Friday, January 19, 2007


Lots of people would probably disqualify Shareef from this list since he played only one year at Cal before entering the NBA draft. We'd suggest those people a) consider the long and not-always-storied history of Cal basketball, and b) try to remember what Shareef's freshman season was really like.

He was a prized recruit, to be sure - a two-time Georgia Mr. Basketball at Joseph Wheeler HS in Marietta, he chose Cal in large part because of the large Muslim community in the Bay Area. Abdur-Rahim's father trained to be an Imam in Atlanta, and raised Shareef in a devout environment - to this day, his son remains deeply committed to his faith.

In 1994-5, Todd Bozeman's third team at Cal limped to the finish line, losing nine of their last eleven games. And then Shareef Abdur-Rahim took the floor at Harmon Gymnasium. In his first college game against Northern Arizona, Shareef scored 33 points and dominated the contest on both ends. He would go on to score more than thirty points three more times, and average 21.1 ppg for the season. He had tremendous range on his jumper for a 6'10" player, and was also unstoppable in the paint with quickness that has never been matched before or since at Berkeley. As proof of his all-around game, he led Cal with 52 steals.

The rest of the country seemed to agree. Abdur-Rahim was the first freshman to be named Pac-10 Player of the Year, and was a near-unanimous choice as National Freshman of the Year. He was a 2nd team All-America choice by Basketball Weekly and College Sports magazines, and a 3rd team AP and NABC choice.

Of course, it all ended too quickly. Iowa State smothered Shareef and his teammates in the first round of the NCAA tournament, and then Cal's phenom was gone to the NBA. The turmoil surrounding Cal's program didn't help, but let's face it - Shareef was ready, and he's proved it over a ten year career with mostly miserable teams (he's never played in the post-season).

How's this for a what-if: If the current rules governing college entry to the NBA were in force in 1996, Shareef would have returned to Berkeley (ed - this is a mistake; we were confusing the CFB rules with CBB) and our starting five would have been him, Tony Gonzalez/Al Grigsby, Yogi Stewart, Ed Gray and Prentice McGruder. And we might have won the whole damn thing, Ed Gray's broken foot notwithstanding.


At 10:33 AM, Blogger Daniel said...

Shareef went to the NBA one year after high school - that's all the NBA now requires, so the new NBA rules would not have affected him. He still woulda been gone after 1 year at Cal.

At 10:55 AM, Blogger Tightwad said...

Good point - I had a brain cramp there (got confused with the CFB rules) Anyway, what if he had stayed of his own volition?

At 12:42 PM, Anonymous SoCal Oski said...

My math and memory may be wrong, but wouldn't Shareef have played along side Kidd, had Kidd not left after his 2nd year?

Imagine that team and let your salivary glands do the rest.

Go Bears!

At 5:28 PM, Blogger T. said...

socal oski - Jason would've had to have stayed all 4 years. (I entered school with Jason and left watching 'Reef's last year).

I was one of the proud holders of the "Reef-Scoring-Meter" sign in Harmon. We also took it all the way to Tucson (where we watched Jelani Gardner turn the ball over down by 1 point). Grrr.

I was at that ISU/Cal NCAA game too - I've hated Dallas ever since then.

At 10:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

were you at the 2001 ncaa tourny? when they went out in the first round?

At 11:32 PM, Blogger T. said...

anon@10.40pm - yes I was. I was living in Houston at the time, so Dallas was a 4 hour drive away. Again, another reason to hate Dallas.

At 11:32 PM, Blogger T. said...

whoops. no i wasn't. I was at the 2005 ncaa tourney. 2001 I was out of the country.

At 10:29 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

in 2001 what a shame lossing to a school whose greatest moment was getting burned on 60 minutes by mike wallace.

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