The boys basketball tradition at Salesian High has skyrocketed in the past several years.
The Pride has won two state titles and seen several high-caliber Division I players come through the small Richmond campus.
Jabari Bird could prove to be the best of the bunch.
The explosive 6-foot-5 junior guard, who led Salesian to the California Interscholastic Federation Division IV state title in March, is also the Bay Area News Group East Bay Boys Basketball Player of the Year.
"His impact on the floor has been tremendous," Pride coach Bill Mellis said of Bird. "Salesian was already on the map, but I think it just kind of continues that tradition of having really great players. We've had a lot of really
ESPN ranks Bird the eighth-best recruit in the nation for the 2013 class. He's the nation's No. 2 ranked shooting guard and the No. 2 California prospect behind only Archbishop Mitty-San Jose's Aaron Gordon.
Salesian's leading scorer (18.7 points per game) and rebounder (4.8) said the whole focus this season was on capturing the state title to erase the memories of last year's championship game loss.
"From day one, the whole entire team was real focused," Bird said. "We had a goal in mind and it was to come back here and win it -- not lose like we did last year. We accomplished our goal, and we're real proud of ourselves."
Bird expects to select
In only two seasons (he played at Benicia as a freshman), he's already fifth on Salesian's all-time scoring list with 1,127 points. He could soar as high as third with a strong senior year.
"We have a great history of basketball players that came here before," Bird said. "To be a part of it means a lot. We'll try to keep the thing going and hopefully next year get another state title."
Mellis notes Bird's hard work and commitment to improving.
"There were a few things he wanted to work on from a defensive standpoint and maybe better ball-handling," Mellis said. "Not only did he improve those things, but the way he played this year, he really shared the ball. We almost had to tell him to shoot the ball more, because he was shooting the ball so consistently."
Bird made 59.2 percent of his shots and 42.9 percent of his 3-pointers. When the stage grew bigger, so did he. He poured in a game-high 24 points on 10 of 16 shooting in the 70-56 win over Price-Los Angeles in the state title game.