The California Golden Bears women’s basketball program gave the community a sneak peak at their 2015-16 team with the Tip-Off Event. The fans were treated to an open practice and a carnival-style reception afterwards.
Head Coach Lindsay Gottlieb welcomed everyone with
introductory comments, explaining that the team is on its sixth day of
practice. Within a 40-day period, the program is allowed to have 30 days of
practice, including the exhibition game against Westmont and a closed
scrimmage, which will happen against Gonzaga. Gottlieb likened this period to
Everything is going according to schedule so far, she said,
except for the fact that Cal only has eight players at practice. In addition to
the dismissal of guard Mercedes Jefflo, the Bears are temporarily without
junior KC Waters and freshman Bre Cavanaugh.
Cavanaugh is recovering from a concussion. Waters is away mourning her
mother, who passed away recently.
Gottlieb then shared the agenda for the practice, which
included short sections of skillwork, introducing new plays, and reviewing
those previously installed. Of interest, Gottlieb shared that from her recent
visits with the Golden State Warriors and from studying other teams, including
UConn and Notre Dame, she is committed to finding ways to create more space in
the lane when the team is on offense, to take advantage of her team full of
“If you follow basketball the last five to ten years, it’s
become more position-less,” said Gottlieb. “To me, if you’re a basketball
player, with a diverse skillset, I’m going to put you on the floor where you
can make plays. Last year, we had Boyd and Gray, who were some of the best in
the country at their respective positions, a true point and a true post. Now,
we want to take advantage of our strengths, which is to spread the floor and be
Cal will also work sideline out of bounds plays to take
advantage of the new rules allowing a team to advance the ball after time-outs
in the final minute of play.
In addition, said Gottlieb, “One of our goals this year is
to be better defensively, ”and went on to detail the four defenses fans will
see during practice.
Gottlieb also shared the quote of the day, intended to promote
buying in and being OK with discomfort as the team learns new things: “If your
coach tells you that there’s cheese on the mound, you’d better bring crackers.”
While Gottlieb spoke about all her players, she also knew
that many in the crowd wanted to hear about the freshmen. In addition to the absent Cavanaugh, the rookies included Kristine Anigwe, MaAne Mosley, Asha Thomas, and Chen Yue.
“Chen is really smart,” said Gottlieb. “It amazes me that
she knows what to do. She did tell me that she understands me better than
anyone else on this campus, so we’re off to a good start.
“Asha Thomas, her basketball IQ is very high. She acts like
a 40 year old, zen, never gets rattled, and knows what’s going on, which is
nice. Kristine is as good of an athlete as we’ve ever had here. I’ve been very
impressed with Ma’Ane, she brings a different level of energy. She gets better
Gottlieb also warned the fans that as excited as she is
about the team, “Remember, half of our team are freshmen. And we have no one
who is going into their fourth year of college basketball.”
Schuyler Bailey and his wife Susie, who have followed the
team for 15 years, were excited to see the new team and came away impressed.
“We’ve been long time season ticket holders. We love the
girls, the coaches, and we really wanted to see what the freshmen look like.
All of them seemed interested in learning. They seem energetic, athletic, and
it’s great that they’re getting into shape. I was particularly impressed with
Chen. For a big girl, she has a wonderful shot, and she was really really
trying to learn the system. And we were watching her hit free throws, and she
was making them all!”
“I thought it was fascinating to watch them practice,
especially the offense practiced without defensive players, so they can run it
over and over and over to see what they can do without anything in the way, and
then when the defense comes, they can forget about it, because they are
implementing what they practiced.”
“I want them all to play well, up to their potential, and to
grow this year. Play hard, play
together, and have fun. I don’t care
Bob Migdal is a more recent fan, having started following
Cal during their 2012-13 Final Four
season. It was his first time watching
the team practice.
“It was really interesting, to see how everything is
scripted,” said Migdal. “Every two minutes or five minutes, it was scripted and
written down, everything you wanted to cover. I was impressed.”
He was glad to see that Cal was trying new things on
“I thought the offense last year was kind of predictable.
They need new things. Last year, it seemed that Reshanda Gray would get in the post, Brittany would loft it to her,
hoped that it go to her, and then Reshanda would try to make it from one foot
away, even with three people on her. And then if they kicked it outside, no one
could make a shot. So the offense at times was frustrating. The coaches say
that our three-point shooting has improved, and I hope it has, because there
was nothing more frustrating than watching—they can’t make a shot, and then
they can’t make a free throw. Today, I saw where they took 32 free-throws and
made 75% of them, so that’s a big improvement if it carries over into the
He too wanted to see the freshmen, and while he is bullish
about the Bears’ future, his expectations are tempered for this season.
“Honestly? I don’t think the team is going to do well,” said
Migdal. “The Pac-12 is pretty strong, and last year, I remember, UCLA had the
number one recruiting [class] in the nation, and they had problems. So I think
Cal will finish in the bottom half [of the conference]. I mean, the potential
is great, but I don’t think this will be the year. I think this will be top 10
team down the road, but not this year.”
But the day was not just about getting a preview of this
year team, as the Cal women’s basketball program took the opportunity to
continue their campaign to engage the community.
After the practice, Cal welcomed the attendees to on Oski
Lane, the walkway adjoining the baseball diamond, for a carnival that included
hot dogs, cotton candy, and an inflated bouncy house.
Laketa Powell, who serves as a “team mother” for the Lady
Raptors, an AAU team from nearby Vallejo, appreciated the opportunity for her
young players to interact with the team.
“The girls love it!” said Powell. “They enjoyed seeing how
the practice was ran, and what they can look forward to.”
Powell was watching over her charges as they took over the
inflated “bouncy house,” when the Cal players, including Mikayla Cowling and
Gabby Green, decided to join in.
“I just got through telling my girls that they were too old
for the bouncy house, that they need to be more like the Cal players, to carry
themselves seriously,” laughed Powell. “And then the Cal players got in there
The young players were all in 5th to 7th
grade, including Powell’s daughter Raven, a seventh grader. Her favorite player was freshman Asha Thomas.
“She’s the smallest one on the court, but she is the
aggressive one,” said Raven.
“I came here to see the UC Berkeley team. I support them.
This is the college I want to go to, get a scholarship, and then go to the
WNBA. I’m a fan of this team because they have execution; they can shoot. And
they have defense; that’s all I want from a team, that they have defense,
Raven considered watching the Cal players “research,
watching their moves, so I can do the same things they do.” She smiled and squinted in the late afternoon
sunshine, anxious to get back to her friends and that bouncy house.
“We are this community’s team,” said Gottlieb. “Yes, we want
seven thousand people screaming for us at games, but it’s just as important
that we have all you here at an event like this.”
Gottlieb on how she got invited to the Warriors’ practices:
“I’m a basketball junkie, and I’m going to learn
from whomever I can. We are so fortunate to have the best NBA team in our
backyard. Steve Kerr called and said any time you want to come, come on over.
And also Theo [Robertson], former Cal men’s player is on staff over there. So
just really welcoming, and it was a chance to watch them in action and get
ideas and adapt them to help us."
Cavanaugh has been out for 10 days.
For many in attendance, it was the first opportunity to see the remodeled Haas. While the visuals were impressed, people really noticed the improved sound system. Gottlieb was miked up during the practice, and her easily-heard commentary added to the experience.