You can almost hear Charmin Smith knocking on wood.
So far, two weeks before Cal's women's basketball team plays its first exhibition game, the Golden Bears are healthy. Smith can only hope they stay that way, because the Bears' head coach certainly does not want to experience the bad luck in terms of injuries that Cal had last season.
Jazlen Green, who would have been the Bears' top returning scorer from the 2019-20 squad, and Cailyn Crocker, who started six games in 2019-20, did not play a single game last season because of injuries. And Alma Elsnitz, who scored 14 points in her one and only game last season, did not play after the second game because of an injury.
Cal was down to seven players on several occasions last season, and freshmen got the bulk of the playing time, leading to a 1-16 season.
Green, Crocker and Elsnitz are all back and healthy, as are all the other players. Smith figures the Bears have a good chance to break out of last place this year, not only because she has a full complement of players but because the freshman-laden roster of last season is a year older.
"We have a full roster of 15 right now, and I'm super exited about that," Smith said in the video atop the story.
Being picked to finish last in the conference is not a major issue.
"We've got a lot of room for growth," she said. "We're excited about our potential and where we could end up in the toughest conference in the country."
Dalayah Daniels, who was Cal's leading scorer last season as a freshman, sees being picked to finish last as motivation, as she notes in the video below.
Often when a team struggles as Cal did last season, players flee. But the Golden Bears did not have a single player transfer out after last season last-place finish. Instead Cal had two players transfer in -- Karisma Ortiz, a grad transfer who started 15 games for Texas last season, and Jadyn Bush, who started 28 games for Harvard as a sophomore, but has not played since the 2018-19 season.
And this season the Bears will be playing in front of live crowds, instead of just cardboard cutouts, as they did in last season pandemic-influenced season.
Cal junior point guard Leilani McIntosh, who has been a starter since her freshman year, is happy there will be some noise this season, saying in the video below that games sometimes felt like scrimmages with no fans in the stands.
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