California is looking forward to presenting two impressive transfers and two talented freshmen when it opens its season on Monday night against Northern California rivals UC Davis in a non-conference game in Berkeley, California.
After five straight losing seasons and six straight campaigns without an NCAA Tournament nomination, the Golden Bears felt disrespected when the Pacific-12 conference media voted them 11th out of 12 in their annual preseason poll.
The rating is seemingly justified by 3-17 and 5-15 ratings in Pac-12 over the last two seasons, but the Bears insist this year’s edition is new and much improved.
Much of the optimism stems from the transfers of DeJuan Clayton from Coppin State via Hartford and Devin Askew from Kentucky via Texas.
Clayton, a 6-foot-2 guard, scored 1,518 points in a five-year career with Coppin State before playing just two games for Hartford last season.
Askew, a 6-3 quarterback, Sacramento native, started 20 games for Kentucky as a freshman in the 2020-21 season, averaging 6.5 points. He made three starts for Texas last season, averaging 2.1 points per game.
The Bears’ regular rotation is also expected to include rookie big men N. D. Okafor and Grant Newell.
“No disrespect to the media, but none of you have seen our team, not a single practice,” Cal coach Mark Fox said at the Pac-12 press day. “This is the first group since I came to California that has the length and athleticism across the roster to give us favorable matches.”
Cal has faced UC Davis, located about 65 miles from Sacramento, 33 times and won every meeting. The most recent was a 72-66 triumph in November 2019.
Team Davis’ Elijah Pepper contributed seven points to a loss in his fourth college game in that 2019 meeting but has since become the Aggie’s top scorer with 15.1 points per game last season. He was named to the All-Big West Conference Preseason First Team.
Senior hopes to use his final college season as a springboard for the NBA. The 6’4 swinger doesn’t know what position he’s in.
“I’m working on my game more,” he said of his career, in which he averaged 1.6 assists per game. “Just being able to make the right decision (in the spotlight).”
The Aggie finished 13–11 last season. Their last trip to the NCAA tournament was in 2017.
–Field level media