Underrated Recruit Changed Game for Cal

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OK children, is everybody tucked in? Uncle G. has a bedtime story for everybody.

Tonight, we'll discuss when the best comes from a bad situation; when the finest blessing comes in a tremendous disguise. This is the fortunate tale of how Jorge Gutierrez ended up in Berkeley.

Once upon a time, not too long ago, the Cal men's basketball team was talent-rich in a Pac-10 abounding with NBA talent. This conference featured players like Kevin Love, Russell Westbrook and O.J. Mayo, among many others. And Cal had NBA prospects Ryan Anderson and DeVon Hardin to match this flood of top-flight talent.

The Bears could score from anywhere on the floor - near the basket, from the outside, from the mid-range, you name it. The problem was defense. Everybody likes to put the ball in the hoop. Stopping the opponent from doing so takes an extra mental gear.

One ninth-place finish later, coach Ben Braun was fired and Cal basketball needed somebody else. That elected leader, Mike Montgomery, had to retain the two offensively gifted but defensively lacking recruits that Braun signed - D.J. Seeley and Garrett Sim - so the Bears would have players to replace the graduating Hardin and Eric Vierneisel as well as Anderson, who would eventually declare for the NBA Draft.

Seeley agreed to stay (though he would transfer after last season), but Sim surprised everybody when he reopened his recruitment after Braun's firing. Sim leveraged his tremendous senior season to sign with his hometown school, Oregon, who will play at Haas Pavilion this Saturday.

The point is Cal needed to replace Sim, who abandoned Cal at the worst possible time and left the basketball team in the lurch. Most Division I-caliber recruits were off the market, and the Bears needed a guard.

And then they found a guy that somebody should have found long ago.

Jorge Gutierrez started on one of the best high school basketball teams in the nation. Nevada's Findlay Prep featured other starters who would attend Kentucky, Washington, Florida State among other schools. The team went undefeated in Gutierrez's senior season, but he only garnered offers from mid-majors like Northern Colorado and UC Santa Barbara.

So the Bears looked at Gutierrez. He couldn't dribble through defenders or swish long threes, but he could dive for loose balls and pick off opposing passes.

And that was exactly the type of player that Cal needed.

The Bears needed more than a scoring-obsessed guard to elevate their status in the Pac-10. They needed hustle and more importantly, they needed defense. They needed true basketball intangibles.

So before ever coaching a game as Cal's head coach, Montgomery brought along Jorge. Both of their presences have transformed the attitude of Cal basketball.

Now, Gutierrez is the fearless leader of a tough Bears' team. Conversely, Garrett Sim has done little to distinguish himself on a floundering Oregon squad. As Montgomery classifies the Sim-for-Jorge swap, "I'd make that trade 100 times out of 100."

The moral of the story, kids, is not to fall for the allure of stardom. Don't let the Rivals.com star rankings, the high school hype or the list of offers fool you. Sometimes the best additions are the most understated. Just watch Jorge the next time he takes the court.

Good night.

Tags: CAL MEN'S BASKETBALL, JORGE GUTIERREZ, MIKE MONTGOMERY


Ask Gabriel to tell you a bedtime story at [email protected]



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