For Markhuri Sanders-Frison, the trek from his home in Portland, Ore., to Berkeley featured three detours totaling more than 6,000 miles.

Sanders-Frison, who hopes to become the starting center for Cal's basketball team this season, has been a Lumberjack (at the Hebron Academy prep school in Maine), a Gila Monster (at Eastern Arizona Community College in Thatcher, Ariz.) and a Texan (at South Plains College in Levelland, Texas). He has endured subzero temperatures in Maine and triple-digit heat in the Arizona desert.

So Sanders-Frison insists the two online classes, government and math, he's taking to complete his AA degree and gain admission to Cal won't derail his quest.

"I'm going to pass the classes, without a doubt. I'm not worried about that," said Sanders-Frison, who expects to be in Berkeley by Aug. 1. "I can't wait to get there. The day I arrive, I'm just going to take a deep breath and say, 'Thank you, Lord.' It's been a long road."

Sanders-Frison, who pronounces his first name "Mar-CORE-ee," could be the missing piece in a lineup the Bears hope will produce the school's first Pac-10 title in a half-century. Cal returns four starters from coach Mike Montgomery's 22-win team that reached the NCAA Tournament but was without a physical low-post player.

By any measurement, Sanders-Frison should provide that. His height and weight have been much debated, but Sanders-Frison said he is "a legit" 6-foot-8, 287 pounds. That's up about 15 pounds from last season but well below his high-water mark of 315 three years ago when rehabbing after shoulder surgery. He said his first order of business at Berkeley will be to step up his conditioning.

South Plains coach Steve Green is confident Sanders-Frison can drop the weight.

"He's got really quick feet, and he's highly intelligent," Green said. "If they could get him down to 265, ... I think he could be a really good player."

Cal assistant Jay John was the coach at Oregon State in 2005-06 when he first saw Sanders-Frison play at Jefferson High in Portland.

"He was not a well-conditioned athlete," John said. "It's something he has consciously worked on. His approach is far different. His work ethic is better."

Perhaps, but he was briefly benched last season when South Plains' Green couldn't motivate Sanders-Frison to play as hard as backup Myles Walker.

"He was better than the guy that was playing behind him, but (Walker) played harder," Green said. "I was trying to get Markhuri with his skill and his ability to step it up. He became more aggressive and just started playing better."

Sanders-Frison wound up averaging 9.0 points and a team-best 6.6 rebounds in barely 17 minutes per game for a 27-4 team. He played the previous season at Eastern Arizona, transferring after his coach was fired.

Physically, Sanders-Frison will give the Bears a different look at center than a year ago. Jordan Wilkes, a slender 7-footer, was a good passer and shooter but not a robust inside presence.

"We actually have a big body that knows how to step in and seal in the post and get a deep touch," John said. "He'll have to be a creative passer because he's not as tall as Jordan. But Markhuri has long arms and good hands, good feet, good vision. He's a skilled guy."

"Energy and effort," Sanders-Frison said, when asked what he needs to bring. "We already have four great offensive players."

Contact Jeff Faraudo at jeffscribe@aol.com.