The Bears' talented 2016 class received a boost with the commitment of 4 star Vista Murrieta wing Jaelyn Brown last night. Brown is rated the 10th-ranked wing in the 2016 class and number 54 overall by ESPN/Hoopgurlz.
Brown's visit to Cal was her first to Berkeley and the trip North went far in reaffirming the feelings she had for the program and school before her official visit.
"I really just enjoyed the people at Cal," said Brown. "I got along with them just perfectly. The girls there are amazing and the coaching staff -I just really enjoy being around them. That was a huge factor for me.
"The players seem so close to each other. That's what I love about it.
"The school's really just perfect for me. I have no issues or concerns of any kind. That was important, too.
"It was beautiful up there. I loved it."
The 6'1" wing, who sports a 3.3 gpa is interested in possibly pursuing studies in business or sports psychology or sports therapy, though she's still somewhat undecided.
"Academics definitely was a factor for me, too," said Brown. "A school with a strong academic reputation was key."
Studying sports therapy is a natural for Brown, who is no stranger to overcoming physical limitations.
Born with club feet, she was almost immediately put in foot casts to correct the problem, though fortunately, the problem was corrected before she was old enough to even remember the experience.
The recovery was so complete that from a young age, Brown was usually the fastest player on the court, though it wasn't until her later years of development that her her game fully caught up to her speedy play on the hardcourt.
"I started playing basketball around fifth or sixth grade and I'd always just run up and down the court, not really doing much," said Brown, with a laugh.
"In high school, I just tried to keep up the tempo, especially playing travel ball with the older girls since I was one of the youngest on the team then.
"Freshman year and a bit of sophomore year was where I was learning to play under control but still be quick with my moves or getting to the basket so that was a big transition for me."
Following a successful all-state junior season, where Brown led Vista Murrieta with 17.5 points and 6.5 rebounds per game, Brown suffered a tough knee injury in May, tearing her acl, mcl and meniscus when an opponent slammed into her knee as she drove for a layup in AAU ball, playing with her Cal Sparks team.
"I'm really just focused on getting ready to play at the collegiate level and strengthening my knee and not slowing down my team," said Brown.
"The first month, you don't see much progress so it can be frustrating. But after that initial month, I've seen good progress, which has really motivated me.
"Right now, I'm doing really well. I have full range of motion and I'll be running pretty soon. I'm ahead of schedule."
2015 Cal recruit Asha Thomas is no stranger to knee injuries herself and the frosh point guard made sure to offer Brown words of encouragement and advice during her visit.
"Asha just told me to try and stay positive since so much of the recovery is mental."
Just as Thomas became somewhat of a student coach on the bench, Brown has embraced her new role as part of her development process.
"I think it's a blessing in disguise for me," said Brown. "You can see so much more of what's going on in the game when you're not playing and it's a lot different perspective. You get a better connection with the players in a way. I'm doing that with my high school team right now, just trying to assist in practice and help them as much as possible."
As for her return timeline, Brown notes that she'll not do anything too risky to jeopardize her rehab but will push herself as far as possible without overdoing things.
Brown became the second Cal Sparks player to sign in the Bears' 2016 class, joining forward CJ West, who committed to Cal over the summer.
"I'm really excited about playing with CJ," said Brown. "I've been playing with her since 8th grade so we already have great chemistry on the court."
West heartily shares her current and future teammate's sentiments.
"I'm sooo happy!" said West of Brown's commitment. "I have been playing with Jaelyn every year with my Cal Sparks teams and we are so close. This is like a dream!
"She is an amazing player and she is so much fun to play with. I can't wait to spend the next four years with her. It is gong to be nice to experience my college years with someone that I already am so close with."
Another teammate of Brown and West is also a Cal target -5 star Horizon (San Diego, CA) High School guard Dijonai Carrington.
"Dijonai has so many great options now and I think as the time is getting closer for her to decide, it's getting harder and harder," said West. "I honestly don't know who she is leaning to right now but it would be harder than it already is now to beat Cal if they had all three of us Cal Sparks together."
Another connection for Brown at Cal is more of the amusing nature, as the star 2016 wing will be joining 2015 men's star freshman Jaylen Brown in Haas Pavillion.
Besides sharing the same names with slightly different spellings, they also have home town similarities.
"When we met, we joked about it because not only do we have the same name but we have the same city name, just spelled different," said Brown. "He's from Marrieta (GA) and I'm from Murrieta (CA)."
Cal fans will be hoping that the 2015 Brown sticks around long enough in Berkeley to see the 2016 Brown make her entrance in Berkeley, as Jaylen Brown is projected to be a top ten pick in the 2016 NBA draft should he declare.
In the meantime, the Bears can look forward to another talented class joining their top ten 2015 class assembled this season, led by fantastic athletes like Brown and West.
Both plan to sign national letters of intent in the regular signing period in November.
After Brown eliminated USC and Louisville, the Bears beat out UCLA and South Carolina for Brown's services.