The highly rated recruiting class of Cal’s women’s basketball team will get its first test on Wednesday at 4 p.m. when the Golden Bears open their season with a home game against San Jose State.
This will be a stern test for the Bears, who were picked to finish ninth in the Pac-12 in the preseason media poll after placing last in 2019-20, when they went 12-19 overall and 3-15 in the conference in Charmin Smith’s first season as head coach.
Fans will not be allowed to attend the game, which will be played in near silence at Haas Pavilion against a San Jose State team that is picked to finish second in the Mountain West Conference.
The Bears have only one returning starter -- sophomore point guard Leilani McIntosh -- but all six newcomers are expected to get significant playing time.
The highest rated freshman is Dalayah Daniels, who is ranked as the nation's 13th-best prospect in the class by ESPN. Ugonne "Michelle" Onyiah is ranked 35th, Fatou Samb is No. 51, and 6-foot-8 Sela Heide is No. 89. Cal also added two international players who come in as freshmen: guard Alma Elznitz of Sweden and guard Ornela Muca of Greece.
The restrictions placed on practice because of the COVID-19 pandemic have made it difficult to prepare the newcomers for college-level basketball.
"Yeah, they're more than half of our team," Smith said. "It is really challenging when they didn't get the summer workouts to get acclimated to both on the court and just getting used to Berkeley courses and such."
The Spartans went 19-12 overall and 12-6 in the conference last year, which represented their most successful season in 40 years.
They return their top three scorers from that team, including Ayzhiana Basallo, who was a member of the five-player preseason all-Mountain West team.
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