Cal WBB: The greatest rebounder in Pac history?

USA TODAY Sports

This week: in praise of Gennifer Brandon and Mikayla Lyles, plus a quick preview of the biggest game of the season.

The greatest rebounder in conference history

I'm certainly not burying the lede, am I? On Saturday, total numbers confirmed something we knew already. Gennifer Brandon is now the greatest rebounder in school history in terms of total rebounds. But she had already been the best rebounder in school history, almost since she stepped onto the court. Do you need proof? Just look at the picture above.

Look at how high off the ground she gets, how long her body reaches. The sheer physical presence she has in the air. I've never seen another college WBB player do that, but she's been doing that at Cal for four years of eligibility.

Gennifer Brandon has played 119 games for California, and in that time she has collected a school record 1,130 rebounds. That is an average of 9.5 rebounds per game. Typically, when career records are set, it involves a player who gets lots of playing time over a four year career. Sometimes you even get players who get four full years and a few games in a 5th year cut short by a redshirt injury.

But Gennifer Brandon set Cal's rebounding record despite missing nine games of her senior year, despite having at least seven games left in her senior year, and despite having never averaged more than 30 minutes/game in any season.

That last sentence is astounding. Gennifer Brandon has averaged just 24.3 minutes of court time/game over her career . . . and she still nearly averaged double digit rebounds/game. She has basically played the minutes of the first player off the bench for her entire career and still set a school career record.

Let's pretend for a second that Gennifer Brandon immediately started as a freshman (I vaguely recall arguing that she should have played more back then), played every single game possible, and averaged 30 minutes/game over her entire career up to this point. If that had happened, Gen would have broken the record last year and would be somewhere in the vicinity of 1500 rebounds right now, with a quarter of her senior season still left.

It's worth noting that Chiney Ogwumike set the Pac-12 record for most career rebounds earlier this year, when she reached 1,271. At this point, Chiney is likely to get somewhere near the 1,500 mark as well, and will be rightly lauded as such. But Chiney Ogwumike has played in 10 more games than Gennifer, and has had nearly 1,000 more minutes of court time with which to accumulate her record.

On a per minute basis, Gennifer Brandon is a better rebounder. On a per minute basis, I feel confident in saying that Gennifer Brandon is the best rebounder in conference history. Nobody will know it but Cal fans, but it's true.

Mikayla Lyles' best week ever

From beginning to end, the week was probably one the best I've had in my college experience

That's the quote from a recent article from the AP detailing Lyles' experience hosting a panel discussion on LGBT inclusion with Stanford's Toni Kokenis. I actually wanted to attend the event and provide some information for those outside of the Bay Area, but alas, it was held on a work night.

The timing of the event, as pointed out by the AP, seemed fortuitous. Now, with the announcement that the SEC defensive player of the year is an openly gay athlete, it seems like a wonderful capture of the zeitgeist. The rapidity of change in this country has been stunning, no matter if you focus on the level of LGBT acceptance in athletics or in the country as a whole.

I've always been tremendously impressed at how Cal athletics generally and Cal women's basketball specifically has been involved in promoting LGBT inclusion, and this event is another tangible step in the right direction:

Athletes and coaches often describe their teammates as a second family - one in which team members and coaches have each other's backs on and off the court or playing field. In an impressive display of this value, the entire Cal women's basketball team and coaching staff attended the panel at Cal to support their teammate Mikayla who, with Toni, spoke as part of panels on both campuses. In addition, Cal Athletic Director, Sandy Barbour, attended the Cal panel. The presence of the entire Cal women's team, coaching staff, athletic director and other athletic staff was a tangible expression of Cal Athletics' commitment to inclusion, as well as an expression of personal support for Mikayla. It was teamwork at its best.

Thank you, Bears. You humble us all.

The biggest game of the year

If Cal defeats Arizona on Friday night (likely) and then beats top 25 ranked ASU on Sunday (more iffy) the Bears will finish the week with a conference record of 10-4, good for at least a tie for 2nd place. Cal will hold a 2-6 record against the RPI top 50 and a 10-6 record against the top 100.

If, however, the Bears lose to ASU they will likely fall back to 4th in the conference, with the very real possibility of falling out of the top 4 and losing a first round bye in the conference tournament. Their RPI records would look much more pedestrian.

The good news is that the Bears are at home, and Arizona State has been very vulnerable on the road. They have already lost on trips to San Diego, Washington State and Arizona, and recorded narrow 3 and 2 point wins respectively over injury ravaged Utah and Colorado. Cal would represent ASU's biggest road win of the season (unless the Sun Devils manage to knock off Stanford on Friday).

What I'm trying to say is this: COME TO THE GAME ON SUNDAY! You no longer have football as an excuse, it's right in the middle of the day, and our Bears need as many loud voices as they can get.

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