Cal WBB is taking on St. Mary’s on the road tonight at 5:30! And your not-so-trusty women’s basketball writer is woefully behind on pre-season coverage! SHAME!!!
There appears to be live video of the game, although it’s not entirely clear to me if payment will be required. You can also follow on live stats. Otherwise, the only way to see the game is to take the trip down to sleepy Moraga. Use this as an open thread for tonight’s game.
The Gaels lost leading scorer Lauren Nicholson but return pretty much every other player of consequence from a team that went 14-4 in a typically tough WCC and made the WNIT. You might recall that Cal lost by 1 to the Gaels at home last year. Playing on the road only makes things a little tougher. In fact, this could arguably be Cal’s 2nd toughest non-conference game this season. Starting off with a win would be a major positive sign for the rest of the season.
Now: on to further season preview #content!
Asha Thomas took on a heavy workload for a true freshman, and showed that she will be a key piece for her entire Cal tenure. She led the team in assists and was one of Cal’s better threats from the 3 point line. Her goal will be to improve as a penetrator and creator, and to up her assist/turnover ratio.
Mi’Cole Cayton came to Cal at the 11th hour of recruiting, and thank goodness - based on the available roster and Sunday’s exhibition game, she’s going to be Cal’s primary (and only?) back up point guard. Her recruiting profile describes her as an aggressive, penetrating combo guard who can get to the bucket and draw fouls. We’ll see how much shooting and distributing she can bring to the table, but I’d bet she’ll also be available to play off the ball with Thomas in certain sets.
Mikayla Cowling was Cal’s 3rd offensive option last year, but Cal’s 2nd most efficient scorer thanks in part to an improved 3 point shot that saw her lead the team at 39%. She’s also a solid rebounder for her position and was the only non-point guard with a positive assist to turnover ratio, which is a long way of saying that Cowling is Cal’s most versatile player, and I’d like to see her step up into an even larger role within the offense.
Mo Mosley probably wasn’t supposed to get a ton of playing time last year and might even have been a redshirt candidate, but Cal lost so much guard depth for various reasons that she ended up playing 13 minutes a game. Tough to get much of a read on her from minimal playing time in a low usage role, but she showed solid slashing skills and didn’t play with much fear. There’s a decent chance that she takes a developmental leap as a sophomore and becomes a consistent contributor on both ends.
Jaelyn Brown is probably the recruit that fans are most excited about. She very much fits the Gottlieb mold of an uber athletic wing who can impact the game in multiple ways and in multiple roles. The question is how quickly she can adapt to the college game. To the extent exhibition performances matter, she looks to be firmly a part of this year’s plans.
Sara Anastasieska was a somewhat surprising transfer from UTSA who I’m guessing will potentially have a Mikayla Lyles type of role as an occasional spot up shooter and zone buster.
Courtney Range had to make something of a transition last year, as she played a bit more interior basketball rather than on the wing. She still found plenty of time to step out and attempt 3 pointers, although her percentage decreased with a higher volume of attempts. She’s going to be a solid veteran presence at a minimum, but I can’t help but feel that she hasn’t come close to fully harnessing her potential with her size and versatility. As a senior, this is her last chance.
Penina Davidson quietly had an impressive offensive year off the bench, hitting 54% of her 2 point shots and showing off impressive craftiness around the basket. Gottlieb and her teammates have talked glowingly about the progress she has made this offseason - if she can add tougher defense and rebounding to a burgeoning offensive game she could be a real plus player for the Bears.
KC Waters only played 6 minutes/game in limited appearances, something fans found a bit perplexing considering Cal’s extreme lack of depth. With more players available and healthy an increase in playing time at this stage would be surprising . . . but she’s always produced decent rate stats in her brief appearances, so who knows?
Kristine Anigwe was the best freshman in the country last year and is, by herself, and incredible head start towards building a competitive team. She am already become death, destroyer of defenses. She has the physical potential to become death, destroyer of offenses too, and her growth on that side of the ball will be a big part of determining how much Cal improves.
CJ West brings with her the typically absurd high school stats of a player that could physically dominate lower level competition. She will probably be a plus rebounder, which is a skill that Cal could use. The question is how much her offensive game will translate to tougher competition . . . and whether or not there are minute for her this year with Anigwe on the roster.
Chen Yue is still something of an unknown thanks to a foot injury that prematurely ended her freshman season. It’s going to be tough for her to get much playing time since I’d speculate that she and Kristine Anigwe will rarely see the court together. The question is how much another year of practice has prepared her for the physical rigors and speed of college basketball. She’s got the tools to be a plus defender if she’s made that leap.
A rough guess at Cal’s rotation
PG: Asha Thomas, 25 min ; MiCole Cayton, 15 min
G: Mikayla Cowling, 30 min, Mo Mosley 10 min
Wing: Penina Davidson, 20 min; Jaelyn Brown 20 min;
Forward: Courtney Range - 30 min ; Penina Davidson, 10 min
Center: Kristine Anigwe - 30 min ; CJ West, 5 min ; Chen Yue, 5 min
We know that Thomas, Cowling, Davidson, Range, and Anigwe (not coincidentally, those players will likely start all season long) will be part of Cal’s rotation and will all get at least 25 minutes a game in normal situations. The question is who gets run off the bench. Cayton is almost guaranteed time so that Asha doesn’t have to play 40 minutes at point guard. Jaelyn Brown and Mo Mosley will presumably spell at guard and wing, with CJ West and Chen Yue battling for bench minutes in the post. That’s a 9 player rotation that could get winnowed down to 7 or 8 against elite competition.