2010-11 Women's Basketball
Courtesy: Cal Athletics  
Release:  11/04/2010

Nov. 4, 2010


The California Golden Bear women's basketball team opens its season on Friday, Nov. 12 hosting the Rutgers Scarlet Knights. The Bears finish off their opening weekend with a 2 p.m. game on Sunday, Nov. 14 against their East Bay neighbors, the Saint Mary's Gaels. These two games are just the start of another exciting season of women's hoops in Haas Pavilion.

The Bears have won at least 20 games each of the last four years. As head coach Joanne Boyle begins her sixth season at the helm of the program, she looks to extend Cal's current streak of five consecutive postseason appearances. She guided the 2008-09 Bears to the school's first-ever Sweet 16 appearance and followed that up with winning the WNIT last April on the home court.

This year, the team will again be young and talented. The roster boasts six McDonalds high school All-Americans, five Parade Magazine high school All-Americans, and four WBCA high school All-Americans. Much of that youth, however, resides in a group of sophomores who played quality minutes last season. The team returns four of last year's starting five back on the court this season.

"Whether it be the posts inside or the guards outside, we just seem to be more balanced with our scoring," Boyle said when describing this year's team. "We don't have the dominant Lex [Alexis Gray-Lawson] or Dev [Devanei Hampton]. We just have more balance. It's been nice to see in practice where we aren't just standing around watching one person trying to take over a game. We have multiple people we can go to."

The Bears will play a challenging but entertaining schedule this season. They take on three 2010 NCAA Tournament teams at home in the non-conference portion of the schedule. In addition to the Rutgers game, the Bears boast two tourney participants -Tulane and Portland State- in the Colliers International Classic Tournament they are hosting Nov.27-28. The Bears will take on another NCAA Tournament team, Texas A&M, on the road in College Station, Texas on Dec. 4. The Bears also play four 2010 WNIT participants -Saint Mary's, New Mexico, Texas Tech, Illinois- before opening up what should be a very competitive Pac-10 season.

"The Pac-10 is really strong," Boyle said. "It is as strong as my first year in the conference when we got five or six teams into the tournament. This could be another of those years. UCLA is in the top-20. And then, of course, there is Stanford. USC didn't lose a whole lot from last year. And then there are teams that are just better. I think it is going to be a lot of tough games which is good. The Pac-10 needs more teams in the tournament. I think it is going to be tough." Leading the charge this season will be sophomore forward DeNesha Stallworth. Stallworth was a member of the Pac-10 All-Freshman team last season, an All-Pac-10 honorable mention, a member of the WNIT Tournament All-Tournament team. Stallworth was second on the team in both scoring (12.9 ppg) and rebounding (6.4 rpg) and was the only player on the roster to start all 37 games last season.

Also returning in the front court will be sophomore centers Talia Caldwell and Gennifer Brandon. Caldwell shot 61.5 percent from the field in 2009-10, the second-best single-season shooting percentage in Cal program history. The center was third on the team in rebounding, averaging 5.9 per game. Brandon was a Pac-10 All-Freshman Media Team honoree last season, leading the Bears in rebounding (8.5 rpg). Brandon, who battled through a stress reaction in her shin last season, has been battling the same ailment throughout the summer. The Bears hope to have her back out on the court in the early part of the season.

Two sophomore guards will cover the point this year: Layshia Clarendon, a Pac-10 All-Freshman team honorable mention, averaged just under nine points per game (8.9), and Eliza Pierre, the only freshman to earn a place on the Pac-10 All-Defensive team last year, led the team in steals (71). Freshman Avigiel Cohen was originally projected to be a third option at point guard but will sit out the season after undergoing a second ACL surgery in late September of this year.

"They all made really good progress," said Boyle. "DeNesha just got in great shape and her whole mindset has changed in terms of her work ethic. To me, her changes have been very noticeable. Eliza's better. Layshia's better. Talia's better. All four of them have really elevated their game. They are all scoring better for us and they are all more comfortable on the floor. I think a year of the kind of minutes that they got last year is just really going to help us."

Senior center Rama N'diaye will be playing her delayed senior season. The Senegal native sat out all of last season recovering from a meniscus repair surgery in her knee. N'diaye brings a veteran presence to the court. She has played in five NCAA Tournament games for the Bears and was an important element in their 2006-07 and 2007-08 late season runs.

"With Rama, it's just getting her back in after two years of not playing. She needs to be on the court, handling the ball. She hasn't played in a game in so long. It's really just working on the piece of keeping her knee strong, not overdoing it in practice, and just getting her a lot of reps so that it isn't that the first time she sees all of this is her first big game. She is rebounding well, working on her balance and good shot selections. She is playing pretty good defense for us. It's nice because she gives us some height. We have a true post game with those three [including Stallworth and Caldwell]. It's a great rotation."

Senior guard Rachelle Federico is the only other upper classmen on the squad, which has no juniors on the roster.

"With the experience and having been in our system for so long, she just gets it. She can walk into practice every day, ready to go. She is another person who has been shooting the ball well. Such a young team, the sophomores need to step up and start leading this team as well, but in the meantime, Mooch has taken on that role, pulling them through and helping them along. She has been a great organizer and a great person off the floor for us coaches to use and has really gotten them going in the right away. I completely appreciate that because we need to find a few other people willing to do that."

The Bears have three active freshmen guards who will see playing time this season. Mikayla Lyles, who graduated from Oakland's Bishop O'Dowd High School, is an outside shooter who will help to stretch opposing defenses. Afure Jemerigbe, one of two incoming freshmen who earned McDonald's, WBCA, andParade Magazine All-American honors last season, is a slasher who finds her own path to the rim. Southern California's Lindsay Sherbert, who also racked up the same three high school All-American honors, is a versatile player who can play multiple positions. Sherbert is also a shooter who will go at the rim from long range or pull up in the key.

"We get a lot from those three. Like anything else, the maturity the game minutes, the learning curve they are going through now, all of that. They will be different freshmen in December than they are now."

Season and individual game tickets are on sale now at through the Cal Athletic Ticket Office.