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January 17, 2012
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BERKELEY -- Freddie Tagaloa scored 10 points and pulled down three boards in Richmond (Calif.) Salesian's 62-41 beatdown of Sacramento on Monday night to cap off the De La Salle MLK Classic at Haas Pavilion. But, as much as the 6-foot-8, 300-pounder did on the court, it was what he did off the court, after the game, that should light up the faces of Cal football fans everywhere.
Still in his uniform after popping down to the locker room, Tagaloa came back up, and gave a smiling Jim Michalczik a warm high five and a hug.
"I'm still all Cal," Tagaloa says, smiling.
Tagaloa was recruited to the Bears at first by the now-departed Tosh Lupoi, and he throws his head back and laughs when asked about the now-Washington defensive line coach.
"Aw, man, I knew it was coming," Tagaloa says, as he exits the Pride's locker room. "I knew somebody would find me."
After some good-natured ribbing, Tagaloa breaks down his perspective on the whole situation, which, coming from a high school senior, is perhaps the most rational take on a day filled with emotions.
"I'm still all Cal," he says, walking down the hallway. "Coming from a player's perspective, a personal perspective, it's kind of a shocker, because the way he recruited was '#CalGang, we're all family, we're all this,' and I talked to him not too long ago, and it was the same thing. Come today, it's a big shock. But, on the other hand, I mean, to provide for his family and what needs to be done, there has to be perspective. If they offered him more money for his family, his family comes first, so he had to do what he had to do."
As Tagaloa reaches the top of the steps ascending from the basement locker room, he spots Michalczik, with his big wide nose, paternal smile, twinkling eyes. This is one of Michalczik's prized prospects, one of the jewels of his class, and he knows it. Why is Tagaloa still 'All Cal'?
"That man, right there," Tagaloa points. "What everybody's thinking about is that it's a specific coach, but when you commit, you've got to think beyond the coach, beyond the school, beyond the recruiter. And that's what did it for me. It's upsetting that [Lupoi] had to leave, but overall, Cal's where I belong."
And it's where Matt Cochran belongs, too. Tagaloa's teammate at the Semper Fidelis Bowl will be putting his name on the dotted line for the Bears -- just like Tagaloa -- on Feb. 1, and Tagaloa is excited to play with the mauling center.
"I played with him at the bowl game, and he's great," Tagaloa says. "He's big, and it's going to be amazing. I can't wait to see what Michalczik does when he gets a hand on him."
More from BearTerritory.net on the status of the class and Lupoi's recruits: