California Women's Basketball Season Preview
Courtesy: Cal Athletics  
Release:  11/06/2011

Nov. 6, 2011


"I want to hit a home run. I want to hit a home run here in a way that is so lasting, so important, and so meaningful to everybody."

Those are the big goals of first-year head coach Lindsay Gottlieb when asked about her California Golden Bear women's basketball team.

"We want to play a brand of basketball that is fun for fans to watch and fun to play and that other teams have to prepare for," Gottlieb continued. "We will push the ball, we will play fast but we will also play with technique. We want to gain advantages in transition but then having scoring actions that play into the strengths of our talented players. We want to dominate the boards and be disruptive on the defensive end. I want a team that's cohesive and fluid and operating at a championship level in all that we do. I want our team to carry themselves with a confidence. A confidence that they've earned through hard work and that allows them to do things that they might not even realize yet that they're capable of doing."

Gottlieb was named the ninth head coach in Cal women's basketball program history on April 25, 2011, replacing Joanne Boyle, who accepted the head coaching position at the University of Virginia.

Gottlieb is a familiar face at Haas Pavilion, initially joining the Cal staff as an assistant coach in 2005-06, a position she held for two seasons before being elevated to associate head coach in 2007-08. She spent three seasons as the head coach at UC Santa Barbara, leading the Gauchos to two postseason berths and a pair of Big West Conference championships.

"It's not often that someone can be 3,000 miles from where the place they were born and yet feel as if they're coming home" Gottlieb said. "That's how I feel. The reception I have received here has been truly amazing. I am simultaneously thrilled, honored and deeply humbled to be the head women's basketball coach at Cal. This is the No. 1 public intuition in the country and I'm surrounded by tremendous coaches in a preeminent athletics department and I get to coach the dynamic group of student-athletes. I could not be more proud or more excited."

She is inheriting a talented, athletic team that includes seven former McDonalds High School All-Americans, four WBCA high school All-Americans, and five players with National Team playing experience.

The team will be anchored by three veteran juniors who have been key parts of the Cal team since the first game of their freshman season. Guard Layshia Clarendon was second on the team in scoring last season, averaging 13.2 points per game, and led the team with 119 assists. Clarendon was an honorable mention for both All-Pac-10 and Pac-10 All-Academic team honors.

Forward Talia Caldwell was a member of the All-Pac-10 Media Team last season, averaging 9.4 points per game and 8.5 rebounds per game. She led the conference in offensive rebounds, averaging 4.1 per game.

Guard Eliza Pierre, in her two seasons with the Bears, has earned two Pac-10 All-Defensive team honors. She led the conference last season with 90 steals.

The Bears will also benefit from the return of forward Gennifer Brandon. Brandon sat out last season with a stress fracture after dominating on the boards her freshman season, leading the team and all Pac-10 freshmen with 8.5 rebounds per game. She was selected to the Pac-10 Media All-Freshman team and was an honorable mention for the Pac-10 All-Defensive team.

Sophomore Lindsay Sherbert, Cal's outside shooting threat, is also returning. Sherbert hit 49 three-pointers last season, averaging 8.1 points per game.

Cal will also have sophomore guards Mikayla Lyles and Afure Jemerigbe returning this season. Both players made an impact coming off the bench last season. Jemerigbe was named to the Nigerian national team last summer. Another national team veteran, point guard Avigiel Cohen, will play a delayed rookie season. Cohen, who was a member of the Israeli National Team, sat out last season after having knee surgery.

Joining the mix will be the No. 5-ranked recruiting class in the nation that includes former USA Under-18 team member and McDonald's All-American and Reshanda Gray, Washington's Gatorade State Player of the Year Erika Johnson, USA Under-16 team veteran and McDonald's and WBCA All-American forward Justine Hartman as well as local star point guard Brittany Boyd (from Berkeley High). Hartman was the No. 7-ranked recruit in the country and the second-highest rated post player in the nation, making her the highest rated recruit ever signed by Cal women's basketball.

"I think everyone involved with Cal women's basketball feels a genuine buzz around the program," Gottlieb said. "I know our players can't wait to put on the Cal jersey, both for our tough non-conference schedule and in trying to make our mark in the Pac-12."

This squad, who received votes in the preseason USA Today/ESPN Coaches' Poll and the Associated Press poll, will take on 13 teams that participated in the postseason in 2011.

The Bears will open the season on the road at Rutgers, a team that advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament last season. The Bears have won the last two meetings against the Scarlet Knights.

Cal faces a second NCAA Tournament team in November, when it travels to Honolulu for three games at a Thanksgiving tournament hosted by the University of Hawaii. Cal will play Texas, which fell in the first round of the NCAA's last year, host-school Hawaii, and 2011 WNIT selection, Virginia, which is led by former Cal coach Joanne Boyle.

The marquee matchup of the home non-conference schedule is the Saturday, Dec. 17 game against Ohio State, a team that advanced to the Sweet 16 of last year's NCAA tournament.

The Bears have been tabbed to finish third in the Pac-12 in the preseason coaches' poll and will start the conference portion of their schedule on the road taking on the LA schools right before the New Year. This season, Cal will host the Oregon schools, the Washington schools, the LA schools, Utah, and Colorado at Haas. They will close the regular season with the home portion of the Battle of the Bay, taking on the Stanford Cardinal on March 4 at Haas Pavilion.

There is one final promise that Gottlieb makes about the upcoming season.

"This is going to be fun!"