As a freshman at Cal, Gary Franklin averaged 25 minutes a game and had the freedom to take any shot he wanted – even though he missed more than 70 percent of them.
Sounds like a dream situation for most any first-year player. But it wasn't good enough for Franklin, who informed Golden Bears coach Mike Montgomery on Wednesday that he was leaving the program.
"He has dreams to play in the NBA and doesn't feel like he'll be able to do it here," Montgomery told the San Jose Mercury News.
If that's truly the reason Franklin left the team – if it wasn't because of a pushy parent or AAU coach or the desire to join a friend at another school – then Cal is probably better off without him. As he attempts to turn the Golden Bears into a perennial Top 25 team, the last thing a former NBA coach such as Montgomery needs is a player who thinks he's smarter than his superiors.
Montgomery said Franklin told him he needed to play point guard to enhance his chances of playing at the next level. Montgomery had been using Franklin as a shooting guard. He was averaging 8.2 points per game but shooting just 29.7 percent from the field.
Jorge Gutierrez has been Cal's main point guard this season with Franklin playing off the ball to limit his workload and stress during his freshman season. When sophomore Brandon Smith moved into the starting lineup two games ago, Gutierrez moved to the wing and Franklin went to the bench.
Montgomery said the switch was made to motivate Franklin, who was the 78th-ranked prospect in the country by Rivals.com.
With transfer Justin Cobbs becoming eligible next season, Franklin had expressed concerns about his long-term future.
"He wondered where he's going to fit in," Montgomery told the Mercury News. "He doesn't want to do school for four years.
"It's kind of a crazy deal. You've got a freshman who was starting and playing 25 minutes. You don't usually see those kids leave."
Perhaps it's no coincidence that Cal played one of its best games of the season without Franklin on Thursday in a 73-71 loss at Arizona.
"I'll take that [loss] and a commitment like that," Montgomery told reporters after the game. "I know wins and losses are the whole deal, but [the players] came together and played with a lot of heart. I can't complain about that."
(Last week's rank in parenthesis.)
1. Washington (11-3, 3-0) – Freshman Terrence Ross continues to improve. (1)
2. USC (9-6, 1-1) – Alex Stepheson is one of the country's more underrated big men. (2)
3. UCLA (9-5, 1-1) – Point guard Lazeric Jones continues to play with an injured finger. (4)
4. Washington State (11-4, 1-2) – Point guard Reggie Moore played against Oregon State Thursday despite being cited Jan. 4 for two misdemeanor drug counts. (5)
5. Stanford (9-4, 2-0) – After Saturday, the Cardinal will play six of its next eight games at home. (8)
6. Arizona (13-3, 2-1) – Derrick Williams had a career-high 31 points against Cal on Wednesday. (3)
7. Cal (7-7, 0-2) – It's amazing the Golden Bears are as competitive as they are. (6)
8. Oregon State (7-7, 2-1) – Can the Beavers get to 10 wins this season? (9)
9. Arizona State (8-6, 1-2) – The Sun Devils 41 points against Stanford on Thursday were its fewest ever in its home arena. (10)
10. Oregon (7-8, 0-3) – The Ducks have shot below 40 percent over their last five games. (7)
Jared Cunningham, Oregon State – Along with leading the Beavers in points with 14.1, Cunningham also ranks among the country's top players in steals with 3.3 per contest. His efforts are finally paying off for Oregon State, which opened Pac-10 play with upsets of Arizona State and Arizona. Cunningham's offensive rebound and dunk off a teammate's miss against Arizona was one of the top slams of the year thus far.
Stanford – It may be too early to say that the Cardinal has turned the corner – but Johnny Dawkins' squad is certainly headed in the right direction. Stanford opened Pac-10 play with 14-point victories over Cal and Arizona State. Junior guard Jeremy Green averages a team-high 16 points.
Klay Thompson, Washington State – The Cougars junior guard is having an All-American-caliber season. Thompson is averaging 22.7 points for upstart Washington State and is shooting a respectable 47.2 percent from the field and 43.7 percent from 3-point range. He's scored 20 or more points in six of his last seven games.
Oregon – Reality is setting in for the Ducks, who enter Saturday's showdown at Washington State on a five-game losing streak. Home games follow against two of the league's top teams (USC and UCLA) before Oregon embarks on a three-game road trip. In other words, Dana Altman's squad may be staring at a 0-9 start in conference play.
Abdul Gaddy, Washington – It's tough not to feel sorry for the Huskies sophomore guard, whose season ended last week because of a torn ACL. Gaddy ranked fourth in the team in scoring with 8.5 points per contest and was shooting 50 percent from the field. Those numbers were significantly better than the ones he posted during a disappointing freshman season.
Arizona – Even though the Wildcats are still hurting at the most important position on the court (point guard) there's no excuse for losing to Oregon State – or for eking out a two-point home victory against a marginal Cal squad that lost one of its top players a day earlier.
THREE TO WATCH
Stanford at Arizona, Saturday – Can the Cardinal win in Tucson? Heck, why not? Cal almost did.
Cal at Arizona State – Tune in to see if the Sun Devils can crack the 50-point barrier.
UCLA at USC, Sunday – Two of the country's top bench coaches face off in Los Angeles.
- Gary Franklin