Bird makes himself at home

Richmond (Calif.) Salesian forward Jabari Bird delivers an emphatic statement with his first and last points against Concord De La Salle in the future Golden Bear's Haas Pavilion debut.

BERKELEY, Calif. – Jabari Bird knows how to make an introduction.

With California head coach Mike Montgomery and future teammate Christian Behrens among those in attendance to watch his first game at Haas Pavilion, the Richmond (Calif.) Salesian five-star forward who has already signed his letter of intent to play for the Golden Bears next season delivered an emphatic one-handed dunk on an alley-oop for his first points in his future home gym.

"That was crazy," Bird said. "I thought my first bucket would be like a jumper or something, but I got the dunk and was like, ‘Wow, that's crazy.' And the crowd went crazy. It really got me going."

Bird didn't put up gaudy numbers, scoring just 10 points in the 47-43 win over Concord (Calif.) De La Salle in the marquee game of the 16th annual Martin Luther King Classic on Monday, but capped the evening by hitting the go-ahead three-pointer with 58 seconds left in the fourth quarter.

He then let loose a primal roar after making the shot, a mix of satisfaction and relief after what had been a poor shooting performance. Bird's three other field goals had come on transition drives.

"It was exciting. I was really excited coming into the game," Bird said. "I wish I could have played a little better, but we got the W. That's all that matters.

"My coaches, they coach me up that no matter how many shots you miss, the next one is going to go in. That was my mentality for the game. I wasn't shooting too well, but I was wide open and we needed a big basket."

There was plenty working against Bird, notably the talented Spartans defense determined to shut him down, anchored by Arizona-bound guard Elliott Pitts, but Salesian head coach Bill Mellis said his star was never phased by the conditions.

"They did a pretty good job of defending him. They jammed him a lot and bodied him and he played through it fine," Mellis said.

"We've played in big enough games – state championships – and he has played in big enough AAU games where he is no stranger to the big game."

Bird will be in plenty more big games at Haas in the years ahead, something Montgomery reminded him of afterwards.

Asked what his future coach said to him, Bird relayed the brief exchange. "Good game and keep working, man," Bird said. "See you next year."

Dan Greenspan writes about the Pac-12 for Fox Sports Next. Follow him on Twitter @DanGreenspan.


BearTerritory.net Top Stories