Bears Open Practice Friday Night

Oct. 12, 2006

BERKELEY - With eight returning letterwinners, plus a Top 25 incoming recruiting class, California will open practice Friday night - the first day teams around the country can begin preparations for the 2006-07 season.

The Golden Bears are coming off a 20-11 campaign that included a 12-6 mark in the Pac-10 Conference, a runner-up finish in the league tournament and an invitation to the NCAA Tournament.

'Our team is itching to go,' head coach Ben Braun said. 'I think there's a lot of excitement from last year after playing for a Pac-10 championship, playing in the Pac-10 Tournament championship game and earning a berth to NCAAs. That was a great experience for our guys. I think there's a hunger to want to get back and challenge all over again.'

Senior guard Ayinde Ubaka leads Cal onto the floor this season. The All-Pac-10 performer averaged 14.5 ppg and 3.8 apg last year and lit up the nets for 61 three-pointers.

Cal's other returning starters are junior center DeVon Hardin and junior guard Omar Wilkes. Hardin, who had offseason shoulder surgery but has been cleared for full contact for the past month, chipped in 7.3 ppg and 6.6 rpg last year. Following Leon Powe's departure to the NBA, he will be counted on to handle much of the inside work. Wilkes shot 45.3 percent from three-point range and scored at a 7.6 ppg clip.

'We've got guys who are willing to battle and compete,' Braun said. 'This is a group that will be very competitive, and it will not surprise me to see our team challenge every team in the league and fight to get in the NCAA Tournament.

'Obviously, on paper, we lose Leon Powe and Richard Midgley, who were mainstays in our program. But I think our guys understand there is a great opportunity to step up and carry on the tradition.'

Cal hosts Sonoma State Nov. 2 at 7:30 p.m. in Haas Pavilion in an exhibition game before opening the regular season vs. Utah Valley State Nov. 15 at home.

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