BERKELEY (AP) — Allen Crabbe is already beginning to attract opponents’ top defenders. On Sunday night, that was Washington star Justin Holiday.
Crabbe better get used to it.
Not even California coach Mike Montgomery could envision such a significant role for the lanky freshman guard.
Or quite this production from his first-year player on the defending Pac-10 champions.
Crabbe’s emergence of late has been big for the short-handed Golden Bears, who are relying on eight scholarship players and three walk-ons.
Crabbe scored a season-best 30 points on 10-for-15 shooting in an overtime win over Washington State last week in a breakout game, a timely performance with a handful of NBA scouts in the stands to see it.
He has scored 16 or more points in five of his last six games and played all 40 minutes of a 65-61 victory at Arizona State on Jan. 8, then 44 minutes in the overtime victory over the Cougars last Thursday night.
The 6-foot-6, 205-pound Crabbe is averaging 11.1 points and 5.5 rebounds
“Given the structure of our team right now, Allen’s gaining confidence as he goes,” Montgomery said. “I’m not sure I would have expected a freshman to play 40 minutes of a Pac-10 game. We’re not real deep right now. When we have a chance to win the game, we’re going to go with the people we have. Generally speaking, freshmen shouldn’t have to play that much. He’s going to have to be aggressive on the fly.”
Crabbe, known for his accurate touch from long range and reliable hand at the free-throw line, went 4 for 10 from the floor in Sunday night’s 92-71 loss to No. 20 Washington.
“He will be fine,” said Montgomery, whose team (9-8, 2-3 Pac-10) hits the road this week for a tough trip to UCLA and Southern California.
Crabbe brings an important scoring presence to the Bears after they lost their big three from last season: Pac-10 Player of the Year Jerome Randle, Patrick Christopher and Theo Robertson.
That trio and two other seniors from last season are gone. All of them played key roles in the school’s first conference title in 50 years and a second straight NCAA tournament berth since Montgomery took over as coach.
Also departed is 7-foot-3 Chinese center Max Zhang, who signed a professional contract back home.
And, earlier this month, freshman guard Gary Franklin transferred to Baylor after starting 11 of Cal’s first 13 games.
That leaves Crabbe to help lead a young, inexperienced roster. Junior guard Jorge Gutierrez and forward Harper Kamp are two of the veterans and even they don’t have significant experience.
Kamp is back this year from his redshirt season spent recovering from knee surgery.
Crabbe — full name Allen Lester Crabbe III — comes by his athleticism naturally. His father played college basketball at Pepperdine, and the younger Crabbe was last year’s California Gatorade Player of the Year after leading Los Angeles’ Price High School in scoring and rebounding as a senior.
He is still adjusting to the tempo at the college level, saying he has quickly learned you can’t take even a single play for granted or the momentum might shift in a hurry.
“Coming from high school, playing a lot of minutes, I’m used to it,” Crabbe said. “The pace of the game, you can be playing for a couple minutes and it feels like you’ve played an entire game.”
Washington coach Lorenzo Romar said putting Holiday on Crabbe showed the respect the Huskies have for the talented freshman.
“He’s going to be a real good player in the years to come. He’s good right now,” Holiday said. “I had to feel him out at the beginning. He came out on fire, so I was like, ‘I’ve got to stop this boy.’ He can shoot and he can put it on the floor. Most shooters aren’t able to do that, they just strictly shoot. He has a nice size, too.”
Crabbe knows he will have to make his own adjustments to keep the defense guessing, like throwing in a pump fake or dribble and drive here and there.
“I know every game I’m not going to be able to get those open shots,” Crabbe said. “I will have to pull some tricks out of my bag.”
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)