For those unfamiliar with John Foletta, he's one of the main writers for Cal Rivals, mainly focusing his attention on all things Cal hoops. You can check out all the latest movements in Cal hoops recruiting on their big board.
John sat down with us to talk all about Cal basketball recruits and the 2013 class. This is the first post in a two-part interview.
How real of a deal is Jabari Bird? Describe his strengths, weaknesses, and what he can bring to the Bears.
I like Jabari a lot. He’s a high character guy who really plays with a team-first attitude. In terms of shot mechanics and basketball IQ, he’s extremely polished.
Cal fans don’t want to hear it, but Jabari does share some of the traits Allen Crabbe was criticized for. He can struggle to create his own shot and can appear passive at times. He’ll also need to improve in the open court. When he pushes the ball, he sometimes teeters on the edge of control, negating the advantage of being able to surprise his man by 1. continuing to the hole, 2. dumping it off, or 3. rising for the pull-up.
That said, Jabari is still a tremendous talent, and the fact that he’s still developing means he’ll be around longer than the Aaron Gordon’s of the world. He has ideal size for the off-guard position, strokes it beautifully, and is more than willing to defer to his teammates if they have better looks. You won’t see Bird heaving shots because he’s "the man."
My prediction: 13ppg, 5rpg, and 2/3apg from Bird next year with Cal getting two years out of him.
Do you see either Jordan Matthews or Sam Singer coming in and contributing immediately in a meaningful fashion? Describe their games to those unfamiliar with their style of play.
Mathews will absolutely play immediately. Right now, he’s primarily a spot-up shooter at the next level. That’ll eventually change, but it doesn’t have to happen right away for him and the Bears to be successful.
With Cobbs penetrating and Solo playing the inside-out game, there should be plenty of open looks from the perimeter.
Last year, Cal really struggled because defenses were able to slack-off Cal’s shooters. Outside of Crabbe, the Bears couldn’t pour it in the ocean some nights and Cobbs – though productive offensively – isn’t really a guy you can count on to bury threes on a consistent basis. He’s a creator and mid-range dynamo who runs hot and cold. Mathews plays composed and has plenty of confidence in his shot. Once those treys start falling and defenders are flying out at him, Cal will be able to generate plenty of easy looks.
Singer is a bit of an unknown. Since he’s out in Florida, I’ve only seen tape on him and admittedly, it’s generally been against low-grade teams.
Nevertheless, his physical attributes are impressive. When Cobbs got off to a hot start last season, the Bears coaching staff figured they’d better go out and get another point guard, so they nabbed Singer.
He’s tall, rangy, a capable shooter, and from what I understand an absolute gym rat.
My number one question with Singer is can he come in and play composed. He’s been able to freelance quite a bit at Ransom Everglades, but if he tries to create solely on his own in the Pac-12, he’ll run into a good deal of trouble.
He’s certainly making a big jump, but I feel good about the physical tools he’s bringing with him. I know some folks see the small school and 3-star rating attached to his name and think he’s a reach, but I wouldn’t fall into that line of thinking. He’s a legit D-I prospect and deserving of the Cal offer.
Is Kameron Rooks a project or will he be part of the rotation next season? How does Kameron's game compare to his dad?
Both. Rooks is a project but will be in the rotation next year; Mike Montgomery has told him as much and that’s one reason Kameron chose Cal over Arizona.
What people don’t know about Kameron, is that he actually plays better against strong competition. When he’s lined up against an opposing high school’s 6-4/6-5 big man, he can look slow and plodding. Give him a veritable big, however, and he’ll bump and body him up.
Conditioning will be a big deal for Kameron because he does have some weight he needs to lose.
Still, I think Kameron will develop into a genuine post player, and that’s something Cal hasn’t had in a while. Give him the ball on the block, and he’ll methodically back his man. I’ve heard the Cal staff loves Rooks and envisions him being a beast by the time he’s a sophomore.
The only 2014 commit currently listed is PG Ahmaad Rorie. Which past Cal (or Pac-12) PG is Rorie most like?
That’s a tough one, but I’d probably go with a smaller Ayinde Ubaka.
I love Rorie’s game. He’s only ranked No. 110 nationally now, but that has more to do with him playing in the pacific northwest as it does anything else.
A true point guard, Rorie has nice handles, solid vision, and a refined shot. Put him at the top of the key in an isolation set, and he’ll either burn your defense or draw multiple defenders. Either way, he’ll make you pay.
One source told me the Cal staff considers him a top-50 talent.