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July 28, 2011

Ricky does some 'splaining



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It's not exactly easy to get reception out on a farm in the middle of Missouri, but the newest member of the California basketball team, transfer Ricky Kreklow, was able to find a spot with good enough reception and gab for a spell with BearTerritory about his choice.

"I've always enjoyed getting out, away from everything, so I'm just kind of hanging out here before I go up with a friend playing in a tournament in Minnesota for a few days, and then either that week, or the week after, I'm headed out to Berkeley," Kreklow said from the family farm. "Then, I just get moved in and start up with school."

Because of the late hour of his commitment, Kreklow will not be able to accompany the team to Europe for its swing through several Scandinavian locales beginning on August 12, but once the Bears return to campus, he'll do everything but play in games, as he has to sit out a year due to transfer eligibility issues, much like Justin Cobbs did in the 2010-11 season after jumping over from Minnesota.

"Everything's all happening so fast, because I started the transfer thing so late," Kreklow said. "It all kind of came together pretty fast, too."

The 6-foot-6, 200-pound shooting guard made the choice to transfer from Missouri after the departure of head coach Mike Anderson in late March. When Anderson bolted for Arkansas, Kreklow felt it was time for a change of scenery for himself, as well.

"It's college basketball; it's a business, so it happens," Kreklow said of the coaching change. "There are no hard feelings either way. Coach Anderson and his staff were great. I really liked them, and they gave me the opportunity to play, but I found a better opportunity, to play in the Pac-12, and I couldn't really turn that down, so there are no hard feelings there.

"Columbia is really a small town, and I've grown up there, but things were becoming pretty mundane. It was just kind of a good window to get somewhere, where it was not only going to be a better fit, but just a little bit of a change of pace from what I had here in Missouri."

After being granted his release from Missouri, Kreklow began to send out feelers, and came into contact with the Cal coaching staff.

"It started out with contact with coach Jay John, and I officially got in touch with coach Montgomery and from there, I set up the visit," Kreklow said. "The visit went well, I enjoyed all of it and it was a great place, a nice change of pace from Columbia. Columbia's not a small town, but it's not large, either, and I think that the Bay Area is really nice, and I just like the guys on the team. They're guys that I want to be around."

Kreklow in particular bonded with fellow Midwesterner Alex Rossi, and no wonder. Both are 6-foot-6, 200 pounds. Both are from small town middle America and both are three-point snipers. The only difference is that Rossi spent his true freshman year on the shelf with a hernia while Kreklow got in some valuable Big 12 minutes.

"We got along great, and we actually knew each other previously from when we went to camps and in our summer league before our senior year," Kreklow said. "We had been to one of the Virginia elite camps and we were on the same team a lot there, and I think we were both being recruited to Virginia at that time, so we had known each other previously. We'd stayed in touch a little bit, and he's one of the guys that I really did get along with well."

Ultimately, Kreklow wound up choosing the Bears over perennial mid-major powerhouse Gonzaga after taking visits to both schools. Apart from old friend Rossi, it was meeting Cal head coach Mike Montgomery that wound up sealing the deal.

"I visited Gonzaga sometime in late June, and it worked out to where I visited Cal in July, and those were really the only two campuses I felt like I needed to go visit," Kreklow said. "Both were a great fit, but it was just a matter of seeing what both had to offer, what they both were like. Then I just went forward from there.

"Cal, I mean, coach Montgomery, he's had a lot of success over the years, and he's a very experienced coach. He's a 600-win coach, I mean, he knows what he's doing, and he's been successful with different kinds of guys."

The "kinds of guys" Kreklow refers to are players who buy into Montgomery's deliberate, defensive and execution-based style of play which requires high basketball IQ and a commitment to a team concept.

"Those are the players that usually gravitates towards the way he coaches, the style he plays, I mean, he's been extremely successful with that in the past, and I feel like everything, the way that everything kind of fits now, with the personnel they have there now, the other freshmen they have coming in, things are looking pretty bright for that program, right now," Kreklow said.

After taking home the program's first conference title in 50 years during the 2009-10 season, Montgomery led a very young and inexperienced squad to a fourth-place Pac-10 finish in 2010-11 and a win in the first round of the National Invitational Tournament, something few expected when the team was picked to finish seventh in the conference before the season.

"I feel like not only are things looking great, but they're just a good fit," Kreklow said. "With Jorge graduating next year, that will be a good opportunity for me to kind of step in and earn some playing time at that spot, It's a good situation, because in order to get better, you have to play."

And play Kreklow certainly did at Missouri, seeing action in 32 games for the Tigers, and as a true freshman averaged 2.1 points and 1.3 rebounds in 9.8 minutes per game.

"[Montgomery] has a reputation for being able to develop players, as well," Kreklow said. "That's one of the main things I was really looking for, coming out of Mizzou: where am I going to be able to go that's going to be a good experience, and where am I going to go and get better, as well? Those were a lot of the factors that contributed to me deciding to go to Cal."

When asked to characterize his game, Kreklow hit all the buzz words one expects from a Montgomery-type player.

"I try to be smart when I play," Kreklow said. "I try to make the right decisions, try to play with good basketball IQ. When you play smart, it makes up for a lot of mistakes that you're going to make, because nobody's perfect. If you just try to limit mistakes, you can save your possessions. I think, for me, it's just playing hard and playing as a team. I don't really care who gets what points or anything, as long as we end up winning the game.

"I guess I'm just a team guy. I guess that's kind of, it seems like a natural fit, talking to coach Montgomery about Cal, how I would fit into what he was doing, how they will help develop me, and help me come along in the program as well, he's one of those fits. I was looking for a perfect fit, and I found it."



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