By Jonathan Okanes
Cal Bear Blog
BERKELEY – Brittany Boyd made the rounds at Pac-12 Media Day last October, spending several hours engaging the media, taping promotional spots and giving others a glimpse of her personality.
This is not the Brittany Boyd that showed up on campus in 2011.
For those who follow Cal women’s basketball, Boyd’s metamorphosis into an outgoing, mature leader both on the hardwood and everywhere else has been a sight to behold. The junior who became a prep phenom just down the road at Berkeley High School has become the face of the program, partly because of the All-American caliber season she is forging but also because of her growth into a perfect representative of Cal women’s basketball.
“She’s matured a lot over the last couple years,” said fellow junior Reshanda Gray, Boyd’s teammate and close friend. “She’s definitely taken her game to a whole different level each year. She’s improved on the court and off the court. She’s become more of a leader and vocal. She’s definitely the heart of the team.”
Boyd was ranked as one of the top-10 point guard recruits in the country coming out of high school and started from Day One at Cal. Put on a new team with established stalwarts like Layshia Clarendon, Gennifer Brandon and Talia Caldwell, Boyd made her share of mistakes but also demonstrated her significant potential. She ended up being named a Freshman All-American.
But there were those times when things didn’t go her way, and everyone watching her knew it. Expecting more from herself, Boyd would sometimes dwell on her mistakes and seemingly be unable to put them behind her.
“I have very high expectations for myself,” Boyd said. “That’s how I was raised. When I mess up, I know I could have done it better. When I’m doing something, I want to be great at it.”
The thing is, being able to shake off the negatives would only make her greater, something Boyd appears to be figuring out.
“I’m really happy for her because as her fellow teammate and her friend, I’ve watched Brittany grow so much,” Gray said. “She used to have her little hissy fits, but now she’s maturing and is easy to talk to. She can take criticism and turn it into something positive.”
The positives are abounding now for Boyd, and that’s not just with her play. Boyd is perfectly comfortable signing autographs, going to schools to talk to children or doing live television interviews. She’s become a respected leader in the Bears’ locker room, someone for the team’s freshman to look up to and the entire squad to model.
“I’m just trying to have guidance for the freshman, trying to be a better role model for them and also a role model for the community,” Boyd said. “I could be better at times, but I’m human. I’m not perfect, but I believe I’m doing pretty well so far. I’m getting comfortable more and more. I definitely feel like people are starting to listen to me and hear me out.”
Boyd credits former Cal star Layshia Clarendon for setting the ground work for her increased role as a team leader. Clarendon was the hands-down leader of the Bears last season and one of the most respected players in the nation. She was an All-American honorable mention but also the Pac-12 Scholar-Athlete of the Year, and now plays for the Indiana Fever of the WNBA.
“When Layshia was here, she was the person I looked up to as a freshman,” Boyd said. “She really had an influence on my life. She taught me how to be a leader.”
Boyd acknowledges that getting past mistakes or negative developments was a challenge, and that she let her dissatisfaction show too much on the court. She made the realization that if she was going to set a standard for the program’s younger players, that would be something she would have to get past.
“If I’m a leader, they can’t see me down,” Boyd said. “if I mess up or I’m frustrated or mad, that’s something I had to change. The coaches talked to me about it, and I finally realized it.”
There likely is a connection between Boyd’s personal development and her emergence into one of the nation’s premier players this season. Already an All-Pac-12 player last season, Boyd has been spectacular as a junior. She has been named to the midseason watch lists for the Nancy Lieberman Award, Wooden Award, Dawn Staley Award, Naismith Award and Wade Trophy. Only three other players across the country are on all five of those lists.
“The sky is the limit for Brittany Boyd,” Gray said. “She has every skill set, and if she doesn’t have it now, I know she’ll continue to work hard until she has it.”