Cal coach Mike Montgomery says freshman Jabari Bird will be fine. He just needs time.
Bird, who missed four games and all the practice time during that stretch after spraining his ankle Dec. 22 at Creighton, has seen limited action in three games since returning.
On Wednesday night at USC, the former high school All-American from Salesian-Richmond shot 0 for 3 and was scoreless in 11 minutes off the bench of the Bears’ 77-69 loss.
Earlier this week Montgomery said the time Bird missed was critical.
“It’s hard for kids, particularly young kids, to miss that much time,” he said. “They need every practice, every day to learn all the things they need to learn.
“The good habits he needs just aren’t there. Every day he’s a little bit better. We just continue to bring him along.”
Asked if he noticed that during last weekend’s Washington State game — when Bird had four points and three assists in 18 solid minutes — that Bird appeared frustrated at times, Montgomery said that’s the norm for freshmen.
“All the freshmen are frustrated,” he said. “They’re freshmen and they do freshmen things. … They do make mistakes. And they’re aware it. They know what’s happening. And it bothers them.
“They really want to help this team win. And when they make a mistake I generally let them know because they are habits we’re trying to build. Freshmen just don’t have those habits yet.”
Montgomery said Bird carries the extra burden of being the most publicized of Cal’s five freshmen. But that doesn’t change the fact that he’s new at the college game.
“Jabari’s a terrific kid and he really wants to do everything to help this team win,” Montgomery said. “I don’t think it’s fair to single out Jabari. He missed some time that would have been very valuable to him.
“He’s getting better every day. He’s just fine.”