In a media day monologue that included details of his cancer scare along with humor both dark and self-deprecating, Cal coach Mike Montgomery made one glaring comment while describing the state of his team that was omitted from the Pac-12's detailed official transcript.
"Richard Solomon is no longer a freshman, although sometimes we have to check," Montgomery said half-jokingly. "But he's made great progress and has great upside."
It was an honest, little jab at the maturity level of a 6-foot-10 forward talented enough to have played major minutes as a freshman and earned a tryout to USA Basketball's Under-19 world championship team this summer. Solomon showed improvements this season while taking over a starting job, averaging 6.0 points and 7.3 rebounds, leading the team in boards.
But after being suspended indefinitely for conduct that Montgomery deemed detrimental to university and athletic department values, Solomon has left the No. 23 Bears a big question mark heading into Sunday's intriguing game at San Diego State.
Cal (6-1) uses a strong three-guard rotation with Jorge Gutierrez, Allen Crabbe and Brandon Smith with high-scoring Justin Cobbs coming off the bench. But alongside forward Harper Kamp, the Bears are thin in the frontcourt without Solomon.
The attention now centers around freshman David Kravish, who has impressed in the early going, averaging 4.7 points and 5.1 rebounds despite an obvious need to eventually add muscle to his 6-foot-9, 210-pound frame. Bak Bak and former walk-on Robert Thurman haven't received major minutes.
Cal seems to be the Pac-12 favorite after UCLA and Arizona dropped out of the rankings. A 39-point loss to Missouri in the CBE Classic was a definite sign that the Bears remain a work in progress. Solomon's suspension doesn't help, but a brief benching could provide a wake-up call for the talented sophomore and give Kravish a chance to shine.
For now, there's some growing up to be done.
"We expect our student-athletes to adhere to a high standard of behavior," Montgomery said in a statement. "In this particular instance, that was not the case."