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2019-20 Cal MBB: The Freshmen

What can fans expect from the first-year players?

Mark Fox has some interesting freshmen to deploy.
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

It has been a tumultuous offseason for the California Golden Bears men’s basketball program. Coaching changes, multiple transfers out, and an array of signings have resulted in a very different landscape. In part one of a summer series, I examine the freshmen who will take the Haas Pavilion court during games for the very first time this coming October.

#25 Logan Alters

Position: Guard

High School: NSU University School (Fort Lauderdale, FL)

Hometown: Fort Lauderdale, FL

The preferred walk-on could have value if his perimeter shooting gains consistency but projects as a depth guard on a team that should feature Paris Austin and Kareem South in the starting lineup. The 6’1” Alters stated that he wants to focus on ball control to improve his overall game.

#1 Joel Brown

Position: Guard

High School: Brewster Academy (Wolfeboro, NH)

Hometown: Brampton, Ontario, Canada

Brown liked the idea of playing in the Pac-12 for such a respected institution, and I have to say that he possesses fine taste. Even better, he gives Mark Fox another option at point guard as we head into Austin’s senior season. Brown is around 6’0” but should be a reliable ball handler who can also chip in with some secondary scoring. There’s certainly reason for optimism about how he’ll develop and his court vision is a definite asset.

#34 Dimitris Klonaras

Position: Guard

Club Team: PAOK BC

Hometown: Thessaloniki, Greece

It’s not difficult to envision Klonaras as a solid rotation player. At 6’6”, he has good size and speed for a combo guard. Klonaras also prioritizes defense which should endear him to the coaching staff. Matt Bradley and Juhwan Harris-Dyson may be ahead of him on the depth chart, but the offensive game has shown enough polish for Klonaras to compete for a spot.

#12 Kuany Kuany

Position: Forward

High School: Prolific Prep (Napa, CA)

Hometown: Melbourne, Australia

I don’t know any of these players personally, but it’s probably safe to say that Kuany wins the most interesting life story award among the 2019 recruiting class. I love the fact that he participated in the Helping Hoops basketball charity during his time in Melbourne despite spending his early years half a world away in South Sudan. On the court, Kuany’s 6’10” frame should help him rank among the team’s top shot blockers, at least in time.

#21 Lars Thiemann

Position: Forward/Center

Club Team: Bayer Giants Leverkusen

Hometown: Leverkusen, Germany

Let’s start with this: standing at nearly seven feet tall, Thiemann is the only roster player even designated as a center. In the game referenced above, he exploded for 18 points and 11 rebounds on an under-19 squad. What’s more, Thiemann has also played against older men in Germany, albeit during limited minutes. That doesn’t guarantee him a starting role but should bode well for his medium-term contribution levels. I refuse to sell him as the second coming of Dirk Nowitzki, but Thiemann appears fundamentally sound enough to occupy the post before long.

#33 D.J. Thorpe

Position: Forward

High School: Lake Travis HS (Lake Travis, TX)

Hometown: Austin, TX

Thorpe is an athletic 6’7” wing who gained some fame in the Austin area for breaking a rim while dunking. Of course, his father is former Houston Rocket Otis Thorpe so he was already in the spotlight in the first place. I am optimistic about his future with the Cal program but his ceiling in 2019-20 is probably as a Sixth Man. That’s still a pretty valuable role if he manages to seize it. I should note that Thorpe injured his ankle back in November, but he is expected to be ready for the 2019-20 season.