Cal's Allen Crabbe knows exactly what he needs to be a better basketball player.

"I need to get that killer instinct," he said. "I need to have that scorer's mentality, stop being so passive. I feel when I'm aggressive I feel like I'm unstoppable."

Crabbe, who leads Cal (3-0) against Drake (1-1) in the opening round of the Anaheim Classic on Thursday night, was the nation's fifth-leading scorer entering the week at 26.7 points per game.

But even in a career-high 33-point performance a week ago against Pepperdine, Crabbe needed to kick-start his game after scoring just nine first-half points. In the Bears' two most recent games, he totaled 12 points in the first half, 41 in the second.

"I try to ask myself, 'What's the problem?' " the junior guard said. "I don't get why I can't play the way I played the last (11) minutes at Oregon every single day."

That was last Jan. 8 at Oregon, when Crabbe had scored just three points over the first 29 minutes. Then, in a span of 3 minutes, 6 seconds, he fired in 14 points and helped Cal blow open a close game. He finished with 26.

At 6-foot-6, Crabbe is a smooth shooter with great range. He plays smart and unselfish basketball. He was a first-team All-Pac-12 pick a year ago and the leading scorer on a Cal team that reached the NCAA tournament.

Pepperdine coach Marty Wilson raved about Crabbe last week, suggesting, "Obviously, Crabbe, he is a pro," Wilson said. "He will be making a lot of money next year. He has great poise, he shoots the ball as well as anybody I have seen."


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By Crabbe's own admission, he does disappear now and then.

"That's been my problem ever since I've been here -- not being aggressive enough," he said.

It's also the big question looming in the minds of NBA scouts.

"The shot is good enough and he's got great size for the position," one NBA Western Conference scout said. "I've always been a little disappointed because he's not very aggressive. If he can do that, there's no question he can play up here."

The same scout compared Crabbe to Allan Houston, who played 12 seasons in the NBA through 2004-05, averaging 17.3 points.

"Allan Houston was not a guy who took it to the basket when he came into the league," the scout said. "Crabbe reminds me of him a lot, except this kid is a better athlete."

Cal coach Mike Montgomery believes Crabbe is ready to have more confidence in other parts of his game, including driving the ball into the lane. Crabbe stayed in Berkeley last summer for the first time and gave himself over to the weight room.

"He's a lot stronger, a lot better physically, and that really helped him," Montgomery said. "You always hear guys say that who lift weights. 'I've got muscles and I can go be more aggressive.'

"That's a part of it. He's just got to recognize that for us to be successful he has to stay engaged mentally all the time."

Crabbe knows he can impact the game in a variety of ways. He also knows the Bears need his offense.

"I can't go stretches not scoring for 10 minutes or not being a factor on the court," he said. "I can't just be out there running up and down."

Crabbe wants to play in the NBA but doesn't believe there's a timetable that works for everyone. In a one-and-done world, he said it's not a sure thing he will leave after this season.

"As long as I'm ready when I get to the NBA, that's all that really matters," he said.

Montgomery agrees that approach can work for Crabbe.

"Most of the guys I've coached that I've had success with are better feeling that way than trying to be something that they're not," Montgomery said. "He's getting close to being that. He'll get there."

For more on Cal sports, see the Bear Talk blog at ibabuzz.com/beartalk. Follow Jeff Faraudo on Twitter at twitter.com/CalBearsBANG.

Thursday's game
Cal (3-0) vs. Drake (1-1) at Anaheim, 8:30 p.m., ESPN2