Six Shooter: Why Cal Made the Cut

Haanif Cheatham announced his top six destinations on Monday, and on Wednesday, he broke down just why the Golden Bears made the cut. Who's getting official visits? Why are the Bears so competitive on the recruiting trail? Cheatham answers.

Like two ships passing in the night, California wing Jabari Bird and Pembroke Pines (Fla.) Pembroke Pines Academy guard Haanif Cheatham were both at this weekend's Kevin Durant Skills Academy, but neither wound up seeing the other.

"Coach Yanni [Hufnagel] kept asking if I'd seen [Bird], but I don't know him by face even if I did see him in person," Cheatham laughed.

Still, though, as Cheatham was flying back home, he and his mother talked about which schools would make top-six cut, and Bird and the Bears came in under the wire with room to spare.

"I've had a good relationship with coach Yanni," Cheatham said on Tuesday. "Yanni's a good guy. He's really a good person. He's understandable when he's talking to you, he's just a good guy. Ever since he was at Vanderbilt, he's recruited me. He's a really good guy. I can tell he's talking real stuff, when he talks to me. He and I have a really good relationship. I feel really comfortable with him, and with coach [Cuonzo] Martin, also. I feel really comfortable with him, too. But, it's coach Yanni. That's really the guy that put Cal into my top six, and I just know that Cal-Berkeley is a really good school. My mom is really big on education. Playing, I can have an immediate impact and the other five schools I put in my top six."

Also in Cheatham's top six? Georgia, Marquette, Georgetown, Florida State and Wichita State. Much of the discussion on which schools would make that top six happened on the plane back from the Durant camp, since that was just about the only time his mother could get him to sit still.

"As soon as I got home from KD, and my whole summer, it's been three workouts a day, in the morning, afternoon and night," Cheatham said. "My mom and I, we really got down to it on the flight. We went through the pros and cons for all the schools that I had offers from, and these six schools that I have now, I really feel really comfortable with these six. I feel like I could have an immediate impact as soon as I get there, even though I know I have to work for everything. I just followed my heart. Sometimes, you've got to go with your gut."

Though Pembroke Pines is only about 35 minutes from Miami Beach, Cheatham has never spoken with Cal sophomore-to-be and fellow Florida native Sam Singer, but they did play against one another several times during camp season over years.

"I'm pretty familiar with Sam, and I think he's pretty familiar with me," Cheatham said. "When I go up to visit, he and I will get some communication going, talk about how Cali is and everything."

When will that visit happen? Well, Cheatham isn't entirely sure on the timing, but he does know that it will be an official.

"I'm taking all my visits," Cheatham said. "I have four visits – I already visited Georgetown, so I'm taking four official visits to Georgia, Cal, Marquette and Wichita State. I'll be taking an unofficial to Florida State."

Tallahassee is about a six hour drive from Cheatham's home, so the Seminoles will be an easy and convenient unofficial visit. That said, convenience and proximity won't play into Cheatham's final decision.

"I want to go somewhere where I fit best," Cheatham said. "Me and my mom talked about it, and staying near home is not a big factor, even to her. She knows it's something I have to do to become a better player and person, so she'll be OK with it, with wherever I feel comfortable going."

Cheatham has one official visit already scheduled – Marquette on Aug. 29-31 – with the Bulldogs, Hoyas and Bears still not yet set. Cheatham will make his decision the first week of December.

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