Cal freshman Jabari Bird, who has missed the past four games after spraining his ankle, practiced for the first time Monday and will play Wednesday when the Bears host Washington.
“He practiced hard today … didn’t limp. He pretty much looked as if he wasn’t worried about it,” Cal coach Mike Montgomery said. “There’s probably some rust there. I anticipate him getting better every day.”
Bird started nine of Cal’s first 12 games and averaged 11.3 points before spraining his ankle Dec. 22 at Creighton.
Montgomery said he’s not sure how much Bird will play immediately.
“He’ll have to earn his way back into this thing,” Montgomery said. “We’re won four (straight) games, got a little chemisty. Talent-wise he’s a real plus for us.”
Forward David Kravish said Bird was moving well in practice Monday and he doesn’t expect it to take long for the shooting guard to regain his rhythm.
“He’s only been out (three) weeks. He hasn’t forgot how to play,” Kravish said.
Kravish isn’t worried that Cal’s chemistry will be impacted by the return of Bird or eventually Ricky Kreklow (broken hand), who likely will be out another week or two.
“It”s one of the things we did when they were out — we had to adapt,” Kravish said. “Jordan (Mathews) is starting now because of injuries. It shows the depth of our team.”
Even Mathews, who used the greater opportunity to score a career-high 32 points in last Thursday’s win at Oregon, isn’t concerned about how greater depth will impact the minutes he plays.
“We have so many weapons,” he said. “We just incorporate him back in and nothing’s really going to change.”