Cal Men's Basketball: Looking Ahead to the 2020-21 Roster

A slightly-too-early look at Cal's roster situation ahead of the spring signing period.

Over the last few weeks we’ve spent time looking at what went right and what went wrong for the Bears 2019-20. With that work in mind, it’s time to look ahead and try to forecast what Cal might be set to achieve in year two under Mark Fox.

This is a dangerous task. Projecting a roster half a year before the season starts will inevitably leave out unexpected arrivals and departures. But it is worth noting that Mark Fox was notable for having a high degree of roster stability while at Georgia. With one obvious question mark covered below, I’d be surprised if there was any attrition to Cal’s roster between now and next season.

Who’s leaving?

Paris Austin

A significant loss. Paris Austin came back from some early season struggles to become arguably Cal’s 2nd best player in terms of Pac-12 performances. His handles, ability to drive the paint, and much improved defense were a big part of Cal’s improvement from three to eight Pac-12 wins.

Joel Brown is the other point guard on the roster, and finding a 2nd point guard is by far the biggest area of need the coaching staff is trying to address in the current pandemic recruiting environment.

Kareem South

South grad transferred to Cal last year as a career 36% three point shooter at Texas A&M Corpus Christi . . . and then shot slightly below 30% in his final year of eligibility in Berkeley. I don’t know if that’s because he had to face Pac-12 defenses instead of Southland Conference defenses, or pure bad variance, but you felt for a guy who had firmly established himself as a plus shooter and otherwise played solid, mistake-free basketball on both ends.

Cal will have a whole host of guys competing for off-guard minutes, which we’ll discuss in more detail below.

Jacobi Gordon

One of the highest rated recruits brought in by Wyking Jones, Gordon’s Cal career was completely derailed by injuries, and he announced his transfer (destination not yet determined) on March 3rd.

Who’s arriving?

At least, as of April 12

Monty Bowser

Cal beat out San Diego St., UC Irvine, and a host of other west coast mid-majors to sign 3 star recruit Monty Bowser out of the perennial producer of Cal basketball talent, Bishop O’Dowd. 247 lists Bowser as a power forward, but based on his size (6’6’’ 185 lbs) and Ben Parker’s scouting report at Rivals, it seems likely to me that Bowser is going to play as a wing, at least initially.

Jalen Celestine

A 3 star shooting guard out of New York, Cal beat out a host of Atlantic-10 and Patriot League teams for the east coast recruit. There’s less scouting information out there, but based on his position and what limited highlight videos that are out there, I think it’s safe to say that he’s coming in to be a shooter.

State of the Roster

Scholarship chart format that I stole from (I think?) Cougcenter 5 years ago.

Beyond providing this for purely informational purposes, there are two points I wanted to pull out of this chart:

1) If they remain on the roster next season, Grant Anticevich and Juhwan Harris-Dyson will become the first players to arrive on campus as freshmen and use their full four years of college eligibility at Cal since Kingsley Okoroh graduated two years ago. This makes me sad, and is as good a distillation of the damage done to the program over the previous two season as anything else.

I’m sure Grant will be enjoying senior day next year, but Juhwan Harris-Dyson’s status is much more up in the air following injury and academic issues that kept him out for the 2nd half of the season.

2) Mark Fox (correctly, I think) held a scholarship slot open, and Jacobi Gordon’s transfer opened up another. That means that, despite signing Bowser and Celestine, Cal has two scholarship slots that they will almost certainly fill.

So, what will the coaching staff do with their scholarships? Well, Cal made the top three for a pair of borderline 3/4 star prospects Jabari Walker and Tyrin Lawrence . . . who picked Colorado and Vanderbilt, respectively.

Cal of course has a variety of offers out for 2020 recruits, but the only player who seems like a potential pick up is point guard Malik Zachery, a JC transfer out of Chipola College in Florida:

In true JC style, the stats page for Chipola College MBB is broken, so I’m not going to try to tell you what kind of impact Zachery might have if he picks Cal. Either way, be on the lookout for news on Wednesday, as Cal may or may not secure Joel Brown’s battery mate. Either that or maybe Joel Brown will have to play 38 minutes/game next year.

Even IF Cal gets Zachery, there’s still at least one roster spot that will need filling, and any prospects to fill that spot are speculative at best:

It 100% makes sense that Cal should be aggressively dipping into the grad transfer market. With only 4 (for now) upperclassmen on the roster and (at least) 7 underclassmen, balance is an issue. And unless some of Cal’s sophomores make big leaps or Bowser and Celestine are ready to contribute immediately, court time will be available. It’s just that, while we know Cal is reaching out to prospective grad transfers, there’s been zero news about any players that are interested in return.

Of course, we haven’t even seen the spring signing period open yet (April 15th is the day) so plenty will likely change as many players make their choices over the next few weeks. But I can’t say I’m not concerned. Cal has so far struck out on the few players that had the Bears involved in the final conversation, which implies to me that the program may have to scramble for back-up options. As of right now Cal doesn’t have anybody signed with a recruiting profile that suggests likely instant impact, and I doubt that any freshman recruits with that kind of profile are likely to be coming.

Roster Breakdown

PG: Joel Brown, (Malik Zachery/other grad or JC transfer)
Wing 1: Matt Bradley, Juhwan Harris-Dyson, Jalen Celestine
Wing 2: Kuany Kuany, Dimitrios Klonaras, Monty Bowser
Post 1: Grant Anticevich, D.J. Thorpe
Post 2: Andre Kelly, Lars Thiemann

Big questions:

  1. Who is going to be Cal’s other point guard? There’s no way Cal doesn’t bring in another point, but if Zachery picks somebody else I don’t have any idea where they would go to find one.

  2. Who’s going to step up to play major minutes on the wing? Kareem South’s 30 minutes/game need to be filled, and the candidates are a variety of players who are either brand new to the program or played very limited minutes last year. Kuany Kuany and/or a grad transfer are my best guess, but that’s all it is.

  3. How big a burden can Matt Bradley carry? Cal’s only returning guards who played more than 10 minutes/game last year are Joel Brown and JHD, two defense-first players, one of which had his season cut short. The burden on Matt Bradley will only grow, and might include an expectation to have the ball in his hand more. Bradley responded to an increased role between his freshman and sophomore seasons with aplomb, and he’ll almost certainly have to do so again.

Consider this your mini-spring-signing-period preview, from a writer who hates trying to keep track of recruiting but knows it’s really damned important. Let’s hope we’re welcoming some new Bears over the next few weeks!