Reviewing the 2007-2008 basketball season
GoldenBearSports.com
Staff Writer
Posted Mar 30, 2008


Now that the basketball season has concluded and a coaching change announced it is time to take stock of the program and examine its prospects going forward. While the 2007-08 season was unquestionably a disappointment and resulted in a coaching change, some strides were made on the court that bode well for 2008-09 and beyond.

No column on Cal basketball would be complete without a mention of the coaching issues that have dogged the program recently. Ben Braun was terminated shortly after completing his 12th year at Cal as the program had become stagnant with uncertain hopes of recovery. Most observers felt that the 2007-08 team had the player talent to reach the NCAA tournament but they failed in that endeavor, relegated instead to the NIT where they squeaked by New Mexico only to be summarily dispatched by Ohio State. Athetic Director Sandy Barbour stated that the team simply did not win often enough and terminated Braun in quest of greater success. At the time of this writing the Bears are narrowing the list of potential coaching candidates which includes Washington State coach Tony Bennett, Denver Nuggets Assistant Coach Mike Dunlap, and Nevada coach Mark Fox. Whichever coach is ultimately hired the program is need of a re-branding that motivates top tier recruits to consider Cal as a destination.

The offense was the bright spot as the team was able to put as many as four good offensive players on the court at once and Ryan Anderson led the Pac-10 in scoring. The result was an offense that ranked 14th in the nation in Offensive Efficiency according to Ken Pomeroy’s metrics which is the highest finish for Cal since the metric became available five years ago. It should be noted that even though the Bears ranked 14th nationally this resulted in only a 4th place finish in the Pac-10, a mark of a very tough conference. A 14th ranked offense would have been 2nd best in the Pac-10 last season and no worse than 3rd in the other three season of record. The Bears have a good chance of being the top ranked offensive team this coming season as the three teams ranked above them, UCLA, Oregon, and Arizona, will likely lose their key offensive players.

The starting lineup usually consisted of Jerome Randle, Patrick Christopher, Eric Vierneisel, Ryan Anderson, and Devon Hardin, with Jamal Boykin, Harper Kamp, and Nikola Knezevic as the primary reserves. The chemistry of the group was good as ball distribution (team ranked 2nd in the Pac-10 in assists) reached a level not seen since the trio of Brian Wethers, Joe Shipp, and Amit Tamir led the Bears to the NCAA tournament in 2003. This should only improve as the primary offensive players (Randle, Christopher, Boykin, and Anderson) likely return along with all the reserves. The two incoming freshman, Garrett Sim and D.J. Seeley should also contribute offensively.

The downside of the season was the defense which finished a horrible 149th in Defensive Efficiency, the worst finish for Cal in the last five years. Of the starting lineup only Devon Hardin was an above average defensive player and even he struggled when playing zone defense. Overall the team lacked intensity on the defensive end which was partly a lack of ability but also a lack of commitment to playing a physical game. The Bears put little pressure on the ball which resulted in a Pac-10 worst 4.0 steals per game, nearly half that of the conference leader UCLA, and the worst turnover to assist ratio in the conference as well. The defense should improve with another year of maturity for the players, time in the weight room, and the addition of two guard recruits and the two small forwards who redshirted. Playing with little depth at guard and no true small forwards put the Bears in difficult defensive matchups and forced lineups with limited quickness.

Ken Pom Metrics

Offensive Efficiency

Defensive Efficiency

NCAA

Pac-10

NCAA

Pac-10

2007-2008

14th

4th

149th

9th

2006-2007

53rd

6th

103rd

9th

2005-2006

42nd

5th

58th

6th

2004-2005

167th

9th

121st

7th

2003-2004

121st

6th

79th

3rd

PLAYER CAPSULES

Frontcourt:

Ryan Anderson

Season Averages

SEASON

MIN

PTS

REB

AST

TO

A/T

STL

BLK

PF

FG%

FT%

3P%

PPS

2006-2007

33.1

16.4

8.1

.5

1.4

.34

.6

.6

2.8

.474

.809

.380

1.36

2007-2008

32.8

21.1

9.9

1.4

2.2

.64

.4

.5

2.2

.490

.869

.410

1.49

Review:

Anderson made strides just about everywhere with improved shooting, rebounding, and passing. He was a threat to score from anywhere on the court though most successful when able to catch and shoot. He was bothered by taller and stronger defenders who forced him to alter his release point and bodied him whenever he put the ball on the floor. This was most apparent when facing Stanford and the Lopez twins as well as UCLA with Kevin Love along with several athletic forwards. Anderson does not elevate very well which causes him to pull back on his shots in order to prevent blocks, which leads to fewer fouls and lower productivity against better defenders. Defensively he was improved having spent some time in the weight room but still struggled to hold ground against the larger post players.

Future:

Anderson has received attention from NBA scouts who value his offensive versatility but before he departs it would behoove him to continue to make progress transforming his body. As a high school junior Anderson was quite overweight and not being recruited by the major conference schools. Through diligent work with a trainer he lost over 30 pounds but he still needs time to create an NBA-level body that will allow him to stay with top level athletes. With another year he should be closer to this goal.

Devon Hardin

Season Averages

SEASON

MIN

PTS

REB

AST

TO

A/T

STL

BLK

PF

FG%

FT%

3P%

PPS

2004-2005

16.1

4.3

4.5

.1

.3

.30

.4

.9

2.3

.505

.386

.000

1.22

2005-2006

23.5

7.3

6.6

.5

1.2

.46

.4

1.5

3.0

.497

.625

.000

1.32

2006-2007

26.6

10.3

8.3

.5

2.3

.22

.4

1.9

3.3

.478

.818

.000

1.35

2007-2008

23.8

9.3

7.4

.7

1.4

.47

.6

1.2

2.5

.554

.636

.000

1.58

Review:

There were high expectations for Hardin coming into the season as he was a senior and fully recovered from his foot injury that caused him to miss 20 games the prior season. The outcome was an inconsistent player who definitely had worked on his offensive post skills but did not always utilize them. His face up shooting was also improved but as the team’s 4th or 5th best offensive option he was seldom called upon to create a shot. Defensively Hardin displayed excellent athleticism, frustrating some of the best players in the country, but sometimes struggled with team- oriented defense (staying in position) and foul trouble.

Future:

The NBA is definitely in Hardin’s future and his game may be better suited for the one -on-one nature of the pro game where size and athleticism plays a dominant role. His offensive game is still at a point where first round draft status is questionable and he will have to perform very well in workouts to secure guaranteed money.

Jamal Boykin

Season Averages

SEASON

MIN

PTS

REB

AST

TO

A/T

STL

BLK

PF

FG%

FT%

3P%

PPS

2005-2006

2.7

1.0

.8

.1

.3

.29

.1

.2

.6

.471

.900

.000

1.47

2006-2007

10.0

1.3

4.0

.0

.3

.00

.7

1.0

1.7

1.000

.000

.000

2.00

2007-2008

19.4

7.8

3.8

1.2

1.4

.83

.3

.2

2.2

.506

.778

.467

1.23

Review:

Boykin established himself as a strong offensive force with shooting range out to the 3-point line and an ability to put the ball on the floor as well as post up smaller players. He also brings energy and intensity to the game that an otherwise mellow group seems to need. Defense is more of a challenge for Boykin as his lateral mobility is best suited for guarding power forwards yet his body makes him a "tweener". His defensive rebounding is in need of improvement as too often he was caught standing and watching instead of blocking out.

Future:

Boykin received his first extensive playing time this past season after playing sparingly at Duke due to being buried on the bench and then illness. His offensive ability improved as the season progressed but his defensive shortcomings were apparent up until the end. While Boykin may never become a stellar defender it will help to have options at the small forward position next season so that Boykin is not faced with guarding quick opponents.

Harper Kamp

Season Averages

SEASON

MIN

PTS

REB

AST

TO

A/T

STL

BLK

PF

FG%

FT%

3P%

PPS

2007-2008

12.9

4.4

2.5

1.0

.8

1.27

.4

.2

2.2

.491

.729

.375

1.33

Review:

Kamp did not come to Cal as a high profile recruit but he quickly established himself as primary reserve at the power forward position. His relatively advanced ball skills and mature body made him a physical presence in the block, allowing Ryan Anderson or Devon Hardin some time on the bench. Kamp definitely has an idea with the ball and above average scoring skills but his lack of height and limited vertical leap created problems for him when faced with taller defenders. Defensively he made good use of his strong body but too often overplayed his man leading to unnecessary fouls.

Future:

Kamp has good potential but he needs to find a way to score against taller players inside. Since he is unlikely to gain much height or vertical leap creating space with his body a la Jon Brockman would seem to be his best bet. Also developing a more consistent mid-range shooter would provide him with more options. Defensively he is similar to Boykin in that he has trouble with quicker players and would do better to match up with larger forwards.

Jordan Wilkes

Season Averages

SEASON

MIN

PTS

REB

AST

TO

A/T

STL

BLK

PF

FG%

FT%

3P%

PPS

2005-2006

7.7

2.1

1.1

.2

.3

.83

.1

.2

1.0

.383

.700

.500

.94

2006-2007

Did not play.

2007-2008

6.7

1.7

1.2

.6

.3

1.88

.1

.0

.8

.545

.500

.364

1.30

Review:

The 7-foot son of Jamaal Wilkes is a skilled player for his size but still has limited ways to score as his limited strength and athleticism prevent him from obtaining good position inside. A good perimeter shooter for a post player, over one third of his shots came from behind the arc and usually came unguarded. Defensively he was most effective in relief against taller opponents such as the Lopez twins. When there is no good physical match for him on the court he is best served by zone defense.

Future:

Wilkes has excellent length and is a good passer and shooter with high basketball IQ. In order to earn more time on the floor he needs to improve his physical abilities, most likely his strength. If he can provide a more physical presence in the post he might become an asset defensively and in rebounding, as well as being able to add opportunistic points. Given he has two more seasons of eligibility the chances of a Solomon Hughes-like breakthrough appear good.

Theo Robertson

Season Averages
SEASON

MIN

PTS

REB

AST

TO

A/T

STL

BLK

PF

FG%

FT%

3P%

PPS

2005-2006

22.5

6.0

2.5

1.3

1.1

1.22

.6

.0

2.1

.467

.778

.407

1.48

2006-2007

31.7

8.6

4.4

2.2

1.7

1.29

.8

.3

2.6

.439

.770

.356

1.23

2007-2008

Did not play.

Review:

Robertson did not play in 2007-08 as he needed half the season to recover from off-season surgery to repair a microfracture in his hip. The Bears missed his defense and perimeter shooting as there was no other true small forward available.

Future:

Robertson should play a key role for the Bears in 2008-09 as the starting amall forward. This should help plug the Bears’ porous defense an add another scoring threat and floor leader.

Taylor Harrison

Season Averages
SEASON

MIN

PTS

REB

AST

TO

A/T

STL

BLK

PF

FG%

FT%

3P%

PPS

2006-2007

7.4

.7

1.3

.1

.3

.30

.1

.1

1.4

.296

.583

.000

.85

2007-2008

Did not play

Review:

Harrison used his redshirt for the 2007-08 season as he was recovering from off-season knee surgery and the Bears were deep in post players.

Future:

Harrison played as a reserve in 2006-07, his true freshman season, and displayed limited ball skills. On the positive side he plays very physically, something the Bears could use, to the point of drawing punches from opposing players. He should return healthy for 2008-09 and hopefully has improved his offensive skills, otherwise he will have a hard time taking minutes away from Anderson, Boykin, Wilkes, and Zhang.

Max Zhang

Zhang did not play in 2007-08 as the Bears had little time for another post player and Zhang was in need of additional physical development to compete at the Pac-10 level. His height (7’2") should be an asset and he appears to have good athleticism for such a tall man. He came in quite thin weighing about 220lb and will probably need at least one more year of training before he is ready to make a contribution on the floor.

Omondi Amoke

Amoke did not play in 2007-08 as he needed surgery on his calf to correct a vascular problem. He will add another option at Small Forward for the Bears. In high school his was reputed as a very athletic player with good offensive skills.

Backcourt

Patrick Christopher

Season Averages

SEASON

MIN

PTS

REB

AST

TO

A/T

STL

BLK

PF

FG%

FT%

3P%

PPS

2006-2007

19.4

5.1

2.4

.9

1.0

.89

.2

.2

2.0

.458

.692

.333

1.12

2007-2008

35.2

15.2

3.6

2.0

2.0

1.00

.5

.1

2.2

.456

.796

.333

1.22

Review:

Christopher was undoubtedly the most improved player on the team, going from a player that opponents often did not guard to the second highest scorer. Offensively Christopher was not shy about owning the ball whether it be slashing to the hoop, posting up, or letting a three point shot fly. He does need to improve his consistency as he disappeared at times against more athletic defenders and a 33.3% FG percentage from behind the arc is low for a shooting guard. Defensively he did not live up to his athleticism often slow to switch off screens and played with less than optimal intensity.

Future:

Christopher has NBA-level potential at the offensive end but he must become a much more consistent shooter in order to complete his offensive repertoire. Without the consistent perimeter shot defenders will be able to cheat off him enough to limit his effectiveness. Defensively Christopher would seem to have the ability to be at least average but it takes commitment to the less than glamorous task.

Jerome Randle

Season Averages
SEASON

MIN

PTS

REB

AST

TO

A/T

STL

BLK

PF

FG%

FT%

3P%

PPS

2006-2007

17.9

6.7

1.5

2.8

1.7

1.64

.5

.0

1.5

.383

.823

.315

1.18

2007-2008

32.3

11.8

2.5

3.7

3.0

1.25

.8

.0

2.0

.428

.870

.397

1.27

Review:

When the ball was in Randle’s hands something was bound to happen, the problem was it wasn’t always good. Best on the fast break with the ball in his hands, Randle is one of the fastest players around but limited to the half court. He often became a spot up shooter rather than a penetrator. Randle made some improvement in the distribution of the ball inside but he remained turnover prone all season.

Future:

Randle has the tools to be a very effective offensive player. His shooting is very good and his speed is hard to contain. The barrier he faces is having the sense to push the ball only when appropriate and play under control. Hopefully this will happen with another year of experience and maturity. Defensively Randle needs to apply his speed and quickness to pressuring defenders. Otherwise he is too short to be much of an obstacle to the Pac-10’s many good outside shooters.

Nikola Knezevic

Season Averages

SEASON

MIN

PTS

REB

AST

TO

A/T

STL

BLK

PF

FG%

FT%

3P%

PPS

2005-2006

7.2

1.0

.4

.7

.8

.88

.4

.0

.9

.227

.571

.182

.91

2006-2007

Did not play.

2007-2008

19.2

2.6

1.2

2.1

1.2

1.70

.6

.0

1.6

.315

.633

.200

.97

Review:

Knezevic has defied the Euro guard stereotype as his strength has been in his defensive play rather than his shooting. He did improve his shooting somewhat but only because the previous results were truly miserable. He looks to be working on his shooting mechanics, something that often takes more than a season until the motion feels natural. Defensively Knezevic was usually asked to guard the opponent’s best guard and while not a "lock down" defender he fared much better than his teammates. He is willing to play physically and gains good position.

Future:

Knezevic’s career will depend on his ability to become at least a passable outside shooter. Currently defenders almost dare him to shoot behind the arc and the sagging defense hurts the entire team. If defenders were forced to play his outside shot then his good interior passing would be more of an asset. If his shot does not develop he will continue to provide minutes in relief or to slow down the tougher defensive matchups.

Eric Vierneisel

Season Averages

SEASON

MIN

PTS

REB

AST

TO

A/T

STL

BLK

PF

FG%

FT%

3P%

PPS

2004-2005

12.8

3.5

1.3

.8

.6

1.50

.2

.2

1.3

.377

.688

.333

1.13

2005-2006

7.8

1.5

.9

.5

.6

.71

.2

.1

.8

.429

.875

.154

1.18

2006-2007

13.2

4.2

1.4

.8

1.0

.78

.4

.1

2.0

.402

.654

.388

1.19

2007-2008

24.0

5.1

2.6

2.3

1.2

1.89

.6

.3

2.8

.368

.731

.298

1.20

Review:

Vierneisel had his best season as a Golden Bear improving his outside shot (though his consistency was still lacking) and showing more confidence in a nascent slashing game. Due to the lack of any healthy small forward on the team Vierneisel ended up guarding quick players and usually held his own with a more physical brand of defense than had been seen from him in the past. Overall Vierneisel’s career at Cal did not live up to expectations as he never became the deadly outside shooter some hoped for. The ability was there but he never developed enough confidence in his game to become a consistent offensive threat.

Future:

Vierneisel’s career at Cal is now over. He will likely end up playing overseas.


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