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January 23, 2012
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BERKELEY -- It was decidedly the most intently-watched game of basketball in Haas Pavilion on Monday night. Richmond (Calif.) Salesian against Sacramento: the marquee game of the MLK Classic.
In the stands were coaches from at least six programs, including Washington head coach Lorenzo Romar and just about the entire California coaching staff, on a rotating basis.
Sure, was 6-foot-8 center Freddie Tagaloa on the floor for the Pride, but the real prize -- the apple of each coach's eye -- was No. 23: Jabari Bird.
At this point in Bird's recruitment, it doesn't matter so much what his stats are -- he recorded just six points in limited action due to early foul trouble, but still recorded six boards in the 62-41 win -- it's the fact that he sees the faces in the crowd.
"I really didn't think it was them; it was me," Bird said of his sub-par performance. "I got those two fouls, and it threw off my rhythm, and I kind of had an off game tonight, but I can't complain; we got the W. That was a good win for us."
Having long had a top three of the Bears, Huskies and Arizona, not much has changed with Bird -- at least, publicly. Behind closed doors, there are whispers that Cal sees Bird as the jewel of their hopeful 2013 recruiting class -- an offensive centerpiece much like Allen Crabbe. Rumors out of Haas Pavilion say that Bird is more than even that: he's the bedrock -- the keystone -- to the future Bears' offense. Sources around Bird say that's sounding more and more enticing for the junior, but he won't let much slip.
After the game, Bird sought out the Cal staff, and spoke a bit with head coach Mike Montgomery.
"I'm getting recruited by the same schools still," Bird said. "I've talked to coach Romar. I knew he was coming tonight. It's still the same top three."