transferred to Cal during the spring and is already familiar with the program. A native of Jacksonville, Florida, Orender played point and combo guard as a high school senior. Orender makes up for his lack of natural athleticism with basketball IQ. He averaged 22.6 points per game and was rewarded with a trip to the Pan-Am games, where he represented the National Maccabi Team.
#20, G Derek King (6’3”, 198 lbs.)
King has just one minute of playing time at Cal on his resume, although he gained experience at Foothill Junior College where he averaged 10 points per night. The senior was born in Shanghai, China and hopes to play there professionally after his Golden Bear career.
#13, F Jules Erving (6’6”, 201 lbs.)
At this stage, the freshman walk-on and son of legend Julius “Dr. J” Erving has an unclear role for the upcoming season. Erving’s high school coach insists that he improved more than anybody else in Georgia high school basketball last season. His senior season at Holy Innocents included season averages of 14.6 points, 4.2 rebounds, 1.1 blocks, 1.1 steals, and 0.7 assists.
Here’s my approximation of a depth chart, with parentheses indicating a reserve playing away from his position as designated by Cal Athletics.