Cal freshman Gary Franklin is transferring to another school after telling coach Mike Montgomery that he needs to be a full-time point guard in order to realize his basketball ambitions.
"He has dreams to play in the NBA and doesn't feel like he'll be able to do it here," Montgomery said in a phone interview Wednesday afternoon before the team boarded its flight to Arizona.
The depth-challenged Golden Bears (7-6, 0-1 Pac-10) face Arizona (12-3, 1-1) at McKale Center tonight without Franklin, a top-100 national recruit who started the club's first 11 games. The Wildcats are one of the deepest teams in the conference, with 10 players averaging double-digit minutes.
Mired in a season-long shooting slump, Franklin came off the bench for one of his best games Sunday at Stanford, scoring 15 points to go with four assists.
On Tuesday morning, he surprised the coaching staff by announcing his decision to leave Cal.
"He wasn't upset about anything," Montgomery said. "He feels like he needs to be a point (guard) at the next level. (Transferring is) something he felt he needed to do."
Junior Jorge Gutierrez has been Cal's primary point guard this season, with Franklin playing the off-guard spot. Sophomore Brandon Smith (De La Salle High) moved into the starting lineup two games ago, pushing Gutierrez to the wing and Franklin to the bench.
Montgomery said Franklin expressed concerns about next season, when both Gutierrez and Smith return, and transfer Justin Cobbs, also a point guard, becomes eligible.
"He wondered where he's going to fit in there," Montgomery said. "He doesn't want to do school for four years."
Franklin did not return several messages left on his cell phone.
Montgomery gave Franklin recent opportunities at point guard but primarily used him off the ball to limit his responsibilities as a freshman.
Franklin averaged 8.2 points per game, and he attempted more shots (118) and 3-pointers (82) than anyone on the team, but converted just 29.7 percent of his shots.
"It's kind of a crazy deal," said Montgomery, sounding frustrated. "You've got a freshman who was starting and playing 25 minutes. You don't usually see those kids leave."
Nothing Franklin said after Sunday's game indicated he was on the verge of transferring. He suggested his performance, including 4 for 7 from the 3-point range, gave him some confidence. "It's a little difficult not starting," he said at the time. "I'm trying to do what's best for the team."
"This whole starting thing has nothing to do with him not being a good player," Montgomery said Sunday. "It has to do with getting him to play better."
Even his former coach at Mater Dei High-Santa Ana was hard-pressed to identify Franklin's best position.
"I don't think he's a point guard. I don't think he's an off guard," Gary McKnight said in 2009 after the 6-foot-2 Franklin committed to Cal. "I think he's a guard."
Franklin's departure leaves the Bears with just five players at the three perimeter positions. Walk-on Nigel Carter becomes the first guard off the bench, and freshman Emerson Murray, athletic but raw, will see his minutes grow.
"We don't have any choice," Montgomery said.
Franklin, rated the nation's No. 78 prospect last year by Rivals.com, helped Mater Dei to a record of 64-3 over two seasons.
"We wish Gary well," Montgomery said. "We're disappointed, but we wish him well."