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From Beyond The Arc: Cal Bears MBB 2023 Preview

There is literally nowhere to go but up

NCAA Basketball: UCLA at California D. Ross Cameron-USA TODAY Sports

It really wasn’t so long ago that Mike Montgomery was coaching some very good Cal teams (2008-2014), but for Bears fans it probably feels like an eternity since then. They’ve suffered in 2017-19 with Wyking Jones and for the past four season with Mike Fox.

Under Mike Fox’s command, the Golden Bears have desperately fought - unsuccessfully - to stay out of the Pac-12 cellar. Last season they sported a record of 3-29 (2-18, Pac-12), which earned them the ignominious distinction of setting a record for most losses in a single season by a major conference men’s basketball team.

Thus, at the end of last season Fox was shown to the exit.

NCAA Basketball: NIT Semifinals-Utah Valley at UAB
Mark Madsen
Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports

California hired Mark Madsen to replace Fox. Madsen played college ball at Stanford, and played in the NBA from 2000-09 with the Lakers and Timberwolves. He then served as an assistant coach for the Lakers until 2019, when he was brought in as the head coach of Utah Valley.

Madsen’s four-year stint with the Wolverines was productive, and he led them last season to a 28-9 record, reaching the NIT semifinals. In the NIT, Utah Valley defeated New Mexico, Colorado, and Cincinnati, before losing in overtime to the University of Alabama at Birmingham (who was the NIT runner-up last season).

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: JAN 28 Cal at Stanford Photo by Bob Kupbens/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Statistically speaking, the Golden Bears were as bad as one would expect based on their record last season. As a team, they shot 39.1% (opponents shot 45.2%). Cal was dreadful from downtown, only mustering 29.8% on their 3PT shots. As a team, they had 308 assists to 417 turnovers - an average of 9.9 assists to 13.5 TO per game.

6-3 G Devin Askew was the leading average scorer in PPG last season. but he only played 13 games (all starts) before his season was cut short by injury. No other Cal player scored double-digit PPG.

Devin Askew
Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Cal returns six players from last season, and fortunately Devin Askew is among the returners. The other five are 6-8 F Grant Newell (who started 28 of 31 games and was a Pac-12 All-Freshman Team Honorable Mention), 6-2 R-Jr. G Wrenn Robinson, 6-7 R-Jr. F Monty Bowser, 6-9 So. F ND Okafor, and 6-4 So. G Jack McCloskey.

The Bears have two freshmen coming into 2023. 6-6 G Rodney Brown, Jr. and 6-11 F Devin Curtis signed with the Bears in the early signing period, Nov. 2022.

Madsen then turned to the transfer portal to fill out an emaciated roster.

6-11 F Fardaws Aimaq is a 5th year transfer from Texas Tech. He played 11 games last season, all during the conference portion of the season, and averaged .443 from the field for 11.1 PPG, with 74% shooting from the line. Aimaq also averaged nearly 8 rebounds per game.

Jalen Cone is a 5th year 5-11 G from Northern Arizona. He started in 32 of 33 games last season. Cone averaged 42.4 shooting from the field, including 96/240 for 40% 3PT shooting and over 86% from the line. His shooting average was 17.6 PPG, with 2.8 rebounds. At least on paper, Jalen Cone looks like a solid guard acquisition that the Bears very much need.

Mike Meadows is a 5th year 6-2 G from Portland. He started in 25 of 26 games for the Pilots before his season ended due to a back injury. Last season he averaged 10.2 PPG on 45.7% shooting, including 35.9% on threes. Meadows career shooting from the line for Portland was 84.6%.

Keonte Kennedy is a 5th year, 6-5 G from Memphis. He started 12 of 25 games last season, injuring his hand on Feb. 19, and was unable to return for the rest of their games. He averaged 9.2 points PPG, 2.6 rebounds and 1.2 steals in 23.1 minutes per game. Kennedy shot 46.1% from the field, including 38.1% on threes. He is only a 62% shooter from the line.

Jaylon Tyson is a 6-7 Jr. G from Texas Tech. He played in 31 games and averaged 10.7 points, 6.1 rebounds, 1.4 steals and 1.3 assists per game. Tyson shot 48.3% from the field, with 40,2% three point shooting. He was 34/47 from the line for 72.3%.

Another transfer for the Bears is 6-10 Jr. F/C Gus Larson, who comes from Penn. He has virtually no playing time in his first two seasons with the Quakers, and only played five games last season before being cut short by injury.

Will the Cal Bears compete for the Pac-12 championship this coming season? In a word: no. It will be enough for Cal to show signs of being able to claw from the dark abyss of the Pac-12 cellar. With a new coach and some intriguing new pieces, a .500 season can be seen as a vast improvement, and a huge success for 2023-24.