By Brandon Singer
As practices and games for the 2011-12 season get under way, the team taking the floor in Haas Pavilion will look pretty familiar. California returns four starters from last year’s squad, including the Golden Bears’ top three scorers – first-team All-Pac-10 selection and team MVP Jorge Gutierrez, 2011 Pac-10 Freshman of the Year Allen Crabbe, and senior Harper Kamp. One of the new faces on the court is redshirt sophomore Justin Cobbs, who sat out last season due to NCAA eligibility rules after transferring from Minnesota.
After deciding to transfer to a school closer to his hometown of Los Angeles, Cal caught his eye due to its outstanding academic reputation and an excellent coaching staff led by head coach Mike Montgomery. Despite not being able to be on the court during games, he was able to practice with the team and was on the bench cheering on his teammates, throughout the year.
“Sitting out was kind of tough,” Cobbs said. “At the same time, I learned a lot about the system and what the coaches want at the point guard position.”
Last year’s experience should help ease Cobbs’ transition into the lineup where he is expected to share time at the point with returning starter junior Brandon Smith, as well as see some time at shooting guard.
Cobbs got his first taste of game action in a Cal uniform this summer when the Bears embarked on a 10-day European tour through Norway, Denmark, and Sweden in August.
“It was exciting being on the uniform side of things and not sitting out. Being out there with the guys is fun,” Cobbs said with a smile. “Actually playing and hearing the different things I need to work on from coach was exciting.”
The team went 4-1 on its trip, including a pair of wins over the Danish National Team, and the time spent together has improved the chemistry between the players.
“We are a lot closer as a team after the trip,” Cobbs said. “Everyone is always together and it is more like a family than a team.”
The addition of Cobbs to an already strong team has Cal fans dreaming of a repeat of the 2009-10 season with another conference title and a trip to the NCAA Tournament.