Cal Opens '07-08 Season vs. Southern Miss
Courtesy: Cal Athletics  
Release:  11/12/2007

Nov. 12, 2007

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Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles (0-0, vs. Belhaven 11/12) at California Golden Bears (0-0)
Wednesday, Nov. 14, 7:30 p.m., Haas Pavilion, Berkeley, CA
Radio: KYOU (1550 AM)
TV: none

California tips off the 2007-08 season when the Golden Bears host Southern Miss at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in Haas Pavilion.

Cal has won nine of 11 home openers under head coach Ben Braun, including last year's 60-47 victory over Utah Valley State. Overall, the Bears have prevailed in 13 of their last 14 contests vs. non-conference opponents in Berkeley.

Although picked to finish seventh in the Pac-10 in a vote by West Coast media, Cal has earned several high national rankings. SLAM Magazine places the Bears 24th in its preseason poll, while has Cal 33rd in the country.

The strength of the squad lies in Bears' frontcourt, which has been rated third best in the country by Leading the contingent are senior C DeVon Hardin and sophomore F Ryan Anderson. Hardin, back after missing 22 games last season with a foot stress fracture, tops all returning players in the Pac-10 with 95 blocks. Before he was hurt in 2006-07, he was averaging career bests in both scoring (10.7 ppg) and rebounding (8.4 rpg).

Anderson earned second-team Freshman All-America honors in '07 when he contributed 16.3 ppg and 8.2 rpg. Not only did the versatile forward break Leon Powe's school freshman record with 269 rebounds, but he just missed the Cal rookie mark for three-pointers, finishing with 58 and just two shy of the record.

Sophomore C Jordan Wilkes appears to be back in full health after a medical hardship season (knee). In 20 minutes of action during the Bears' 100-44 exhibition win over Alaska Fairbanks last week, he finished with five points and a team-high 10 rebounds in 20 minutes of action.

In the backcourt, the Bears begin the year with just two healthy scholarship players in sophomores Nikola Knezevic and Patrick Christopher. Knezevic logged 21 minutes at the point vs. Alaska, dishing out seven assists. With sophomore Jerome Randle still out following a kidney biopsy, he will be backed up by walk-ons Nican Robinson and David Liss. Randle is expected to begin running this week with hopes than he can suit up as soon as the Nov. 24 San Diego State contest.

Christopher had the biggest night of any Bear against Alaska, soaring for 32 points on 12-of-17 shooting from the field. In addition, he nailed 5-of-9 from three-point distance to go along with six rebounds and four assists.

Probable Starters (2006-07 Averages)

POS  NO   NAME                  HT    WT   YR   PPG   RPG
F    14   Eric Vierneisel       6-7   210  Sr   4.3   1.4
Led Cal in three-point percentage last year (38.8%) 
F    34   Ryan Anderson         6-10  240  So   16.3  8.2
2007 Pac-10 All-Freshman rated #4 PF in country by Sporting News
C    35   DeVon Hardin          6-11  250  Sr   10.7  8.4
Leads all returning Pac-10 players with 95 career blocks
G    13   Nikola Knezevic       6-2   185  So   -     -
Back in action after missing 2006-07 with knee injury
G    23   Patrick Christopher   6-5   215  Fr   5.2   2.3
Started 14 games as a freshman last year

Cal Head Coach Ben Braun
Ben Braun (Wisconsin '75), the second-winningest coach in Cal history, is in his 12th year in Berkeley and 31st season as a collegiate head coach. His record at Cal stands at 202-138, while his career mark - which includes 11 years at Eastern Michigan and eight seasons at Siena Heights College - is 535-373. The 1997 Pac-10 Coach of the Year and one of 25 finalists for the 2003 Naismith National Coach of the Year award, Braun has led the Bears to the postseason seven times. After taking Cal to the NCAA Sweet 16 in 1997, he guided the Bears to the NIT championship in 1999 and to the NIT quarterfinals in 2000. He also directed Cal to consecutive NCAA Tournaments in 2001, '02 and '03, plus another NCAA berth in 2006. At EMU from 1985-96, the three-time MAC Coach of the Year guided the Eagles to three NCAA Tournaments and one NIT appearance with an overall record of 185-132. He was also 148-103 from 1977-85 at Siena Heights. A native of Chicago, Braun earned a teaching degree in English with a minor in African-American studies at Wisconsin in 1975. He received his master's degree in guidance and counseling from Siena Heights.

Southern Miss Scouting Report

A Look at Southern Miss
Southern Miss, which opens its season vs. Belhaven Monday before traveling to Berkeley, finished 20-11 overall and tied for fourth with a 9-7 mark in Conference USA last year. Sophomore G Jeremy Wise was the CUSA Freshman of the Year in 2007, and he is a preseason pick for the all-league team this season. In a vote of CUSA coaches, Southern Miss has been chosen to finish fourth in the conference in '08 behind Memphis, Houston and Alabama-Birmingham.

Cal-Southern Miss Series History
This marks the first meeting between Cal and Southern Mississippi.

Southern Miss Head Coach Larry Eustachy
Larry Eustachy is his fourth season at Southern Miss, where he has compiled a 41-49 record. A native of Alameda, Calif., he has also served as head coach for three other programs: Idaho (1991-93, 61-33), Utah State (1994-98, 98-53) and Iowa State (1999-03, 101-59). Eustachy guided Iowa State to Big 12 titles in 2000 and 2001, taking the Cyclones to the NCAA Elite Eight in '00.

Probable Starters (2006-07 Averages)

Pos  No  Name               Ht    Wt   Yr   Ppg   Rpg
F    14  Sai'Quon Stone     6-6   225  So   10.3  5.4
F    1   Courtney Beasley   6-3   210  Jr   9.7   4.7
C    50  Gjio Bain          7-0   225  Sr   3.6   5.1
G    3   Jeremy Wise        6-2   165  So   17.5  3.4
G    23  Craig Craft        6-3   190  Jr   8.7   3.8

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Golden Bear Notes

Cal Cruises to 100-44 Exhibition Win over Alaska
Sophomore G Patrick Christopher scored 32 points and sophomore F Ryan Anderson added 23 more to lead Cal to a 100-44 win over Alaska Fairbanks in the Bears' lone exhibition game last Thursday in Haas Pavilion. Christopher and Anderson combined for Cal's first 15 points before freshman F Harper Kamp broke the run with a lay-up. Kamp added 11 points in his first effort, while sophomore F Jordan Wilkes came off the bench to pull down 10 rebounds. The Bears shot 53.8 percent from the floor and sank 13-of-27 shots from behind the three-point line.

Patrick Christopher Tosses in 32 Points vs. Nanooks
Perhaps showing a sign of things to come this season, Patrick Christopher scorched the nets for 32 points on 12-of-17 shooting from the floor in last week's exhibition victory over Alaska Fairbanks. He totaled 16 points in each half and drained 5-of-9 attempts from three-point range. Christopher's output could be a key for Cal, especially early in the season with the Bears down to just two healthy scholarship players in the backcourt until Jerome Randle is able to return to the lineup. Last year as a freshman, Christopher started 14 of 33 games and averaged 5.2 ppg and 2.3 rpg. He showed flashes of his ability to put up numbers similar to last week's output several times. Most significantly, Christopher had 16 points in a home win over Oregon and followed up the effort two days later with 24 points and 11 rebounds (both regular-season bests) vs. Oregon State.

After Long Layoffs, 3 Bears Return to Action
Three Bears who missed all or most of last season returned to the court in Cal's exhibition contest against Alaska last week, and each had productive nights. Sophomore Nikola Knezevic, out all of 2006-07 with a knee injury, started a point guard and finished with a game-high seven assists and a steal in 21 minutes, while senior C DeVon Hardin, who was sidelined for the final 22 games with a stress fracture in his foot, also started and had eight points, six rebounds, a block and two steals in 16 minutes. Sophomore C Jordan Wilkes (knee) played in his first contest since March 2006 and came through with five points and 10 boards.

Hardin, Anderson on Preseason Watch Lists
Senior C DeVon Hardin and sophomore F Ryan Anderson form one of the top frontcourts in the country and both have received recognition on preseason watch lists. Anderson, the leading returning scorer in the Pac-10 and the only player to rank among the top five in both scoring (16.3 ppg) and rebounding (8.2 rpg) in the conference last season, is on the top-50 lists for the Wooden Award and Naismith Award. Hardin, also on the Naismith preseason roster, tops all returning Pac-10 players with 95 career blocks despite missing 22 games last year with a stress fracture in his left foot.

After Flirting with NBA Draft, Hardin Back for Bears
After going through the pre-NBA Draft process without hiring an agent, senior C DeVon Hardin has returned for his final season in Berkeley as the anchor at the post position. Bulked up to 250 pounds for the campaign, the 6-11 Hardin, who was limited to the first 11 games last year due to a stress fracture in his left foot, still paced the Bears in blocks for the season with 21 swats. Based on last year's numbers, his presence in the middle should greatly benefit the Bears, who struggled without him in the lineup. Cal posted an 8-3 mark and held opponents to 61.4 ppg and 40.6 percent field goal shooting with Hardin, while the Bears were 8-14 and gave up 73.0 ppg and 49.7 percent shooting without him. Among the preseason honors bestowed on Hardin: preseason watch list for the Naismith Award, preseason first-team All-Pac-10 (Athlon), No. 6 post in the country (Athlon) and No. 7 center in the country (

Seven Bears Undergo Surgery since June 2006
Beginning with an arthroscopic surgery to the knee of G Nikola Knezevic in June 2006, seven Cal players have been operated on over the past 17 months. Knezevic missed all of 2006-07, as did C Jordan Wilkes, who had knee surgery in November of '07. C DeVon Hardin then had foot surgery in mid-December due to a stress fracture and sat out the rest of the year. In April, both C Taylor Harrison (knee) and F Theo Robertson (hip) had surgery. Robertson is still rehabbing and may not be ready to go until late December, and Harrison sat out the Alaska exhibition game. During the current fall, freshman F Omondi Amoke had a vascular abnormality removed from a calf, while sophomore PG Jerome Randle had a kidney biopsy Oct. 29. Amoke has yet to be cleared to play, and Randle is expected to be out another 1-2 weeks. Results from the biopsy showed that Randle had mild inflammation in his kidney that can be treated with medication.

Anderson Hopes to Build on Strong Freshman Year
Ryan Anderson, a 6-10 sophomore forward, hopes to build on an outstanding freshman campaign that saw him earn a wide array of accolades - MVP of the Great Alaska Shootout, Pac-10 All-Freshman, All-Pac-10 Tournament and second-team Freshman All-America (Basketball Times). Not only does he possess skills to play close to the basket, but he can also step outside, connecting on 58 three-pointers (38.2%) a year ago - just two shy of the Cal freshman record. Anderson scored in double figures 30 times in 33 games, with a best of 27 points vs. Oregon State in the Pac-10 Tournament, and collected a team-high eight double-doubles.

Walk-ons Continue Tradition of Filling Significant Roles
With sophomore PG Jerome Randle sidelined for at least the first two games of the year as he recovers from a kidney biopsy, Cal will rely on a pair of non-scholarship players - sophomores Nican Robinson and David Liss - to fill the primary back-up spot behind starter Nicola Knezevic. The pair combined for four assists against just two turnovers in 26 minutes vs. Alaska last week. Under head coach Ben Braun, utilizing walk-ons in significant roles is nothing new. Alex Pribble started Cal's final five games at a wing spot last year, while Ryan Forehan-Kelly finished his career in 2002 ranked fourth on the school's all-time three-point shooting list (40.7 percent) and A.J. Diggs (2001-04) picked off 158 steals, good for third all-time in Bear annals.

Cal Sports Two 7-Footers for First Time Ever
After having its frontline depleted with injuries to centers Jordan Wilkes and DeVon Hardin last year, Cal enters 2007-08 with its tallest lineup ever. With Wilkes standing 7-0 and freshman Max Zhang a full 7-2, the Bears sport two seven-footers for the first time. In fact, Zhang, a summer signee from Yantai City, China, is the tallest player in school history. In addition to Wilkes and Zhang, Cal's roster includes one player at 6-11 (DeVon Hardin) and two more at 6-10 (Ryan Anderson, Taylor Harrison).

Ben Braun 10th in Wins among Active Coaches
With 535 victories entering the season, Cal's Ben Braun ranks 10th in wins among active Division I coaches. In Golden Bear annals, he is second in both victories (202) and years of service (starting his 12th) to Nibs Price, who was 449-294 in 30 seasons from 1925-54. No other Cal coach has more than 10 seasons at the helm or 125 wins with the program. Braun holds school records for most NCAA Tournament berths (5), most postseason wins (11) and most 20-win seasons (6).

Braun Tree Reaches 7 Head Coaches
When assistant coach Joe Pasternack was named head coach at New Orleans over the summer, he became the seventh former Ben Braun assistant or player to currently hold a head position. The full list of head coaches with ties to Braun:

Keith Dambrot - Head Coach, Akron
   Assistant under Braun at Eastern Michigan from 1986-89
Stan Heath - Head Coach, South Florida
   Played for Braun at Eastern Michigan from 1985-87
George Nessman - Head Coach, San Jose State
   Assistant under Braun at Cal in 2005
Joe Pasternack - Head Coach, New Orleans
   Assistant under Braun at Cal from 2002-07
Charles E. Ramsey - Head Coach, Eastern Michigan
   Assistant under Braun at EMU from 1990-03; at Cal from 1997-2001
Al Sandifer - Head Coach, Siena Heights
   Assistant under Braun at Siena Heights from 1983-85
Gary Waters - Head Coach, Cleveland State
   Assistant under Braun at Eastern Michigan from 1989-93

Cal Faces Difficult Schedule Again
After having its schedule rated as high as the sixth-toughest in the country last season (Sagarin), California faces another difficult task again this year. Among the Bears' non-conference opponents are eight teams that won at least 20 games in 2006-07, including six that played in the postseason. Three of Cal's non-conference foes advanced to the NCAA Tournament in 2007 - Nevada, Jackson State and Long Beach State - while three others appeared in the National Invitation Tournament - San Diego State, Kansas State and Delaware State. And, of course, the Pac-10 slate features six teams ranked in the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today preseason Top 25.