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Cal Basketball Recruiting

5 Star Cal Sparks Forward Michelle Onyiah Talks About Commitment to Cal

October 26, 2019

For the second time this week, Cal women’s hoops fans got big news for their 2020 class. After the commitment of 6’3” Houston forward Fatou Samb earlier this week, the good news kept coming, with fellow 5 star forward Michelle Oniyiah (Eleanor Roosevelt/Eastvale, CA) announcing her commitment to Cal Thursday, as well.

The Bears have been on the Cal Sparks forward for a while and never took the foot off the pedal in their pursuit of the future Bear.

“I started play basketball with Cal Sparks the summer before last and that’s around when Cal really started getting involved,” said Onyiah. “Coach Lindsay (Gottlieb, who’s since departed for the NBA) and the staff told me they really liked me and continued to stay in contact and go to my games.

“When I got the offer from Cal, “I was thinking, ‘wow, this is crazy. I really like Cal a lot.’ Since then, they’ve been on my tail, recruiting me hard, hard, hard, every day. It’s been a really cool process.

“Then going up for my visit and visiting the players, it was an amazing experience.”

The Bears’ recruiting efforts and the developing relationships made a strong impact on the talented forward and when it came time to start narrowing things down, Cal was at the top of her mind.

“Over the summer, I was thinking about where I wanted to go and what I was looking for in a program and I just kept coming back to Cal. I was talking to my Cal Sparks teammates and they knew I wanted to major in Bio Engineering and they told me I needed to go to a school who was really strong academically in my area and who really wants me.

“I kept thinking about it and by our last road trip to Vegas, I kind of knew it was going to be Cal. A lot of good schools tried to come in late but I respect loyalty and Cal recruited me so hard and was so right for me in so many ways that it was just the right place for me. They came after me and they just never stopped.”

The reformulated Cal staff, with former assistant coach Charmin Smith returning to Cal as head coach and the return of assistants Kai Felton and Wendale Farrow along with new assistant April Phillips, who made a move from Arizona, provided the type of continuity that allowed Onyiah the comfort level to keep the Bears at the top of the pack for the talented forward. That, combined with the other factors she was looking for in her future home sealed the deal for Cal. She also noted that Phillips was her main recruiter at Arizona so the relationship continued with Cal.

“Cal’s the best of both worlds,” said the 5 star forward. “With Cal, I can get the high level academics and playing in the Pac-12, you’re playing against the best around. Pac-12 offers are some of the hardest around to get. Plus I wanted to stay in California so my family could see me play and I love the weather. It’s just an hour plane ride away.”

As for her game, Onyiah noted:

“I’m more of a power forward, stretch four player,” said Onyiah. “I can guard a point guard, shooting guard, anything.”

Cal Sparks coach Elbert Kinnebrew added additional color.

“Michelle is a 6’3” ulta-athletic forward who rebounds at rim level,” said Kinnebrew. “She blocks shots with authority and finishes well. Her midrange jumper is solid, too. Her three ball could use a bit of improvement, which I expect to see will happen in Cal’s daily workout regimen.

“Michelle is very coachable and should develop well under Coach Charmin and Coach April, who was a Cal Sparks power forward 15 years ago.”

Phillips isn’t the only Cal Sparks connection for Cal as current Bears CJ West and Jaelyn Brown were Sparks players as well as former Bear Reshanda Gray. In addition, former Bear Mikayla Cowling is Kinnebrew’s niece.

Kinnebrew’s wife is sister to former Cal track star Larry Cowlings, so with Kinnebrew being a USC alum, there’s a bit of an ongoing friendly family rivalry.

“I’m a Trojan, so we have a lot of fun with USC vs. Cal,” said Kinnebrew.

And when rivals Cal and Stanford square off, Cal’s Brown and West competing against former Sparks star Dijonai Carrington is a win-win for Kinnebrew.

“She played on my 2016 team with Jaelyn and CJ, so when Cal and Stanford play, I can’t lose,” joked the Sparks head coach.

Scouting report from ESPN Hoopgurlz, who rates Oniyiah the #34 prospect in the nation:

Cal Sparks Pre-Summer-June 2019: Athletic interior prospect with a high ceiling; quick in the paint, aggressive on the glass brings emerging offensive arsenal to the paint; superb in transition game; defends in the block; a potential power-5 star. (Olson)

Boo Williams Invitational-April 2019: Athletic big-forward competes on the glass, finishes plays in the paint; agile in uptempo game; defends in the paint, alters shots, rebounds and initiates the fast break; emerging face up game; continues as a prospect with off-the-charts potential. (Olson)

Onyiah was the second of an amazing three 5 star players to commit to Cal this week with yesterday’s verbal commit from Garfied-Seattle forward Daliyah Daniels, who sported offers from Stanford, Washington, Oregon, Duke and more.

Consider the Bears’ rebuilding project full steam ahead.

Other stories:

5 Star Post Fatou Samb Becomes First Building Block in Talented 2020 Cal Class

Lee Making Big Waves in Senior Season

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5 Star Cal Sparks Forward Michelle Onyiah Talks About Commitment to Cal

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