A lot of attention has been focused on the impact that Tyrone Wallace, Ivan Rabb, and Jaylen Brown are expected to make on Cal basketball next season. If you have been reading my weekly Cal basketball blog posts or are a follower of Cal basketball, you know exactly why those three players have garnered so much attention.
But amid all the hype and attention that has been placed on those three guys, I feel like Jabari Bird, a McDonald's All-American now entering his junior season, has been lost in the shuffle. He seems to be treated as more of an afterthought since he hasn't lived up to the hype that came with him when he arrived at Berkeley as a freshman. While I would agree that he hasn't lived up to expectations, I would disagree with any decrease in enthusiasm for what he can bring to this Cal team.
I personally believe that Jabari Bird is on the cusp of breaking out and it's just a matter of time before he explodes in the way that Ivan Rabb and Jaylen Brown are expected to this season. Now, what you might be thinking is "We've been waiting for him to explode for two years. Why should this season be any different?" What makes this season different is that he has way more help and other guys to take the pressure off of him. He is no longer the most hyped player on the team which I think will help him focus on playing within himself and playing better basketball from a team perspective.
He no longer needs to worry about being the star of the team or being the guy who makes all the big plays. He just needs to worry about making the right plays and letting the game come to him. As he does this I think he will unleash the beast that NBA scouts always thought was in him. I'm not predicting that he'll suddenly become a lottery pick in the 2016 NBA draft, but I do think he'll improve his game a lot and boost up his draft stock in a way similar to what Tyrone Wallace did this past season.
If he improves in the way that I think he will, we need to start mentioning him in the same sentence as Ivan Rabb, Jaylen Brown, and Tyrone Wallace. We need to say that we are excited to see what Jabari Bird is going to do as well as what those three guys are going to do. We need to be excited that we have four players who have NBA first round talent. We need to view Jabari Bird, Tyrone Wallace, Jaylen Brown, and Ivan Rabb has a fearsome foursome ready to dominate the Pac-12.
Also, just so I don't go about writing another blog post of this nature, this doesn't mean that I'm forgetting about Jordan Mathews, who is also a junior shooting guard with tremendous talent and ability. Jordan is going to be a huge part of this Cal team because of his lethal three point shooting and ability to penetrate and finish at the rim.
The reason why I'm not telling us to not forget about Jordan Mathews is because I don't think people are forgetting about him. There were many nights last season when Jordan Mathews was the #2 player on the floor for Cal behind Tyrone Wallace. Cal fans are excited about the way Jordan Mathews has developed, but as for Jabari Bird, most Cal fans are disappointed.
What I'm hear to tell you is that while it is true that Jabari Bird hasn't lived up to the hype, there's plenty of reasons to believe that he will finally become the player we all thought he would be. He's got a great team around him, a great coaching staff, and much less pressure. All the pieces are there for Jabari Bird to have a breakout season and I can't wait to see how much he surprises everybody! Go Bears!
---Ben Parker: follow me on twitter @nba_lord for NBA news and Cal basketball news