On April 16th, the WNBA draft will be held in Connecticut. Brittany Boyd and Reshanda Gray will hear their names called, and Cal basketball will enter an entirely new era.
Change is obviously the natural order of college sports. The average team graduates 3 or 4 players every year, and the Bears will be saying goodbye to four in total. But this is obviously a bit different.
Brittany Boyd is the greatest point guard in Cal basketball history. Reshanda Gray is probably the most dominant low post scorer in Cal history. And with the graduation of this senior class the Bears will no longer have players who participated in the 2013 Final Four.
Boyd and Gray were the last two players NOT initially recruited by Lindsay Gottlieb. (Justine Hartman switched her commitment to Cal when Gottlieb was hired and Nikki Caldwell left UCLA; Brittany Shine came as a transfer). Their departure means that the first era of Gottlieb's tenure is now over.
The numbers are staggering. Boyd finished her career with 1,678 points, 718 assists, 778 rebounds, and 366 steals. Those numbers put her in 7th, 1st, 12th* and 1st all time in Cal history. As a recent press release points out, Boyd is "the only current player in the NCAA - and the only player in Pac-12 history - to hit career marks of at least 1,400 points, 700 rebounds, 600 assists and 300 steals."
*I'm not 100% sure, but Boyd is just a few rebounds behind the now-11th place rebounder in Cal history, and the list on Calbears.com doesn't go any longer. She's probably 12th.
Arbitrary statistical cutoffs aside, you can make the argument that Brittany Boyd is the most versatile women's college basketball player in NCAA history.
Reshanda Gray's legacy will be about one thing: Buckets. Gray retires as the all time leader in field goal percentage, which is incredible for one reason: She took a huge number of shots. Of the 10 players who have taken the most shots in Cal history, only three also appear on the top 10 list in field goal percentage: Jennifer Bennett, Ashley Walker, and Reshanda Gray. Gray outshot the other two by 3%.
I wasn't around to watch Jennifer Bennett play in the mid-80s, but I did watch Ashley Walker. As great as Walker was, she got to play alongside Devanei Hampton, which meant that Walker didn't see nearly the defensive attention that Reshanda Gray saw on a night-to-night basis. It might be a long, long time before Cal has another player capable of taking more than 10 shots a night at 57% while facing constant double teams and occasional triple teams.
You probably knew most of this already. The obvious point is this: The 2015-16 Bears will look very, very different from this team. 54% of Cal's offensive possessions this year ended with Boyd or Gray doing something. That's a very difficult thing to replace.
The good news is that Cal has talent, and will be adding more. Cal will have 11 players on the roster next year. 4 were McDonald's All Americans, 8 appeared on at least one top 100 list. The three players who weren't consensus top 100 recruits? International recruits Penina Davidson and Chen Yue . . . and Mercedes Jefflo, who could end up being Cal's best two-way player last year if she caries over her late-season hot streak.
But talent alone doesn't mean wins. With 5 freshmen, 3 sophomores and 3 juniors, Cal will be one of the youngest teams in the country. They will be breaking in a new primary point guard (whether it ends up being Gabby Green, Mercedes Jefflo, or Asha Thomas) and will have to adapt to not having a player who constantly occupies two defenders in the half-court set.
I wouldn't expect there to be any significant changes in terms of offensive or defensive style, but nearly every single player on the roster will likely be stepping into a new role.
The unknown can be scary, but it can also be exciting. For the first time in a few years, the Bears won't necessarily be burdened with sky-high expectations, and watching such a young, talented team learn in their new roles should make for a fascinating season.
Whatever you want to call it (The Final Four era? The Boyd/Gray era? The Gottlieb 1.0 era?) the Bears are leaving behind a few years that were very, very kind to them. But that's no reason not to get just as excited about what's next.
WBB content will obviously be more sparse with the season ending. Over the next few months, I'll have more retrospectives on this year's senior class, and then over the long off-season we'll turn more towards next year by looking at the five player freshman class the Cal coaches have assembled. March is the best and also the saddest.