Cal sophomore guard Jabari Bird has missed the last six games with a foot injury.
On Tuesday afternoon, Jeff Faraudo of the Mercury News spoke to Bill Mellis, Bird’s former coach at Salesian High (California), who told him that the 6-foot-6 guard has suffered a stress fracture and the recovery process has taken longer than initially expected.
“I don’t know how long it’s going to take,” Mellis told the San JoseMercury News. “There’s got to be some level of frustration to it, but he’ll be fine.”
A Cal spokesperson told Faraudo that the injury is day-to-day while head coach Cuonzo Martin has previously said that Bird should be ready to go for conference play, which for the Golden Bears begins on Friday, Jan. 2 against Washington.
Bird was averaging 11.7 points, 2.7 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game, but has been sidelined since Nov. 30 following a 64-57 win over Fresno State.
Cal had its seven-game winning streak snapped on Monday by No. 2 Wisconsin.
The Cuonzo Martin era at California got off to a good start, with the Golden Bears picking up comfortable victories over Alcorn State and Kennesaw State. But with all due respect to those two teams, the Golden Bears’ matchup with No. 23 Syracuse in the semifinals of the 2K Sports Classic in New York was going to reveal a lot more about Cal than either of those prelims have.
Thanks to a stretch late in the first half in which they knocked down four three-pointers, the Golden Bears took control of a game they would eventually win by the final score of 73-59. What’s helped Martin thus far is the amount of talent that remained in Berkeley following the retirement of Mike Montgomery, and against the Orange those players stepped forward to turn a competitive game into a comfortable victory.
The Golden Bears were able to find gaps in the Syracuse zone, shooting 8-for-19 from three and 50 percent from inside of the arc. And of their 26 made field goals 20 were assisted, with reserve guard Sam Singer accounting for eight of the assists. Cal didn’t settle for long jumpers, which is something many teams do when facing Syracuse, and the strategy paid off.
Jabari Bird was responsible for two of the four three-pointers during that decisive first half run, and Jordan Mathews scored 20 of his 22 points in the second half. Add in senior forward David Kravish, who accounted for 12 points, 11 rebounds, five assists and three blocks, and junior point guard Tyrone Wallace (ten points, five assists), and four of Cal’s five starters finished the game in double figures.
With Wallace being a junior and both Bird and Mathews being sophomores, they can be valuable pieces for Martin not only this season but in the future as well. Cal won’t be the deepest of teams, especially in the front court as a result of the knee injury suffered by Kameron Rooks, but they’ve still got plenty of skill.
Syracuse has a host of issues to address, and Thursday’s result served as a reminder of how much production (and talent) they lost from last year’s team. But that shouldn’t take away from what California accomplished. In front of a pro-Syracuse crowd and against Jim Boeheim’s famed 2-3 zone, Cuonzo Martin’s Golden Bears took an important step forward in their development as a team.
With Ricky Kreklow out after breaking his right hand California entered Sunday night’s game at Creighton shorthanded, and things would get even worse in their 68-54 loss to the Bluejays. Late in the first half freshman Jabari Bird, who moved back into the starting lineup in place of Kreklow, went down with a right ankle injury and did not return. Without those two perimeter options the game became a struggle for the Golden Bears offensively, as they shot 36.4% from the field and 5-for-24 from beyond the arc.
Now Creighton certainly deserves credit for this, as their work defensively in the half-court and on the boards made life difficult for Cal. Greg McDermott’s team not only posted its best points allowed per possession number since their win over Arizona State on Sunday night, allowing Cal to score just 0.87 points/possession, but they also completed many of those defensive possessions as they rebounded 76.3% of Cal’s missed shots.
Creighton’s defense helped them navigate a slow start offensively, and by the end of the game Doug McDermott tallied a double-double (20 points, 11 rebounds) and Austin Chatman (11 points) and Grant Gibbs (ten) reached double figures as well.
As for California the offensive struggles reveal the fact that for all the talent at Mike Montgomery’s disposal, this team is still a work in progress due to the youth of many of those pieces. And if injuries become a major issue the process becomes even more difficult. Guards Justin Cobbs and Tyrone Wallace combined to score 25 points, but they did so shooting 8-for-23 from the field.
It can also be argued that senior center Richard Solomon (six points on 2-for-3 shooting) didn’t get enough quality looks inside, and Cal needs offensive balance in order to be at their best. David Kravish can provide offense as well for the Golden Bears, and this tandem will be need to be productive consistently when Pac-12 play begins.
While Sunday’s result certainly represents a missed opportunity for Cal from a resume standpoint given their losses to Dayton, Syracuse and UCSB, with their “best” win coming against Arkansas, the bigger concern is this team’s health. Kreklow’s going to be out of the lineup for the foreseeable future, and that was known entering the game. But if they lose Bird as well, the growth of the other freshmen and Cal’s interior play become even more important.
Just prior to its game at Creighton on Sunday evening, the California basketball program announced that junior guard Ricky Kreklow will miss anywhere from four to six weeks after breaking his right hand. Kreklow, who started four of the Golden Bears’ 11 games prior to Sunday, is averaging 6.4 points and 2.6 rebounds per game.
The injury is the second serious injury that Kreklow’s had to deal with since arriving in Berkeley. Kreklow, who began his career at Missouri, played in just nine games last season due to a broken foot. Originally expected to miss 6-8 weeks due to that injury, Kreklow suffered multiple setbacks in the recovery process.
But after undergoing surgery in October to have a screw put in the bone, Kreklow suffered setbacks on three occasions. The last time, on Jan. 3 at UCLA, he landed on someone else’s foot and re-cracked a bone in his foot.
“I didn’t know what was to come of that, I just knew it wasn’t good because it was already pretty fragile,” Kreklow said. “The screw prevented the bone from breaking all the way.”
Kreklow, who had started the last two games for the Golden Bears, was replaced in the starting lineup by freshman Jabari Bird, who entered Sunday’s game averaging 11.9 points per game with eight starts. Bird suffered a right ankle injury late in the first half against Creighton.
All month long, CBT will be rolling out our 2013-2014 season preview. Check back throughout the day, as we’ll be posting three or four preview items every day.
To browse through the preview posts we’ve already published, click here. To see the rest of our preview lists, click here. For a schedule of our previews for the month, click here.
Basketball has five positions, but the way that the sport has grown, particularly at the collegiate level, has produced hybrid players, unusual roster makeups and far too many teams with players that don’t fit into a typical positional category. Few teams actually field a traditional starting five, which is why CBT decided to make our positional rankings reflect that.
Wing forwards are players that we feel cannot be designated as a member of the back court yet do the majority of their damage away from the basket. A wing player in basketball is one that requires versatility if a player’s to be considered among the elite at the position. Whether they’re a high-level perimeter shooter or a slasher who’s best when attacking off the dribble, the ability to excel in multiple facets of the game is of high importance.
Here’s our list of the 20 best wings entering the 2013-14 season:
1. Andrew Wiggins (Kansas): The Huntington Prep product arrived in Lawrence amidst much fanfare, and whether or not he’s in the spot when the season ends will depend in large part on how he handles the attention. The skill and athleticism are most certainly there, with more than a few scouts pegging Wiggins as the top pick in the 2014 NBA Draft should he enter.
2. Jabari Parker (Duke): Parker was one of the most versatile players in the country coming out of Simeon High in Chicago, as he has the ability to score both inside and out. Given his talent Parker is one of two wings expected to lead the way for the Blue Devils as they look to account for the loss of their top three scorers from a season ago.
3. C.J. Fair (Syracuse): Even with the Orange playing their first season in the ACC, it was Fair who the coaches chose as their preseason ACC Player of the Year. As a junior, the southpaw from Baltimore posted averages of 14.5 points and 6.9 rebounds per game for a team that won 30 games and reached the Final Four for the first time in a decade.
4. Rodney Hood (Duke): Hood has yet to play a game in a Duke uniform as he transferred in from Mississippi State. But that season spent practicing is expected to pay dividends for Hood, who was an SEC All-Freshman Team selection in 2011-12 (10.3 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 2.0 apg). And he’s already a trusted leader for Mike Krzyzewski’s squad, as he’s been named a team captain for the upcoming season.
5. Glenn Robinson III (Michigan): The son of the “Big Dog” is poised for a breakout season with the Wolverines having to account for the loss of both Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. As a freshman Robinson posted averages of 11.0 points and 5.4 rebounds per game, and he has the skill needed to take advantage of the increased offensive opportunities that will comes his way in 2013-14.
6. Cleanthony Early (Wichita State): One reason why many expect the Shockers to win the Missouri Valley and possibly make some more noise nationally is Early, who averaged 13.9 points and 5.4 rebounds per game last season. The 6-foot-8 forward earned all-MVC and Newcomer of the Year honors, and he’s the early favorite to win MVC Player of the Year as a senior.
7. Kyle Anderson (UCLA): The attribute that would best describe Anderson’s game is “versatility,” with the sophomore being one of the options to run the point for Steve Alford’s Bruins. As a freshman Anderson, who spent the majority of his time off the ball due to the presence of Larry Drew II, led the Bruins in rebounding (8.6 rpg) while also averaging 9.7 points and 3.5 assists per game.
8. Sam Dekker (Wisconsin): The Badgers may have lost some key veterans but Dekker, who was one of the Big Ten’s best freshmen last year, is back for his sophomore campaign. Dekker shot 48% from the field in 2012-13, averaging 9.6 points and 3.4 rebounds per game.
9. James Young (Kentucky): For all the talent at John Calipari’s disposal it’s been Young, another of their six McDonald’s All-Americans, whose received the highest amount of praise from observers of the Wildcats’ early practices. Always a good perimeter shooter, Young has the length (6-foot-6) to be a matchup problem for opponents if he attacks the rim with greater regularity.
10. T.J. Warren (N.C. State): With four starters gone from last season’s NCAA tournament team it’s essentially Warren’s show in Raleigh in 2013-14. As a freshman the 6-foot-8 Warren shot 62% from the field, averaging 12.1 points and 4.2 rebounds per game.
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11. Luke Hancock (Louisville): The reigning Final Four MOP is a versatile player who can make things happen both on and off the ball, and his leadership abilities have proven valuable for the Cardinals as well.
12. Will Sheehey (Indiana): Given the amount of talent Indiana lost from last year’s Big Ten champion squad, Sheehey (9.5 ppg, 3.5 rpg) will be expected to do a lot more this season. Sheehey shot 49% from the field as a junior.
13. LaQuinton Ross (Ohio State): Is this the year in which Ross puts it all together? He played very well for the Buckeyes in postseason play, averaging 15 points during the NCAA tournament and hitting the game-winning three to push Ohio State past Arizona in the Sweet 16.
14. Treveon Graham (VCU): For as much attention as the Rams’ “HAVOC” system receives, it should also be noted that in Graham they’ve got one of the nation’s best swingmen. Graham averaged 15.1 points and 5.8 rebounds per game in 2012-13, shooting 45% from the field and 37% from beyond the arc.
15. Dezmine Wells (Maryland): After spending much of last season adjusting to a new program Wells may be poised to take off in 2013-14. The Xavier transfer averaged 13.1 points and 4.9 rebounds per game last season, and he was also second on the team in assists (3.0 apg).
16. JaKarr Sampson (St. John’s): Sampson may be one of the best athletes in the country, and he’ll be a primary scoring option for Steve Lavin’s Red Storm after averaging 14.9 points and 6.6 rebounds per game as a freshman. For his efforts Sampson was named Big East Rookie of the Year.
17. Fuquan Edwin (Seton Hall): Edwin is one of the nation’s most underrated players (the Pirates’ lack of success has had something to do with it), and the hope in South Orange is that he receives more attention in 2013-14. As a junior Edwin posted averages of 16.5 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.4 steals per game.
18. Damyean Dotson (Oregon): Dotson played very well as a freshman for an Oregon squad that reached the Sweet 16 for the first time in a decade, averaging 11.4 points and 3.5 rebounds per game. Dotson ended the season with six straight double-digit scoring outings.
19. Branden Dawson (Michigan State): Dawson’s dealt with injuries for much of his career, but he played in all 36 games last season and averaged 8.9 points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game. Still a high-level athlete, Dawson’s production will be key if the Spartans are to have a shot at getting to the Final Four.
20. Jabari Bird (California): Losing leading scorer Allen Crabbe is a big deal, but the arrival of Bird is one reason why the folks in Berkeley aren’t panicking. An excellent athlete, Bird earned a spot in the McDonald’s All-America Game and averaged 17.2 points and 6.8 rebounds per game as a senior in high school.