Photo Credit: Tres Terrell
When first looking at our roster, the thing that stands out to me is our depth. Usually, a Coach Cal team will consist of 9 to 10 scholarship spots and a rotation of only 6 to 7 players getting serious minutes. We once saw the infamous platoon of two separate lineups of 5 rotate back and forth, but then we still only had 10 players playing.
On this year's basketball roster, we have 12 scholarship players, all of which you can make a case for getting serious minutes. So who makes our rotation? Who misses out? And who will make up the first 5 pairs of feet to set foot on the Madison Square Garden hardwood as we take on Coach K and the Duke Devils? Today I have heard word from someone within the program of what the answer to some of these questions could be.
To begin with, we know that Cal is going to run with a 3 guard lineup at all times throughout the season. To start, these 3 will consist of Sahvir Wheeler running the show at the point guard, alongside TyTy Washington at the off guard and Kellan Grady on the other wing. The vision is clear: a speedy point guard than can get to the hoop with knock down shooters on each wing to space the floor. The obvious names left out of this back court is returning leading scorer Davion Mintz and Big Blue Madness 3 Point Champion CJ Fredrick. I fully expect both of these players to be in our rotation and get significant minutes as well, even if not starting.
Our front court will consist of, in my opinion, our biggest surprise. As expected, Oscar Tshiebwe is fully anticipated to be our starting center. He was a 2 year starter for West Virginia, before transferring to Kentucky halfway through his sophomore year to practice with our team for the second half of the season. This experience along with his college ready physique makes him the obvious pick to start our season at center.
However, the shock comes in with Daimion Collins starting at the 4 spot alongside him. First and foremost, this may come off as a shock because he came into camp this year with the most raw and unrefined skill set out of anyone on the team. He always had a ton of potential, but it was obvious he had a very long way to go before he would reach it. This also may be shocking because many anticipated Cal to go with a stretch 4 at that position, like a Keion Brooks or Jacob Toppin, instead of a more traditional interior player like Daimion Collins.
However, this is not overly shocking to me. We have often seen Coach Cal play his higher potential players right away, instead of someone who may be a safer play earlier on. Just last season, we saw Cal play struggling freshman Devin Askew at point guard instead of veteran Davion Mintz, because Cal wanted to see Askew grow throughout the season. I think Coach Cal recognizes that the best version of this year's basketball team consists of Daimion Collins at the forefront, so he is not going to hesitate to throw him right into the mix. It is also worth noting that our first matchup, Duke, is expected to play 6'11" Paolo Banchero at their 4 position. A taller player like Collins would be the better defensive matchup against Banchero, rather than a stretch 4.
Off of the bench, I expect veteran Keion Brooks and, another potential surprise, Bryce Hopkins, to get significant rotation minutes, playing the aforementioned stretch 4. Bryce was our lowest ranked freshman, and doesn't have the experience as some of our other front court players, but I also think he will surprise some people and play a significant role in the final product of this team.
Obviously, still just under 3 weeks away from our first game, a lot can change with any and all of these positions. However, it sounds like certain players are already starting to stand out and earn themselves a role within our rotation.