One of the recruiting priorities for Cal women's basketball in building their 2016 class was to find a strong post player to anchor the class. The Bears didn't cast a wide net for a post player, focusing most of the frontcourt attention on Garces (Bakersfield, CA) center Celeste West.
With West's commitment last week, the Bears will turn their attention to the backcourt but in West, it feels like a perfect match between program and athlete.
"Honestly, I love love Berkeley and the area around it," said West. "I can see myself living up there after I graduate.
"The coaching staff -I just love them. They're just so real. I talk to them all the time.
"With so many other coaches, it seems awkward and forced but never with them.
"I've talked with some of the players, too, and it's always felt comfortable. Other places, that often wasn't the case and I didn't really fit in.
"The campus life seems, great, too. All those things really helped."
An assist in West's commitment goes to her sister Rachol, a junior guard at nearby San Jose State.
"I feel like I fit in at Cal 100%," said West. "My sister goes to San Jose State and played her travel ball with Mercedes Jefflo so she goes over to Cal to visit sometimes. With her hanging out there all the time, I got to know them a lot more, so already just from what I've learned from that, I can really see myself being a part of things there and being comfortable and being lifelong friends with them.
"I think I'd be a really good fit there."
Beyond comfort level, West feels the Bears are a good fit suited for her skill set, as well.
"With one of my travel teams, we actually ran one of their defense so it helped me visualize playing in their system," said West.
"They love my quickness and being able to run rim to rim and the way that I can use my body -something that I've been working on a lot lately. They said to just keep doing that and I'll keep getting better."
One of the things that jumps out at you watching West play is how quick and decisive her post moves are, though it didn't come naturally to the talented center at first.
"It's something that gradually came along," said West. "When I was younger, like junior high and freshman year, I was just rushing and thinking I'd get my shot blocked or turn it over. So I was kind of rushing things, thinking I had to get it off fast.
"I don't know what happened but it just became something natural rather than rushing it.
"I try to pattern my game after Reshanda Gray. I look up to her and how she's grown so fast. I just want to be like that, to be able to dominate the boards and finish like she does and just run the court the way she does.
"I still need to continue to work on all those things."
As for playing with Gray's nasty streak on the court?
"I'd say I'm able to do that now," said West. "Earlier in my career, I didn't play that way at all. People would look at me and say I'm big but that I wasn't aggressive, even if I felt like I was.
"That was something I had to get a fire for. And as I grew to love the game more, it became natural for me to play with that aggressiveness. I want to win and do my best at all times."
Part of that love and appreciation for the game came from one of the scariest moments in West's life -a crisis that allowed her to draw inspiration for the game and for life in general.
"I come from a really close family," said West. "Family's so important to me, as are my close friendships.
"My older sister Nikki, who's 29, she had a cardiac arrest in her senior year of college at Bakersfield State. They actually pronounced her dead but one of her trainers did cpr for like forever and that brought her back.
"She was in a coma for two weeks and had to learn to eat, write, talk and everything all over again and couldn't play basketball any more.
"She ended up completing her degree in kinesiology and is working on her masters now.
"Her fight just inspired me. Sometimes you think, 'I'm tired. I don't want to go to practice.' But I have the chance to go to practice and play the game I love. I can't ever take that for granted."
The Bears beat out Texas A&M and South Carolina for West in the end and while West was attracted to all three programs, Cal was clearly West's number one, all things considered.
"I really like them, too, but I feel like I couldn't really fit in Texas," said West. "I have some relatives that have a ranch there and was there when I was little but I didn't feel it clicked there.
"South Carolina, it was hard because with Cal and A&M, I talked to all their coaches but it really wasn't like that with South Carolina. I only talked to one of their coaches, so one thing I was worried about was would it be like that when I was there, so it was hard to see myself there."
As for Cal, one of the things that drew West to the Bears was the strong connection she felt with the whole staff and program.
"I'd say it was a pretty even mix with all the coaches," said West. "I talked to them pretty often so I feel l know them all really well. And they don't just talk to me about basketball but want to know about my life and how school's going and things like that. I didn't really get that from other colleges so that helped me decide, too."
West also has some familiarity with incoming power forward Kristine Anigwe, who she met at USA trials a couple years ago.
"Kristine's really amazing, both as a player and as a person," said West. "I got to hang out with her at the airport during the trials and I'm looking forward to playing with her."
The 6-3 center led Garces to a 27-3 record in her junior season, averaging 18.8 points, 14.3 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game
The incoming senior had a strong junior year academically, as well, finishing with a 4.1 gpa and would like to study business or entrepreneurship in Berkeley.