Today, we have a matchup between Shane Vereen, Cal running back, and Alexis Gray-Lawson, an offensive force for Cal women's basketball. This is in the Pete Newell Bracket and the winner here faces Carli Lloyd.
You can read the whole bracket here. Voting ends this Friday at noon, so go vote. AND GO BEARS!
Pete Newell Bracket
Shane Vereen (7)
Royrules22: "This guy carried the ball 40+ times against a top-10 Stanfurd team on the Farm and helped us pull of a monumental upset. That alone makes him deserve this."
TwistNHook: Shane Vereen might be the most interesting runner of the Tedford era. He always had Jahvid Best ahead of him, but in the tail end of 2009 and 2010 managed to show why there was no real drop off from Best to Vereen.
The first memory that immediately pops into my mind and, most likely the minds of all others, is Vereen's yeoman performance in the 2009 Big Game. A legendary performance.
Rushing No Gain Loss Net TD Lg Avg
Vereen, Shane 42 199 6 193 3 36 4.6
Watching the game in person, you didn't really have an opportunity to reflect on how amazing a day Vereen had. He took the ball every which way, including multiple Wildcat options. He scored 3 TDs and willed Cal to victory that day.
My fondest memory of Shane Vereen will always be the legendary 2009 Big Game. But my first memory of him was the Michigan State game in '08. I was quite excited to see him play in his first game--particularly since he played high school a couple miles from where I grew up. In fact he was one of the highest recruited players ever to come out of Valencia High School, so I was really looking forward to seeing him hit the field. Anyway, back to 2008. Throughout the second half of the game, it seemed like Cal was never quite able to put the game away. With just under 5 minutes to go, Michigan State once again made it a one-possession game. Best returned the kickoff, so Vereen was the RB sent out for Cal's play on offense. I remember thinking that all we had to do was burn the clock. A five-minute drive would seal the game and certainly seemed possible. Vereen, of course, had other plans. He didn't burn the clock. Instead, he burned the entire Michigan State defense with an 81-yard run that sealed the victory. It was clear after that day that we had a lightning and lightning combination at running back--two guys who were capable of breaking free on any given run.
Four weeks later Vereen gave us a first glimpse of his incredible durability--a trait we often felt was lacking in Best. Against ASU Vereen ran the ball 27 times and caught 5 passes. In his entire career at Cal Best never topped 27 carries. Vereen did it in his first start and kept the offense chugging along. Vereen was an excellent complement to Best because he could take a pounding and still churn out yards. The Best-Vereen tandem might have been the best of the Tedford era, thanks to the unique combination of skills they had.
Solarise: Shane Vereen off the field is just as impressive as his accomplishments on the field. He spent a summer interning at CSN Bay Area and earned lauded praise for his maturity and work ethic:
"It's remarkable. He's just Shane to us," CSN Bay Area news executive Doug Brown said. "We don't treat him any differently than any other intern. Around here, he's just one of 20 interns we have that is willing to rip scripts and all the other stuff that interns are supposed to be doing." The fact that Vereen was interested in an internship says a lot about his perspective. He is expected to have an NFL career someday, whether he leaves Cal after this season as a junior or waits until the 2012 draft. But Vereen says he wants his life to be about more than football, and broadcasting is something that has always interested him. His father, Henry, works in the television industry as a video engineer.
"I understand that football is just one part of my life," Vereen said. "When that is all said and done, I'm not going to sit at home and do nothing. Anything can happen. You can get hurt anytime. It's good to have options, especially an option that I've been interested in for a long time." One of the highlights of Vereen's internship so far was holding the microphone for a news conference with San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom during an event to kick off the World Cup. He returned to the newsroom and worked with producers to put the story together, just like a regular field reporter.
More than a star player on the field, Shane Vereen was the epitome of a Cal student athlete.
Alexis Gray-Lawson (10)
norcalnick has been covering AGL all year long, and he gives the footnotes as to why she should be a Hall of Famer.
When she’s on, one of the most dominating offensive players in Cal history. Holds the single game record for points (47, in double OT). Played arguably the single greatest offensive game in Cal history when she scored 37 of Cal’s 54 points to defeat top 10 Stanford. Also a great defender and was named to the Pac-10’s all defense team. Leads Cal in career games played. 3rd most career points in Cal history. Most 3 pointers made in Cal history.
There are plenty more stories like that this year. She started Pac-10 play on a hot streak.
Maybe playing a brutal schedule that included 4 teams ranked in the current AP top 10 prepared the Bears for the rest of the Pac-10. Maybe 12 games was enough time for the freshmen to get comfortable enough in the offense to allow Lexi to play to the level she was always capable of. Maybe this is just the mother of all hot streaks (though I doubt it). Whatever the reason, her performances speak for themselves. To wit:
FGs 3 pt. FG FTs Pts Rbds Asts TOs vs. UCLA 6-16 3-5 5-11 20 8 1 4 vs. USC 8-14 2-5 2-2 20 8 1 2 vs. Washington 7-14 0-4 5-7 19 3 1 1 vs. Washington St. 11-22 3-7 4-6 29 6 1 2 vs. Oregon 7-17 1-5 4-4 19 4 0 3 vs. Oregon St. 13-31 4-7 17-20 47 3 2 4 Percentage/Average 46% 39% 74% 25.67 5.33 1 2.67
Alexis Gray-Lawson: Last 6 games
She's shooting spectacularly (effective field goal percentage of 51.3), she's drawing fouls, she's getting to the line, and she's not turning the ball over much despite handling the ball on essentially every possession. She's dominating despite being the clear number one option for opposing defenses to focus on. She's dominating despite playing more than 35 minutes a game and playing the entire 50 minutes of Saturday's double OT barn-burner.
After Washington made one of two free throws, the magic began. Cal began the next possession with 1:41 left and Natasha Vital missed a 3 pointer near the end of the shot clock. Who was in the perfect position for the offensive board? Alexis Gray-Lawson, of course. Twenty-four seconds later she was dribbling the ball on the right wing, stopped, and launched a contested three pointer. Swish. Four point lead. Washington, to their credit, refused to go down easily. The Huskies scored 8 points in the final 50 seconds around 4 Natasha Vital free throws to send the game to overtime. The final three pointer, a buzzer beating shot from the left corner by Sami Whitcomb, was over a clearly pained and fatigued Gray-Lawson. Ooooovertime!
Fast forward to 1:38 in overtime. Both teams have traded a bucket and a bunch of turnovers. Lexi was clearly diminished with her sprained ankle - she had not attacked the hoop during overtime and even missed two free throws. Then she again received the ball on the right wing, dribbled the ball through her legs a couple times, spotted up and launched a three with a defender in her face. Swish. (I'd like to note that I spontaneous yelled "SHE IS SO [expletive] AWESOME" after both of Lexi's clutch 3's). This time Cal would maintain their lead as UW missed a few 3 pointers and Cal sank their free throws. Victory!
Gray-Lawson has had the ability to take over games for periods of time in previous seasons, but she was rarely the first scoring option when Ashley Walker emerged as an elite player when Gray-Lawson injured her knee in the 2006-07 season. With Walker leading Cal in scoring Gray-Lawson became more of a distributor to Cal’s successful low-post players and recorded nearly a 2-1 assist to turnover ratio in 2008-09. With Walker and Devanei Hampton graduating, the offensive burden fell to Gray-Lawson. At times the transition was difficult this year as Gray-Lawson adjusted to playing with five freshman and to being the clear number one threat on the Golden Bears. But when Pac-10 play started Gray-Lawson took over, combining her outside shooting talent with a hard nosed ability to drive the ball and draw fouls, and she led the conference in scoring during the Pac-10 schedule. I would attribute the scoring explosion to Gray-Lawson getting comfortable in her new role and more cohesion with the aforementioned freshmen.