In some of CGB's season-in-review features, I mentioned that Courtney Range is the freshman I'm most excited to see on the court. That's hardly an out-on-a-limb sleeper pick, as Range is the top rated recruit in a top 25 class. But what makes her truly exciting is that she's bringing a skill set and size to the wing that Cal hasn't ever had since I've been following the team.
That's because Courtney is a 6'3'' guard - she's bringing something near the size and wingspan of a Gennifer Brandon out to the perimeter. Why is that exciting? Because we've all seen what those types of players can do. Think about what you've seen players like Louisville's Antonita Slaughter, or Duke's Tricia Liston, UCLA's Markell Walker, or Stanford's endless collection of 6-foot-something wings have done against Cal in the past.
Now, obviously, those above comparisons are patently unfair. Liston, Slaughter and Walker were all veterans when they faced Cal. I'm not expecting Range to come in and immediately be a brilliant bomber who can get her shot off over anybody like Slaughter, or play point forward like Walker did, or slash through defenses like Liston. But she has the ability to do things like that given time and experience.
Range's skill set is quite unique in that she is a true combo forward-guard who is a threat to put up points from anywhere on the court. She is long and lanky, yet athletic and graceful. She uses her tremendous reach and wingspan to scrape off every single rebound and control the boards. Offensively she can do just about everything in the halfcourt.
Showing all the things we got excited about during the high school season. She is a dominant defender and fantastic scorer in transition. Her perimeter shot comes and goes but the fundamentals are there to be a truly dynamic wing scorer.
So she's long and athletic, she can score on the drive or with a jumper, she's a great defender, she can run the floor, she can mix it up inside and outside . . . what exactly are the weaknesses? The scouts aren't saying much, other than some concerns about the consistency of her shooting form. Those descriptions make her sound like a top 10 prospect, rather than ‘just' a top 40 prospect. I suppose with top 50 recruits, the differentiation comes from the scale of the hyperbole. But that doesn't mean it's not exciting!
More a fan of hard numbers? Range transferred to Manteca high school for her senior season, and averaged 20.1 points and 19.6 rebounds. Yikes. The Manteca Bulletin has a nice profile of her senior season that speaks highly of her intangible qualities:
The move meant Range wouldn't face as many top-tier teams or players that have become a staple of the Rams' schedule over the years, but her senior year was no cake walk, either. She was tested as a leader; as someone who could pull a team together and across the finish line.
"One of the challenges was transitioning and learning to adjust to the different playing levels, while also keeping your composure," Range said. "I think I learned how to be a better player; learned how to be a better leader."
And the tangible:
At 6-foot-2, she can play every position on the floor effectively. She anchored the Buffaloes' press, patrolled the paint and often led their fast-break offense. She was accurate from beyond the 3-point line and able to create her own shot.
Oh man, we're adding an athletic, 6'2''/3'' guard to Coach G's full court press. That'll be fun!
Ok, so now we've heard what the experts have to say. Luckily, there's tape so that we can decide for ourselves (by looking only at the very best plays from a season, which is totally fair and representative!)
What jumps out at me in this video isn't any one thing in particular. What jumps out is the variety. You see Courtney Range banging down low and converting. You see her taking defenders on off the dribble. You see her handling the ball and making smart passes. It looks like Range took on many different roles at various points for her club team, in part because she has that level of versatility.
Unfortunately the highlight tape doesn't include any footage of her jump shot, but I'll just have to trust the scouts on it. But her ability to get off her shot inside look solid, and her ability to rebound from the 3 should help maintain Cal's tremendous advantage on the boards.
I don't know what Coach G will ask her to do as a true freshman, but just having so many options increases the chance that she finds a comfortable niche in her first season.
Welcome to Cal, Courtney!