BERKELEY -- For 3 minutes, 57 seconds, Jabari Bird felt like himself again.
Otherwise, it's been a tough few weeks for Cal's freshman guard, still waiting to regain his form since returning from an ankle injury that put him on the shelf for four games after Christmas.
"It's been really frustrating to start the season off the way I did, playing with a lot of confidence and having fun. And to come back and to almost be a shadow of what you used to be," he said.
As the Bears (15-8, 6-4 Pac-12) prepare to visit Washington State (9-14, 2-9) on Wednesday night, Bird is coming off the latest in a series of quiet performances. He was scoreless and missed all five of his shots seven days ago in the Bears' loss to Stanford.
"I've had a lot of time to myself to think about it, and I hate that," Bird said. "I just want to get back on the court."
A McDonald's All-American last season at Richmond-Salesian, Bird arrived on campus last fall amid hype and hope. He was the highest-rated Bay Area prospect coach Mike Montgomery has brought to Cal.
As the season began, he looked the part.
In his third college game, Bird scored 24 points and made six 3-point baskets to spark a comeback win over Oakland. At the Maui Invitational, he scored 17 points against Syracuse, now the nation's No. 1 team. Through six games, he was averaging 14.3 points.
But since returning from the ankle sprain he sustained Dec. 22 at Creighton, Bird has played tentatively and seemingly with little confidence.
He scored 12 points in a ferocious four-minute burst at UCLA two weeks ago before tiring, but that's been it. In 105 minutes spread over seven games, he has totaled just 12 more points. He is 1 for 18 from the 3-point line.
He just wants to help his team win, but admits the pressure to be Jabari Bird sometimes gnaws at him.
"I had all this hype coming in," he said, "and I'm not living up to it."
Montgomery blames the three weeks Bird missed with the injury.
"It's been hard and the time he missed was really invaluable time that can't be made up," Montgomery said. "He's going to be a really good player, but it's not easy.
"All of a sudden, everybody's as big, everybody's as athletic, most people are older."
Bird said he's tinkered with a variety of approaches to kick-start his game, and wonders if he's simply thinking too much. "I'm struggling to the point where I don't know if it's me or the defense," he said.
"I played mad against UCLA. That helped for about three minutes," he said. "I tried to bring that same focus to other games, but every game has a story of its own."
Montgomery is encouraging Bird to just play hard and not worry about scoring.
"Go get rebounds, defend somebody, sprint the floor, get a couple assists," he said. "You're trying to convince young kids just to play hard and see how you can help us win."
Bird hopes to clear his head and follow those instructions.
"The game's all about confidence. I've learned that the hard way the past few games," he said. "My goal is just to play hard, play with confidence.
"I'm a way better player than I've shown in the last six, seven games.".