Freshman Jabari Bird has been pretty much as advertised as the Cal Bears have gotten off to a 4-0 start.
Bird leads the team in scoring at 13.5 points per game and is splashing 50 percent of his 3-point attempts (9-for-18) in 24.3 minutes per game. He started three of the four games.
His debut was off the bench when he scored 14 points and had seven rebounds in 21 minutes of an 83-64 win over Coppin State and he erupted for 23 points and was 6-for-8 from 3-point range in Cal’s 64-60 victory over Oakland on Nov. 15.
But as happens with many first-year players, consistency is elusive. Bird scored eight points in 24 minutes against Denver and was limited to 19 minutes and eight points, with four turnovers, against Southern Utah on Monday night.
The degree of difficulty will be shooting up for the Golden Bears. Cal is headed to the Maui Invitational on Monday and its first game is against Arkansas (3-0) on Monday. Their second game will be against either Minnesota (5-0) or No. 9-ranked Syracuse (4-0). The other half of the bracket includes 20th-ranked Baylor (4-0), Dayton (4-0), No. 13 Gonzaga (4-0) and host Chaminade (2-0).
Eight unbeaten teams. Tough gig.
Bird was a star at Salesian High School in Richmond, leading the team to a Division IV state title as a junior, and was a McDonald’s All-American. In other words, the type of recruit who shuffles off to a school with more name recognition than Cal.
That Jabari wound up at Cal was a bit of a surprise—he was dead set against the idea of following his father.
Carl Bird was a Golden Bear for two seasons in the mid-1970s, averaging 15.2 points per game and earning co-MVP honors for the 1975-76 squad.
“At first, I didn’t want to go to Cal because of my dad,” Jabari told the San Francisco Chronicle.”I wanted to be my own person. After weighing my other options, I decided Cal was the best place for me.”
Bird is one of four Golden Bears averaging double figures in the early going, along with Tyrone Wallace (12.8), Justin Cobbs (11.3) and Richard Solomon (11.0). Solomon is also ripping down 12.5 rebounds a game.
It’s that sort of balance that can make a team hard to defend.
So while the Golden Bears head across the Pacific to the islands, take a chance to check out Jabari Bird—he looks like he could be a very, very good one.