Nov. 9, 2007
BERKELEY, Calif. - With two exhibitions under their belts, the Golden Bears and sophomore guard Natasha Vital officially tip off their 2007-08 campaign at Fresno State Saturday, Nov. 10, at 1 p.m. As a freshman, Vital became Cal's starting point guard after Alexis Gray-Lawson, the 2005-06 Pac-10 Freshman of the Year, had a season-ending injury just nine games into the 2006-07 season. Vital, a Stockton, Calif., native, started the remaining 23 games and earned a place on the Pac-10 All-Freshman team. In Pac-10 games, she contributed 8.6 ppg, 5.4 apg (2nd in conference) and 2.9 rpg.
CalBears.com recently sat down with Vital, who was voted Cal's Most Improved Player last season, to talk about the upcoming season and her interests.
CalBears.com: How did becoming a starter last season change your game?
Vital: "Last year, I was kind of thrown into it. I got a lot of in-game experience. That was very helpful for me to be able to learn while playing the game. It was very helpful to be able to play with everybody in real game situations and focus on my teammates."
CalBears.com: Is it different now that you and Gray-Lawson are playing together?
Vital: "It's always fun to play with Alexis. It's been awhile since we've played together because of her injury. Practice has been going really well. We play really well together. We're just excited to be on the court together and play together since the first time she went down."
CalBears.com: What kind of personal goals have you set for yourself for this season?
Vital: "I really want to cut down on turnovers. I also want to become a better vocal leader for our team."
CalBears.com: What do you see yourself doing after graduating from Cal?
Vital: "My goal is to play after college. But other than that, I'd like to work in any kind of sports business. I'm working on my major in American studies with a focus in sports business and entertainment. If I have the opportunity to play professionally after college, then I'm going to take it. But if not, I just want to do anything that's related to sports."
CalBears.com: With your family nearby in Stockton, do they get to come to a lot of your games?
Vital: "My mom's always at every game. Everybody hears her -- she always sits right by the bench. Everybody knows that's Tasha's mom. She goes to every game. My dad's there, too, but he's a little quieter so not everybody knows where he is. They're always there after the games. They're always in the hallways, greeting everybody and talking to everybody's parents."
CalBears.com: With six out of the 10 current players being from Northern California, did you play against any of them before coming to Cal?
Vital: "I actually played against everybody from Northern California, except for Devanei. I played against Alexis on an all-star team in an AAU tournament. I played against Ashley and Trell when they played for the East Bay Explosion, and I played on the Modesto Magic. I pretty much played with everybody."
CalBears.com: What has been your biggest challenge at Cal?
Vital: "Probably the biggest thing has been time management because there are so many things that you have to do. Like managing your schoolwork, practice, getting plays and all of the scouting reports -- you have to manage all of that in a timely manner and be able to get eight hours of sleep so that you can function. Time management has probably been the biggest thing."
CalBears.com: What are you doing if you're not out on the court or studying?
Vital: "I'm really into music, so I'll probably be listening to my iPod. I used to make beats and instrumentals when I was in high school because I had a music class. I enjoy using a program on the computer to make songs. I also like to write."
CalBears.com: What are you listening to on your iPod right now? Do you have any pre-game favorites?
Vital: "Lil Wayne, T.I., Alicia Keys, Keyshia Cole, Beyonce. We have a warm-up CD that the team made. We usually just listen to that. It's got a mixture of some Bay Area music, some Lil Wayne. We usually play it in the locker room before the games."
CalBears.com: Besides women's basketball, what are your other favorite Golden Bear teams?
Vital: "We always go to football games. Football games are always fun because there's a lot of people there. I also really like water polo. Our study hall monitor is on the water polo team, so we usually go out and watch them play. I went to a couple volleyball games. They're really exciting to watch. They hit the ball so hard. They're spiking people in the face!"
CalBears.com: If you had to write a paper about what you did over your summer vacation, what would yours be about?
Vital: "School - I was here all summer. I left to go to the USA trials for a couple of days. I didn't make the team, but it was a good experience. I met a lot of people. I got to meet Cynthia Cooper and Dawn Staley and a lot of other athletes from around the country. Besides that, it was school for the rest of the summer. At the time, I didn't know I was going to be an American studies major. I was just taking the required classes to get some of the classes out of the way during the summertime so I wouldn't have to take such heavy loads during the season."
CalBears.com: What's been your favorite Cal basketball trip?
Vital: "Probably Philadelphia. I've only been to the East Coast twice. It's a lot different than the West Coast. It was snowing. It was really big city life out there, so that was interesting."
CalBEars.com: You list "Finding Nemo" as one of your favorite movies, which character is most like you?
Vital: "I'd probably be the little turtle, Crush, or his son. They're funny. I just watched that the other day. I love Dory, too, `Just keep swimming, just keep swimming.'"
CalBears.com: What's something unique that sets you apart from your teammates?
Vital: "I carry hot sauce with me everywhere. I like hot sauce. You know the part in your backpack with a net for water bottles? I keep a bottle in there. I also keep it in my locker for training table."