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A Viking lands in Berkeley

South Florida v California

DAYTON, OH - MARCH 14: Augustus Gilchrist #24 of the South Florida Bulls attempts a shot in the second half against Bak Bak #15 of the California Golden Bears in the first round of the 2011 NCAA men’s basketball tournament at UD Arena on March 14, 2012 in Dayton, Ohio. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

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It can be tough to find a big man in the college game these days. In any given season, Thad Matta has most of them at Ohio State, and everyone else is left picking up scraps. Most players over 6'9" can safely be labeled as “projects” for the programs they play for.

Just about every coach has, at one time, ended up mining foreign shores for a raw giant or two. Cal’s Mike Montgomery has gotten pretty good at it, squeezing marginally productive bench minutes out of the likes of Max Zhang and all-namer Bak Bak (pictured). This season, Montgomery has turned to the land of ice and snow in search of another stamp in his passport, though he’s probably hoping for something a little better than the single-digit averages he got from Zhang and Bak.

The next big project is Sami Eleraky, a 6-foot-11, 240-pound center from Copenhagen, Denmark. Eleraky was a pleasant side benefit of a summer trip that sounded pretty sweet to begin with:

Cal discovered Eleraky last summer during its preseason tour of northern Europe. Eleraky did not play on the Danish national team the Bears faced, but the connection that led to his signing began at that point.

Eleraky, who will be eligible to play next season, averaged 4.5 points and 5.3 rebounds for the Danish team at the under-18 European Championships last summer. The year before, playing in the same event, he averaged 2.3 points and 5.9 rebounds, including a 10-point, 17-rebound effort vs. Luxembourg.

He played this past season for the Aalborg Vikings of the Danish league, averaging 6.0 points and 5.8 rebounds, according to the website

Of course, that last tidbit is my favorite part. The man’s a Viking, literally and figuratively. I vote we nickname him “Hammer of the Gods” if he shows any promise at all.

Euro big men are always a gamble. But, to paraphrase the cliche: you can’t teach someone to be 6'11", 240 lbs. Or, as they say in Denmark, 2.1 meters, 109 kilos.