April 13, 1999
BERKELEY - Senior point guard Sherrise Smith was named California's Most Valuable Player for the 1998-99 season at the annual women's basketball banquet held Tuesday night at H's Lordships in the Berkeley Marina.
Additional awards were presented to Lauren Ashbaugh, Most Improved Player; Courtney Johnson, Best Defensive Player; Paige Bowie, Saul Becker Award; Jennie Leander, All-Cal Award; and Smith, Best Free Throw Percentage;
Smith, 5-5, stepped up her play during the Pac-10 season, ranking second on the Bears with 11.4 ppg and first with 5.3 apg, compared to 9.8 ppg and 4.5 apg for all games. For conference only games, Smith ranked fourth in the conference in assists and three-point field goal percentage at .391 (18-46). She led Cal in free throw percentage at .787 (48-61). The Los Angeles, native also led or tied for the team lead in scoring in nine games. For her efforts, Smith was named honorable mention All-Pac-10. Smith concludes her career ranked ninth (292) on Cal's assists ladder.
Johnson, a 5-8 sophomore guard, established herself not only as Cal's top defensive player but also as one of the best in the conference last season. The Antioch, Calif., native led the Bears and ranked second in the Pac-10 with 74 steals (2.74 pg). She frequently guarded an opponent's top offensive threat.
Ashbaugh, a 6-2 sophomore forward, averaged career highs for points (5.8 ppg) and rebounds (6.2 rpg) during the 1998-99 season. The Redmond, Wash., native led Cal in rebounding average, including leading or tying for team high in that category in eight games.
Bowie, a 6-0 junior forward, is an ideal recipient of the Saul Becker Award, which is given to the athlete who displays an outstanding attitude, work ethic and spirit. A co-captain with Leander, Bowie led the team for the second-consecutive season and tied for 13th in the conference in scoring at 11.9 ppg. The Fresno, Calif., native poured in a career-high 30 points in Cal's win over Northwestern, including setting school records for three pointers made (8) and attempted (15) in a game. Bowie garnered honorable mention All-Pac-10 and first team Academic All-Pac-10 recognition.
A three-year captain, Leander is a perfect match for the All-Cal award, given to the individual who exemplifies what a Cal student-athlete should be. Leander, a 6-3 center from Tigard, Ore., has excelled on and off the court during her four years at Cal. Leander finished fourth on the team in scoring at 9.5 ppg and was second in rebounding a 5.8 rpg. She earned her second-consecutive first-team Academic All-Pac-10 selection. She ends her career ranked among Cal's all-time leaders in points (1144, 10th), rebounds (791, 7th), blocks (52, 10th), free throw attempts (431, 5th) and free throws made (274, 6th).
The Bears are coming off their best season in six years. They finished the 1998-99 campaign with a 12-15 overall record and tied for sixth in the Pac-10 with a 6-12 mark. The 12 wins are double Cal's total for the past two seasons and are the most since 1992-93 (19-10). The six Pac-10 wins are four more than each of the past two seasons and the most since 1992-93 (10-8). The last time Cal finished better than sixth in the conference was also in 1992-93 (fourth place).
Cal's 6-3 non-conference record was its best since it posted a 6-4 mark in 1993-94. Cal was also the only team to defeat Colorado State (29-1) during the regular season. The Bears fought harder last season as they led, were tied, or trailed by 10 or less points at halftime in 23-of-27 games. They wrapped up the season on a high note, winning four of their final six games, coming back from deficits of 16 (Arizona State), 10 (Washington State), 6 (Washington - 1998 NCAA Tournament team) and 6 (Oregon State).