Cal Women's Basketball Signs Top 10 Class: Meet the New Bears
A quick introduction to Cal's six player 2020 recruiting class.
After signing four players in November, Cal added Sela Heide and Alma Elsnitz to complete the class of 2020 - via Calbears.com
A year ago, Cal WBB had 12 players on scholarship. Next year, Cal WBB will have at least 11 players on scholarhip. Just one of those 12 is a part of the future 11+.
Hey, congrats to Alaysia Styles for maintaining at least a little bit of continuity. When Charmin Smith arrived back in Berkeley, she inherited a roster in the middle of a pretty massive transition, thanks to transfers and unbalanced recruiting classes over the years.
It meant that she had to do a ton of recruiting. Despite a late start, she did an admirable job to bring in a four player freshman class for 2019-20. And with a full year to recruit for 2020-21, all she did was bring in a six player class that ranks 7th in the country per ESPN’s recruiting service.
Cal struggled last year perhaps in part to lack of depth inside. Cal only had four interior players on the roster, many of which missed games or played through injury. And with CJ West and Chen Yue graduating, the need was clear. With plenty of playing time to sell to recruits, Charmin Smith and her staff signed four top 100 post recruits. And to add a bit of intrigue, Cal also went international this year, bringing in two guards from Europe to round out the class.
This is perhaps an unfair comparison, but you know what this class reminds me of? The much heralded 7 player class of 2009 that was heavy on interior talent and eventually made a final four after a winding, up and down 4 year journey.
So, let’s meet the newest Bears!
Universally regarded as best prospect in Cal’s class, Daniels is on the short list for best west coast recruit of the cycle, and at Cal’s biggest position of need. Complete post prospects are rare. Some have the size but perhaps not the mobility or the athleticism. Others can move, but lack size. Daniels, as befitting her McDonalds All American status, has the size and length without sacrificing any mobility or speed, and has better handles and shooting that you would usually see from an interior player.
When you pair that kind of versatility and variety with size and athleticism, you’re a big time recruit.
ESPN lists Elsnitz as a point guard, but she played more of a combo guard/shooting guard role on Sweden’s U18 Euro team. And from a scouting perspective, her performance in those 8 games is about all we have to guess at. She was a key rotation player for a team that made the 3rd place game inthe Euro B Division, and in that time she showed small sample size evidence that she’s a solid shooter - 38% from 3 and 87% from the line. 144 minutes of action from a competition that took place almost a year ago isn’t much to go on, but Cal needs shooters and I’m guessing she was recruited at least in part for that ability.
Listed at 6’8’’, I can’t help but assume that Sela Heide will step onto the court as the tallest woman to play basketball for Cal. It’s that size that makes her a tantalizing prospect. If you want to enjoy absolute domination, check out this highlight video in which Heide scores buckets and blocks shots over players that she has maybe a two foot wingspan advantage over:
As is often the case for players that can be so dominant in high school with that kind of size advantage, she may need to spend time gaining strength and learning how to hold position and score over players who are going to be way better at establishing position inside. But you can’t teach size, and if Cal’s coaching staff can add positioning and footwork to that formula you have the makings of a major impact player.
A Greek citizen of Albanian descent, Muca primarily played point guard for Albania at the same U18 competition that Elsnitz’s stats above were pulled from. Albania was a bit overwhelmed at the U18 tournament, and leaned heavily on Muca to handle the ball and take shots. She played 37 minutes and took 17 shots/game, and I suspect that her percentages (35% on 2 point shots, 24% on 3 pointers) suffered as a result of that burden. Nevertheless, her highlight reel shows a player unafraid to take open looks and run the pick and roll:
Ugonne ‘Michelle’ Onyiah
Over the years I’ve noted how difficult it can be to scout and project international recruits, but I’m left at a bit of a loss for Cal’s last two US high school recruits - minimal scouting reports or highlight videos. Regardless of my lack of knowledge, ESPN ranks Onyiah as the #2 recruit in California for 2020 and she had gobs of high major offers, so clearly the coaching community knows what’s up. Onyiah’s scouting report indicates that she’s perhaps a bit more of a traditional post player as compared to Daniels, but typical for a Cal recruit, she’s got the athleticism to run the court.
From Houston Texas, I’m again left grasping at straws to describe Fatou Samb. No highlight videos! Her size and scouting report makes her sound similar to Onyiah in terms of style and potential impact, though that might come down to how much time (not much) ESPN can spend scouting and writing up players outside of the top 10 or 20 in the nation. All I’ll say right now? Anybody who seriously considered Rice and Harvard before picking Cal puts a smile on my face.