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Cal Women's Basketball

Smith, McIntosh and Suarez Highlight Cal Women's Media Day

October 10, 2023
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Cal head coach Charmin Smith, point guard Leilani McIntosh and forward Marta Suarez represent Bears at Pac-12 Women's Basketball Media Day today.

Smith kicked things off today for Cal with an introduction to this team's new additions.

“(We have) six newcomers, seven returners, and just a really good group that's extremely close already," Smith said. “I would say it's the best chemistry we've had in my tenure as head coach at Cal, which makes me happy. They have me smiling all the time. Not all the time they're working really hard and I think this is going to be a great season for us.

This year's roster is significantly more versatile than recent Cal teams.

"That means multiple ball-handling options, shooters all over the floor, several really active and aggressive defenders," Smith said.

“We can really just do it all right now, and I'm excited about the pieces that we've added and I'm excited about the way the returners have continued to develop and grow. Now it's our job to figure out how it all fits together.”

The Bears will feature four transfers, three of whom played over 1,000 minutes last year for their respective programs.

“I see them having a huge impact," Smith said of the transfers. “You think about (Ionna) Krimili being one of the most prolific three-point shooters in the country, Ila Lane who has dominated and commanded a double-double on the low block. Marta playing at Tennessee, a winning program, and Kay Kay (McKayla Williams) being with Gonzaga. She's cut down nets. I mean, we brought in dawgs, we brought in shooters, winners. We have it all.”

Smith was asked about Williams, a 6-1 senior guard from Gonzaga who averaged 7.7 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game as a starter for the Zags last season.

“She's just so versatile,” Smith noted. “She can be a ball handler, a great rebounder, three point shooter, great passer. One of her biggest assets is probably her defensive presence. She's changed our press already. She's active on the ball. Can give Leilani a break on the ball as a stopper, so she is going to play a number of roles for us.”

Smith also commented on 5th year senior guard Leilani McIntosh.

“I think you saw it a little bit last year in just her three point shooting,” Smith said. “She was leading the conference for some time scoring the ball with much more efficiency. Then it's just what I see right now is this desire to want to win. She came back for a reason. I'll let her tell you those reasons, but she came back because she believes in this program, her ability, and her teammates, and we're ready to win. Leilani is a definitely a key piece to that.”

Smith was asked what Cal fans can expect to see that’s new this season.

“I think we're going to score a lot more points,” Smith said. “We just have shooters everywhere, and with Ila and Michelle in the low block, it's really hard to guard us. I'm excited about our offensive firepower.

“When you think about the pieces we've had and what we've added and what we can do defensively, we know we were a really poor defensive team, so that's been the emphasis all off-season, is we have to be better defensively. We have to be able to get stops.

“You think about the close games we had in our conference. We couldn't get stops down the stretch. That's what is going to get us over the top. I love that we have the scoring, but that defensive piece is the most critical piece.”

Smith was asked about the Bears’ ability to keep up with several high-scoring Pac-12 conference opponents.

“It's important because people are putting up numbers and they can put the ball in the basket. Not that we even know a starting lineup just yet, but when you think about Kemery Martin and Krimili and Leilani and Mia (Mastrov) and Lulu, a freshman from Australia that you guys will get to know, Marta, Claudia, they're all three-point shooters, versatile, can all attack, get to the rim. As I've mentioned, we have scorers all over the court.

“Ila has been used to being double and triple-teamed. You can't do that with us because we have people who can knock down shots. So it's going to open up things for her to dominate and have one one-on-one coverage. Michelle is going to be loose in the middle because you have all these shooters around these two great low block players.

With the announcement that there will be a new WNBA team in Oakland, Smith is excited about what that can mean for the league and also the benefits her program might see.

“I was so excited,” said Smith of the news. “I was at the press conference and I had a lot of just enthusiasm surrounding it heading there. When you get there and you see the video of Steve Kerr and you hear the owners talk about what that means, Cathy (Englebert), the commissioner, talking about expansion, I had chills. It was a really, really special moment.

“I think about all the players out there who we know are talented enough to be in the WNBA and don't have a roster spot, so that's No. 1. We need more teams because we have too much of our talent sitting on the sidelines. I'm really happy for this reason. Then for that team to be in the Bay and to practice in Oakland, who desperately deserves a team, I'm extremely excited. To have my young women be able to have my young women get some runs in with WNBA players, that synergy you talked about, it's definitely going to be something we'll take full advantage of.”

Smith herself was a players who played on two NBA expansion teams in Minnesota and Seattle and was asked about the experience.

“Playing in the WNBA is a phenomenal experience. Getting paid to play basketball at the highest level, I'll never forget that. Marta and I were talking about it over dinner the other night. My experience wasn't all rosy, right? I told her, I was no Sue Bird. The way I got treated in the league was a lot different. But I still appreciated the opportunity. And to say that I was an WNBA player, to guard players Tina Thompson and Cheryl Swoops and I guarded Cynthia Cooper. It's just incredible. I'm glad that I have that opportunity, and I'd like to be able to share that experience with my players and talk to them about it and say that's your goal. Let me tell you what that looks like and the work that it takes.”

Smith was also asked about Marta Suarez, a senior forward who averaged 6.4 ppg, 5.6 rpg. and 21.8 mpg. through 13 games at Tennessee before a lower leg injury limited her ability to practice and play, and ultimately ended her season early.

“I'm expecting her to be a leader,” Smith said of Suarez. “She has some adjusting to do getting used to California, being here with this new team and the differences. But this is a Bay Area kid. She's Berkeley all the way. I think she's loving it out here. She brings a competitiveness, a fight, a grit. She knows where we were ranked. She knows where everyone picked us (11th).

“She's the type of player where that's motivation for her, and she's bringing that winning mentality. You can't have enough winners. Too many winners I should say. So we're excited about Marta. She's raising the level for sure.”

McIntosh went from a 22% three-point shooter her freshman year to 38%, one of the best in the country last year. Smith was asked about the fifith-year senior’s impact on the team.

“She represents our growth," Smith noted. The way she has improved is the way this team has improved. I know it doesn't necessarily show up in wins and losses, but 15 of our 17 losses last year were to top 25 opponents in the country. So we're a really good team. Just weren't a top 25 team yet. Leilani is a really spectacular point guard and I think her future in this game of basketball is extremely bright. I know we're going to win and she's going to be a big reason why.

In a couple weeks, the program will be hosting the fourth annual Race for Change at Lake Merritt. Smith talked about the meaning of the event for the program.

“Our Race for Change on October 21st, we will do our 5k around Lake Merritt to raise money for our diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging department run by Dr. Ty Douglas, and John Carlos will be our special guest there. So our commitment to social justice and helping our communities is legit. It's something that we will continue to do. I invite you all to come out. If you can't walk with us, then I know you can click on the QR code on our website and make a donation. It's a really important thing for us and we're extremely passionate about it.”

Smith wrapped up her segment with a final statement on her team.

“Gosh, I just love this group,” Smith said. “We've got a really special team, and as I said before, it's fun to be around them. I've said I have no problems with who rooms with who on the road because they love one another. You're going to see the personalities here. You're going to get to know them well.”

Suarez and McIntosh were up next. Suarez was asked what prompted her to transfer from Tennessee to Cal.

“I just knew when I joined the transfer portal I still wanted to compete,” Suarez noted. “I wanted to go to a Power 5. The Pac-12 was a conference that I looked up to for a long time. I feel like their game is more similar to the European game. The SEC is very tough, it's physical. I like Pac-12, how it's dynamic, fun.

“There are so many players and so many teams. We're going to go into it and every week you have to go out there and fight. I'm excited for that.”

McIntosh graduated from Cal with a double major a year ago and is currently in graduate school. She was asked how meaningful her academic experience and opportunities have been for her.

“It's a blessing,” McIntosh said. “I'm so happy that I got this opportunity and still get to play basketball at the highest level. My mom is very proud. I kind of just wanted to play basketball and get a certificate program, and she kind of talked to me, and said you can't waste this opportunity to get a masters. Shoutout to mom. It's been great.”

McIntosh was asked about her motivation for coming back for a fifth season with the extra 2019-2020 covid-abbreviated season.

“Just a lot of unfinished business,” McIntosh noted. “I feel I have grown in a bunch of different categories through my four years, and just playing in the Pac-12 I've built a lot of relationships. I think I still have that energy to kind of just prove myself a little bit more. And I love this group of girls. Again, getting an education from Berkeley as well also ties into that factor. I just think I'm excited to get this season started and show you guys what we're capable of.”

McIntosh was also asked about the chemistry that the head coach alluded to.

“I think when you integrate half our team kind of being new to the program, I think it's important. I personally pride myself on building relationships. We've kind of taken other people to the gym with us, we've just hung out a lot off the court. I think that helps us hold each other accountable on the court and be able to push each other and understand how we're going to bring the team together this year and flow in a good direction.”

Suarez was asked about the chemistry as well and if it’s impacted the team in a positive way.

“Yeah, I sure do think so,” Suarez said. “We talk about it very often, how that's the part that we're the most excited for, how we get on so well on and off the court, the chemistry we built.

“To be honest, it's sometimes just luck, finding the right pieces and getting it together. I think the coaches did an amazing job making sure the people they were recruiting fit the program and the values that we have. And the returners, they've done a great job. I was a little late because of some issues in the summer, and I was a little scared-- I'm not going to lie. I'm new. I'm from Spain.

“I got there and everybody is so welcoming, hanging out in the locker room all the time. We always hit each other up, let's go get ice cream. It's so exciting. It's fun to then go to practice and be playing with your friends, the people you actually enjoy having time with.

McIntosh was asked about what might allow the team to close many of their close losses into wins this season.

“It goes back to that chemistry piece,” McIntosh said. “In the past, we've been in scenarios where we maybe didn't know how to talk to each other to get us over that hump. I think us starting early and integrating these newbies, just building that culture, and when it comes down to those stretches and we have to make the game-time decisions, we're able to talk to each other and communicate together.

Q. Marta, for you, who was the toughest person you competed against when you were at Tennessee?

MARTA SUAREZ: That's a good question. Person as a player our team?

Both players were asked their favorite WNBA players/

“Since we're in Vegas, shoutout Chelsea Gray, point guard,” McIntosh said.

“I love Tamika Catchings,” Suarez said. “I met her. She's a great person. Everybody loves her and she was a Vol, too. So why not?”

As one of many international players on the team, Suarez was asked if that’s led to a higher comfort level for her at Cal.

“For sure, it makes a difference,” Suarez said. “I came from a place where I was the only international one and and actually I'll be playing with Claudia (Langarita), she's from Spain and we've known each other since we were ten years old. We started playing, came here, and met the Greeks, the Swedes. It's so much fun. It makes you feel a little more welcome. You're not the only one that's different.

“Berkeley it's also such a diverse place. It's crazy the amount of people that I've met from so many countries that speak so many languages. There are restaurants from every country, which is very different from what I experienced in Tennessee. It’s a southern state, which I love, but I'm definitely enjoying my name Berkeley.

“I think my favorite part about the whole experience and the whole program has been the girls and the coaches. Just going to practice every day and we have fun. We go to practice and we have fun with it. That's what we're so excited for this season. It's very hard to compete against a team that's consistently having fun, enjoying what they're doing, and playing for each other.

“We have players that want to go to the league and that want to do something after, and when you have someone next to you that cheers for you and wants you to get there, it makes it so much easier, so much more enjoyable.”

“Yeah, and I just think Berkeley is such a cool place to be,” McIntosh, a native of Phoenix said. “I think I've just tried to take them to all my favorite food spots. We get ice cream like every day. That's bad to say, sorry. We just have those moments where we're all studying together and say okay, let's take a break. We walk to Yogurt Park and laugh all the way down the block. I think it's just fun. We also try to experience new things and get out to San Francisco, San Jose, just drive around and just explore ourselves as well.”

McIntosh was asked what went into her continual growth as a shooter, particularly from the perimeter.

“It's easy when Charmin is constantly in my head, like shoot the ball, and you have teammates around you that have so much confidence in you. You sometimes feel like, oh, I took a bad shot, but they're always there to keep picking you up. I think as a point guard it becomes more of a threat when I'm able to score the ball as well, because I am able to get my teammates open because now they have to respect the shot as well.

To wrap things up, Suarez was asked what she’ most looking forward to this season.

“The thing I'm looking forward to most? To the games,” Suarez said. “Playing at home. I'm excited. We had an event the other day, the tip off event. We had too many fans. We didn't have enough food for the fans. I think people like our team. We're involved in the community there. I'm excited to play at home, have fun, and just shoot the ball, for sure.”

Smith, McIntosh and Suarez Highlight Cal Women's Media Day

2,931 Views | 16 Replies | Last: 1 mo ago by mbBear
stu
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Excellent! Thanks for posting!
BearBint
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I'm a fan of anyone who's a fan of Tamika Catchings, greatest of all pro defenders.
MoragaBear
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Staff
The second youtube video is bonus coverage that wasn't on tv and you won't find anywhere else online
SFCALBear72
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MoragaBear said:

The second youtube video is bonus coverage that wasn't on tv and you won't find anywhere else online
Thank you, MB!!

The smiles on all of their faces tell it all. They are ready!
mbBear
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MoragaBear said:

The second youtube video is bonus coverage that wasn't on tv and you won't find anywhere else online
Well, you watch that and you understand why those two came to the event...wow, what incredible people! And to think that English isn't Marta's first language, damn....
CalWSportsFan
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Thanks. Great coverage. Excited for the season.
calbear80
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What is Coach Smith's overall PAC-12 record since she became the Head Coach? When will she reach the .500 overall PAC-12 level (which is the sign of being at least mediocre against your conference competition)? Will it be this season or maybe next season or when?

Go Bears!
wvitbear
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Depends on how tough the Pac 12 is. One year we made it with a 6 and 12 record.
mbBear
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calbear80 said:

What is Coach Smith's overall PAC-12 record since she became the Head Coach? When will she reach the .500 overall PAC-12 level (which is the sign of being at least mediocre against your conference competition)? Will it be this season or maybe next season or when?

Go Bears!



Did you need help finding her overall Pac-12 record, is that what you are asking?
calbear80
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mbBear said:

calbear80 said:

What is Coach Smith's overall PAC-12 record since she became the Head Coach? When will she reach the .500 overall PAC-12 level (which is the sign of being at least mediocre against your conference competition)? Will it be this season or maybe next season or when?

Go Bears!



Did you need help finding her overall Pac-12 record, is that what you are asking?

What is her overall PAC12 record since becoming the Head Coach? When will she reach overall PAC-12 record of .500?

Go Bears!
SBGold
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calbear80 said:

mbBear said:

calbear80 said:

What is Coach Smith's overall PAC-12 record since she became the Head Coach? When will she reach the .500 overall PAC-12 level (which is the sign of being at least mediocre against your conference competition)? Will it be this season or maybe next season or when?

Go Bears!



Did you need help finding her overall Pac-12 record, is that what you are asking?

What is her overall PAC12 record since becoming the Head Coach? When will she reach overall PAC-12 record of .500?

Go Bears!
Google it. With that attitude, you're not a Cal fan
SFCALBear72
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SBGold said:

calbear80 said:

mbBear said:

calbear80 said:

What is Coach Smith's overall PAC-12 record since she became the Head Coach? When will she reach the .500 overall PAC-12 level (which is the sign of being at least mediocre against your conference competition)? Will it be this season or maybe next season or when?

Go Bears!



Did you need help finding her overall Pac-12 record, is that what you are asking?

What is her overall PAC12 record since becoming the Head Coach? When will she reach overall PAC-12 record of .500?

Go Bears!
Google it. With that attitude, you're not a Cal fan
Exactly. It's more of a taunt than inquiry. Poster has been outspoken about their dislike of Coach Smith in numerous threads.
CalWSportsFan
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Fun https://www.instagram.com/reel/CyOcIoVRJXL/?igshid=MzRlODBiNWFlZA==
SFCALBear72
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CalWSportsFan said:

Fun https://www.instagram.com/reel/CyOcIoVRJXL/?igshid=MzRlODBiNWFlZA==
Very clever.
pearbear
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Staff
Thanks for such a thorough write up, MB! It's nice to have such coverage for WBB from BearInsider.

GO BEARS!

mbBear
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calbear80 said:

mbBear said:

calbear80 said:

What is Coach Smith's overall PAC-12 record since she became the Head Coach? When will she reach the .500 overall PAC-12 level (which is the sign of being at least mediocre against your conference competition)? Will it be this season or maybe next season or when?

Go Bears!



Did you need help finding her overall Pac-12 record, is that what you are asking?

What is her overall PAC12 record since becoming the Head Coach? When will she reach overall PAC-12 record of .500?

Go Bears!
2nd part first...I don't know. First part...again, you are having trouble finding it?
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