Salesian’s talented guard made big play after big play en route to leading the Pride to a 30-win season
Jabari Bird put it out of his mind as much as anyone could.
Still, the possibility of becoming a McDonald’s All-American lingered as his senior year rolled on. Bird helped established Salesian as the team to beat with victories over Archbishop Mitty-San Jose, Sheldon-Sacramento and De La Salle; the Pride stayed atop SportStars weekly basketball rankings throughout the season.
His overwhelming consistency — and that of his team’s — could not be ignored, and was perhaps the biggest factor in his being named SportStars Bay Area Male Athlete of the Winter.
As for McDonald’s…
“I tried not to think about it too much,” Bird said of the All-American game. “But in the back of my head I kind of knew I had a good chance of making the game. So I just basically went into the year just taking every game one game at a time. And just trying to play my hardest and hopefully whatever I was doing at the time was good enough for me to make it.”
He led the Pride in scoring and guided them to the Open Division semis before succumbing in a rematch against Sheldon.
Would his resume be enough?
“My coach was going down a list of things to say after practice,” Bird said. “And basically the last thing he said was ‘We got something in the mail today.’ Basically saying I made the game and all my teammates just jumped on me.”
Along with Mitty’s Aaron Gordon and the Kentucky-bound Marcus Lee, Bird became the first Bay Area player to make the McDonald’s game since Leon Powe in 2003.
Bird scored nine points and grabbed three rebounds as the West beat the East 110-99 in the annual game played at the United Center in Chicago on April 3. “It was a lot of fun,” Bird said. “I really enjoyed myself playing against the best competition in the country. It was really a good opportunity to get know some of the top guys around the country, how they act off the court and on the court.”
Now Bird’s focused on getting ready to play for Cal in the fall. After school, he’s in the gym working on perfecting his skills then heads to the weight room to bulk up. He looks much stronger than he did his sophomore year. But how else has he changed in the last two years?
“I think I’ve grown the most in my overall approach to the game,” Bird said. “I take every game serious. I don’t look at teams’ records and think “Oh this is an easy game.’ I try to take every team and play them like they’re the same, basically. I pay more attention to detail on defense. I’ve gotten a little stronger. I’m just more of a leader now.”
— Erik Stordahl
THE BIRD FILES
THE STATS: 17.2 points/game, 6.8 rebounds, 2.6 assists
COLLEGE DESTINATION: Cal
SEASON HIGHLIGHT: Jabari had several, but he singled out playing on ESPNU against Gonzaga-Washington D.C. on Jan. 5 at Wheeling Jesuit University in West Virginia. The Pride lost the game 65-59.
FAVORITE DUNK FROM THE McDONALD’S A-A GAME DUNK CONTEST: Aaron Gordon’s Reverse Psychology or Andrew Wiggins’ Reverse 360 Between the Legs.
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