We continue our tour of the Cal mens basketball roster by talking about one of the most anticipated freshman players to come to Cal in recent memory.
#23 Jabari Bird
Weight: 190 lbs.
5 Star (SF)
Overall Ranking: 18
Positional Ranking: 5 (SG)
Overall Ranking: 19
When word was traveling that Cal was going to lose last years Pac-12 Player of the Year, Allen Crabbe, people became very worried about the kind of team Cal would be able to put together in 2013. Then, when one of the 25 best players in the 2013 recruiting class signed on to play at Cal that fear subsided (a little). That is not to say that losing someone like Allen Crabbe is ever okay (a talent like him is always tough to lose), but this kid can be a real program changer.
He opted to come to Cal over Colorado, Washington and Oregon. As a high school senior at Salesian, Bird scored 18.7 PPG while being a high-end rebounder and showing the ability to be an elite defender. However, that was in high school. The 6’6 190 pound forward is going to be a key contributor at Cal this season and we’ll see if that means he can do those things on a higher level.
While we don’t know too much about his game (we’ll have to wait for the October 31st exhibition game against Humboldt State) other than the videos we’ve seen online. What we do know is that his game is gross. And while that may not translate to the college level, he looks real. I’m not going to lie, part of my excitement to see Bird play comes from this video, which makes him look like the fictional Spike Lee character Jesus Shuttlesworth.
I know he will probably take his lumps, especially when he has to play in the Maui Invitational Tournament (easily the toughest part of the schedule). He will probably be eased into the starting line-up, getting more minutes as the season goes and become a full starter once we get close to the Pac-12 schedule. Eventually we’ll see Bird as the starter, fact.
What I do worry about with Bird is how he’ll do on the defensive end of things, but his athletic prowess gives me good reason to think he’ll be at least a decent defender towards the end of the season. As a benefit, Bird is so good offensively (a dangerous off the dribble player who is a pure scorer and a knock-down shooter) that he can more than make up for the times that he may have lapses on the defensive end.
The onus will be on Bird to get points. If he can manufacture some scoring opportunities, Cal will be very dangerous this season. If he has a season where he plays like a worried high schooler, then…well, let’s not think negative thoughts.
As I mentioned before, the McDonalds All-American can be a big weapon for Cal on the rebounding side of things. If he can be as good (or better) than he was at Salesian, then he may actually turn out to be an upgrade from Crabbe, which seems like such a stretch. That said, he will need to handle the ball a little better and he’ll need to keep his head in the game, rather than get wrapped up in his lofty goals to take Cal deep into the tournament.
Bottom line, the Richmond native will be a Cal Bear this season and will more than likely be a starter this season. If he can be even a fraction of what we think he can be, he will help make this Cal team a very tough out, and for a team that has a habit of losing earlier in the NCAA tournament, that could be just what they need come March.