Cal freshmen: early look

Only one top-100 prospect signed with California last year, but the Bears made their one ranked recruit count.

Jabari Bird teamed with Aaron Gordon and others on the 2012 EYBL circuit, and the prep All-American built his own star thanks to prolific mid-range scoring and a reputation for knocking down clutch shots.

He has carried those tools into his tenure with the Bears as well, and through seven games he stands second on the team in scoring with a 13-point average — better than it sounds, given Cal's very slow tempo. He's also good for four rebounds per contest from the wing and is drilling threes at a sensational, 47 percent rate. Additionally, he has been nearly automatic from the foul line, hitting 20-23 (87 percent) from the stripe.

Bird hasn't shot well from two-point land, however, as he must continue to gain strength to better absorb contact. Obviously, becoming more physical and drawing more trips to the free throw line would pay off handsomely for him and his team. He struggled in Cal's loss this week to Dayton, but in a prior defeat to powerful Syracuse, he netted 17 points and seven rebounds.

The backcourt loomed as a priority for the coaching staff in the 2013 class, and they were excited to add Jordan Mathews and Sam Singer. While unranked, both players held solid national reputations and have earned some playing time early. Mathews is scoring six points per game in 15 minutes of nightly playing time, while Singer is averaging eight minutes per contest. Mathews holds a reputation as a shooter, and with experience he should improve upon his lowly 20 percent average from long-range.

Center Kameron Rooks wasn't expected to draw heavy playing time this season, and thus far that has borne out. However, forward Roger Boute a Bidias — who pledged to Cal very late in the cycle — is playing eight minutes per contest and appears to be developing rapidly.

Clearly, Bird was and remains the star of this class. Mike Montgomery doesn't regularly sign McDonald's recruits, and thus Bird arrived in Berkeley to very demanding expectations. He has lived up so far, even if the Bears hit a snag this week versus stout competition.

At a listed 6-6, 190 pounds, Bird must add muscle and likely will need at least two years of college. You never know how NBA decisions will work out, but if he does return next season he could enter the 2014-15 campaign as one of the most celebrated players in the Pac-12.

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