The Cal women’s basketball team, coming off its first-ever Final Four appearance, begins practice Tuesday.
The Golden Bears were 32-4 last season, shared the Pac-12 title and return three starters to a team projected as No. 3 in the country, according to Lindy’s magazine.
I spoke last week with coach Lindsay Gottlieb about her team. Here’s our conversation:
What do you and your players expect from this encore season?
“I think our baseline for everything has been raised. Our expectations now permanently for Cal women’s basketball have been raised. Does that mean we’re going to go to the Final Four every single year? No, everything has to go right. But if there’s a legacy that team left, it’s there’s a way you play at Cal. You play for each other, play with a lot of heart, play very hard, enjoy it. Now that that’s established, the level of expectation every day in practice is higher.”
Every team is different. What did the trip to China in August tell you about what this team can be?
“It was remarkable in so many ways. From a basketball standpoint, the first thing is (junior guard) Brittany Boyd was really at a whole other level. She was magnificent in China. She’s been our point guard for two years and she’s been very dymanic. Her development allows me to be creative in the things we want to run — either make the play or make the play for somebody else. This team will continue with the uptempo style, but there maybe a little more versatility in terms of our ability to spread the floor. We’re a little bit better outside shooters than we have been.”
How do you replace departed guard Layshia Clarendon’s leadership and mental toughness?
“We’re not trying to look at it as any one person has to be Layshia. Afure Jemerigbe looks like a confident senior ready to take another step in her career. She looks very good. I talk to Brittany a lot and I don’t think necessarily her scoring has to increase, but her overall game needs to take the next step. We’re really excited about our freshman class. We have three guards in that class. It’s by committee replacing Layshia.”
What else is on your to-do list for training camp?
“This is where the advantages of China really come. We had 10 practices in the summer that allowed me to see what we need to get better at. We can start at an advanced point. It’s really invaluable with four freshmen and two transfers. We’re going to continue to work on being comfortable in our offense. I’m also looking forward to working on our uptempo, aggressive, pressure defense.”
What is the status of senior forward Gennifer Brandon, who had surgery over the summer to repair a recurring stress fracture in her right tibia?
“Gen’s doing really well, working very hard. Her surgery went phenomenally well. We don’t know her return date — that’s honest. Sometime in November or December. I’m excited that when she’s back, she’s going to be completely healthy. We’re not going to rush her.”