Sometimes, following in your parents’ footsteps can be hard to deal with. Imagine how Jeff and Marcus Jordan felt, growing up and always being compared to their father, Michael. It isn’t always an easy thing to do. For Jabari Bird, following in his dad’s path does not appear to be an issue.
At the University of California, his dad, Carl became a star for the Golden Bears. Though he did not become a household name as a NBA player, many Cal fans from his time on campus remember the senior Bird and his amazing talents. Knowing full well how large of a shadow his father could cast, Jabari Bird still felt that the California Golden Bears were the right team for him. Of course while his father’s presence may have been seen as a negative by some, it was a positive for Bird. Aside from that, staying in his home state was something the Richmond, California native wanted. Cal was the perfect school for Bird in many ways.
The high school standout had offers from some big time programs on the west coast like Oregon and Washington but ultimately, they were never really in contention. Bird committed to Cal in 2012 and never looked back.
Here is a compilation of highlights put together from his time in high school.
First and foremost, Bird is an athletic scoring wing player. He is the prototypical slashing scorer, the kind of guy who grew up watching Kobe Bryant and wanting to emulate his moves on the court the same way Kobe did with Michael Jordan. In transition, Bird’s athletic ability leads to some fancy alley oops and a lot of easy dunks for his team.
In the half court, Bird is an aggressive player. He is not afraid to get to the rim and finish with contact around him. His speed and explosiveness help him in that regard. If Bird sees an open lane to the hoop, he is going to charge at it every time. At the moment, he works best off the ball, coming off cuts and heading at the rim. If he was paired with a precise point guard, he could put up a lot of easy points very quickly.
While attacking the rim may be his preferred option, Bird is also able to dial it back a little and score from other areas. He has a very smooth and mature mid range game which he is comfortable using both off the dribble and from a set position. Bird has also extended his range out to the three point line but that shot is a little bit more streaky. Thankfully for his coaches at Cal, Bird has a great shot form and really excellent fluidity in his stroke which means that he will improve his outside shooting with practice and repetition.
At first, Bird will be best used as an isolation scorer. One on one, he is able to get a good read on his defender and take advantage of the edges he has on his man. As his offensive instincts develop, Bird will become a dangerous all around scorer thanks to his athletic gifts and his ability to shoot it from pretty much anywhere on the court.
At the moment, Bird is a little bit one dimensional. As a defensive player, he is nothing extraordinary and could use a lot of work. Some of that has to do with lapses in effort, which is not uncommon for players Bird’s age and can be ironed out with some tough love from his coaches.
On a purely basic level of understanding the strategy of the game, Bird is behind a lot of his pears. He is the type of player who has relied a lot on his physical attributes and didn’t really take the time to learn plays and develop his basketball IQ. Because of that, he will be at a disadvantage in division one because he will be facing similarly skilled players who have a lot more basketball knowledge than he does. That is fixable provided Bird is willing to put in the time outside of practice and that coach Mike Montgomery is planning on really drilling him with strategy.
On the court, Bird should also look to improve his ball handling skills. As it stands, he struggles to get by his man at times and settles for bad shots. That also relates to his basketball IQ and his inability to look for easier opportunities by passing the ball. Getting rid of his tunnel vision would make him a much more dangerous offensive player because it would keep defenders on their toes.
Physically, he will need to bulk up from his small frame to avoid getting bullied around. Currently, Bird is around 180-90 pounds and he should ideally be in the low 200s. A good weight lifting program combined with cardio workouts should get him bulked up fairly quickly as he has a good body shape.
What to expect at California:
With Allen Crabbe, California’s high scoring point guard, leaving for the NBA, a hole in the rotation has been left for the Golden Bears. It is expected that Justin Cobbs will become the main focus on offense with sophomore Tyrone Wallace stepping in and taking over large part of Crabbe’s role.
As for Bird, he should be a regular player but probably not a starter. He is too raw to hold his own on a regular basis on the court and will need some coaching in order to become a much more complete player. As a scorer though, Bird should be able to help the Golden Bears immediately. Coming off the bench, he should provide instant offense the way a classic 6th man in basketball is expected to do.
Given a few years time, Bird should develop into a very good player. Once the mind catches up to the talent, he will be a formidable scorer who can put the ball in the bucket any number of ways. Hopefully, Bird becomes just as good a defender as he is capable of being as a scorer.
Who knows, in a few years, he may be the one who ends up casting a shadow on his old man.