- Adam Finkelstein
Cuonzo Martin and the California Golden Bears just scored a recruiting coup with a Friday night pledge from ESPN 100 SF Jaylen Brown (No. 4).
Why he committed: Brown’s recruitment was one of the best kept secrets in the national 2015 class. In fact, while he had four remaining finalists going into his decision, most expected him to choose either Kentucky or Michigan. Instead, Martin’s first recruiting class at Cal is an absolutely golden one as Brown and ESPN 100 PF Ivan Rabb (No. 8) form one of the best incoming freshmen tandems in the entire country. Ultimately, Cal made up an incredible amount of ground in recent weeks, and Rabb’s pledge was the spark that got it all going.
What he brings: Brown will be one of the best freshmen in college basketball next season. He is physically ready with good size for the wing, an already strong body and explosive athleticism. He’s a proven scorer and offensive weapon and almost equally valuable on the defensive end of the floor where he has the potential to check multiple positions. His best offense comes attacking the rim, he thrives in transition and is also a relentless straight-line driver whose aggressive style gets frequent trips to the free throw line. He’s also an improved jump-shooter with a ton of intangibles, and there is a definite correlation there as his work ethic and will to improve have been a driving force behind the continued progression of his game.
How he fits: This is where it gets interesting. While Brown is a true wing, he has a terrific combination of size and strength for his position, not to mention good length. Cal was already returning all three backcourt starters in Tyrone Wallace, Jordan Mathews and Jabari Bird. With Rabb slated to start up front, it’s very possible that you see Martin go to a “four-guard” lineup next year where Brown is playing at the 4. Offensively, that five-man core is undeniably the most explosive, not to mention exciting, group, but the real key is on the defensive end where Brown’s size, strength and competitiveness will allow him to match up with more traditional 4-men.
How the class is shaping up: Brown becomes the fourth player to commit to Cal in the 2015 class, joining Rabb as well as Davon Dillard and Tyson Jolly, a pair of swingmen who are both capable of making immediate contributions, but might not have quite the same opportunity they once imagined. The reality, though, is that Brown might not be in Berkeley for more than a season and while he and Rabb will both be able to make an immediate splash, Dillard and Jolly are critical to providing the long-term stability for the program beyond just next season.
Whom he reminds us of: Pac-12 fans can expect Brown’s impact at Cal to be in line with what we saw Stanley Johnson do this year at Arizona. Both are physical wings with the power to not just play through contact, but also impose their will from Day 1 in the college ranks. Long term, Brown could develop his game in the mold of someone like Jimmy Butler, the Chicago Bulls swingman with similar physical tools and intangibles, who has continued to develop his offensive skills and expand his game to become a more versatile scorer as his career has gone on.
Cuonzo Martin and the California Golden Bears just scored a recruiting coupe with a Friday night pledge from ESPN 100 SF Jaylen Brown (No. 4).