With the holiday season just around the corner, it is a time for love, a time for making amends — a time for giving. But even in a year as strange and uncertain as 2020, few would expect the NCAA to play into this spirit, or any major organization, for that matter. Yet the NCAA Division I Council delivered.
Sophomore guard transfer Jarred Hyder was ruled eligible to compete with the Bears after the NCAA issued an immediate blanket waiver for all transfer Division I athletes Dec. 16. The former Fresno State hooper was denied such eligibility in November after he committed in April and, as a result, was forced to sit out the season thus far.
Fortunately for Cal, the waiver couldn’t have come at a better time. Not only are the Bears still juiced from their most recent buzzer-beating victory over the Dons, but they also have the perfect opportunity to integrate Hyder into the lineup after adding two final nonconference home matchups to their schedule. The blue and gold were initially scheduled take on Boston College on the road, but after the game was canceled due to COVID-19 concerns, the team will instead host Cal State Northridge and Seattle University in Berkeley.
It won’t be a cakewalk, though. Cal will first square off with Cal State Northridge on Saturday, and the Matadors took down Pepperdine earlier in the season. The Waves were a problem for the Bears, who dropped the road matchup in Malibu by 12 points. So it’s fair to assume this bout will be a close one, though Cal playing at Haas is an immeasurable benefit for the Bears, who have not fared well on the road but have done well defending their den so far.
Nonetheless, if Hyder finds himself in the lineup, it will be a prime chance for him and junior standout Matt Bradley to strengthen their chemistry on the court — chemistry that formed years ago. After all, the two played on the same AAU team in their hometown of San Bernardino.
“Me and him were always a good one-two punch on the floor,” Bradley said in a May interview with Sports Illustrated. “He’s a good distributor and he’s a good scorer, which makes him a dual threat.”
Hyder will likely alternate at the point guard spot with Joel Brown, who has struggled in recent outings. Regardless, he will need to assist Bradley, Cal’s leading scorer, if he hopes to integrate his play efficiently into the Bears’ offense. Hyder recorded 20 points or more in four matchups last season, posting 23 against then-No. 13 San Diego State. Though he averaged just 9.1 points per game, a new offensive threat of any caliber will be crucial to jump-starting a low-scoring Cal offense.
In other words, Hyder might be the puzzle piece the Bears have been waiting for to take them to the next level — getting their record back to 0.500 with a win against the Matadors would be a good place to start.
But Bradley has known Hyder would be a beneficial addition to the blue and gold. He encouraged his former teammate to join him in Berkeley from the beginning.
“I told him, ‘Man, you know, we played for the same AAU team, might as well play for the same college team and do what we can do,’ ” Bradley said in the Sports Illustrated interview.
Fans will get a first glimpse of just what they can do Saturday, and if the tandem of Bradley and Hyder lives up to its promise, there appears to be something special brewing in Berkeley.
Ethan Waters covers men’s basketball. Contact him at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @ewate1.