Sept. 1 is huge for Cal football, but a big day also for basketball.
While the Golden Bears make their football return to renovated Memorial Stadium that day, three elite local basketball recruits — Jabari Bird, Marcus Lee and Aaron Gordon — will make campus visits.
Bird, a 6-foot-5 shooting guard from Richmond-Salesian High plans his official campus visit that weekend — the first of four trips he will take to Pac-12 schools during the month of September.
Bird will be accompanied by two high-profile Bay Area buddies making unofficial (self-funded) visits — 6-9 center Lee of Antioch-Deer Valley High and 6-8 forward Gordon of San Jose-Archbishop Mitty High.
In a nutshell, coach Mike Montgomery and his staff will be hosting three of the nation’s top 33 prospects .
Bird and Lee have the Bears on their list of finalists, but Gordon’s decision to join them is a bit of a surprise. Cal remains very much a longshot to get him, but the nation’s No. 5 overall prospect is close enough to Bird to want to hear what the Bears have to say.
Basically, Bird may be trying to lure Gordon away from either Washington or Arizona to Berkeley while Gordon figures to try tempting Bird to pick the Huskies over the Bears.
The weekend in Berkeley is sure to include a stop at Memorial Stadium for what should be a frenzied atmosphere for the football opener vs. Nevada.
Bird, rated the nation’s No. 15 overall prospect by Scout.com, has said the Bears and Washington are his two favorites.
Bird gave little hint as to which school has the edge during a Saturday radio interview on Seattle’s KJR-AM. He confirmed Cal and UW are 1-2 for him, said he likes both coaches, enjoys the style each team utilizes and sees opportunity to play.
There are close connections at both schools for Bird. His father, Carl Bird, starred for the Bears in the mid-1970s, averaging 15.2 points per game as a senior in 1975-76. He described ex-Salesian star Desmond Simmons, now at UW, as “a big brother.”
If Cal has an edge it may be that Lee — one of Bird’s teammates on the Oakland Soldiers AAU summer team — also is considering the Bears. Lee, rated No. 33 overall by Rivals, reportedly has crossed UW off his list, but also has interest from the likes of Duke, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisville and UCLA.
Bird told KJR if he could choose any to attend college with any prospects of his choice they would include Lee, Gordon and shooting guard Isaac Hamilton of St. John Bosco HS. Hamilton, rated as the nation’s No. 12 prospect, is considering Cal but iffy to show up the weekend of Sept. 1. He may be planning to sign next spring.
After visiting Cal, Bird has scheduled trips to Colorado (Sept. 8), Oregon (Sept. 22) and Washington (Sept. 28).