ANTIOCH -- The meeting between two of Contra Costa County's top two boys basketball recruits in recent memory never materialized, but there was still plenty of buzz during Salesian High's 89-77 North Coast Section Foundation Game win over host Deer Valley on Tuesday night.
Jabari Bird, a 6-foot-6 shooting guard headed to Cal and ranked the No. 25 recruit in the country by MaxPreps.com, had a team-high 23 points and five dunks in about 22 minutes of action.
One of them was already be a sure-fire contender for Plays of the Year when Montana-bound Mario Dunn lobbed an alley-oop pass to the left of the hoop in the second quarter. Bird, with his head near the rim, secured the ball with his right hand and jammed it hard through the rim.
Most of the thoroughly entertained crowd of 500 or so gasped. Dunn kept shaking his head. Bird just sort of giggled all the way down court. Foundations Games don't count in the standings -- all proceeds go to a CIF scholarship fund -- but they sure can be fun to watch.
"Just like we drew it up," Salesian coach Bill Mellis said.
He, Bird and the Pride, the defending state Division IV champions who are ranked 10th in the country, were planning on seeing the county's other big recruit in Deer Valley's Marcus Lee.
The 6-10 post, who signed to Kentucky last week, rested a slightly pulled right groin. He's the No. 24 recruit from the Class of 2013.
"We definitely were planning to see him and we were a little disappointed he didn't play," Bird said. "But then again we weren't crying about it either."
Said Lee: "Hardest thing in the world is for me to sit and watch. Even in a game that doesn't count. I asked coach (Lechet Phillips) more than a couple times to put me in there."
When Salesian raced to a 30-15 at the end of the first period and with Lee along with five other Deer Valley players in street clothes, this looked like it would get awfully lopsided.
But Deer Valley 6-2 senior point guard Kendall Smith did everything but blow a bugle as he rescued the Wolverines from a rout with 35 points, including a remarkable 22-for-22 effort at the foul line.
While Bird and Lee were the game's big attraction, Smith, who attended Salesian as a freshman, definitely stole the show by scoring 10 in the second and 14 more in the third.
Smith, who said he won't sign until after the season, no doubt impressed the UNLV coaching staff scouting the game.
"I was just trying to keep the guys in the game," Smith said. "When we got down 15 and with all our guys in street clothes, I just wanted us to keep playing hard. We did that. This is a game we can definitely build on."
So can Salesian, which definitely let up, especially on defense after the first quarter. Mellis has put together a monster of a schedule which includes state powers Serra-Gardena (Dec. 15), two-time defending Division II state champion Mitty (Dec. 22), De La Salle (Jan. 21) and Sheldon-Sacramento (Feb. 2).
That's not even including national power Gonzaga-Washington D.C. (Jan. 5) along with an almost certain trio of powers they will take on at the Torrey Pines Tournament near San Diego on Dec. 26-28.
"We're going to have to play a whole lot better defensively that we played tonight," Bird said. "Considering all the guys they were missing, winning by 12 is a little disappointing. But we'll be all right."
Mellis was fine with his team's starters, especially uncommitted Jermaine Edmonds (20 points), St. Mary's-Stockton transfer Lance Coleman II (11 points), sophomore guard Bernard Ward (10) points and four-year players Dunn (seven points, five steals) and Markel Leonard (10 points).
"We're going to need to work on our depth," Mellis said.
The Pride was without their own 6-10 post Jonathan Galloway, a junior transfer from Liberty who must sit out until Jan. 1 under new CIF guidelines.
"He'll help us for sure," Mellis said. "He's looked good at practice."
Deer Valley was without at least two other starters -- point guard Nsimba Webster (broken left thumb) and 6-3 junior Darrian Crenshaw (paperwork issues).
Sophomore Eric Fox, a 5-10 guard, and 6-2 junior Muhammad Ali — that's no misprint folks -- were also out and will likely be in Deer Valley's rotation.
"Considering our opponent, the number of kids sidelined and the early deficit I'm content," Phillips said.
Said Lee: "I couldn't be prouder of our guys out there. I am very encouraged."
There's no rest for the depleted Wolverines. They host Oakland Tech 7 p.m. Wednesday in their season opener.
Lee said he plans to play. Phillips isn't so sure. "He might," Phillips said. "No reason to bring him back before he's ready."
Salesian has 11 days off until it opens Dec. 1 at Menlo School-Atherton. No matter where the Pride travels this season, they'll likely get the opponents best effort.
"The bulls eye on our back is even larger than it has been," Bird said. "It's a burden but it's also exciting."
Bishop O'Dowd 53, De La Salle 41: Juwon Anderson led four O'Dowd players in double figures in a Foundation Game win at depleted De La Salle, which didn't suit up four players -- including Arizona-bound Elliott Pitts.
Ivan Rabb, a 6-9 post considered one of the top sophomores in the country, contributed 12 points for O'Dowd, while teammates Paris Austin and Michael Perri added 11 apiece.