Cal Basketball Inks Top 10 Recruiting Class
Nov. 8, 2000
BERKELEY - Cal head coach Ben Braun announced Wednesday the signing of three premier prep basketball players to National Letters of Intent. The highly acclaimed trio will enroll at Cal next fall and start playing in the 2001-02 season.
In signing center Jamal Sampson, forward Julian Sensley and guard Erik Bond, the Bears have what is considered by most recruiting experts as a national Top 10 class.
'This is high caliber group of basketball players, some of the very best in the country, and adding this class to our current foundation we have built will help us achieve the high goals we have set,' said Cal head coach Ben Braun. 'The other thing that stands out is that they are not just talented, but they've all played on teams that have been extremely successful. They're used to winning and that type of attitude is contagious. Truly, it's an exciting time for Cal basketball.'
All three players have established superb reputations and had their choices of virtually any school in the country.
Sensley, a 6-9, 230-pound forward originally from Kailua, Hawaii, is in his second year at St. Thomas More School in Oakdale, Conn. The No. 6 recruit in the country according ESPN.com, Sensley is the highest rated recruit that Braun has signed at Cal. He committed to Cal more than a year ago and honored that commitment on Wednesday.
In addition to ESPN.com, other Sensley rankings include: No. 17 overall by Rivals.com, No. 20 overall by The Sporting News, No. 12 overall by PrepStars and the No. 1 small forward in the country by Athlon magazine.
'Julian can play anywhere on the basketball court, whether it be guard, wing, small forward or power forward - he's that versatile,' said Braun. 'He's a special talent, a guy who plays unselfishly and makes players around him better. As an offensive threat, there aren't many like him. He's got great range for a guy his size, but he also has the ability to blow by you off the dribble and finish in the lane or at the basket. The thing that separates him is that he's got such a good feel for the game, finding people and making the right pass at the right time.'
Nicknamed 'The Jewel,' Sensley averaged 16 ppg and 8 rpg last year at St. Thomas More, leading the team to the New England Prep School Athletic Conference's Class A championship. He also has drawn major accolades on the AAU summer circuit, recently earning MVP honors and the Kobe Bryant Pro Prospect Award at the prestigious Gym Rats Midnight Madness event, which features many of the top prep players in the country.
Before moving to the East Coast, he averaged 20 ppg and 13 rpg in 1998-99 to earn all-state honors at Kalaheo High School in Hawaii.
Sampson, a 6-11, 240-pound center, attends Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana. A second cousin of former NBA star Ralph Sampson, he averaged 13.7 ppg and 10.6 rpg while blocking 147 shots last year, helping Mater Dei to a 34-2 record, the semifinals of the California state tournament and a No. 17 national ranking by USA Today.
Foxsports.com puts Sampson as the nation's No. 15 recruit, while Rivals.com has him as the No. 25 recruit overall and the No. 1 center on the West Coast. Other rankings include: No. 26 overall by The Sporting News and No. 36 overall by PrepStars.
'Jamal is a legitimate post player who has the agility and ability to run the court that you rarely find in a guy his size,' said Braun. 'He's an athlete who can really affect the game from either the offensive or defensive side. He can finish inside on offense and he changes shots on the defensive end. The thing that's scary about Jamal is that he has only begun to tap into his potential. He's still growing physically and as a player. We expect he'll be a huge factor for us in his college career.'
Sampson chose Cal after considering such schools as St. Louis, Connecticut, UCLA and Kansas.
Bond is a 6-7, 195-pound wing from Seattle, who was widely considered to be the best prep player in the state of Washington.
A fluid player who has a superior perimeter game, he also excels attacking the basket with a 37-inch vertical leap. He was named the Washington state 3A Player of the Year as a junior last season after leading Seattle Prep to the state championship. He averaged 20.8 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists. During the playoffs, he increased his scoring to 22.5 points a game and was named the state tournament's Most Valuable Player.
Bond will give Cal a great outside threat as he shot 46 percent from three-point range last season. He also has some solid growth potential as his father, Jay Bond, is 6-10 and played at Washington from 1968-70. Bond had offers from schools all over the country, but finally chose Cal after narrowing his choices to Washington, Oregon and Gonzaga.
Bond indicated joining Cal's illustrious group of recruits was a big incentive for choosing the Golden Bears. 'I really saw Cal as the school with the biggest upside,' Bond said. 'I think they have a real good chance to be really scary real soon, and I definitely wanted to be part of that.'
Bond was rated as No. 3 small forward on West Coast by Rivals.com, and Braun believes he'll have an equal opportunity to make an impact as the other members of this recruiting class.
'Erik has such a great sense of what's happening on the basketball court,' said Braun. 'He knows when to unload the ball, when to shoot, spacing, all the types of things that make a team better. He's tough to defend because he'll knock down the three, pull up for a mid-range jumper and explode to the basket and use his great jumping ability. He's a dedicated player who will help us in many different ways.'