Cal Women's Basketball: New Head Coach Charmin Smith Faces Major Challenge

Jake Curtis

New Cal head coach Charmin Smith has a lot to address, which will be a challenge for someone who has never been a head coach.

Presumably, she will offer some answers during her press conference on Tuesday, but she undoubtedly has already started the task.

Her immediate concern is trying to keep some players who are thinking about leaving.

Freshman McKenzie Forbes announced last week that she has asked for her release from Cal to explore other options. She was a high school McDonald’s All-American who became a major contributor late in the season. Forbes, who can play both guard and forward, is an excellent outside shooter and would be one of the Bears’ best players if she returned.

There is hope, however, because Forbes noted in her twitter announcement that the departure of Smith to the WNBA was one of the reasons she wanted to transfer. Now that Smith is back, maybe she would change her mind.

Smith also must decide whether she wants to re-recruit Lauren Fields, who signed a letter of intent last November to play for Cal this coming season. Earlier this month Fields reportedly requested a release from that letter to explore other options.

Fields, a guard at Shawnee (Oklahoma) High School, was rated a four-star recruit.

Dan Olson of ESPNW Hoopgurlz had this assessment of Fields: "Athletic guard manufactures, rises and delivers off the dribble with feathery touch; 3-point range opportunist, creates off the bounce and delivers results."

The most pressing issue, however, will be trying to be competitive in 2019-20 despite the Bears’ loss of most of their talent from this past season’s squad, which went 20-13 (9-9 in the Pac-12) and reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

The top three scorers from last season – Kristine Anigwe, Asha Thomas and Recee Caldwell – all ran out of eligibility after last season, and center Anigwe, a second-team All-American and a first-round pick in the WNBA draft, will be impossible to replace.

Sophomore Kianna Smith, a high school McDonald’s All-American, was the Bears’ No. 4 scorer, but she announced after the season that she has transferred to Louisville.

Jaelyn Brown will be the only returning starter after averaging 7.9 points in 2018-19.

The Bears did add a transfer, as guard Naje Murray, who averaged 13.7 points for San Diego State last season, reportedly transferred to Cal. But she was a sophomore this past season and will have to sit out the 2019-20 season unless she gets a waiver from the NCAA.

Cal signed guard Jazlen Green of Lakeside High School in southern California and forward Evelien Lutje Schipholt of The Netherlands during the spring signing period after signing after signing Fields and guard Cailyn Crocker of Mater Dei High School last fall.

It adds up to a busy summer for someone who has never been a head coach.