Welcome to the first in a four part series taking a look at the Cal women's basketball incoming freshman class. Sometimes previewing women's basketball recruits can be tough because there aren't necessarily a ton of articles and videos for every prospect. But this year Cal pulled in four recruits all ranked 38th or higher in the country by ESPN's recruiting service, and when you get that kind of elite talent there's no shortage of information available.
We'll start with point guard Brittany Boyd, who will be making the long journey from 1980 Allston Way to Haas Pavilion. Boyd was a standout at Berkeley High, where she led the Yellow Jackets to the California division one state championship before falling to #1-in-the-nation Mater Dei. Boyd is technically the lowest ranked Cal recruit according to ESPN's scouts (which is like being lowest paid player at Real Madrid) but she is arguably the most important recruit in the class because she plays a position of immediate need for the Bears.
Thoughts on Boyd's tape (beyond rapping skills that I'm completely unqualified to comment on):
Handles (See: 0:27, 0:42, 0:58, 1:27, 2:15): It's possible that the competition might be a bit suspect in places, but those were some really impressive moves. She looks fearless while attacking players in the open floor, and she kept defenders completely off balance with constant head fakes and little body feints. It will be hard to replicate that kind of dominance against collegiate defenders - for example, Boyd didn't even have to use her left hand in these clips to get past her high school foes. But she shows the fearlessness and court sense you want from a point guard.
Passing (See: the entire video, essentially, but especially 0:50, 1:40, 1:48, 2:23): Behind the back passes, no look passes . . . wow. I mean, you don't see this type of stuff often in women's basketball. I think my favorite is the last pass, when it looks like Boyd has already decided where she wants to pass, then looks a different direction to fool the defense before completing the pass. And beyond the fancy stuff, there were plenty of nifty bounce and lob passes, and she certainly showed the ability to draw defenders and dump the ball off to bigs inside.
Finishing: Obviously any highlight tape will show lots of great finishing, but I'd imagine that watching Boyd charge through the lane might remind Cal fans of another undersized guard. Boyd isn't afraid of contact and has excellent body control, and that very much reminds me of Alexis Gray-Lawson.
Defense: The highlight tape shows a number of steals and fast break lay-ins. But if you listen to her coaches, the video doesn't begin to do her defense justice:
Boyd averages 17.6 points, 5.4 rebounds, 4.7 assists and - according to coaches - 9.4 steals a game. Berkeley head coach Cheryl Draper, who has coached 30 years, stands strong by the steals numbers.
"She's had 20 double-doubles and all of them have been points and steals," she said. "Brittany is just one-of-a-kind off-the-ball defender. She's the best point guard I've ever coached and probably the most competitive. She'll do whatever it takes to win."
When you hear stuff like that it's hard not to get ahead of yourself and imagine Boyd and Eliza Pierre combining to mercilessly torture every Pac-12 back court.
So, what can she improve on? According to ESPN Hoop Gurlz (It kills me to have to type that horrible name out every time) a little bit of offensive refinement will help her transition her obvious skills to the next level:
Smarter defenders at the next level are going to lay off her a bit until she can prove a more dependable consistency from the perimeter.
A little less reliance on her right hand, particularly on the dribble, will bring Boyd closer to perfection.
If you'd like to see her play against the best competition high school has to offer (along with sporting an awesome Cal shirt) check out this video of the state championship. Boyd is #34, with the thin white headband:
It's hard to get a great sense of game flow from this video, but I got the feeling that, at least against Mater Dei, that Boyd was very much a pass first, facilitating point guard, and you can see a number of good feeds throughout the game. If she can take over a few games by getting to the rim and scoring, great. But I'd be thrilled if Boyd can immediately contribute just by getting Talia Caldwell, Layshia Clarendon and Gennifer Brandon the rock in position to score - because that isn't something they've necessarily gotten over the last two years.
Welcome to Cal, Brittany!