Five-star wing Jabari Bird's commitment to California could have ripple effect

By Jeff Borzello | College Basketball Writer
Jabari Bird, the No. 15-ranked player in 2013, committed to California on Wednesday. (Five-Star Basketball)

Jabari Bird had planned to take multiple official visits, but after taking another unofficial trip to nearby California last weekend, Bird said he was canceling his other planned visits and was ready for a decision.

It wasn't hard to connect the dots.

Cal had targeted Bird for a long time, making him a priority because he was from nearby Salesian (Calif.) and was the son of former Golden Bear stars Carl Bird.

Bird, ranked No. 15 in the updated CBSSports.com's Top 100 for 2013, made his decision official on Wednesday afternoon. He chose California over Washington, Colorado, Oregon, Arizona and others.

This is a monster get for coach Mike Montgomery and his staff. Bird is one of the elite scoring guards in the class, with the ability to put up points in a variety of ways. He knows how to get his own shot, and his length and 6-foot-6 frame give him an advantage against smaller defenders. Bird is deadly in the mid-range, but has good range out to the perimeter and can also go off the dribble. During the Oakland Soldiers' run to the Peach Jam title in July, Bird averaged 15.1 points in eight games. He also capped off his summer by taking part in the Under Armour Elite 24 game in Venice Beach, Calif., where he scored 20 points.

Beating out some of the top programs in the conference for Bird's services is very important for California. The Golden Bears have been sniffing around the top of the league for a couple of years, but getting star players like Bird could put them on that tier consistently – especially with the way UCLA and Arizona hit the recruiting trail in 2012. Bird could be part of a loaded perimeter group when he arrives on campus next fall. Tyrone Wallace was a top-100 point guard in the class of 2012, and he might get the keys to the offense immediately. Moreover, Allen Crabbe and Justin Cobbs return after impressive sophomore campaigns. Crabbe could be a star.

Bird is California's first commitment in the class of 2013, but Montgomery is hoping he's not the last high-level player headed to Berkeley. While Bird was on campus last weekend, the Golden Bears were also playing host to No. 3-ranked prospect Aaron Gordon and No. 40-ranked prospect Marcus Lee. Gordon – who played on the same AAU team as Bird – has Arizona, Washington and Kentucky out front, but Bird pledging to California can only help. Lee has California among his final seven.

Will either player follow Bird to Northern California? If Bird starts a domino effect to Berkeley, this commitment could look even bigger in a few months.

For now, it's "just" a hugely important pickup for California.

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