Basketball: Bird’s commitment is latest from the Bay Area, but first in a while

When Salesian HS’s Jabari Bird signs with Cal — presumably on Nov. 14 — he will become the latest in a long line of Bay Area players to join the Bears.

He also represents something of a breakthrough for Cal coach Mike Montgomery, for whom top local players have been elusive.

On the Bears’ roster last season — Montgomery’s fourth in Berkeley — backup point guard Brandon Smith was the only scholarship player with Bay Area roots.

Obviously, there are a couple other local players — Aaron Gordon of San Jose and Marcus Lee of Antioch — the Bears would love to secure this year.

Over the years, Cal’s program has been fueled by Bay Area talent. Here is a breakdown of the best over the past half-century:

FIRST TEAM: Phil Chenier (Berkeley HS) 1970-71; Jason Kidd (St. Joseph’s HS-Alameda) 1993-94;  Lamond Murray (Kennedy HS-Fremont ) 1992-94; Leon Powe (Oakland Tech HS) 2004-06); Ansley Truitt (Wilson HS-San Francisco) 1970-72.

SECOND TEAM:  Russ Critchfield (Salinas HS) 1966-68;  John Coughran (Piedmont Hills HS-San Jose) 1971-73; Charles Johnson (Sequoia HS-Redwood City) 1969-71;  Mark McNamara (Del Mar HS-San Jose) 1981-82; Gene Ransom (Berkeley HS) 1976-78.

HONORABLE MENTION: Brady Allen (Castlemont HS-Oakland) 1973-74;  DeVon Hardin (Newark Memorial HS) 2005-08; Theo Robertson (De La Salle HS-Concord) 2006-10; Kevin Singleton (Oakland HS) 1977-81; Doug True (College Park HS-Pleasant Hill) 1977-80; Ayinda Ubaka (Oakland HS) 2004-07.

Jeff Faraudo

  • gobears49

    Charlie Johnson should be on the first team instead of Chenier. I’m pretty sure he played longer in the NBA than Chenier, and played significant minutes (I believe he started with the Warrior) on two NBA championship teams (I believe Baltimore in addition to the Warriors), which Chenier didn’t.

    As an aside, i remember attending Cal basketball games when I was a student there. People would come out to watch the freshman team, that had Charlie Johnson and scintillating Jackie Ridgle on it, and then leave after that game and before the varsity game started. I think Chenier was a year or two after Johnson, but I can probably check (not sure Cal had a freshman team when Chenier arrived).

    Would love to hear other people’s comments about Johnson vs. Chenier.

  • gobears49

    Note that Johnson, Chenier, and Truitt all played on Cal’s 1970 team.
    The word was out then that John Wooden would trade his team for Cal’s then, as he though Cal’s team had more talent.

    But Cal had a crappy coach and thus a so-so record. Still, there was one game Cal played, I believe that year, where they came within a whisker of beating UCLA, probably one of their national championship teams

  • Juancho

    Im eating crow bc i too hit montgomery hard on the recruiting topic. Glad to eat it. Now if tedford can make me eat crow ill be even happier.

  • Juancho

    A gloring omission to honorable mention. Richard midgley.

  • Juancho

    Wait a doggone minute.

    Why isnt kj on that list? If salinas counts for bay area so does sac town the mac town.

  • Dan

    Juancho- you don’t really have to eat crow- Monty’s recruiting has not been great. Decent to good yes, but nothing spectacular, like Bird.

    You know I’m racking my brain to remember if any of the top bay area kids that “got away” from Montgomery are really ones that we would have wanted Everyone was up in arms when the other Jabari (Brown) went to Oregon, but I’m pretty sure I’m glad he didn’t end up at Cal. When he left Oregon, he wanted to go to SDSU. The Aztec blogs were on fire with the promise that the top hoops recruit in Aztec history would be headed to Montezuma Mesa. Word has it that Steve Fisher very quietly (and classily) passed. Not a good fit chemistry-wise. Pretty sure there would been issues here.

    I have seen Bird play both on TV and in person. I LOVE his game. Ridiculously talented and VERY unselfish. He is a perfect fit for Cal and Montgomery, and he will be a huge impact player for us. He will be a leader and represent Cal both on and off the court in a manner that will make Cal alums and fans proud. As has been written, he is going to try his darndest to do what Zack Kline and Brian Treggs did in football- sell Cal to other top recruits. Lets hope he is successful.

    Also, Midgely was from England and Modesto. Neither are the bay area.

    Tedford will never make you eat crow. If he was going to, he would have already done it at some point in the past 6 seasons.

  • gobears49


    I would consider Salinas in the Bay Area but not Sacramento. This is supported by the definition of the San Francisco Bay Area in Wikipedia.

    Are you organizing a pre-game get together of people who write for this column before a Cal game at Kips upstairs? I might attend, depending on the game.

    Too bad not many people are as old as I am, as I have not seen any comments on my Johnson vs. Chenier issue.

  • Juancho

    I guess i disagree. I was born in salinas. And raised in salinas valley. It has no business being defined as bay area. Were salinas valley.

    For starters we have rodeos.

  • rotfogel

    I was a very loud critic of all the players Monte has missed from the Bay Area but I feel really good about getting Bird. Can’t wait to hear “and Bird shoots another three…” haven’t we heard that before?

  • ConcordBear

    Monty and his staff know what they are doing. Bird is the real deal and along with his buddies will help lift our program from a solid top Pac 12 team to a national player.
    So excited to see these guys all light it up in Haas!!!
    Go Bears

  • discdude

    I think it was ok to “complain” about missing some local players, but it was also not expected that he would have gotten them because he was “Monty” or because they are local. I think some people miss the big picture, which is that Cal basketball needed a 180 degree turnaround after Braun. It was dead. A guy like Monty, who is cerebral and clearly stated from Day 1 that he didn’t want “1 and dones” isn’t going to appeal to all kids. And he’s battling Romar, Miller, and Howland for some of the same players (some of whom clearly wouldn’t have qualified anyway). He did the best with what he had, he did land the highly rated Crabbe (California Player of the year in 2010, Parade All American), he did land Franklin (who despite being a bust, was still a top rated player), he did land the transfer Cobbs (who was also a highly rated player in HS), he did land Kreklow. As I’ve stated in the past, 2012 was kinda disappointing, but 2013 is where he had a chance to let his new track record with Cal catch up to the younger AAU players who now can clearly see what he’s doing, which is building a great program.

    So, 2013 is where he needed to make his mark and he’s done it. This is a fantastic start. It might be one year too late for some, but let’s just be happy that it’s moving that direction.

  • gobears49

    Someone should write an article about the 1970 Cal team (I think that was the year), when I believe Cal had Jackie Ridgle, Charlie Johnson, Phil Chenier, and Ansley Truitt, probably the best talent Cal has ever had, and ended up with a so-so record, I think not much higher than a 50% winning percentage.

  • Jeff Faraudo

    In response to a couple of your comments:
    — Yes, Jauncho, debatable if Salinas is more Bay Area than Sacto, but it’s much closer to San Jose (the south end of the Bay Area) than Sacto is to anywhere in the East Bay. Either way, wasn’t slighting KJ — obviously one of Cal’s best ever.
    — Midgley, a different story. Good player, not great player. From Modesto, but really a Brit. A good guy, though.
    — The 1969-70 team was just 11-15, but the 1970-71 team, with virtually the same guys (Ridgle, Truitt, CJ and Chenier) was 16-9. But it was the 1968-69 team (with Ridgle, CJ and Bob Presley) that took Alcindor and UCLA to overtime before losing.

  • Kevin Thomas


    I’d have to disagree. Both Chenier and Charles Johnson were good if not great ballplayers, especially at Cal, but it was Chenier who blossomed more in the NBA. Chenier was the smoothest guard I ever saw at Cal, period. At Cal, Chenier averaged 26 ppg on the Cal frosh and on his two years on the varsity, he averaged 13.5 ppg. In 1971, as a junior, he made the all-conference team. With both seniors, Johnson and Ridgle graduating, Chenier chose to leave Cal for the NBA.

    Chenier started off by making the NBA All Rookie team in 1972. In 1975, he was voted 2nd team all-NBA (Walt Frazier and Tiny Archibald were the two first team guards that year). He played in 3 NBA All-star games, and won one NBA title, with Washington in 1978. He had a 12 year NBA career, where he averaged 17.2 points, 3.6 rebounds, 3 assists, and 1.6 steals, in 36 minutes per game. He was 6th in steals one year, and 7th in another year.

    At Cal, Charlie Johnson averaged 13.9 points for three years, and was a team captain. His NBA career spanned 9 years, where he averaged 8.1 points, 2.5 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 1.2 steals, in 19 minutes per game. His teams won two NBA titles. It was a little ironic that in 1974, Johnson was a starter for the Warriors in the NBA Finals, while Chenier was an all-star guard for the Bullets, and the Warriors won. In that series, Chenier would score 21.8 ppg to CJ’s 10.9 ppg. In 1978, both Johnson and Chenier were playing for the Bullets, and they won the NBA title. Both were nearing the end of their careers and they came off the bench to play about 20-25 minutes each, Chenier scoring 14 ppg, and CJ scoring 8.3 ppg.

  • Kevin Thomas

    I am sure to get a lot of flack for this, but I’d say Charles Johnson, Russ Critchfield, Gene Ransom, and Mark McNamara all deserve to be on the first team ahead of Leon Powe.

    Since this is a list from the last half century, I would also include as honorable mention, Camden Wall from Los Gatos, and Dick Smith from Gilroy, both from the 1962 and 1963 teams, who both made all conference, I believe.