The basketball team took a bit of break this week for final exams, and won't see the court again until Saturday night when Cal Poly (San Luis Obispo) comes to Hass Pavilion. That is a full seven days between games to take stock of the injured Bears.
Center Kameron Rooks, who had knee surgery earlier this month, seems to be on schedule in his recovery.
"They say he's doing very well," coach Cuonzo Martin said Tuesday after the team had a short practice. "Next week Kameron starts sprinting on the floor. He hasn't been a part of practice yet."
The original estimate was that Rooks would miss four to six weeks. If that holds, as it seems to be doing, he would be back either right before or right after the Pac-12 opener against Arizona Dec. 30. "He's feeling good," Martin said. "He had a knee scoped and I've had knees scoped so I know what he's going through."
Jabari Bird, who missed six games with back spasms, played in the last three, the two games in Hawaii and Saturday's rout of UC Davis. "I don't know if he's 100 per cent," Martin said. "I think he's healthy and ready to play. I think it's conditioning. And with conditioning your back is a factor in that. The stronger he gets physically, also with his legs, he'll get where he needs to be. I don't think it's a case of he can't play because of his back. I think he'll be ready to play."
Bird agrees that he is not quite in the shape he was before he was sidelined. "I thought I played pretty well those two games in Hawaii," he said. "But the last one I got a little fatigued. But now that we'll have a week off should do a lot better."
Bird, who scored 13 and 22 points respectively against Princeton and Seton Hall in Hawaii, had just five in the last game, hitting only one of six field goal attempts. His three-point shooting has been way off since his return, as he is 2-for-16 from beyond the arc. He is a 36 per cent shooter from that distance for his career. Martin said he is not worried about Bird's shooting.
"In the last game he felt like he didn't have any legs," Martin said. "He played those two games in Hawaii without any practice time, then we flew back here with a quick turnaround," Martin said.
The rout of Davis gave Cal a chance to take a long look at some reserves in game action. The one who showed the most is junior Cole Welle. In 15 minutes the 6-7 forward from Aptos, scored ten points (5-for-8 from the floor) and grabbed a pair of rebounds.
Martin said he wasn't at all surprised. "Cole works hard, he works extremely hard," the coach said. "He's had the luxury, if that's the right word, of going against Kingsley (Okoroh), Kameron, Ivan (Rabb), Marcus Lee, he went against those guys last year plus Jaylen Brown. He's seeing a high level consistently.
"He's never missed practice, never takes days off, works at his game. We watch film together. That wasn't a surprise the way he played. That ten points is just a number, but his production is like that all the time. He's a guy that is going to be in the rotation at some point. The work he put in, his thought process, what he needs to do to stay on the floor. He does those things. We always say little things, but those are important things that win games."
As they are for most of their non-conference home games, the Bears figure to be heavy favorites Saturday night against Cal Poly. The Mustangs are 5-5, and coming off a 73-59 loss at Fresno State Saturday. The leading scorer is junior guard Victor Joseph, a transfer from Chaffee JC, who averages 11.3 points per game off the bench.
"They play four guards and try to spread you out," Martin said. "We have two bigs (Okoroh and Rabb initially) who will have to guard smaller guys. But we guard smaller guys in practice. … It will be good to work on our transition defense against a team that likes to push it up the floor."