Mr. Basketball front-runner Ivan Rabb of Oakland Bishop O’Dowd chooses CAL over Arizona on Monday night at his mother’s restaurant in Oakland. Rabb, a 6-foot-10 power forward, led O’Dowd to CIF Open Division state title in late March and is Cal’s best recruit in over 10 years.
Ivan Rabb, one of the most decorated Bay Area boys basketball players in recent memory, announced his intentions to play college basketball at nearby Cal-Berkley on Monday night. He made his decision public at his mother Tami’s restaurant, Ol’ Yeller Cafe ‘N’ Market in Oakland.
It wasn’t at all surprising Rabb, who averaged 24 points and 15 rebounds per game for a Bishop O’Dowd of Oakland team that won the CIF Open Division state title, chose to play for the Golden Bears. He’s been the main target of CAL coach Cuonzo Martin since the day he got the job on April 15, 2014. The head coach spoke to Rabb moments after the press conference to announce his hiring.
There was rampant speculation Rabb would make his college decision the last weekend of March at the CIF state championships held at Haas Pavilion, CAL’s home court. If he was going to announce at that venue, chances are he wouldn’t pick any place but CAL. He told reporters after hitting the winning free throw in overtime of the CIF Open Division state title game versus Mater Dei of Santa Ana there would be no announcement.
Still, the signs pointed to him choosing CAL over Arizona. Rabb is extremely close to his mother and she was the main influencer in her son’s decision-making process. The fact Rabb held the ceremony in Oakland also fueled speculation the Golden Bears were going to get their best recruit in many years — and it came to fruition.
O’Dowd coach Lou Richie gave some insight that was telling to Rabb’s decision earlier on Monday. “For the whole city to embrace our team this year was just huge,” Richie said. “A lot of people got behind us for a change and winning this title has helped unite the community. No question Ivan is the leader of that and it’ll be all for the better if he can continue to unite the Bay Area.”
Rabb joins a class that includes two wing forward types — Davon Dillard of Our Savior New American (Centereach, N.Y.) and Tyson Jolly of Putnam City West (Oklahoma City, Okla.). The latter saw his recruitment pick up steam after some stellar performances against some California teams at the Tarkanian Classic in November. Putnam City West defeated nationally-ranked Bishop Gorman of Las Vegas in the semifinals before losing to Redondo Union of Redondo Beach in the title game.
CAL may not be done, either, as Rabb is now going to play the role or recruiter and try to convince small forward Jaylen Brown of Wheeler (Marietta, Ga.) to join him in Berkeley. Rabb said his first phone call after he was done speaking to a group of approximately 100 fans, well-wishers, teammates, school administrators, media members and, of course, family who gathered at his mother’s restaurant was going to be to Brown. Scout.com rates Brown as the best overall prospect in the country.
We don’t feel Brown is the top prospect in the country, but he’s in the top 10. ESPN once had Rabb as its top overall prospect, and even though we don’t agree with that, either (Montverde Academy’s Ben Simmons would rate ahead of both in our book), it’s all a formality to Golden Bear and Pac-12 basketball fans. Getting not one, but two, national top 10 recruits would bring the same amount of excitement for Cal basketball that two-time Mr. Basketball Jason Kidd from St. Joseph of Alameda did when he announced for Cal in the fall of 1991.
Rabb might be the most important recruit to join the program since Kidd, as plenty of media outlets have stated in reports and on Twitter, but it doesn’t mean Rabb is the best since then.
Leon Powe, another power forward and a 2003 graduate of Oakland Tech, was a McDonald’s All-American and Top 20 national recruit. He delivered for CAL before moving on to the NBA, twice earning first team all-conference honors.
Shareef Abdur-Rahim, who like Brown attended Wheeler, was a top 10 national recruit in the Class of 1995 and arguably a better prospect than Rabb is at the same stage. In stark contrast to Rabb’s announcement, the grassroots basketball community (which was much smaller then than it is today) was shocked when the 6-foot-9 power forward announced for the Golden Bears. In fact, one reporter who covered Abdur-Rahim’s press conference (which didn’t have the hoopla surrounding Rabb’s and obviously wasn’t streamed online), dropped his pen and notebook in shock when Abdur-Rahim made his announcement.
Abdur-Rahim went on to become the Pac-12’s first freshman to earn conference player of the year honors. Gold Bear’s fans are hoping Rabb can duplicate Abdur Rahim’s production as a first-year player. If not, the ideal situation for those fans would be if Brown was the one to do it.