Five-star forward Jaylen Brown committed to Cal on Friday, spurning Kentucky and several other contenders. Along with Ivan Rabb, Brown becomes the headliner in a recruiting class that should help Cal contend for the Pac-12 next year.
Cal’s signing of Ivan Rabb last month raised expectations for what the Golden Bears could accomplish in 2015-16. What’s realistic now that the school has added another five-star prospect?
Multiple outlets reported on Friday night that Jaylen Brown has given a verbal commitment to Cal. Brown chose the Golden Bears over finalists Kentucky, Michigan and North Carolina. He had previously released a list of eight that also included Georgia Tech, Georgia, UCLA and Kansas, but a top five reported last week excluded UCLA and the Georgia schools, and the Jayhawks were later eliminated.
Brown is the No. 3 player in the class of 2015, according to Rivals.com. The 6'6", 200-pound small forward is known for his athleticism, ability to slash to the basket and defend multiple positions. As a senior, Brown averaged 28 points and 12 rebounds per game while leading Wheeler (Ga.) to a state championship. DraftExpress projects Brown as the No. 2 pick in its 2016 mock draft.
Cal was not considered a strong contender to land Brown until he took an unofficial visit to the school in March. Less than two weeks later, reports suggested Brown, Rabb and five-star center Caleb Swanigan could join the school as a “package deal.” That fell through when Swanigan picked Michigan State, but after Rabb committed to Cal, he reiterated his desire to play with Brown.
That will come to fruition next season, as Rabb and Brown will headline one of the top freshman classes in the country. The group also includes Davon Dillard, a three-star small forward, and Tyson Jolly, a four-star shooting guard. The influx of freshman talent, in conjunction with a strong cast of returnees, positions Cal to compete with Arizona and others for the Pac-12 title next season.
Veteran guards Jabari Bird, Jordan Matthews and Tyrone Wallace will all be back, and Georgetown transfer Stephen Domingo will provide depth on the perimeter. Even though they lose forwards David Kravish, Christian Behrens and Dwight Tarwater from last season, the Golden Bears will feature Kameron Rooks and Kingsley Okoroh alongside Rabb in their frontcourt.
Brown’s decision is a disappointment for fans of his other three finalists, yet it may be especially bitter for Kentucky supporters. John Calipari has recruited at such a high level since he arrived in Lexington that it’s surprising when an elite prospect spurns the Wildcats in favor of another program. Of course, this is hardly the first time in this recruiting cycle that Kentucky has whiffed on a recruit.
In mid-April, center Stephen Zimmerman picked UNLV over a group of schools that included the Wildcats. Later that month, shooting guard Malik Newman and wing Brandon Ingram picked Mississippi State and Duke, respectively, over Kentucky. Most recently, power forward Cheick Diallo decided to sign with Kansas despite being pursued by the Wildcats, among other programs.
Kentucky still figures to begin next season ranked in the top 10 anyway, given its combination of returning talent and a recruiting class that features five-star big man Skal Labissiere, five-star guard Isaiah Briscoe, four-star shooting guard Charles Matthews and JUCO standout Mychal Mulder.
Still, surprise at Kentucky missing on another recruit shouldn’t detract from what Brown’s decision means for Cal. With another elite prospect in tow, the Golden Bears are poised to make a significant leap in their second season under coach Cuonzo Martin.