As much as the Cal basketball team expects four newcomers to provide a boost this season, coach Mark Fox is counting on three returning players who will play their senior seasons — two of them for the second time.
Because the NCAA gave athletes a do-over for last season because of hardships created by the COVID-19 pandemic, forward Grant Anticevich and guard Makale Foreman will replay their senior seasons in 2021-22. Both are hoping they can avoid the second-half drop-offs that characterized their seasons a year ago.
Also ready for his senior campaign is forward Andre Kelly, who has shown steady improvement since arriving at Cal from Stockton and is positioned for a strong final year, Fox believes.
Anticevich, a 6-foot-9 native of Australia, had his season interrupted last year by an emergency appendectomy on December 17 that sidelined him for four games and caused him to lose “significant” weight, according to Fox.
Anticevich was producing 10.3 points, 5.9 rebounds and was shooting 57 percent from the field through seven games when his appendix burst. After returning, those numbers dropped to 8.3 points, 4.0 rebounds and 39 percent over the final 18 games.
“Grant never really was never the same after the ruptured appendix,” Fox said. “He had a really good offseason and is shooting the ball extremely well. I’m excited for his super-senior season.”
In the video at the top of this season, Fox also talks about the example Anticevich and Cal’s other seniors can be for freshmen Marsalis Robertson, Obinna Anyanwu and Sam Alajiki.
Foreman came to Cal last season from Stony Brook, where he scored 15.6 points per game and made a school-record 104 shots from beyond the 3-point arc in 2019-20.
Foreman, who began his career at Chattanooga, contributed at least two 3-point baskets to each of Cal’s first four games and had four games with four 3’s over the season’s first 13 games. He made the winning 3-pointer at the buzzer against USF.
But his shooting slumped over the second half of the schedule. Through 14 games, Foreman converted 38 percent (33-for-87) from deep; over the final 15 games, it was just 21 percent (11-for-52).
Foreman says a back injury impacted his second half, and Fox believes the lack of a normal offseason due to the pandemic affected most players’ ability to be fully fit.
“With all these guys last year, the durability factor, without an offseason . . . guys can wear down and I think that probably happened to Makale a little bit.” he said. “Across the roster, we had a lot of little injuries that had we had a normal offseason those things probably would not have been as impactful, we could have avoided some of those.”
But Foreman’s production also likely was affected by increased defensive attention he received following his early-season success.
“I think any player, once you make a few shots, you get guarded a little closer. People start to take it away and it becomes harder,” Fox said. “He’s had a really good offseason and we’re excited about him hopefully being more consistent throughout the entire year.”
Kelly, a sturdy 6-9 post player, has improved each season at Cal. His scoring has climbed from 6.3 points as a freshman to 7.5 as a sophomore to 10.3 last season. His rebounding has following a similar arc: From 3.7 to 5.6 to 6.4 per game a year ago. Kelly also shot a career-high 59 percent from the field in 2020-21.
Fox likes what he’s seen in the offseason from Kelly.
“He’s worked hard to become more and more explosive and has had a great approach this fall, really has matured as a defender,” Fox said.
The Bears, coming off a 2020-21 season in which they were 9-20 overall and last in the Pac-12 at 3-17, open their schedule on Nov. 9 at home against UC San Diego.
Cover photo of Grant Anticevich by D. Ross Cameron, USA Today
Follow Jeff Faraudo of Cal Sports Report on Twitter: @jefffaraudo