Cal Basketball: JC Point Guard Dealing With Challenges of COVID-19 Recruiting Realities

Point guard Malik Zachery has Cal on his short list of schools.Photo by Tom Hagerty, Polk State College

Jeff Faraudo

Point guard Malik Zachery has a parade of Division I schools courting his talents, including Cal.

But Zachery has a problem: The NCAA has shut down recruiting because of the spread of the COVID-19 virus, and Zachery is not allowed to make any campus visits.

Zachery, who played for Chipola College in Marianna, Florida, visited Fresno State back in December when recruiting travel was still permissible. But his list of five finalists also includes Cal, Ole Miss, Southern Illinois and Buffalo, and he has no way to personally check them out.

“It’s real hard right now,” Zachery acknowledged. “I’m taking it day by day. I’m trying to use all my sources to get a feel for how it is.

“It might take longer (to make a decision). I might wait for a visit. I might commit somewhere and take a visit afterward. I’m talking to my coach, my parents, figuring that out.”

*** In the video below, Sports Illustrated recruiting expert John Garcia Jr. talks about how college football programs are using technology in a creative way to compensate for limitations placed on recruiting right now:

"It's definitely a unique situation, to say the least," Chipola coach Brendan Foley said of the circumstances facing Zachery. "He's got a good head on his shoulders and a great family. He's an intelligent kid, mature for his age."

Foley describes a player who could be ideal for Cal. The Bears' only returning point guard is freshman Joel Brown, who started 17 games and averaged 2.4 points and 1.8 assists, and coach Mark Fox has said that bringing on another ball handler is a priority.

“He’s a true point guard, a natural leader,” Foley said of his 6-foot-2, 175-pound floor leader. “He’s almost like one of those throw-back vintage point guards. He can score when he needs to, but he has the ability to make everybody around him better.

“He has a great feel for the game and plays at his own pace. He’s an extension of the coach out there and that’s why he’s such an attractive prospect to so many of these schools.”

*** Fox talks in the video below about freshman point guard Joel Brown's clutch performance in a win over Utah after cutting his hand.

Zachery will arrive at his new school next fall as a redshirt freshman with three years of eligibility remaining. He suffered a cut on the middle finger of his right hand in November while opening a can of pork-and-beans and received a medical redshirt after playing just four games.

After getting stitches, Zachery tried to play 10 days later, but had trouble controlling the ball. An MRI revealed Zachery suffered an extensive cut along a tendon inside the finger, which required surgery and knocked him out for the rest of the season.

He said recovery from the surgery was painful but that he’s 100 percent back. “It’s like nothing everything ever happened.”

Zachery said he looks forward to a D-I existence where pork-and-beans aren't a regular part of the menu. “That’s the juco life,” he said. “When I get to the next level it won’t be that like.”

Zachery’s freshman season in 2018-19 is what has the attention of recruiters. He averaged 8.5 points, 3.9 rebounds and 5.8 assists with a 2.6-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio.

“He was a huge reason why we went 27-5,” Foley said.

A native of Syracuse, New York, Zachery said he’s looking for a program with a good fan base and veteran coaches. “A place where I can get better.”

Zachery said assistant coach Marty Wilson was the first on Cal’s staff to connect with him, but he also has had conversations with Fox.

“They want me to come in and be a leader,” he said. “Everywhere I go I'm a winner, and they know that.”