With Powe in NBA, Cal Will Simply Have to Bear It

Nov. 22, 2006

BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) -Leon Powe's name comes up often these days during California basketball practices. No matter that he's now a rookie with the Boston Celtics.

How are the Golden Bears going to replace one of the Pac-10's top players? Who is going to pick up the rebounding load? And how about his scoring?

Coach Ben Braun and his staff are quick to remind their players of what's in store without the second-team All-American: Everybody must contribute more if the Bears are to return to the NCAA tournament.

'They told us we really needed to get rebounds to make up for Leon,' starting freshman forward Ryan Anderson said. 'With his presence gone, a lot of teams are going to be attacking down low. ... I know we can make up for the double-digit rebounding loss.'

Powe, 6-foot-8 and 240 pounds, averaged 20.5 points and 10.1 rebounds in his first season back following a knee injury that sidelined him all of the 2004-05 season.

'I just think we have to be tougher,' said senior point guard and leader Ayinde Ubaka, who came to Cal with Powe as freshmen after playing against each other in high school in nearby Oakland. 'Last year I depended on Leon a lot. I didn't go to the boards and waited for the outlet.'

Ubaka acknowledges they all were programmed that way - get out of the way and let Powe do his thing. That won't work now. DeVon Hardin will have to do more.

Anderson already been a spark. He scored 20 or more points in each of the first three games, including 25 on 9-for-15 shooting with five 3-pointers in a rout of Santa Clara on Monday night.

Cal went 20-11 last season, finishing third in the Pac-10, reaching the conference tournament title game for the first time and earning its first NCAA berth in three years. This year, the Bears are picked to finish fifth in the league. They play in the Great Alaska Shootout, starting Thursday.

Hardin, the starting big man and most experienced post player, hears questions from friends and around campus about whether he can guarantee 20 points and 10 rebounds a night as Powe did.

'Leon did get the majority of the touches. I knew my role: This is Leon's show,' Hardin said. 'I do know that I'm going to be more of a focal point. I feel extra responsibility and pressure. I put that on myself.'

The 6-foot-11, 235-pound Hardin is coming off April shoulder surgery. He is one of the best shot blockers in school history, with his 1.55 blocks average last season fourth in the conference.

Hardin started all but one game last season as a sophomore, averaging 7.3 points and 6.6 rebounds. He heads to the Alaska Shootout with eight blocks in the first three games.

'A lot of DeVon's progress is due to Leon Powe,' said Braun, who still speaks regularly with Powe. 'Leon took DeVon under his wing.'

The Bears took a blow this month when they lost 7-foot sophomore center Jordan Wilkes, one of two returning post players with experience and slated to be the sixth man. His season-ending knee injury required reconstructive surgery.

In June, Braun received a two-year contract extension that will keep him in Berkeley through the 2011 season. For now, he expects his team to be less predictable with Powe gone. Braun knows that on many nights success will come down to rebounding.

'That's going to be a challenge for our team and we have to answer that challenge,' he said. 'Somebody else has to step up.'

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