In the shadows of two top recruits, a pair of Bay Area prep ballers are silently shining

January 16, 2013, 4:00 pm
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By Taylor Lambert
For Cal-Hi Sports

Almost every basketball team has it's go-to player. When the game is on the line, that person gets the ball and everyone watches them go to work, but on two highly-touted teams in the Bay Area, the go-to guy isn't who you'd figure.

Salesian High School has Jabari Bird, a top-20 national recruit who'll be playing for Cal next year. Deer Valley has Marcus Lee, another top national recruit who recently committed to Kentucky. While these two players are obviously very talented with hard work ethic and bright futures ahead of them, their less heralded teammates are sometimes counted on when the going gets tough.

At Deer Valley, where Lee grabs all the headlines, publicity and low-post play, what really makes the team go is point guard Kendall Smith. A 6-foot-3 ball handler with a shot that ranges out to the three point line, Smith possesses more confidence than any other player on the court at anytime. He's the one who runs the team and when the shot clock is winding down, Deer Valley starts to look for Smith. For example, in Tuesday's win over Heritage, Lee had 20 points and 21 rebounds but Smith also had 25 points and 11 assists -- many of which went to Lee, two on alley-oops. Without Smith, the Deer Valley team would still be good, but with him they become elite.

Jabari Bird is the big man on campus at Salesian High School. Bird has been a top recruit in his class for a few years now and is stacking up numbers in his senior year. The Pride have another star in it's lineup though in guard Mario Dunn. While Bird attracts the attention, you can find Dunn taking the ball to the rack with authority and draining mid-range buckets. Mario is an average sized guard but he'll make you pay on the boards if you don't block him out. Every time Salesian needs a big play, it seems like Mario is right there to take care of the problem.

Both Dunn and Smith are great players and sometimes it's hard to get the ink when you're on a team with such highly touted recruits, but both don't seem to mind though. They just keep on playing.

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