BERKELEY – The first day of collegiate women’s basketball practice is typically a day of everyone formally coming together for the first time and getting comfortable together in advance of the rest of the preseason schedule. The California women’s basketball team used their first day Tuesday to learn a little something extra about themselves after a power outage affecting the majority of the campus forced the team to quickly put together a contingency plan for the first official day of 2013-14.
With many buildings on campus, including Haas Pavilion, still dealing with a power outage Tuesday morning, the Golden Bear support staff led by new Director of Basketball Operations Jill Culbertson seamlessly went about finding alternate options for Tuesday afternoon’s practice.
“We tell the team that you deal with adverse circumstances all the time,” California head coach Lindsay Gottlieb said. “(On the court during the season) no one cares if you have a travel delay or we had a paper due the night before. The team just handled it well today. That’s one characteristic that I love about this group, and it’s kind of a statement of Cal basketball. We’re able to just roll with the punches and handle whatever is dealt to us with a good spirit and a good attitude.”
Originally scheduled to begin in Haas Pavilion at 3 p.m., the Bears relocated to a gym in the Recreational Sports Facility adjacent to Haas, and the 13-player roster suited up to begin work on defending last season’s Pac-12 Championship.
“We have such a good behind the scenes crew,” Gottlieb said. “It was great that we have a practice facility here in (the Recreational Sports Facility). The communication was wonderful between Jill Culbertson, our Director of Ops, the trainers, the strength coaches and the equipment people getting everything ready. I just showed up and everyone was smiling and ready to go.”
Tuesday marked the first time that all 13 players on the roster hit the practice courts together, including Gennifer Brandon who worked out individually while still preparing to return from her successful leg surgery back in August.
“It’s so much fun,” Gottlieb said of starting practice. “I just love being around this group. There was great energy. I’m really excited for tomorrow already. It was a good first day.”
The Bears are coming off of a 32-4 season that saw the team win the first Pac-12 Regular Season crown in program history in addition to advancing to the NCAA Final Four. Cal returns three starters from last year’s team, including All-America candidates Brittany Boyd and Gennifer Brandon.
Six new faces will suit up for the Golden Bears in 2013-14 in the form of two transfers and four freshmen. A pair of Sacramento natives return home this season with Brittany Shine (University of Florida) and Kyra Dunn (University of Pittsburgh) suiting up for Cal after sitting out last season due to transfer rules. Shine will be eligible immediately while Dunn’s eligibility begins at the end of the semester, the result of being a mid-year transfer.
In addition to the transfers, Cal welcomes the Top 20 recruiting class of Hind ben Abdelkader, Mercedes Jefflo, Courtney Range and KC Waters. The quartet all participated in Cal’s China Globalization Tour back in August, a preseason trip that allowed the team to partake in 10 practices before playing in three games in China.
“There were so many wonderful things about the China trip – a lot of them off the court,” Gottlieb said. “The on-court advantage was definitely the 10 practices. For the most part it helped our freshmen integrate. They probably felt more comfortable today than they did back in August, or how they would have if we didn’t have those practices. It also got everyone back into the basketball mode sooner than normal. For me, it let me see what we needed to work on more specifically.”
The Bears open the season with an exhibition against Vanguard on Friday, Nov. 1 at 8:30 p.m. The 2013-14 season officially gets underway against Long Beach State on November 10.