Welcome To Cal Part 1: Hind Ben Abdelkader!

From left to right: Courtney Range, Hind Ben Abdulkader, Mercedes Jefflo, & KC Waters - CalCoachG's twitter

In case you had forgotten, Cal women's basketball went to the Final Four. I say that not as a reminder, but because I really, really enjoy saying it. Slips off the tongue real nice like. But teams that go to the Final Four tend to look pretty different the next year, I'd imagine.

Why? Because you typically are relying on talented, experienced seniors to get you that far. Cal is hardly an exception, as we've had to say goodbye to a beloved four player senior class. As a result, there will be six new players on the court next year. We're going to do our best to preview each of them, though our focus will mostly be on the four player freshman recruiting class.

First, a note: I believe all four new Bears are already enrolled and participating in the summer bridge program, which is always a positive. The more time on campus to adjust to the college life, the better. Hopefully college writing isn't too much of a gigantic pain.

We'll go alphabetically, which means we start with 'mystery' recruit Hind Ben Abdelkader, who I have already promised to lazily abbreviate to HBA until a suitable nickname has been established. HBA is a mystery recruit only in the sense that every recruit from outside the United States comes with minimal recruiting information or fanfare, and thus it's more difficult than usual for the uninformed like myself to speculate about future on-court impacts.

What we know for sure is that Abdelkader is a 5'7'' combo guard from Brussels, where she has collected countless honors in various U16 and U17 competitions. I'm not sure if she's more of a shoot first point guard in the mold of Alexis Gray-Lawson or a high volume shooting guard, but her time leading Belgium has mostly been characterized by lots and lots of points - 19.4 at the under 17 championships in 2012. When you're a finalist for the FIBA Europe Young Women's Player of the Year award, it basically means that Cal snagged one of the best European recruits available.

HBA spent the rest of last year dominating the Belgium League. How do we know that? Well, for one thing, the Belgium League has their stats up online! Here are her stats from 22 games playing for Sint Katelijne, in which she averaged 22 points over just 31 minutes a game.

2 Pt. Shots

3 pt. Shots

Free Throws

Assists

Turnovers

A/TO Ratio

Rebounds

111-225: 49.3%

48-130: 36.9%

119-152: 78.3%

38

42

.904

108: 4.9/game


So here's the thing - without knowing the relative strength of the Belgium league as compared to NCAA basketball, it's wise not to read too much into these numbers. Abdelkader is not going to be scoring 22 points per game as a true freshman. But I think there are two things we can reasonably glean from these numbers:

1. HBA is probably a better fit at shooting guard. Unless she constantly needs the ball in her hand to score, the statistical profile fits better as an off guard. 42 turnovers is less than 2 a game, a completely reasonable number for a 17 year old, high usage point guard. In any case, Cal has Brittany Boyd ready to play 30+ minutes/game at the point, so there's more time to be had on the court at off guard.

2. She can shoot. It doesn't matter what defense you face - if you can make more than 35% of your threes and more than 75% of your free throws, you can do the same in the NCAA. Now, 22 games isn't necessarily a huge sample, but her 130 attempts from behind the arc and 152 attempts at the line are pretty sizable numbers. Only Afure Jemerigbe attempted more than 130 three pointers for the Bears last year, and only Layshia Clarendon and Brittany Boyd attempted more than 152 free throws. Arguably speaking, HBA might have been the best pure shooter on the team if she had been on Cal's roster last year.

But why blather about stats when there's tape! ROLL THE TAPE:


So, a few thoughts:

  • It's worth noting that the defense wasn't super great here. HBA was frequently matched up against a defender who was both smaller and slower. But that makes sense - most players don't score 49 against the best team on their schedule. That shouldn't detract from her talent, but it's still worthwhile context.
  • Having said that, her shot looks pretty good. She can get it off with reasonable speed, she showed surprising range (the shot at :50 looked like borderline NBA range) and her shooting percentages corroborate the notion. Being only 5'7'', she can't release the ball over some players, so she won't be able to get shots off with defenders draped all over her . . . but then again pretty much nobody should be taking 3s with defenders all over them anyway. Will she get as many open shots against Pac-12 defenses? If people are worrying about Gennifer Brandon and Brittany Boyd, then probably yes.
  • She finished through contact, a good sign for a player on the smaller side. I think there were 3 or 4 and-1 baskets and a few others that could have been called. The finish at 1:00 is a good example of that, and her behind the back step over at the 3:00 mark was probably the most spectacular play on the reel. Exciting stuff!
  • With the exception of one shot from around the free throw line, every point came on lay ins, three pointers, or free throws. Basketball efficiency theorists (guilty) rejoice!
So: Welcome to Berkeley, Hind! Also, a belated happy 18th birthday! Go Bears!
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