Justin Cobbs needs to lead for Cal to get ahead


Mar 21, 2013; San Jose, CA, USA; California Golden Bears guard Justin Cobbs (1) celebrates with forward Richard Solomon (35) after the basket against the UNLV Rebels during the first half of the second round of the 2013 NCAA tournament at HP Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Here we are, just a few weeks days away from the season opener for the Cal mens basketball team. Since it has been a slow (but kind of depressing) day in Cal football, I thought I would look forward to the basketball season. Starting today, I am going to be releasing a player profile for each man on the roster:

#1 Justin Cobbs

Position: PG/SG
Height: 6’3″
Weight: 190 lbs.

In order for a team to be good, a team must have great guard play. Look at all the best teams of the last 25 years…most of them have solid guards who could change the dynamic of the game on the flip of a switch. This season, Cal may have one of the very best guards in the nation. The only problem is, we’re still a little unsure about his bill of health.

Senior Justin Cobbs is a two-time All-Pac-12 selection who is the current Pac-12 leader in assists. Cobbs is such a good player that he was named to the preseason watch list for the 2014 Bob Cousy Collegiate Point Guard of the Year Award earlier today. Along with him, four other Pac-12 players appeared on the preseason list (Arizona State’s Jahii Carson, UCLA’s Kyle Anderson, Colorado’s Spencer Dinwiddie and Washington’s Nigel Williams-Goss). His inclusion in the award watch list isn’t too surprising. Last season, he averaged 15.1 points and 4.8 assists per game.

He returns to a Cal team that brings back four starters (including him) from last year’s NCAA tournament team. He’s the Bears’ top returning scorer. He also is the most accomplished player. He was the most accurate shooter from beyond the arc on the team last season (33%), he was fourth in the Pac-12 in assists last season (4.8) and he has been working hard all offseason to become one of the best point guards in the nation.

So, what’s the problem? He broke his foot while playing in the San Francisco Pro-Am finals this past summer. The word is that he’ll be ready for the season opener. But, as we know with sports injuries, they tend to linger even after they’re “fixed.” Look at Brendan Bigelow…he’s been 100% according to everyone, including Bigelow, and yet he’s been playing like he’s off all season long. Cobbs is the heart and soul of this team. He’s a senior who has played at two top-end basketball programs in his collegiate career. Having that kind of talent, experience and knowledge of the playbook on the team is valuable to say the least. If Cal loses him, their season could be rough to watch.

He has stated he’s about 80% right now. If that isn’t a exaggeration, that means he’ll be fine once meat of the schedule comes up. However, if he’s saying what every fan wants to hear, then I don’t know how this team will fare.

Cobbs’ game can be described as versatile. He can shoot well, create opportunities and pass effectively. He is the most important cog to what can potentially be a Conference Championship team. He is a good jump shooter, but he has the kind of strength that makes him a threat to finish (and finish well) at the rim. He took great strides in becoming a balanced player this season, I expect he may be even better this season. He will be leaned on if the young players cannot come up big to start the season.

The one thing I have to mention is that Cobbs cannot afford to go into the slump he dwelled in for much of the middle of the year last season. I know Cobbs did regain his touch last in the season, helping this team run off nine out of ten wins from January 31st to March 2nd, before the lost their season finale against Stanford.

All in all, Cobbs is the guy who Cal will need to step up and become a leader now that Allen Crabbe is gone. Cal has a lot of depth and talent (significantly different than the football team), but they also have a lot of youth. Cobbs is one of the few who can make this team go by just playing his game. If he can stay healthy and play good ball, this team can go far. If not, expect this team to fall victim to a really good conference.