Last week, we discussed Jabari Bird's recruitment status, and touched on how he planned to visit multiple schools before making his decision. Well, so much for that. Bird, after visiting Cal last weekend along with fellow 2013 prospects Marcus Lee and Aaron Gordon, decided to cancel his visits and end his commitment by pledging to Mike Montgomery and the Golden Bears.
The impact of Bird's commitment cannot be overstated. I wrote before that Bird was a "must-get" recruit for Cal and for good reason. The local Cal legacy is not only an elite talent who can change the program on his own, but his commitment might also foreshadow the signing of other elite California talent, which could make this class into a historically impressive one.
MEASURABLES AND RANKINGS
Weight: 190 lbs.
5 Star (SF)
Overall Ranking: 18
Positional Ranking: 5 (SG)
Overall Ranking: 19
Position Ranking: 4 (SG)
Overall Ranking: 20
Jabari ultimately chose California over Colorado, Oregon, Washington
Jabari Bird Junior Season Mixtape... Top Shooting Guard in 2013!!! (via Yayareasfinest2006)
Watch that and tell me you aren't excited. I DARE YOU! One thing that really stands out about Jabari is his explosive athleticism, a skill that has been noticeably absent from the Cal roster as of late. Bird also has great length, and, has a college ready frame (he also plans on bulking up to about 200 lbs. in case there was any doubt about that), which will allow him to score in a variety of ways. With said impressive frame, Bird also possesses an elite defensive upside and is a plus rebounder. His jump shot, while not automatic, is still a plus skill that demands respect from the defense. Last season, Bird averaged 18.7 PPG for powerhouse Salesian.
Bird must refine some aspects of his game. At times, he forces things (a common issue with players this athletic) and his ball-handling must be tightened up a bit. However, Jabari seems like he is very receptive to coaching and by all reports, he is a great teammate, so these small issues should eventually work themselves out.
Jabari has no glaring holes in his game, and he should be ready to make a big difference immediately at the college level. I would consider his floor and ceiling both impressively high, and I firmly believe that, despite Montgomery's usual caution with playing freshmen extensively, Jabari will start from day one. I know what you're thinking. "Frank, you're a Cal fan! You can't be this optimistic!" I respond to this hypothetical exclamation by saying that with Jabari Bird, there is very good reason to be this optimistic. If you don't believe me, let's hear from some others!
To say that Paul Biancardi of ESPN.com is complimentary of Bird's ability and potential impact for the Golden Bears is a big understatement:
Bird will give Cal a flat-out scorer and someone who will be a go-to guy immediately because of his ability and willingness to learn...It's hard to find shooting guards with size, athleticism and the ability to score, but Bird possesses that rare combination...
As detailed by Ryan Gorcey of BearTerritory.net:
Bird becomes the first five-star prospect to commit to the Bears since Leon Powe pulled the trigger on July 8, 2003. He's a candidate to be a McDonald's All-American. He participated in the Under Armour Elite 24 two weeks ago -- an assemblage of some of the best of the best players from the AAU circuit this summer -- and scored 20 points while dishing out three assists.
Bird (via RGBearTerritory)
As mentioned above, the Bird commitment is not only significant because his addition, but also because of its potential further implications. There are serious rumblings that Bird's pledge might be the first domino to fall in a potential top recruiting class, which could also include prospects Aaron Gordon, Marcus Lee, and Isaac Hamilton.
Lee's high school coach had some interesting tidbits regarding his star player and Aaron Gordon potentially joining Bird in Berkeley:
"I'm sure it has come up in conversation because they know each other really well," said Lechet Phillips, Lee's coach at Deer Valley. "A possibility? Anything's possible. I'm sure they would love to play together because I've watched them when they do and they smile a lot, they enjoy each other's skill set and honestly they really complement each other. But I think each of them have good relationships with different schools and they'll all make decisions on what's best for them."
"Mike Montgomery has been really good about having a good relationship with the family [of Lee]," Phillips said. "As a fan of Berkeley basketball, I hope they get a good class. The kids coming out of the Bay Area in 2013 are really good. I can see something special happening nationally with that group."
Bird himself claims that he has quickly transitioned from recruit to recruiter, claiming:
"I'm definitely trying to get them now. Hopefully, they can be Cal Bears with me," said Bird, joined on the weekend campus trip by Gordon and Lee. "For the most part, both Marcus and Aaron liked the visit a lot. I'm just trying to build on that with them, so I can convince them to come to school with me."
But for now, let's just be satisfied with this single recruiting victory, which could prove to be a momentous victory that changes the direction of the program as a whole. As detailed by Jeff Faraudo, Bird might be the piece that brings the buzz back to Cal basketball:
Bird wants to help the Bears "make some noise" with a deep run in the NCAA tournament. "I want to go far and make history because Cal hasn't been looked at as one of the top schools in the country for a long time, since Jason Kidd, really," he said. "Hopefully, with my commitment there, I can bring some talent and try to make some things happen."
Cal might have just received a commitment from the next Jason Kidd, the next Leon Powe. Let us savor this recruiting victory, my friends, for it could signal a historic moment in Cal lore.