The California Bears had a loaded roster last season that consisted of future lottery pick Ivan Rabb, top-three NBA Draft selection Jaylen Brown, sharp shooter Jordan Mathews, veteran guard Tyrone Wallace and talented guard Jabari Bird.
Unfortunately for the Bears, they lost in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament to Hawaii without the presences of Bird (back spasms) and Wallace (broken hand).
With Brown and Wallace in the NBA and Mathews with Gonzaga, it’s up to Rabb to lead the team in 2016-17.
The Bears surely won’t be as talented, but they could have stronger chemistry, better role allocation, and a star who is experienced and mature.
In fact, Rabb should be a Player of the Year and an All-American candidate nationally. He will be in the running for Pac-12 Player of the Year, will likely lead the Bears to the NCAA Tournament in his sophomore campaign, and will be a double-double machine this season.
Last season, Rabb averaged 12.5 points, 8.6 rebounds, 0.9 assists, and 1.2 blocks in 29 minutes per game. He shot a very efficient 62 percent from the field and 67 percent from the free throw line.
Rabb did all this by averaging just 7.7 field goals per game. Those shot attempts should greatly increase with the departures of Wallace, Brown and Mathews, which means his numbers and impact will sky rocket. Those three guys hand the ball in their hands often and loved to take the big shots (especially in the case of Brown and Wallace).
At 6’11”, Rabb is a beast on the boards, can score at ease on the interior and has good mobility for his size. He’s a solid defender (blocking shots on the interior), can play help side defense effectively and can switch in pick-and-roll situations.
The Oakland, CA native could have easily departed from Cal after his freshman season to be an NBA lottery pick. Instead, he opted to remain in school to develop his skills and gain more maturity.
“I just wanted to improve,” Rabb said. “I didn’t just want to be in the NBA. I wanted to make sure I was ready when I got there.”
Rabb even referenced Kris Dunn, who bypassed the NBA Draft in a similar fashion and then was picked 5th overall after a monster final college season.
And while Rabb won’t have the ball in his hands at all times like Dunn and likely won’t be as good in 2016-17, he will still have a Dunn-like impact for the Bears.
Rabb will be one of the best players in the nation, and Cuonzo Martin should be thrilled that the Bears are going back to the NCAA Tournament.