Ask coach Cuonzo Martin how Cal landed two top-10 national basketball recruits and his answer is simple.
“Why not?” he said. “You’re talking about the No. 1 public institution in the world. Why not? You’ve got great academics as well as great athletics. Why not? That’s what people should say.”
Martin said Jaylen Brown, consensus five-star small forward from Georgia, did not simply drop in the Bears’ lap. Hard work, relationship building and circumstances combined to convince Brown to sign with the Bears over the likes of Kentucky, Michigan and North Carolina, giving them a recruiting class that Rivals.com ranks No. 4 nationally.
Martin, in his second season at Berkeley, said he began recruiting Brown when he was head coach at Tennessee and Brown was a freshman at Wheeler High in Marietta.
He recalls seeing a 6-foor-3, 170-pounder who took the game seriously and got high marks from those around him. “His coach was saying he’ll be the next guy when it’s all said and done,” Martin said.
Brown is now 6-7, nearly 220 pounds and led Wheeler to Georgia’s 6A state title. He also played in all of the major all-star games, where his relationship with fellow Cal signee Ivan Rabb of Oakland’s Bishop O’Dowd High began to blossom.
There was talk a month ago of Brown, Rabb and center Caleb Swanigan choosing a school as a “package deal.” Swanigan opted for Michigan State, but Rabb decided to stay close to home.