Oct. 31, 2005
BERKELEY, Calif. - The California women's basketball team tips off the 2005-06 season at home with an exhibition game versus the San Francisco Bay Area Pro Am Wednesday, Nov. 2 at 7 p.m. at Haas Pavilion. The Golden Bears begin the regular season at home against Eastern Washington Nov. 9 at 7 p.m. in the first round of the Preseason WNIT.
The Bay Area Pro Am features eight players who have completed their collegiate eligibility. Four players competed at the University of San Francisco - Toni Russell, Krista Knapp, Molly Shanley and Sarah Richen - and two starred at San Jose State - Jessica Kellogg and Kayla Forster. Last season, Cal defeated the Bay Area Pro Am, 69-57, in exhibition play, with Reneé Wright leading the Bears with 15 points. Richen paced the Pro Am with 15 points.
Cal begins a new era under head coach Joanne Boyle this season. Boyle came to Berkeley after leading Richmond to three 20-plus win seasons and the program's first NCAA Tournament bid in 14 years in 2004-05. Prior to directing the Spiders, Boyle was an assistant coach for nine years at Duke, helping the Blue Devils to eight NCAA Tournament appearances, including twice reaching the Final Four.
Cal returns six letterwinners from last year's team. However, the Bears top returning scorer, sophomore Jessica Lawson (10.6 ppg), will miss 2005-06 after suffering an ACL injury Oct. 13. Wright, the team's only senior, becomes Cal's top returning scorer at 7.5 ppg. Also returning for Cal are redshirt junior guard Sarah Pool (4.1 ppg, 4.2 apg) center Emmelie Geraedts (2.8 ppg, 1.1 rpg), junior guard Keanna Levy (1.5 ppg, 1.1 rpg) and sophomore forward Krista Foster (4.5 ppg, 1.9 rpg).
Lawson and Pool both started for the Bears last season. Pool led Cal and ranked fourth in the Pac-10 in assists at 4.3 per outing. In addition to being a talented scorer, Lawson also paced the Bears in rebounding at 5.0 rpg.
Cal hopes to have the services of redshirt freshman guard Kelly O'Connell, who tore a tendon in her right foot last year. O'Connell, a product of Lakewood, Colo., led Mullen High School to two state championships and one runner-up finish.
The Bears welcome five local newcomers, who comprise the No. 7-rated recruiting class in the country according to Blue Star Index. That group features two McDonald's All-Americans in 5-8 guard Alexis Gray-Lawson and 6-3 forward/center Devanei Hampton. Gray-Lawson and Hampton, both from Oakland, led Oakland Tech to the 2004 and 2005 state titles.
Cal's freshman class features three other players ranked in the top 7 on the 2004-05 NorCal Report, which rates players in Northern California. Forwards Shantrell Sneed (Fairfield, St. Mary's HS in Berkeley) and Ashley Walker (Modesto, Grace Davis HS) and guard Jené Morris (San Francisco, Urban HS) were named to the 2005 Cal-Hi Sports all-state team.
Last season, Cal posted an 11-18 record and placed eighth in the Pac-10 with a 4-14 mark. For the third straight year, Cal won its first round Pac-10 Tournament game (defeated Washington State, 70-52). The Bears lose five seniors from last year's squad - starters Leigh Gregory, Kristin Iwanaga and Kiki Williams and reserves Khadijah Coakley and Jacqueline Sanchez. Gregory finished her career ranked 11th in school history with 1,136 points, and Iwanaga is the Pac-10's career free throw percentage leader at 89.0.