Cracking the Door

Cracking the Door

While Stanley Johnson says that Cal has some work to do to get back into the mix for his pledge, the door has been opened thanks to efforts by Gregg Gottlieb and the signing of Jabari Bird.

Mike Montgomery and the California basketball team have some work to do with five-star small forward Stanley Johnson, but the Bears may have at least one ace in the hole: 2013 signee Jabari Bird.

Bird and Johnson -- who recently narrowed his list to seven schools -- already have a good relationship and previous chemistry, and after a Monday conversation with assistant coach Gregg Gottlieb, Johnson -- the 6-foot-6, 220-pounder out of Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei -- now has a Bears bug in his ear.

"I talked to him really briefly. It wasn't that long. I had things to do, like a project I had to finish for school, but he just talked to me about the school a little bit, how coach Montgomery does his thing," Johnson told Cal Sports Digest this week. "I think me and Jabari are similar as people and similar as players, so what he does and what I do, knowing that he's going there with the school and how the coaches treat players will help."

While Johnson has so far said that he plans on making his decision in the spring, it's become increasingly likely that it could come sooner than that. But, if he does wind up waiting, he'll have a chance to see just how Bird does as a true freshman, which could influence just where Cal winds up on his list.

"Talking to the head coach would be a good start," Johnson said. "The second thing is how they do next year. The third thing is seeing how well they can recruit players and seeing what they can do."

Montgomery and his staff have signed perhaps their best class since coming to Berkeley, with Bird heading a bunch that includes three-star forward Roger Moute a Bidias, three-star center Kameron Rooks, three-star point guard Sam Singer and three-star guard Jordan Mathews. The Bears already have the No. 19 point guard in the 2014 class in the boat in four-star point guard Ahmaad Rorie.

While recruiting has seen a notable uptick in Berkeley, Gottlieb and Cal must continue to show that they mean business in order to crack a top group that includes Arizona, Duke, Florida, Kentucky, Oregon, USC and UCLA. The staff, though, has already shown that they're more than willing to get down to business and put in as much work as possible.

"I'm pretty solid with my top schools. They've recruited me really well, and I know what they would do with me. I'm open to anybody who thinks that they're the best fit for me, and have the best things at heart for me, so that's why I answered the phone," Johnson said. "I had them on my list my freshman and sophomore year, and so I'm open to hear it."

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