Cal coach Joanne Boyle no longer has an up-and-coming program, but she’s got a young one. In addition to the five sophomores to played significant minutes as freshman last season, she’s adding a top-flight recruiting class that includes top-rated recruits Lindsay Sherbert and Afure Jermerigbe. She took a little time Wednesday to talk with leftcoasthoops.com about the summer and what’s coming up as the season fast approaches.
Joanne Boyle/Don Anderson photo
Q: What has been the carryover from your team’s WNIT experience into the summer? A: We’ve had all summer with (last year’s) freshman, just talking to them. They played so many games for us. They didn’t come here to count on winning the WNIT. But I think winning it stirred them up about what we are doing here. Q: What kind of conversations did you have? A: We’ve talked about leadership and what they were getting what they were not. Bringing the new freshman in, there’s a different mentality walking in the door. This is a good leadership group, I understand. We’ve already had all these experiences. The sophomores understand what it was like to have a bad loss, and a little taste of a championship. The thing I appreciate is that they are not satisfied with it. We let some things slip through our fingers last year and we had to watch the NCAA Tournament be played in our own gym. They are hungrier and a little disappointed we didn’t do more.
Q: This is such a young team now. Does this remind you of when you first arrived at Cal?
A: It is reminiscent for me. But we have a lot more depth now. Last time I had young kids, there weren’t that many of them. We have five in that sophomore class and if you add in four in the next class – and they are all going to play – we already have a group of nine young kids.
Q: How do you rate the work that’s been done by your team in the offseason?
A: Good. We can’t be with them, but our strength coach has come in and said that this is, by far, our best summer ever. Kids are dropping weight and they’re adding weight. Kids are beating their best times out on the track. Their body composition percentages are much better. It’s all of that?
Q: Can you ascertain any of the improvements your players are making to their games?
A: Mooch has come in, she’s a captain, and said that things are so much more competitive. We have so much depth, it’s going to make people compete. They all know the freshman can play. We have seven or eight guards and that is going to make for some really huge battles. DeNesha (Stallworth) is working a lot on her face-up game with Rama back. That will allow us to have a post combination with a high-low game. Obviously, I haven’t seen them, but I’ve heard their pick-up time has been really competitive.
Q: In general terms how are recruits responding to the program this summer?
A: It’s been good. Kids see everything. If you are going to be a program that’s going to talk negatively about other programs, that turns kids off. But I think success breeds success. Kids want to win and they aren’t afraid of good competition in the program. It’s one thing for a kid to say ‘There are four All-Americans in my spot, I’ll go someplace else’ but we don’t have that right now.
Q: How are you looking at your next recruiting class?
A: There are still some pieces of the puzzle to be had. Last year we signed seven, and then we signed four and we’ve got one scholarship left right now. We are going after the three or four kids we want. And if we don’t get them, we not going to just fill roster spots. We want kids who are going to contribute. We might take one backup kid, I don’t know. But the classes of ’12 and ’13 are just too good. You don’t want to walk into those classes with just two scholarships available with such great talent and depth.
Q: The incoming freshmen are in summer school, first impressions?
A: I’ve heard all three are doing great. Avigiel Cohen had ACL surgery in February and she’s ahead of schedule, but she’s not ready yet. But the other three are going to contribute right away, all three will play.
Q: What is Rama N’Diaye’s status?
A: She’s doing well. She’s worked out all summer. She’s pretty much where she left off last year when she was practicing with us. Her knee seems to be good. She doesn’t have to sit out. More than likely we are going to treat her like Lexi last year. We are not going to step out of the box with her conditioning. She doesn’t need to be out on the track. We will keep her at a comfortable level, keep her healthy for the season.
Q: What do you like about your team right now?
A: I like our depth. I want to keep it that way. I’m liking the numbers, the versatility of our team. Our sophomores have one year on the floor, they are hungry and not jaded and they feel like they have something to prove. Our younger kids know they can compete. Rama’s back so we can push DeNesha out. I’m excited to work with them. I just want to keep our depth. That’s what you worry about.