Cal Women's Basketball Goes Around the World to Rebuild Roster
Charmin Smith has brought in five new players over the last month to fill roster gaps for next season
It’s hard to sugarcoat the 2022-23 WBB season. The Bears finished in 11th in the Pac-12, then watched as four players transferred away, including key contributors Jayda Curry and Evelien Lutje Schipholt, and promising freshman Amaya Bonner. Between transfers and graduations, six players from last year’s roster have departed.
To replenish the roster, Charmin Smith has brought in a very internationally flavored group of players who will join the team for the 2023-24 season:
Anastasia Drosouni, 5’11'‘‘ guard, Greece
Lulu Laditan-Twidale, 5’9’’ guard, Australia
For the purposes of the 2023-24 season, based on who is already on the roster at guard and Cal’s history developing international recruits, I’m assuming that Drosouni and Laditan-Twidale are unlikely to receive rotation minutes, so we’ll largely be focusing on what Cal’s incoming transfers bring to the table.
Ila Lane, 6’4’’ forward/center, UCSB, 1 year of eligibility remaining*
Ioanna Krimili, 5’10’’guard, USF (via Greece), 1 year of eligibility remaining*
Marta Suarez, 6’3’’ forward, Tennessee (via Spain), 3 years of eligibility remaining*
McKayla Williams, 6’1’’ guard, Gonzaga, 2 years of eligibility remaining*
*Eligibility remaining is based on my reading of each player’s college career and the current eligibility rules, have not been confirmed by Cal, and could be incorrect.
The addition of four more international players mean that fully half of Cal’s 14 player roster hails from overseas. But in terms of basketball impact, probably the most note-worthy commonality in Cal’s transfer recruiting is that three additions have earned some kind of all-conference recognition in smaller conferences out west. McKayla Williams earned all-WCC honorable mention last year in a breakout redshirt sophomore campaign, Ila Lane has been one of the best post players in the Big West across her first two seasons, and Ioanna Krimili has three all WCC first team honors as maybe the best small conference shooter in the country.
Thus, the question for next year may very well hinge on how well that trio adjust to the tougher level of night-in, night-out competition in the Pac-12.
Krimili is probably the most intriguing name for one primary reason: 276-693 (40%) as a career three point shooter. Those are elite numbers that will play in any conference. Whether Krimili can impact games inside the arc remains a question, but her pure shooting is a guaranteed asset, particularly for a lineup that already has two proven shooters in Leilani McIntosh and Kemery Martin.
Their shooting may be augmented by Williams, who shot 33% from deep and contributed on the glass as a 6’1’’ guard.
Ila Lane and Marta Suarez will take on the task of replacing the production of Peanut Tuitele and Lutje Schipholt in the post. Lane has been a model of consistency at UCSB, consistently averaging a double-double across three seasons with UCSB. Her 6’4’’ height should be plenty playable in the Pac-12, but maybe the biggest question is what kind of defensive presence she can bring to the interior for a Cal team needing consistency on that side of the ball.
Suarez, meanwhile, flashed tons of potential in an SEC all-freshman 2020-21 campaign . . . and has only played 173 minutes of basketball since, thanks to a combination of injuries and personal life challenges. As a result it’s very hard to project what kind of player Cal might be getting. She profiles as a potential stretch 4 with the ability to handle the ball on the wing, and anybody with the talent to get court time at Tennessee can be a significant contributor when fully healthy.
In total, there’s enough intriguing talent here to maintain hope for an improved win/loss record in 2023-24. It’s easier to project out offensive production, and I think ultimately Charmin Smith has done a good job replacing the shooter and scoring lost via graduation and the transfer portal.
Perhaps more intriguingly, Cal has added more size to a roster that often suffered at the hands of bigger and longer opposition last year. For a team that often struggled defensively, perhaps more size will lead to more stops on the other end of the floor.
There’s enough roster turnover, and enough intriguing additions, to at least provide hope for an on-court turnaround. After how bleak things looked following Curry’s departure, I’ll take it.