It's an exciting time for California Basketball.
The Bears first practice of the season takes place Saturday and 2014's early signing period is a mere six weeks away.
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That doesn't mean, however, Cal can sleep on more forward thinking duties. So this week, Mike Montgomery's staff hit the recruiting trail with an eye toward 2015, and it started on Tuesday with Gregg Gottlieb's visit to see Ray Smith and Chase Jeter in Las Vegas.
At 6-6, Ray Smith has the length and defensive versatility likely to remind Cal fans of 2013 Pac-12 Player of the Year, Allen Crabbe. But Smith is a better creator at this stage in his career, and his terrific ball handling skills have several programs envisioning him at the point guard position.
"I think I can play the 1, 2, or 3," Smith told GoldenBearReport on Wednesday evening. "I'd say my strength is that I can get to the basket and create shots."
Arizona, UNLV, San Diego State, and USC have all shown interest in Smith, but California has made quick progress with the 4-Star hoopster.
"They called once toward the end of the summer, I think, and then Coach Gottlieb came to my school yesterday. My dad and I want to see a game so we're going to visit Cal on November 8th (Coppin State)."
Two years after Shabazz Muhammad catapulted Bishop Gorman to the center of the recruiting universe little has changed. The Las Vegas high school continues to draw waves of college recruiters, though now they arrive to bend the ear of Chase Jeter and Stephen Zimmerman, Rivals' No. 21 and No. 2 ranked players in the class of 2015, respectively.
Of the two, it's Jeter who's commanded the Bears attention.
"I've been talking to them for a while," reported the 4-Star big to GBR. "Coach Gottlieb is a great coach and I got to see Cal play a couple times last year. They're a good team."
Competition, though, is stiff for Jeter, and in addition to the Bears, Kansas, Texas, Vanderbilt, UCLA, USC, and Ohio State have all been in frequent communication.
The program that ultimately lands Jeter may be the one best able to articulate its vision for the 6-9 forward.
"I feel like I can play a fast, uptempo style or a more methodical style, but I'd say I'm still probably finding my niche."
Sin City behind him, Gottlieb turned-up at Loyola High School in Los Angeles on Wednesday where he took a brief break from eyeing 2015 talent to chat with Thomas Welsh.
But it's not all coming up roses for the Bears. Despite visiting UCLA last weekend, the Bruins have managed to coax an unofficial visit from Welsh this Saturday for their first day of practice.
Still, Welsh continues to evaluate his options and the Bears remain very much under the 7-footers consideration.
After meeting with Gottlieb earlier in the week and in light of Saturday's quick trip into Westwood, there's some speculation Welsh reaches a decision before his scheduled trip to Colorado October 5th.
Chance Comanche, a 5-Star junior out of View Park High School and a player previously unknown to most Cal fans also received a visit from Gottlieb.
At 6-10, Comanche's preference to play with his back to the basket makes him a rarity.
There's no shortage of early suitors for 2015's No. 15 rated player but Oregon, Connecticut, USC, Arizona, and California are among his most aggressive pursuers.
Gottlieb's final destination: Minnesota to chat with 6-9 load Alex Illikainen, on Thursday.
The sibling of two collegiate hockey player sisters, Illikainen is, not surprisingly, amenable to physical play. But there's also plenty of finesse to his game, and in speaking to GBR over the summer, Rivals' No. 83 rated hoopster ('15) was more than a little enamored with the idea of going to school in California.
Both sisters attended colleges on the east coast, so distance isn't expected to be an issue for the 4-Star.
Tinkle in red, #3
John Montgomery spent Thursday visiting with the offspring of Montana's head coach, Wayne Tinkle.
A 6-6, 2015 target, Tres Tinkle is something of a tweener, but father Wayne told GBR he expects his son to grow as tall as 6-11.
What's not up for debate is the leadership Rivals' No. 113 rated player exhibited in guiding his AAU squad to the championship game in Anaheim last July.
Remarked the elder Tinkle to GBR, "not bad for a group of kids from Missoula, eh?"
A 6-7 wing from the central coast of California, Walker -- Rivals' No. 44 rated player in 2015 -- boasts offers from most schools out west. His ability to slash to the basket, score from the outside, and stalk opponents from behind on the fast break, means he's capable of contributing any number of ways.
Walker is also a straight-A student, and when DeCuire met with the 4-Star leaper on Thursday, he likely continued to hammer on Berkeley's pairing of academic and athletic excellence.
Walker's father told GBR the visit "went great" and that the two are looking into scheduling a visit in the next month or two.