Can Cal tap into Bay Area's talent pool?

Arizona coach Sean Miller planted his flag in Northern California long before coming to San Francisco in May and declaring to boosters that he would prioritize talent in the 2012 and 2013 recruiting classes coming out of the Bay Area that was among the nation's best, adding, "It's going to be an absolute war in recruiting."

The Wildcats had already stocked their recruiting class with Josiah Turner and Nick Johnson, two top recruits who played for the highly-regarded Oakland Soldiers AAU team.

In recent weeks, Richmond, Calif. native Dominic Artis gave his commitment to UCLA and top-10 national recruit Brandon Ashley from Oakland declared the seven finalists for his services, including Arizona, Oregon and UCLA. Previously, City College of San Francisco junior college transfer De'End Parker gave his verbal commitment to Cal before reneging and choosing UCLA.

Oddly enough, the school that struggled to land Bay Area talent at a time when it is loaded with top recruits is Cal, which has one scholarship player from the Bay Area on its current roster. But why isn't Berkeley more of a destination for the locals?

That's the question the Bay Citizen wondered about and got this quote from Bears coach Mike Montgomery, who is entering his fourth season with the program.

"The fact is that Cal is a very strong school academically, but for some kids that’s not a priority. They'll give you lip service, but at the end of the day, they’re not going to come."


Coaches and scouts said they detect some fundamental changes that made it more difficult for Bay Area schools to recruit. Montgomery pointed to a modern basketball culture in which prospects increasingly view college as a steppingstone to the N.B.A.

Montgomery said local schools can deal with that issue. "You can present the notion that if you’re going to be a pro, the N.B.A. will find you," he said.

The admissions might be part of it, but Montgomery -- the former longtime Stanford coach -- has had to deal with higher standards that have forced him to recruit on a national level before and still gone to the Final Four.

Winning isn't necessarily the issue at Cal. After all, it was in 2010 when Montgomery led the school to a regular-season Pac-10 title and win against Louisville in the NCAA tournament. The Bears are expected -- based upon players who went to high school in Southern California, Arizona and Nevada -- to finish in the top of this year's standings and receive some consideration for being the preseason favorite.

Cal shouldn't be ashamed to lose blue-chip recruits who reside within striking distance from Berkeley, but it should also be able to capitalize on the sheer amount of talent flowing from the area.

Consider Weber State's Damian Lillard, an Oakland native who has gone on to become a mid-major star after getting overlooked by Cal before Montgomery arrived. He read the Bay Guardian story and posted this reaction on his Twitter page:

A couple guys from my class could have played for Cal. I KNOW I could have. But they passed on us. It's jus karma SMH