Key Losses: F Dominic McGuire (7.2 ppg, 4.9 rpg), F David Paris (7.2 ppg, 3.6 rpg)
Oakland, CA/Medical Redshirt 2004-05
Portland, OR/Medical Redshirt 2004-05
Concord, CA/De La Salle
Los Angeles, CA/Loyola
Los Angeles, CA/Transfer from Kansas
The Wilkes brothers should both make an immediate contribution. Jordan, a freshman, should add quality depth to a strong frontcourt, while Omar, who transferred to Cal after one season at Kansas, will add athleticism to the backcourt. Robertson is more of a project and not much will be expected from the De La Salle product right away.
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Leon Powe knows one thing that won't happen to the Cal basketball team this season, with "Powe the Show" returning to man the paint in Berkeley.
"We aren't going to get outmuscled," says the 6-foot-8, 245-pound Oakland native, who returns to action after being granted a medical redshirt for the 2004-05 season.
"We are going to pride ourselves on rebounding, and we will match up well with anyone. We will have the size in the frontcourt to get all the rebounds," Powe says.
It will be a totally new look from a squad that appeared disinterested at times down the stretch a year ago when the Bears fell to 13-16 overall and 6-12 in the Pac-10, coach Ben Braun's worst season at Cal.
Powe, the Pac-10 Freshman of the Year in 2003-04, maintains that he is 100 percent after undergoing a series of knee operations to repair his troublesome left knee. "Leon is going to be more agile and more difficult to defend," Braun says. "You are going to see his toughness, but you also are going to see an improved shooting range and more mobility."
Powe will join senior center Rod Benson on what should be one of the Pac-10's top frontlines. Benson was perhaps the most improved player in the nation last season, leading the Bears in both scoring (13.3) and rebounding (6.3) after averaging 2.6 points and 1.7 rebounds, respectively, as a sophomore. But Braun says Benson needs to get it done on the other end of the floor as well.
"Rod proved last season that he can be a post scorer," Braun said. "But I would like to see him assert himself on defense like the Rod Benson of old. We needed him in the game so much last season that he started to worry about fouls, and he stopped being aggressive on defense."
DeVon Hardin will be mixed into the frontcourt to play alongside either Benson or Powe. Cal also expects an immediate contribution from freshman center Jordan Wilkes, who will join his brother, Omar, a transfer from Kansas. The two have a distinguished West Coast basketball pedigree, as their father is former UCLA and Los Angeles Lakers standout Jamaal Wilkes.
"[Jordan] is the most skilled freshman big man we have had in terms of passing and shooting, and as a ball-handler," Braun says.
Highflying small forward Marquise Kately regressed a bit after a fabulous freshman season. His scoring dropped only moderately (from 10.5 to 9.3), but his field goal percentage suffered significantly -- 53.5 percent as a freshman to 44.5 as a sophomore.
Eric Vierneisel will be counted on to provide some long-range shooting off the bench.
A huge key to Cal's season will be the continued development of point guard Ayinde Ubaka, who struggled through an injury-plagued sophomore season.
"He had that broken foot and that was too bad because he was playing some very good basketball," Braun says. "His challenge will be to get back to that level. When he came back last season, he was playing sore, so it's going to be great for him to get a summer under his belt."
Braun has some flexibility in the backcourt thanks to the versatility of senior Richard Midgley, who can play major minutes at either guard spot.
Omar Wilkes, who sat out last season, is an athletic swingman who will play a key role in the Bears' attack. "Omar can stop and pull up on a dime," Braun says. "He's got a great mid-range game and now he has had a year with our team under his belt. He is a competitor and he is very explosive. He can attack on the run and he's great in transition."
Old faithful Martin Smith, a senior, will try to squeeze out some minutes. He is a former walk-on who earned a scholarship after picking up 113 assists to just 58 turnovers last season.
Cal could be the most improved team in what should be a much-improved Pac-10. After sending four teams to the NCAA tournament in 2004-05, the league could earn as many as six spots this season.
Provided Powe makes a healthy return, Cal should be in contention for a return to the NCAA tournament after missing out on the fun the past two seasons.