I stopped by the RSF practice gym on Tuesday night to watch the Cal basketball team conduct its second-to-last workout prior to departing Thursday for Australia.
I took in a portion of practice last Wednesday, but freshman Jaylen Brown did not participate. Let me assure you, there was a difference this time. Big difference.
But before we discuss Brown, the five-star small forward from Marietta, Georgia, a few other observations:
— One of the big winners on the “new” Cal team looks like it could be Jabari Bird. With Brown and fellow freshman Ivan Rabb drawing more defensive attention, Bird should be freed up to play his game. On this night, the junior guard appeared relaxed and confident. I don’t remember him missing a shot. He looked like the player we’ve all waited to see, but has been inhibited by injuries and subsequent loss of rhythm his first two seasons.
— Center Kingsley Okoroh was taking a night class, but 7-footer Kameron Rooks played aggressively at both ends. He shows promise and should benefit greatly from four games against older pros in Australia.
— The most improved player on the floor, at least for one practice, was Roger Moute a Bidias. He has shown virtually no offensive aptitude for two seasons, but made outside shots and attacked the basket when shown even a crack in the defense. Not sure where he fits on a deep roster, but the guy has improved.
— Rabb, who says he has gained 11 pounds since arriving on campus early this summer, had a few terrific moments, including an impressive put-back flush. He rebounded well but also seems entirely comfortable at the high post. Still, he needs to continue to get stronger, as evidenced during a drill that pitted players against each other in the low post.
— Which brings us to Brown. He is strong, smooth, quick and calm. Doesn’t force anything, but plays both ends and plays unselfishly. After a steal at mid-court, he dashed to the hoop, throwing down a left-handed dunk. I observed just a small sample size and, to quote the loquacious Allen Iverson, we’re talking about practice. Even so, it’s pretty obvious the guy can play.