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Gottlieb, Anigwe and Thomas Kick Off Pac-12 Media Day for Cal

October 10, 2018
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SAN FRANCISCO, CA -In the unofficial kickoff day to the Pac-12 women's basketball season, Cal head coach Lindsay Gottlieb, senior point guard Asha Thomas and senior forward Kristine Anigwe represented the Cal contingent at today's Pac-12 Women's Basketball Media Day at the Pac-12 Network HQ in San Francisco.

The Cal contingent was the last to appear before the media during the day's events, where they fielded questions from local and national media.

Following Cal women's basketball's Final Four run in 2013, the Bears have had talented teams but have usually been short in depth, experience or within a certain position group, however, the 2018-19 team on paper seems to have the right blend of inside and guard play, mixed with leadership and experience to make a serious run to compete for a Pac-12 championship this year. Does Gottlieb see the same thing in her squad?

"I do," said the 9th year head coach at Cal. "I think these guys would say something like we're coming different. Is that how you say it? It feels different.

"You know, I've said, we have a chance to be really good. That doesn't guarantee anything, but it puts you in the conversation. I think it's our most depth and capable pieces since the Final Four team. I think that team, as I can see Asha sitting here would tell you, had also a really special focus and chemistry. I think this team in their own way is reminiscent just in terms of every single day wanting to show up for one another.

"But yes, we do have depth. We do have veteran leadership and youth, and I think that's the formula. I think layering kind of different pieces and different classes together often gives you the chance of having a winning team. I think we have those things, and I think our aspirations are those of a championship and to really be one of the top teams in the country."

Both Thomas and Anigwe have played key roles on the team from day one and appear to be ready to take on the challenge of helping lead their team to a special season this year.

"I think we're excited to be seniors," said Thomas. "It's been a long journey. We've been through a lot. I think now we feel, like Coach G said, we have the pieces to do something special this year, and I think we're excited about that. I mean, we're ready to get this thing going. I'm sorry, but we are. We're excited with our team, our team dynamics, how we feel personally, individually, trying to get our bodies right, our minds right for a long season that we're trying to prepare for. But yeah, excitement is probably one of the few words that we're feeling right now." 

Following the 2018 NCAA tourney, Gottlieb got her team together and presented them with some analytics that indicated that they probably weren't ready for a Sweet 16 or Final 4 run, challenging them to do the little things that added up to a championship program.

"For me, I was like, it's not luck," said Anigwe. "Me and Asha, we have experience now. Seeing that made me realize, we have to get better. It's not one game, it's not one practice, it's a whole entire season, starting from the off-season.

"Our off-season really started off just new and fresh, and that's what really kept us going. Now we're still fresh. We're still feeling new. Every practice feels different, and that's what we're just going to keep going throughout the season."

"A lot of numbers," said Thomas of the analysis Gottlieb provided the team. "I know, as for me as a basketball player, I don't really look at numbers too much. I just really try to work on my mental and my skill set, but seeing those numbers on the wall or on the board is very important. Everything you do contributes to just being successful, and I didn't really realize that, so I'm paying attention to the little things, as well. Wins and losses are very big, but shooting percentage, rebounding percentage, and all of those that go into it, it makes me really just dial in to what I need to do or what we need to do for the team to be successful."

"I said, MC, this is the message I want to get across to the team, and I talked about some things, can you help me with a visual presentation of that, and her ability to kind of take my basketball thought and put it into like a PowerPoint was pretty cool," said Gottieb of Assistant Director, Athletics Communications, MC Barrett. "And also a lot of you know I'm sort of relentlessly positive, and so at a time when maybe the players expected, you know, not in a bad way, but for me to come in, it was the end of the season, and say, okay, we can do this, like we can be this team next year, I sort of said, let's check ourselves, we're not there.

"We weren't there yet, and I wanted to motivate them in different way. And actually Kianna Smith, our sophomore, said to me just the other day as we've been going through practice, 'Remember the slide show? We need to look at that again. Just to kind of remind ourselves of are we doing the little things every day.' Because I will put our players up in a competitive standpoint against anyone. Game is on the line, I'll put the ball in this kid's hands and have Kristine be out there. I don't worry about our ability in a big-game situation to rise up and try and compete. But what I wanted them to understand is it's the day-to-day grind that separates you, actually, and it's sort of the stuff that happens behind closed doors a little bit."

"Personally, I would say, I'm not a numbers person, so I'm not trying to have necessarily a double-double every game," said Thomas. "I'm not trying to have just a statistical number every game. That's not my goal. Whatever I can do consistently that's going to help the team, that's what I'm going to do, scoring, getting steals, assisting the ball, rebounds, however, if I get them, jump up and get them, whatever. But I think it's just being intentional with everything that I do. So whatever I need to do, whether it's being vocal, that's what I need to do consistently. That's pretty much for my goal of being that player who wants their team to go far in the tournament."

"Ironically, I am a numbers person," said Anigwe, smiling. "For three years, I've been like, one more game. One more rebound. One more finish, we could have won the game. And now I'm like, Kristine, stay in the present. Stop thinking about numbers. Start thinking about like time just being relative, like again, being intentional. I just want to stay in the moment and just realize that, okay, this is my first practice of this season, and I just want to have fun, and I want to be light, I want to be fresh, and I want to be happy.

"That's what I've really been focusing on this summer, just staying in the present and staying in the moment and not thinking too far ahead, not thinking about the next day, thinking about today, how I'm going to finish my midterm after this interview and just kind of staying day-to-day and what Teasy -- well, Asha, as you guys know her, said, just being intentional."

WNBA careers almost certainly loom in the talented seniors' futures. Is the prospect of the draft and draft position a distraction to either player heading into their final season at Cal?

"At this point, I'm really not thinking about it, but I know eventually I would have to," said Thomas. "But I'm really just trying to stay in the present moment. When that time comes where it's like, okay, this is where you need to pay attention to it, I'll go to it. But definitely the anxiety is hitting of not knowing where my future is going to be. Of course I want to prepare for that as best I can, but I can't predict what's going to happen. I try to keep that to a minimum, the anxiety to a minimum."

"For me, I don't really believe in draft boards or preseason predictions because it's somebody else's opinion, and my opinion that I have for myself might be different than someone else's opinion of me," said Anigwe. "Therefore I don't believe in that. Of course it's motivating and -- it's just not real.

"I'm just excited for our team. I really want to win. I really want to0 go far in the tournament. I want a Pac12 Championship. I want to do big things. I'm not really worried about where I land. I want this season to be for us."

The Bears head into the season with an array of talented backcourt players this season -so much so that it will be interesting to see how the minutes are distributed 

"I think I would say that we have more skilled guards that can do a variety of things than in recent years," said Gottlieb. "At times, a lot of times I think we'll have three players on the floor who are point guard types, meaning that they can score, pass, facilitate, and that's a good thing. You know, back when Layshia (Clarendon, who was in attendance) played, we played two WNBA point guards together at the same time, and that was really effective for us because people can't game plan as well for that.

"In addition, with the multiple guards, we've been able to take some of our big guards and play them at the 4 spot, so Jaelyn Brown, who jumps over the backboard to get rebounds, can play the 4 spot, or McKenzie Forbes, who's a little bit bigger and just really savvy. So we've been able to do some things where we can get four guards on the court at once, and at the same time, besides Kristine, we have post depth with someone like a CJ West, who is pretty formidable in her own right or Alaysia Styles, who is more of a true post player.

"We can do a number of different things trying to get those various guards on the floor in different capacities. And at the end of the day, just having more players who can make shots and make plays spreads the floor out. I think we will have more offensive fluidity than we have in a while."

One of those backcourt players is grad transfer Receé Caldwell, who brings a competitive leadership style and court savvy to the floor.

"In terms of Receé, I'm very intentional with recruiting. It's not like we recruit all the good players out there. It's not like we go after every transfer. I try to fit -- think about who fits. And so I've known Receé for a long time, since she was probably eight or ninth grade. She didn't come to us the first time. That's okay. You want players to find their paths. But when she decided that she was going to graduate from Texas Tech and decide to do a fifth year as a grad transfer year, I think we were on her radar right away because we had had a relationship already. And I think her decision was not about this one year, although with a grad transfer you have to be very -we're bringing someone in for a year, and she's only going to be here for a year, and it has to be the right fit. There isn't a lot of time to grow with someone.

"The year is important, but I think she was making a decision for 40 years and talked to me about personally how I could help get her to the next thing that she might want to do. I think she could be the first female GM in the NBA, and I want to help her get there. She wants to play overseas, and I want to help her get there. We talked about playing with these two and making a deep run in the tournament. So there were a lot of, I think, high-level conversations that happened, and it's funny because she's only been here for a month or two, but sometimes I'll look at her and say, 'How have you not been here for four years. It's so seamless, right?'

"And then on the court you have McKenzie Forbes coming in who is really talented and a normal freshman. You're a freshman. You're trying to figure out how to get to class and eat and get there, and Receé is a grown woman who's telling us what to do. It's different. So I think it's been really interesting to see those two newcomers just from different diametric experiences but both have really fit in so well. It's a credit to the returners because we could have thrown I think anyone in the mix now, and they're so solid, they're ready to welcome anyone, but both of those two young women have made incredible impacts in a short amount of time.

Being in close proximity to a dynasty basketball franchise like the Golden State Warriors has it's perks, particulary when arguably the league's top coach is a fan of the program.

Gottlieb and staff were able to spend tie with Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr recently and gleaned solid pointers from Kerr's unique coaching philosophy.

"So I was there last week, and he's always super gracious with his time and asks me how we're doing all the time, and I'm like, you're the Warriors, that's Kevin Durant, you want to talk about my team?," said Gottlieb, with a laugh. "It's funny, we were talking about training camp, and he is a "less is more" kind of guy.

"We talked about how long their season went and how you keep people fresh .So I would say I'm sort of more aligned with that type of philosophy anyway. But in particular this year, the NCAA moved the practice thing up where you can practice 42 days before your first game, and they moved the first game up.

"So exciting that it's November 6th, election day, where we'll all be voting and going to the game, but other than that, it's too long. Young people need to be excited. They need to be fresh. They need to feel a certain way in February when we're on a trip to Pullman. So for me to grind them out now because I want one more rep or one more possession doesn't make sense to me. So it's nice validation to see that that's what the Warriors are about. Obviously they have a different system going on. But yeah, we want to make sure that we are thinking about their bodies, thinking about their minds all the time. It's not just what they can give me but what I can give them to be as fresh and ready for the whole season as possible. It's neat to see that alignment with the Warriors, as well."

In recent weeks, Gottlieb and fiancee Patrick Martin were married in a ceremony that was as special in itself as it was for who was attending -the entire Cal women's basketball squad.

"I can tell you that I was never the young person dreaming about a wedding growing up," said Gottlieb when asked about the wedding. "I was thinking about other things, like ball movement and offenses and that kind of nerdy stuff. But when it came around, I think I've been pretty open that this team has always been part of my family, and so when Patrick and I chose to do a wedding, it was an absolute no-brainer that we were going to include the team.

"They are our family, not just my family, Patrick's family, too, and I wanted to have it be less about look at us or this is about us and more about a celebration of our family, including our son, Jordan, and the people that are really important to us. And so it was beyond my wildest dreams, having the team there. They were part of it. They were with all the other important people in our lives, as well, and it was just unbelievably special, and that's something with this team I think I'll have that particular bond withfor the rest of my life."

"I liked how you were showing that ring off, too, while you were talking," said Thomas, with a smile. "But it was definitely a special day, and I'm happy that everybody on our team decided to come and experience this celebration for her. And as much as she puts effort into us, we wanted to be there for her, and her new journey, as well. So it was definitely an emotional day. But we had fun, too. We have our dancing going, as well. She wanted that. She wanted to incorporate that."

"It felt like a movie," said Anigwe. "When I saw Lindsay and she was wearing those beautiful shoes she wore for her wedding, I saw her and kind of gasped super loud. I kind of got teary eyed, because that's like my mom. I look up to her. That's my mentor. I was just so - it's weird, like this is my last time I'm going to be here in front of you guys on this stage with Lindsay and Asha. I don't know, I'm getting so emotional just because that wedding brings back so many memories, different memories, feeling, the vibe, the music, the laugh, Jordan playing in the dirt while she's doing her vows. It's just like that's how our team feels. That's just one part of our family, of our team. And it was cool, like this year, Lindsay decides that she wants us to be in her wedding, and then you see like -- that's just a small part. Yeah, excited."

Discussion from...

Gottlieb, Anigwe and Thomas Kick Off Pac-12 Media Day for Cal

annarborbear
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Is there any information about what was actually in the Power Point presentation?
pearbear
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Staff
Great job, Moraga!
MoragaBear
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Staff
annarborbear said:

Is there any information about what was actually in the Power Point presentation?
It was analytics, challenging all to play more complete games, rather than just worrying about points scored, both as individuals and as a team.
HoopDreams
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pretty powerful emotions there ...

"When I saw Lindsay ... and kind of gasped super loud. I kind of got teary eyed, because that's like my mom. I look up to her. That's my mentor. I was just so - it's weird, like this is my last time I'm going to be here in front of you guys on this stage with Lindsay and Asha"
annarborbear
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MoragaBear said:

annarborbear said:

Is there any information about what was actually in the Power Point presentation?
It was analytics, challenging all to play more complete games, rather than just worrying about points scored, both as individuals and as a team.
Thanks. My guess is that it shows a much higher field goal percentage on plays where multiple people have touched and passed the ball, and when the ball is not held for a long time by any individual. Would hope to see more of that on the court this year.

But whatever is in the presentation, this is the most encouraging news in a long time. Instead of just saying do more of the same and things will eventually work, this seems to be a true critical assessment of what it is going to take to make a leap forward.
roqmoq
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annarborbear said:

MoragaBear said:

annarborbear said:

Is there any information about what was actually in the Power Point presentation?
It was analytics, challenging all to play more complete games, rather than just worrying about points scored, both as individuals and as a team.
Thanks. My guess is that it shows a much higher field goal percentage on plays where multiple people have touched and passed the ball, and when the ball is not held for a long time by any individual. Would hope to see more of that on the court this year.

But whatever is in the presentation, this is the most encouraging news in a long time. Instead of just saying do more of the same and things will eventually work, this seems to be a true critical assessment of what it is going to take to make a leap forward.
Amen!
HoopDreams
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I hope cal fans get behind this team

I loved last years seniors and we will certainly miss them , but I think this team has more potential
My biggest concern is front court behind KA
MoragaBear
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Staff
CJ came on strong last year and now that she's 30 to 40 lb lighter by appearances, there's more reason for optimism with her
annarborbear
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Use of analytics may also play to Lindsay's strengths as a coach. She doesn't have the kind of personality to absolutely impose her own will on a team, as indicated by some players making the same mistakes as seniors that they were making as freshmen.. But she is definitely smart enough to be able to demonstrate with data how those mistakes are hurting the team, and that could make a significant impact this year.
puget sound cal fan
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I think CJ will prove to be a more than adequate Center to back-up Anigwe. I'm more concerned over the loss of Davidson, who played an important complimentary role as a Forward on the Bears' front line: Rebounder; Scorer: Defender. At 6'3", Penina had the size and skills to make herself an important contributor, who took some of the pressure off Kristine. Styles has similar size, but will she be able to make a comparable contribution?
MoragaBear
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Staff
I think she will
stu
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puget sound cal fan said:

At 6'3", Penina had the size and skills to make herself an important contributor, who took some of the pressure off Kristine. Styles has similar size, but will she be able to make a comparable contribution?
Looking at the players rather than the program I'd say Penina has more height, more bulk, and of course more experience. However Styles looks quicker and I expect her to make a big jump from her freshie season.
MoragaBear
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Staff
Alaysia's not as big but she's tenacious and she can really jump
HoopDreams
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puget sound cal fan said:

I think CJ will prove to be a more than adequate Center to back-up Anigwe. I'm more concerned over the loss of Davidson, who played an important complimentary role as a Forward on the Bears' front line: Rebounder; Scorer: Defender. At 6'3", Penina had the size and skills to make herself an important contributor, who took some of the pressure off Kristine. Styles has similar size, but will she be able to make a comparable contribution?
I hope you're right. in the NCAA, when KA got in foul trouble CJ was forced to play major minutes, and she ran out of gas late in the game. if she is going to get Davidson's minutes, then hopefully she will get better conditioned

but I agree with you that it's not just KA backup minutes having KA and Nena on the floor at the same time was a good look for us
MoragaBear
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Staff
Well, like I said, it looks like CJ's down at least 30-40 lbs and I doubt she did it all from dieting, so her conditioning and stamina should be much better this season.
stu
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MoragaBear said:

Alaysia's not as big but she's tenacious and she can really jump
Sounds like Gennifer Brandon, one of my all-time favorites!
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