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The greatest individual season, and career, in Cal basketball history?

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An early look at Kristine Anigwe’s place in Cal, and Pac-12 women’s basketball history

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Ultimately, sports greatness is in the eye of the beholder. Which statistics to you value? Do you trust the eye test? How much does team success factor in? There is no objective final answer, which is a big part of why the debate is fun.

Disappointing team results aside, Kristine Anigwe is having an undeniably monster season as a cap on a stunning career at Cal. Her stats are so staggering that they stack up with some of the greatest seasons in Pac-12 history, let alone Cal history. So, in an effort to find something happy to talk about, let’s dive in!

Scoring

Obviously, Kristine Anigwe recently broke the Cal career scoring record, passing Colleen Galloway’s 2,320 total points. Kristine currently sits at 582 points scored, which is already the 10th highest scoring season in Cal history. Presuming that she maintains her 23.3/game scoring average, Kristine will at least get to 700 points, the 4th best season ever (behind Jennifer Bennett, Galloway, and her own sophomore season). If Cal plays more than their guaranteed one post-season game in the Pac-12 tournament, she has a solid shot at passing up Bennett’s all time single season record of 736 points.

So Kristine is going to be at or near the top of the list in every single measure of scoring volume. But what per/game records? Bennett also holds the record for single-season scoring average with 23.7 points/game, which Kristine is just narrowly trailing with 23.3. A strong finish to the season (home road games against the Washington schools are promising) could see Kristine take the single season per game average. The career per game average? That’s all sewn up, her 20.2/game average is solidly ahead of Galloway’s 18.4 career record.

But what about efficient scoring? Considering the volume of scoring she is expected to carry in Cal’s offense, this is Kristine’s most impressive category. Kristine’s career FG% is 55.9, the highest for a career in Cal history. That’s just ahead of Reshanda Gray’s 55.8. Of course, Kristine has attempted roughly 500 more (and counting) shots than Reshanda Gray, and will end her career with the 2nd most attempted shots in Cal history. Just consider: only one player (Galloway) has attempted more shots than Kristine, and nobody has made a higher percentage.

Most scoring per season. (Perhaps) most scoring per game. Highest field goal percentage. The greatest pure scorer in program history.

Rebounding

Prior to her senior season, Kristine was a great rebounder, but maybe not the greatest rebounder. If she had maintained her freshman-through-junior year averages, she probably would have come up just short of Gennifer Brandon’s career rebound record of 1,219. Instead Anigwe has authored one of the greatest rebounding seasons in college basketball history.

Her 15.7/game rebounding average is 3.7 more than the next best season in team history (Ingrid Dixson’s 12.0 in 93.94). That’s so far ahead of the pack that you need to compare her to the greats in Pac-12 history to come up with comparisons. That 15.7 average is the 2nd highest in conference history, trailing only Jillian Alleyne’s 16.3 average set in 13-14*.

Kristine has already set the Cal single season rebounding record, and currently has 393 boards. At her current average, she would need to play another 8 games to break the Pac-12 single season record of 519 rebounds, shared by Alleyne and Chantel Osahor. Kristine’s current career total of 1390 is the 3rd highest career total in conference history, trailing only Alleyne and Chiney Ogwumike.

*A better measurement of rebounding prowess is rebounding rate, which measures the percentage of available rebounds an individual player pulls down. It’s an advanced stat that I only have access to four years worth of data on, but I can tell you that per the HerHoopStats.com database, Kristine’s 2018-19 rebound rate of 26.2% is the 3rd highest rate over the last four years, only narrowly trailing two players who don’t play as many minutes or shoulder nearly the same offensive burden that Kristine takes on.

Best rebounder in Cal by career and by season. Maybe the best rebounding season in Pac-12 history. Pretty good!

The eye test

I don’t want to get too deep into retrospectives, because Kristine’s final season is still ongoing and there will be time for reflection later once the full story has unfolded.

But I have never watched, day-in and day-out, one player take on a bigger burden for her team, while still maintaining constant effectiveness and efficiency. Watching Kristine Anigwe play basketball is exhausting, because you can feel how tired she is just by watching her.

Great scoring guards can start a possession with the ball in their hands. They have players screening for them to create space. Kristine spends every possession battling one-on-one (or one-on-two) with a player and a scheme specifically designed to slow her down. She has to fight harder than anybody else I’ve ever seen just to get the ball, let alone make a shot. And when she doesn’t get the ball, she’s fighting 2 or 3 players around her for a rebound. That she wins that battle as often as she does is astounding.

That she leads the nation in free throw attempts this year is both a reflection of the burden she shoulders and also a reflection of how other teams play her on defense. One viable strategy is to foul Kristine on every single contested play, daring the refs to call fouls on every possession, knowing that no ref wants to foul out multiple players and turn the game into a free throw slog.

Reef and I will probably have a debate at some point after the season ends about where Kristine sits in the all-time Cal basketball hierarchy, which is probably more of a subjective exercise. I’m comfortable saying this much: No Cal basketball player was asked to do more than Kristine Anigwe, and no Cal basketball player delivered as much production in response.