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Golden Nuggets: NSD Reaction, WBB Awaits UConn

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How Cal Basketball literally saved a former Cal manager’s life...

Colorado v California Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Football

  • All your favorite Cal sites have their takes on National Signing Day:
  • Golden Bear Report’s Nam Le:

Giving the staff some credit, though, we should acknowledge that they did their best to fill immediate areas of need, in attempt to prevent a possible backslide in 2019. To have won 7 games in the first place required trends that may not necessarily be sustainable -- capitalizing on turnover luck, outperforming our not great yard per play margin and such -- and the coaches recognized that counting on returning talent alone isn’t enough to prevent that.

So they went out and grabbed a new quarterback in Devon Modster, three wide receivers who are transfers or JUCOs, a JUCO running back, and a JUCO do-everything linebacker to help ease the losses of, well...some of the team’s best players: Patrick Laird, Jordan Kunaszyk, Vic Wharton.

Can’t fault their thinking. Just have to make sure that this isn’t a long-term requirement. Few programs can truly replenish themselves from the JUCO ranks alone.

The class of 2019 in the Bay Area was pretty stacked, but the Bears didn’t really get in on those recruits. Wide receiver Makai Polk is a nice pick-up — he’s currently a senior at El Cerrito — Cal missed out on a ton of other local guys who seemed to be high on Cal but ultimately went elsewhere.

“No rhyme or reason to that; we recruit locally,” Wilcox said. “This year, it didn’t turn out that way for one reason or another. ... Year to year those things change based on that senior class, and it just happened to come out that way this year.”

That being said, the Bears found a lot of solid talent in Arizona and Texas. Special teams coordinator Charlie Ragle used to coach high school football in Arizona, and his ties to the area are beyond evident. Cal found a quarterback (Brasch), running back (DeCarlos Brooks), an offensive lineman (Brayden Rohme), a defensive lineman (Brett Johnson) and a linebacker (Ryan Puskas) in the state, and they’ve all got tremendous potential.

Interestingly, a lot of Cal’s current top guys on defense are from the Lone Star State — Cameron Goode, Alex Funches, Tevin Paul, Joey Ogunbanjo and Josh Drayden. This recruiting cycle, the Bears brought in two linebackers from the state (Myles Jernigan and Curley Young) as well as two defensive backs (Craig Woodson and Miles Williams).

A pair of transfer juniors-to-be, Trevon Clark of El Camino JC and Kekoa Crawford, formerly of Michigan, headline a group of four wide receivers in the Bears’ 25-player recruiting class.

“We were looking at how do we create some more explosive plays on offense?” coach Justin Wilcox said. “We felt like it was something we needed to address and we felt like we did.

“You see it on the tape. They have demonstrated an ability to make some of those plays. We knew we had to add that. The work starts now.”

The recruiting class is balanced with 12 offensive players and 13 defensive players and is infused players from winning programs. The crop has played in eight state championships, nine of the players won at least one league title, and 12 of the recruits combined to play on 20 teams that recorded double-digit wins.

Six players from the class will be mid-year enrollees, joining the Bears in January and available to participate in “spring drills” starting in late February. The best of the bunch is linebacker Kuony Deng, the crop’s only four-star-rated player.

“The height, weight, athleticism and body type all jump out,” Wilcox said. “Just walking on the field and seeing him do some drills, and it’s pretty evident why so many people were recruiting him. He’s a very talented athlete. He’s still a young football player, but that size and agility is pretty unique.

  • Find out why Kuony Deng, a highly ranked JUCO prospect and Sudan native, chose the Bears over a bunch of other good choices.

“It was also the people; the people here are great,” said Deng, who had offers from schools all around the country. “It’s obviously one of the best schools, not only in the country, but in the world. So it’s the best opportunity for education.

”People thought it wasn’t a football decision,” Deng added. “But, it was. I’m enjoying one of the best defenses in the country and have all of the opportunities in front of me to accomplish the things that I want to here.”

  • Patrick Laird is ready for the Cheez-It Bowl!

Basketball

It’s easy enough to suggest [playing UConn], be careful what you ask for. The Bears lost 82-47 to UConn in Storrs, Connecticut, last season. They are 1-4 all-time vs. the Huskies, with a 1991 victory in the only other game played at Berkeley, and losses by an average of nearly 38 points in the other four games.

But Gottlieb knew what she was getting into when she agreed to the series, which continues next season at UConn. She liked the idea that front court star Kristine Anigwe and guards Asha Thomas and Mo Mosley would be juniors, then seniors for these first two games.

Anigwe, who needs six rebounds Saturday to reach 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds for her career, had 14 and nine when the teams played a year ago. That game was held on Nov. 17, just the Bears’ second outing of the season.

“This year we’ve had time to learn about ourselves individually, what we bring to the team, and collectively as a unit,” Anigwe said. “We understand our weaknesses and our strengths. I think we’re ready for this game.”

  • Mi’Cole Cayton had missed a few games after making a return early in the season. Unfortunately the Bears confirmed she will not be back this season. Hopefully this new surgery will be her last and she can resume her career as a Bear in 2019.
  • Former Cal Men’s Basketball team manager Greg Calvelo gave a lot to the Bears, and now the Bears saved his life. He had a heart attack while partying before the Cal FB vs. UNC game and it was a crew of MBB staff members who helped save him.

Misc.

  • The Women’s Water Polo schedule is out. Be there for the season opening Cal Cup at Speiker on January 26-27. The most notable home game will be against defending champs USC on April 6.
  • Men’s Gymnastics’ Mitchell Awisus was the Cal representative at the Pac-12 Student-Athlete Leadership Team (SALT) conference. Find out about his experiences.

Beat the Huskies!