When Patrick Christopher decided last April not to declare for the NBA draft, he called Jerome Randle, his backcourtmate at Cal, and arranged to meet him at a Bay Area restaurant. "He was excited when I told him," Christopher says of returning for his senior season. "We came in together as freshmen and have always wanted to get to the point where expectations were [high]."

The two Golden Bears got what they wished for after their team jumped from ninth in the Pac-10 in 2007--08 to a third-place tie and an NCAA tournament berth last season under first-year coach Mike Montgomery. Now Cal and Washington are the co-favorites to win the conference.

Christopher, who developed into one of the Pac-10's best defenders, and Randle, a point guard who led the league in assists (5.0 per game), averaged 32.8 points between them and were All-Pac-10 selections. Overall, the team's strengths are experience (four senior starters total) and three-point shooting. Swingman Theo Robertson shot 48.7% from beyond the arc last season, and as a team the Bears hit a nation's-best 42.7%.

The lack of an inside game is the main sore point. "We're not very big," says Montgomery. "We don't have a shot blocker or someone who can really clean the glass." The Bears, who ranked sixth in the league in defensive field goal percentage (44.2%) and eighth in scoring defense (allowing 69.2 points per game), need Harper Kamp, a junior best suited to run the high-post sets Montgomery favors, to bounce back quickly from off-season arthroscopic knee surgery.

They also need more consistency from Christopher, who shot 21.7% from three-point range in Cal's 11 losses and 50.0% in their 22 wins. "When we lost at USC, I struggled [four points]; when we played them at home, I had one of my best games, with 29 points," he says. "What would have happened had I played the whole season like I did against USC at home? We have to seize the moment."



Mike Montgomery (2nd year)

2008--09 record



11--7 (T-3rd)

NCAA tournament

First round


PG Jerome Randle 5'10" Sr. 18.3 ppg 5.0 apg
SG Patrick Christopher 6'5" Sr. 14.5 ppg 3.8 rpg
SF Theo Robertson 6'6" Sr. 13.1 ppg 3.9 rpg
PF Jamal Boykin 6'8" Sr. 9.6 ppg 6.4 rpg
C Markhuri Sanders-Frison* 6'7" Jr. 9.0 ppg 6.6 rpg
G Jorge Gutierrez 6'3" Soph. 4.7 ppg 1.8 apg

Returning starter

*Junior college stats


Nov. 9 Murray State

Nov. 11 Detroit

Nov. 19 Syracuse*

Nov. 20 UNC or Ohio State*

Nov. 24 Jacksonville

Nov. 29 Princeton

Dec. 2 at New Mexico

Dec. 5 Iowa State

Dec. 9 at Pacific

Dec. 22 at Kansas

Dec. 28 Utah Valley†

Dec. 29 UC Santa Barbara or Furman†

Jan. 2 Stanford

Jan. 6 UCLA

Jan. 9 USC

Jan. 14 at Washington State

Jan. 16 at Washington

Jan. 21 Oregon

Jan. 23 Oregon State

Jan. 28 at Arizona State

Jan. 31 at Arizona

Feb. 4 at USC

Feb. 6 at UCLA

Feb. 11 Washington

Feb. 13 Washington State

Feb. 18 at Oregon State

Feb. 20 at Oregon

Feb. 25 Arizona

Feb. 27 Arizona State

March 6 at Stanford

*2K Sports Classic in New York City

†Golden Bear Classic


Cal has some tough challenges—including either North Carolina or Ohio State in the 2K Sports Classic—but a game at Kansas will be the clearest test of whether the Golden Bears are a national contender.

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PHOTOERIC WOLFE/CAL SPORT MEDIAPATRICK CHRISTOPHER The guard leads a senior-laden lineup that has a chance to live its dream of becoming Pac-10 champs—and more. PHOTO