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SoCalHoops Recruiting News

2002 Senior Signing: Cal Signs Rod Benson;
Gets A Few Others Too--(April 19, 2002)

cal-masthead-1.gif (3284 bytes)Since last week, our regular readers will note there has been an absence of articles here at SoCalHoops.  No we haven't decided to stop writing, but work (yes, real work) has prevented us from getting in front of the computer for all but the most mundane of tasks.  There's been quite a lot going on in the world of recruiting in the past two weeks or so that we haven't reported about, but we'll play a little catch up here, just to bring everyone up to speed in case you've been living under a rock or on the moon and missed this.

April 10, 2001, or nine days ago, was the first day of the late signing period in which National Letters of Intent could be signed by players committing to enroll this coming fall at a four year NCAA college or university.    Players do not have to actually be "qualified" for freshman eligibility to sign the NLI.  If they eventually do not qualify, either because they don't achieve a high enough score on the SAT or ACT, or don't achieve a high enough GPA (or don't fulfill high school or Junior College graduation requirements, which is a different story altogether) the National Letter they've signed becomes void.    If you want to read about the National Letter of Intent program and what it really means, check out the NLI's own official website.  There's more than enough there to whet your appetite if you're a contracts lawyer....But back to basketball.

Two days into the signing period, after taking a visit to Cal during the weekend of the two tournaments in Las Vegas (which kept Cal head coach Ben Bruan and assistant coach Louis Reynaud on campus and away from Vegas), Torrey Pines senior Rodrique Benson (6'-9" Sr. F) signed a National Letter of Intent to play at Cal next season.  We've long had Rod as one of our top forwards in the class of 2002, and this past season, particular at the Torrey Pines National Prep Classic, he started to attract a lot of attention from quite a few scouts and the Pac-10 in particular.   Given the fact that Cal will be a bit thin up front next season-- an understatment and certainly no pun intended with respect to Rod, who will need some serious college weight room work--what with Gabriel Hughes having been granted his release this past week, with Solomon Hughes graduating, with Jamal Sampson jumping to the NBA (irretrievably it would seem, since he's left school and is now living in SoCal again and hanging with his friends from Mater Dei like Mike Strawberry).  With only Amit Tamir (6'-10" So F) as the tallest and only truly experienced returning foward, (and even his return could be affected by the developing situation in the Middle East since he's an Israeli citizen, and even though he's served his miltary commitment, you never know when there will be a call up of more reserves), Rod Benson could be called upon to fill an immediate role in the post.

Here's the press release from Cal announcing the signing last week of Rod Benson:

Cal Signs Rod Benson to Basketball National Letter-Of-Intent
6-9, 200-pound power forward led Torrey Pines High School to a 25-4 record.

April 12, 2002

BERKELEY, CA - Rod Benson, a 6-9, 200-pound power forward who propelled San Diego's Torrey Pines High School to a 25-4 record and CIF sectional semifinal playoff appearance last season, has signed a basketball national letter-of-intent to attend the University of California, Bears' head coach Ben Braun announced today. 

Benson, named first team All-Palomar League and second team All-CIF San Diego Section, averaged 14 points, 8.5 rebounds and 3.8 blocks as a senior at Torrey Pines. Recruited by such national programs as UCLA, Stanford, Oregon, Villanova and Pepperdine, the 17-year-old big man was rated as the No. 3 center on the West Coast by Benson also played on his high school volleyball team. 

"We are really excited about Rod's potential," said Braun. "He has got some great intangibles-he is athletic, quick and very well coached-and brings a lot of positive qualities to our program. "Rod should have an excellent opportunity to contribute next year. He is also a very fine student."  

In other recruiting news, Braun also announced today that Alabama's 6-7 forward Kennedy Winston would not attend the university. Citing family health reasons, the coach said that Cal has granted Winston's request to release him from his signed national letter-of-intent. 

"It was important to respect the wishes of Kennedy and his family," said Braun. "We wish him well and hope that he enjoys his college experience wherever he enrolls."

Cal won't be without other frontline assistance next fall either.  As reported in today's Orange County Register in Steve Fryer's column, Cal has been busy making plans to take another forward to fill the frontline void,  and Brice Prather (6'-9" Sr. PF)  will now reportedly walk-on to the team.  Here's the excerpt from Steve Fryer's column on the subject of Prather's decision to walk-on at Cal:

What a great idea: Put education first
April 19, 2002

The Orange County Register

Brice Prather is taking a gamble but opting for a sure thing at the same time. 

Prather, an All-Orange County second-team boys basketball player at Villa Park, has turned down scholarship offers from Azusa Pacific, Pt. Loma, Westmont and other colleges so he can attend Cal. 

He will try to make the basketball team as a walk-on - that's the gamble. But make the team or not, Prather is going to get a great education - and that's the sure thing.

"I want to get the best education I can," Prather said. 

"That's why I decided to go to Cal."

So many times we hear about Orange County athletes who accept athletic scholarship offers they are not completely excited about, and one year later they have returned home and are pretty much starting over at a junior college.  

That's no criticism of the county's junior colleges, which offer worthwhile educational and athletic opportunities. 

Kids do not put education ahead of athletics often enough when making their life's choices. Prather did. A smart move by a smart guy, and it's a move that more should follow.

Cal has also been looking at other available post and foward options, including expressing some interest (from what our sources tell us) in Chaminade senior Jon Todd, who will likely opt for the academics also at the University of Chicago, which plays in the prestigious Presidential Conference, which includes Washington University of St. Louis, NYU, Case-Western Reserve, Rochester, Emory, and which really is the only NCAA D-III conference with a truly national travel schedule.  We've heard also that Cal was mildly interested in Paul Meynen (7'-0" Sr. C) from Redondo Union, who is reportedly now considering Army, Northern Arizona and a few other schools, as well as some other high schoolers as well as JC guys.  Who else the Bears will wind up with from the players available this year (other than the players who signed in the fall, i.e., Richard Midgeley and David Paris) is anyone's guess at this point.  We know that Cal has also expressed interest in taking a walk-on guard or two, and it's no secret that one such guard target is John Sharper of Berkeley St. Mary's HS, who was admitted to Cal,  but we've recently heard some rumblings on the recruiting trail that John has received several scholarship offers from other D-I's that he might pursue instead of a walk-on spot.  Where all of this will wind up is anyone's guess at this point, but the Cal coaches are doing their best to get some great players to fill out the roster, and to cover for the absence of players like Sampson, and to deal with the recent news that that very talented Kennedy Winston will now not be coming to Berkeley.

As for next year's class, it's been widely reported and confirmed that Cal has received it's first verbal commitment from the class of 2003, getting a verbal from Mater Dei's Wesley Washington (6'-3" Jr. G), and with Harrison Schaen (6'-9" Jr. F) from Mater Dei also getting lots of attention from the Cal coaches (as well as USC, Stanford and Arizona) also, perhaps another Mater Dei connection is in the works as well.

One thing we'll say about the Bears is that there's always a story lurking just around the corner with a team that never lacks for excitement.   Hey, it's Berkeley, so what did you expect?  Button down collars and suits?

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