Cal Basketball: Bears Hoping an Offseason, Depth and Balance Will Provide a Boost – CalBearsMaven - Techy Hunters

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Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Cal Basketball: Bears Hoping an Offseason, Depth and Balance Will Provide a Boost – CalBearsMaven

It goes without saying that the Cal basketball team, which began practice on Sunday, expects to be better than a year ago. The bar is not real high.

Cal was 9-20 a year ago — its third 20-loss season in a span of four seasons, during which time the Bears are 39-85 overall and 15-49 in Pac-12 play.

This team doesn’t need to shoulder blame for all that failure, nor does coach Mark Fox, beginning his third season and coming off Year 2 during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, when restrictions made progress virtually impossible.

While Cal is almost certain to be picked last in the Pac-12 by nearly every outlet, Fox draws encouragement from the altered landscape, allowing for a more normal offseason, as he discusses in this video:

“What’s evident with this group, first of all, is physically we look entirely different,” Fox said. “Our conditioning level and functional ability as athletes, it’s all greater than it was a year ago because they’ve been able to have a true offseason.”

Beyond that, Cal has a deeper team, with 15 scholarship players on a roster that was able to expand as the result of an NCAA rule change in the wake of the pandemic.

Grad transfer guard Jordan Shepherd has been impressed, and he played on an Oklahoma team with Trae Young in in 2017-18 before transferring to Charlotte. Shepherd averaged 13.0 points in two seasons at Charlotte with 39 double-digit scoring games.

“To be honest, I see a lot of potential, a lot of talent and a lot of athleticism,” Shepherd said in the video above. “Right now we’re working on putting all that together to have a successful team, which I think we will.”

Of course, the Bears are moving forward without Matt Bradley, their leading scorer the past two seasons. After scoring 18.0 points per game in 2020-21, Bradley transferred to San Diego State, leaving Cal without a player who averaged more than Andre Kelly’s 10.3 points per game.

“We want to be a balanced offensive team,” Fox said. “I think we have a group that is excited about playing with one another. We need to have scoring balance to be successful.”

Cal got glimpses of life without Bradley a year ago, when he missed seven games during two different stretches. Curiously, the Bears were 4-3 without him (5-17 with him) and they scored more (70 points per game) in those seven games than in the other 22 outings (64 ppg).

They did it not because one player jumped up and took over the scoring load but because eight different scored in double digits during those seven games.

“I think balance will be good for us this year.” said fifth-year senior guard Makale Foreman (above), who averaged 7.2 points last season after previous stops at Chattanooga and Stony Brook. “We’re a deep team and I think everybody can contribute to us.”

Certainly Cal needs to take major strides in all areas — including rebounding, defense and turnovers. But the Bears’ offensive production was nowhere near good enough: They were last in the Pac-12 in scoring (65.4 points per game) and were among the league’s bottom three in every shooting category — field goal, 3-point and free throw accuracy.

Whether a go-to player emerges from this team remains to be seen. And who will take that big shot at the end of a close game? We don’t know that.

But Fox is banking on the sum of the parts he now has being greater than what any single player can provide.

“Obviously, our returning guys like Grant (Anticevich) and Andre (Kelly) need to be productive,” he said. “But this needs to be an offensive group that helps each other and works together on that end of the floor. If we can develop that, then I think we’ll get scoring from a number of places.”

CAL’S SEASON OPENER: The Bears plays L.A. State in a Nov. 1 exhibition at Haas Pavilion, then open the regular season at home against UC San Diego on Nov. 9.

2021-22 CAL SCHOLARSHIP ROSTER

Seniors

Forward Grant Anticevich, 6-9, 230

Forward Andre Kelly, 6-9, 255

Guard Makale Foreman, 6-1, 185

Guard Jordan Shepherd, 6-4, 190

Juniors

Guard Joel Brown, 6-3, 192

Guard Jarred Hyder, 6-3, 185

Forward Kuony Kuany, 6-9, 194

Center Lars Thiemann, 7-1, 255

Forward D.J. Thorpe, 6-9, 235

Guard Dimitrios Klonaras, 6-6, 215

Sophomores

Forward Monty Bowser, 6-7, 185

Guard Jalen Celestine, 6-7, 220

Freshmen

Guard Marsalis Roberson, 6-6, 190

Forward Obinna Anyanwu, 6-7, 220

Forward Sam Alajiki, 6-7, 225

Cover photo of Cal coach Mark Fox by D. Ross Cameron, USA Today

Follow Jeff Faraudo of Cal Sports Report on Twitter: @jefffaraudo



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