SI's 2009 Top 20 Scouting Reports
This article appears in the November 23, 2009 issue of Sports Illustrated
When Patrick Christopher decided last April not to declare for the NBA draft, he called Jerome Randle, his backcourtmate at Cal, and arranged to meet him at a Bay Area restaurant. "He was excited when I told him," Christopher says of returning for his senior season. "We came in together as freshmen and have always wanted to get to the point where expectations were [high]."
The two Golden Bears got what they wished for after their team jumped from ninth in the Pac-10 in 2007-08 to a third-place tie and an NCAA tournament berth last season under first-year coach Mike Montgomery. Now Cal and Washington are the co-favorites to win the conference.
Christopher, who developed into one of the Pac-10's best defenders, and Randle, a point guard who led the league in assists (5.0 per game), averaged 32.8 points between them and were All-Pac-10 selections. Overall, the team's strengths are experience (four senior starters total) and three-point shooting. Swingman Theo Robertson shot 48.7% from beyond the arc last season, and as a team the Bears hit a nation's-best 42.7%.
The lack of an inside game is the main sore point. "We're not very big," says Montgomery. "We don't have a shot blocker or someone who can really clean the glass." The Bears, who ranked sixth in the league in defensive field goal percentage (44.2%) and eighth in scoring defense (allowing 69.2 points per game), need Harper Kamp, a junior best suited to run the high-post sets Montgomery favors, to bounce back quickly from off-season arthroscopic knee surgery.
They also need more consistency from Christopher, who shot 21.7% from
three-point range in Cal's 11 losses and 50.0% in their 22 wins. "When we lost
at USC, I struggled [four points]; when we played them at home, I had one of my
best games, with 29 points," he says. "What would have happened had I played the
whole season like I did against USC at home? We have to seize the moment."
Issue date: November 23, 2009
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