College Basketball Nation: Max Zhang

Cal's Max Zhang will skip fall semester

September, 24, 2010
Cal junior Max Zhang is not enrolled in school this fall after deciding to play for Team China in the Asian Games in November. The school is hoping its 7-foot-3 center will return to the team in the spring.

A school statement said Zhang believes competing for Team China at the games in Guangzhou at this time gives him the best opportunity to eventually make the Chinese Olympic Team.

"This was something Max couldn't afford to pass up, and we understand that," Cal coach Mike Montgomery said in a statement. "This has always been a lifelong dream of his, and we're wishing him the best of luck."

A fan favorite, Zhang improved last season while mainly coming off the bench to provide an inside presence. He blocked 37 shots, averaged 3.1 points and 2.4 rebounds.

Pac-10 will Asia?

June, 6, 2010
SAN FRANCISCO -- Can you say “Rose Bowl” in Mandarin?

While first-year commissioner Larry Scott has made headlines of late for his role in possible Pac-10 expansion, he also said Sunday that he hopes to market the conference both nationally and internationally.

“I think we’re going to be the first collegiate conference to really have an international marketing plan, which I do envision in the future will include broadcasts of our contests and games internationally as well as competitions,” Scott said. “You’ll see our student-athletes playing in an organized way in Asia.”

Details of this new marketing initiative among others are expected to be unveiled next month at the Pac-10 football coaches media event, which will be held in New York of all places.

Instead of the usual airport hotel in Los Angeles, this three-day bicoastal tour for the coaches will kick off July 27 -- quite possibly at a New York cocktail party, according to assistant commissioner Dave Hirsch -- and then head to ESPN’s studios in Bristol, Conn., before finishing up back at the picturesque Rose Bowl.

As if that’s not enough pizzazz, the Pac-10 now wants to push itself as an international brand as well.

“The West Coast is the gateway to the Pacific Rim,” Scott said. “We’ve got a lot of student-athletes that have Asian roots in particular. Some of our schools have a very high level of brand recognition over in Asia, and there’s a lot of interest in our schools from Asia.”

UCLA, for example, saw its gear become somewhat of a fashion trend recently in China. According to the Daily Bruin, the school made $285,000 in income in 2007 through international licensing in Asia.

And as players go, Cal has already put together promotions revolving around 7-foot-3 men’s basketball player Max Zhang, a native of China who has become a fan favorite in Berkeley.

It’s no surprise, of course, that Scott would have a global worldview. His previous job for six years was chairman and CEO of the WTA Tour, and he successfully showcased women’s tennis to different regions and markets worldwide through tour stops and a new television deal.

“I was brought in from outside of intercollegiate sports because we’ve got a leadership group that has a very bold vision for what the Pac-10 can be going forward,” Scott said. “That’s why I’m here.”

Cal fans, please come to the games

February, 25, 2010
Clinging to a first-place lead in the Pac-10 and on the verge of capturing its first conference championship in a half-century, Cal is going to be playing in big games this week starting tonight against Arizona.

Just in case Bears fans didn't get the memo, coach Mike Montgomery sent out a letter to them on the team's Web site, listing the reasons why they should show up and even presenting alternatives if they can't:
We need every seat in Haas Pavilion to be full for these two games. If you have tickets for the game, we need you to use them. If you don't have tickets for the game, I encourage you to purchase yours today at If you have tickets, but are unable to use them, I ask that you pass them off to someone who can be there.

Come on, Cal fans. It's not like Haas Pavilion is hosting the Republican National Convention or something, and Monty is starting to sound like StubHub trying to get you to come out and support.

As Oakland Tribune columnist Monte Poole notes, the building hasn't been sold out once all year. He too lists some reasons to possibly explain it, including a bad year for the Pac-10, some bad losses that took away the team's momentum, and the lack of a homegrown star.

It probably doesn't help Cal that fan favorite Max Zhang is out for Thursday's game with a collapsed lung on Asian Heritage Night with tickets being discounted and rally towels with "Go Bears" written in Mandarin on them are being given away.

But the mere thought of a championship banner and image of cutting the nets down should be enough motivation.


Max Zhang dunks on Ducks, Mac Court gets revenge

February, 21, 2010
Cal center Max Zhang was the man who sparked the Pac-10-leading Bears in the second half against Oregon on Saturday, scoring eight points in five minutes and even hitting his free throws.

Only thing that stopped him? A low-hanging pipe at Mac Court, according to Jeff Faraudo of the Oakland Tribune:
Walking toward the locker room after Cal's 64-49 victory over Oregon on Saturday afternoon, Max Zhang conked his head on a large pipe running across a low ceiling in the bowels of McArthur Court. The collision sent him to the floor.

It was the only thing that slowed the 7-foot-2 1/4 center all day.

"I do that all the time," Zhang said.

Zhang appears OK, and point and laugh at him if you want, but his size could be a factor as Cal tries to hang on to win its first conference title in 50 years. Still developing, Zhang has played only 12 minutes this month, but Mike Montgomery can use him to change the course of a game simply with his shot-blocking ability.

The Arizona schools will see him at Haas Pavilion later this week, and the Bears await the results of Sunday's Arizona-Arizona State game to see if the Sun Devils will win and put themselves only a half-game out of first.

Rapid Reaction: Cal 93, Washington 81

February, 11, 2010
BERKELEY, Calif. -- Here's my starting five:

  • Cal's Jamal Boykin is playing inspired basketball. He played with intensity from the opening tip, scoring 20 points and a bunch of those in the paint. The transfer from Duke has really found a home here. After one emphatic swat of a Washington shot, the fans just roared.
  • Jorge Gutierrez is still a step slow from a knee injury, yet it's clear how much he means to Cal. The guy does the dirty work, taking the charges no one else wants a part of. He also annoyed Quincy Pondexter. The Bears can only hope his health continues to improve. With 12:10 left, he looked gimpy and asked out of the game momentarily.
  • It was somewhat of a homecoming for Pondexter, who grew up in Fresno. His father Roscoe and mother Doris were in the stands watching along with his brother and sister. Pondexter didn't have his best game, but by the end of the night, he was right around his scoring average with 18 points.
  • Jerome Randle had a big night with 33 points. He had Haas Pavilion silent after going down hard in the second half, but eventually was checked by trainers and checked back in to provide one final highlight - an alley-oop to Patrick Christopher.
  • Crowd favorite Max Zhang got into the game for the first time with 22.3 seconds left. The 7-foot-3 center wasn't needed in this game since Washington forwards might have out-quicked him. Mike Montgomery likes to use Zhang to change the feel of the game, and on this night, Cal was up big the whole time.