Bears Open Season at New Mexico Saturday
Nov. 19, 2002
California Golden Bears at New Mexico Lobos
Saturday, Nov. 23, 8 p.m. MT / 7 p.m. PT, The Pit, Albuquerque, NM
TV: KRON TV (Channel 4)
Radio: KFRC Radio (610 AM)
A Quick Look at the Golden Bears
With its sights ultimately set on a fifth consecutive postseason trip in March, Cal begins the 2002-03 season on the road this week, opening the year at New Mexico Saturday night.
The Bears, who have participated in two NITs and two NCAA Tournaments in the past four seasons, return eight lettermen, including two starters, from their 2001-02 squad that finished 23-9 overall, tied for second place in the Pac-10 (12-6) and reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Seniors Joe Shipp and Brian Wethers, Cal's top two scorers a year ago, lead the group. Shipp, a 6-5 forward who averaged a team-high 14.8 ppg, is also the Bears' leading returning rebounder (4.7 rpg), shot blocker (18) and assist man (53).
At the opposite wing, the 6-5 Wethers is back for his final campaign after pouring in 10.3 ppg last season. He was especially strong down the stretch in '02, pouring in 22 points vs. Arizona in the Pac-10 Tournament and 19 more against Penn in the NCAA first round.
Both players appeared in good form during Cal's two exhibition games. Shipp had 17 points vs. the California All-Stars and 24 more against EA Sports, while Wethers, who sat out the All-Stars contest with tendinitis in a knee, came through with 16 points on 7-of-10 shooting from the floor vs. EA Sports.
Up front, 6-11 sophomore Amit Tamir provides a versatile threat with his inside-outside ability. The Israeli averaged 9.9 ppg last season, making 25 three-pointers along the way and scorching the nets for 39 points in a double-overtime win over Oregon in February.
Tamir will receive help underneath from 6-11 sophomore Gabriel Hughes, who finished with six points and three rebounds in nine minutes vs. EA Sports, proving that he is well on his way to recovery from a herniated disk in his back.
At the point, junior A.J. Diggs and freshman Richard Midgley will share duties. Diggs, the preseason Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year as chosen by Athlon magazine, paced the Bears with 47 steals last season, while Midgley showed off his ability with 20 points against the California All-Stars.
Golden Bear Notes
A Look Back: Cal Tops UNM, 71-62, Last Season
Seniors Dennis Gates and Solomon Hughes both scored then-career highs to lead Cal to a 71-62 comeback victory over New Mexico last Nov. 28 in Haas Pavilion. Gates came off the bench for 16 points and four steals, while Hughes totaled 17 points and six rebounds. New Mexico scored the game's first seven points and remained on top the entire first half, entering the locker room with a 30-29 edge. After spotting the Lobos a 35-29 lead early in the second period, the Bears went on a 20-2 run to go up, 49-37, with 12:32 left.
Bears Tabbed 5th in Pac-10 Media Poll
California was picked to finish fifth in the Pac-10 in a preseason vote of West Coast media. A year ago, the Bears were also predicted to claim the fifth position, but went on to tie for second place in the league.
Bears Seek Fifth Straight Opening Win
Cal enters Saturday's New Mexico game seeking its fifth consecutive season-opening victory. Last year, the Bears beat Princeton, 70-58, in the first round of the BCA Classic in Berkeley. Cal started the run with a 71-60 victory at Hawaii in 1998, and followed it up with wins over TCU (91-83 at the 1999 Top of the Woryld Classic) and Mississippi State (83-76 OT in the 2000 Preseason NIT). The Golden Bears' last loss in Game 1 came at North Carolina in 1997 (71-47).
Cal to Be Tested on Road in 2002-03
With only five non-conference home games on tap for the 2002-03 season, Cal will have to prove its mettle on the road this season. Since the opening of Haas Pavilion in the fall of 1999, the Bears are 41-11 on their home court, including a 17-1 mark last year. But this season, Cal opens with back-to-back road games - at New Mexico Nov. 23 and at Cleveland State Nov. 30 - for the first time since 1990 when the Bears lost at Houston (98-81) then defeated San Francisco (86-63). In addition, Cal plays neutral-site games against preseason No. 16 Georgia in the John Wooden Classic Dec. 7 in Anaheim and No. 2 Kansas in the Pete Newell Challenge Dec. 28 at Oakland.
Braun One Win from Tying Newell
Cal head coach Ben Braun needs just one more win to tie legendary coach Pete Newell for third place on Cal's all-time victory list. Braun enters the season with a 118-70 record in six years, while Newell, who guided the Bears to the 1959 NCAA championship, was 119-44 from 1955-60.
Cal Coaches by VictoriesCoach Years RecordNibs Price 1925-54 449-294Lou Campanelli 1986-93 123-108Pete Newell 1955-60 119-44Ben Braun 1997- 118-70
Shipp Primed to Move Up Career Scoring Chart
Senior F Joe Shipp enters the 2002-03 season with 1,034 points - good for 29th on Cal's all-time list. But with just 11 more points, he will leapfrog four players for the 25th position. Shipp, who averaged a team-high 14.8 ppg last year, became the 31st player in school history to reach the 1,000-point level when he poured in 25 points vs. Arizona in the semifinals of the 2002 Pac-10 tournament. If he averages a similar number of points this season, he should move well into Cal's all-time Top 10.
Cal Career Scoring Leaders24. Larry Friend (1955-57) 1,06125. Michael Pitts (1980-84) 1,04426. Bill Hagler (1949-51) 1,04227. Mark McNamara (1981-82) 1,04128. Monty Buckley (1992-95) 1,03529. Joe Shipp (2000- ) 1,034
Cal Signs Nation's 11th-Ranked Recruiting Class
Cal signed three players to National Letters of Intent in November - PF Leon Powe, PG Ayinde Ubaka and wing Dominic McGuire - a class that has been ranked 11th in the country by ESPN.com. Powe, a 6-8, 230-pounder from Oakland Tech HS, averaged 28 ppg and 14.8 rpg last year and is rated No. 7 overall by Athlon magazine. The 6-3 Ubaka was tabbed the top point guard on the West Coast by PacWestHoops.com after averaging 23 ppg, 8 apg as a junior, while the 6-6 McGuire, from San Diego's Lincoln HS, pulled down a No. 88 national ranking after scoring at a 16.8 ppg clip last season.
Bears Notes ...
Cal has added two walk-ons to the roster who are not in the media guide - 6-3 freshman guard Joe Abrahams from Crossroads HS in Los Angeles and 5-11 freshman guard David Brutocao-Kemp from Oakland's Bishop O'Dowd HS ... of Cal's non-conference opponents, three played in the NCAA Tournament last year (UC Santa Barbara, Georgia, Kansas) and three were in the NIT (New Mexico, Detroit-Mercy, Louisiana-Lafayette) ... seven former Bears were on NBA opening night rosters ... Cal has three foreign-born players on its roster - Amit Tamir (Israel), Jordi Geli Vilardell (Spain) and Richard Midgley (England) ... both A.J. Diggs and Conor Famulener, who entered Cal as walk-ons, were awarded scholarships during the offseason ... senior guard Donte Smith underwent quadriceps surgery in September and is not expected to return until the Pac-10 opener vs. Stanford in January.