Nov. 14, 2012
BERKELEY - Lindsay Gottlieb has announced her first signing class as head coach of the California women's basketball program after receiving National Letters of Intent from four talented athletes that will have four years of eligibility beginning with the 2013-14 academic year.
Gottlieb announced the signings of Hind Ben Abdelkader (Bruxelles, Belgium / Dexia Namur), Mercedes Jefflo (Compton, CA / Centennial Senior HS), Courtney Range (Stockton, CA / Manteca HS) and Kendall "KC" Waters (Oakland, CA / Bishop O'Dowd HS). With two players considered among the top 55 players in the country according to ESPN HoopGurlz rankings, the incoming group gives California its fourth top 20 recruiting class in the last five years - the lone exception being last season when the Golden Bears did not sign any players. The incoming group is ranked No. 13 by the All Star Girls Report and No. 20 by the BlueStar Basketball Report.
"Signing Day is such a special time because we get to welcome important new members into our Cal Women's Basketball Family," Gottlieb said. "I'd first like to thank my staff. So much goes into the process of recruiting the best young women for our program, and Charmin Smith, Kai Felton and Katy Steding worked tirelessly to put together this spectacular class. They are, quite simply, the most talented and genuine coaches you will find. I would also like to thank our current student-athletes, who represent themselves, our program and this university so well; they were wonderful hosts and role models for their future teammates. Lastly, I would like to thank Kendall, Mercedes, Hind and Courtney, as well as their families. They share a belief in Cal Women's Basketball and all the amazing opportunities that a degree from the University of California will afford them; I cannot wait to be their coach and accompany each of them along their college journey."
Ben Abdelkader, a 5'7 guard from Belgium, joins the Golden Bears after a prep career that includes competing for her home country at the 2012 FIBA U17 World Championships in Amsterdam where she led the tournament with an average of 19.4 points per game. She won a silver medal with the Belgian squad at the 2011 FIBA U16 European Championship in Romania where she was named tournament MVP as the second leading scorer and tallied the third-most assists. Ben Abdelkader was named a finalist for the FIBA Europe Young Women's Player of the Year last year.
"The University of California brand is respected worldwide, and we are excited to welcome one of Europe's best young players to our Berkeley campus," Gottlieb said. "Hind is a combo guard who has proved herself a terrific scorer and ball handler against top international competition. Despite coming from far away, she was an immediate `fit' with our group when she set foot on campus, and we look forward to welcoming her permanently to the Cal family."
Jefflo, a 5'10 guard from Centennial Senior High School, is ranked as the No. 28 winger in the country by HoopGurlz and the No. 74 player in the nation by All Star Girls Report. A member of the Cal Sparks club team that produced current Bear sophomore Reshanda Gray, Jefflo is a three-star recruit by ESPN and was the Pioneer League MVP.
"I first met Mercedes prior to her 9th grade year when she attended my camp at UCSB," Gottlieb said. "I immediately saw the potential of a high-level collegiate player, and the determination of a young woman destined to `make it.' Mercedes is a complete guard: she can shoot or slash, has terrific court vision, and loves the defensive end of the floor. She has been mentored by terrific coaches in high school and with the Cal Sparks, and she will thrive in the collegiate environment."
Range will join the Cal basketball family highly heralded as the No. 5 winger in the country that is projected as the No. 36 overall recruit in the country by BlueStar and No. 38 by HoopGurlz. The 6'3 forward averaged 14.9 points per game for St. Mary's High School last season in leading her team to the CIF Division II title game. Currently at Manteca High School, Range was named to the California All-State team and the Stockton Record All-Area team.
"Courtney is one of the most versatile players in the country, and will bring a new dimension to our team," Gottlieb said. "Her height makes her tough to stop inside, yet her perimeter ballhandling and shooting skills make her a legitimate wing player. She brings winning ways from her high school and Cal Stars club experiences, and we are so excited to have her in the Golden Bear family."
Waters, ranked as the country's No. 14 forward by HoopGurlz, comes in the national lists at No. 42 (Blue Star), No. 47 (JumpOffPlus), No. 51 (All Star Girls Report) and No. 54 (HoopGurlz) after an MVP season at local Bishop O'Dowd High School in Oakland. The 6'2 forward averaged over 14 points per game last season in being named the California Division III MVP as well as All-East Bay MVP honors from the Contra Costa Times. She helped lead her seventh-ranked team to a state championship and 30-3 record and has multiple connections to Berkeley as a former teammate of current Bears Mikayla Lyles in high school and Justine Hartman at the prestigious California Storm - Team Taurasi club.
"I will not forget the first moment that I saw KC on a basketball court," Gottlieb said. "She was an 8th grader who was already dominant, and my first thought was: that's a Cal post player! She has a combination of size, skill and athleticism that will make her special at the next level. It has been fun to see her expand her skill set at Bishop O'Dowd and with Team Taurasi, and we look forward to finally having her in a blue and gold jersey."
The Golden Bears graduate three seniors - Talia Caldwell, Layshia Clarendon and Eliza Pierre - in addition to Tierra Rogers from this year's team that is currently 1-0 and ranked No. 12 in the AP and USA Today Coaches' Polls.
Golden Bear Recruiting Rankings By Publication
California Women's Basketball Signees