RICHMOND -- Salesian High was already an established boys basketball program when Jabari Bird joined the Pride as a sophomore in the fall of 2010.
But with Bird on campus, the Pride truly morphed into a powerhouse. Salesian's on-court record in Bird's three years included 100 wins and eight losses -- only one of which came to an East Bay team.
His transcendent play -- which he'll take to Cal next season -- earned Bird a repeat selection as the Bay Area News Group East Bay Player of the Year.
"Like a lot of our previous players, we seem to just take it to a new level each time," said Salesian coach Bill Mellis, who has been with Salesian for 20 years. "With the addition of Jabari, he helped take this program to the highest level that we've ever been at."
The Pride was the No. 1 ranked team in the state when it lost to Sheldon-Sacramento in the Northern California Regional Open Division semifinals. The Open Division was created in large part for teams just like Salesian, which won the Division IV state title in 2012 but has the talent to compete with just about anybody.
"We definitely wouldn't have it any other way. We wanted to play the best teams, regardless of what division they're in," Bird said. "Even though we came up a little short, we accomplished a small goal and that was to make the Open Division."
Bird, along with Deer Valley's Marcus Lee, became the first Contra Costa County boys players to make the McDonald's All-American team. The game was Wednesday in Chicago.
The smooth 6-foot-6 guard is ranked as the No. 19 player in the country by ESPN. He averaged 17.2 points, 6.8 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game for the Tri-County Athletic League and North Coast Section Division IV champions.
That all came despite Bird being the primary target of every opposing defense, something he relished.
"It's definitely a challenge, but at the same time it's real fun," Bird said. "I look forward to it every game."
As he heads to Cal, he has a chance to create a buzz unseen in Berkeley since the days of Jason Kidd. He's a familiar name and face heading to a program fresh off back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances.
"Hopefully, we can just keep building on that and see what we can do next year," Bird said.
Follow Jimmy Durkin at Twitter.com/Jimmy_Durkin.