Former Cal women’s basketball players Brittany Boyd, Reshanda Gray make WNBA debuts

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Fresh out of graduation, former Cal women’s basketball players Brittany Boyd and Reshanda Gray didn’t have to go job hunting. For these two former stars, there wasn’t much rest to be had after finals week. As soon as Boyd and Gray walked the podium and collected their degrees, they were off eastward to begin their WNBA journey.

With both Boyd’s New York Liberty and Gray’s Minnesota Lynx playing games Friday and Saturday, the two rookies found themselves in the smaller roles that are typical of young players who are so recently out of college.

On Friday, Boyd and the Liberty played at the Washington Mystics, but unlike what Cal fans were used to seeing from the quick point guard during her career in college, Boyd was given just 14 minutes off the bench. Even with the limited playing time, however, Boyd showed flashes of the skill set that had the Liberty infatuated with her to begin with. Although she shot just 1-5 and had just two points, Boyd still managed to put up three rebounds and three assists. During her senior year at UC Berkeley, Boyd established herself as a competent distributor and a solid rebounder. New York would drop its opener, 67-62.

But on Saturday, Boyd’s offense emerged, and she put up much better numbers in her scoring. Playing 19 minutes, Boyd proved to be much more adept at finding her way around the defense, as she shot 4-7 from the field and 6-6 from the free-throw line. She finished the game with 14 points. In addition, Boyd’s floor game was just as strong as her debut game. Her four rebounds and three assists helped contribute to New York beating the Atlanta Dream, 82-73.

Gray, the Pac-12 Player of the Year, struggled to see the kind of action her former teammate enjoyed. This shouldn’t be a surprise, because Gray is a second-round pick on a team that already had depth and a stacked rotation before she was drafted. The Lynx are contenders for the championship every year, so playing time will naturally be harder for the young Gray to come by.

On opening night Friday, the Lynx and Tulsa Shock were neck and neck most of the way. Entering the fourth quarter, Minnesota trailed by a point. The Lynx ended up dominating the fourth and coming up with a clutch win. But because Minnesota was playing a close game, Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve had to keep her veterans on the court — players whom she is more likely to trust because of the WNBA experience they have under their belt. As a result, Gray did not play Friday, and she was kept waiting for her on-the-court debut.

On Saturday, Gray was able to make that debut and got some playing time against the Indiana Fever. Playing 10 minutes, Gray went 1-3 from the field and finished with two points, three rebounds and a blocked shot. She also had a steal in a solid defensive showing that contributed to her team’s 78-69 win.

Gray and Boyd were workhorses who regularly played big minutes for the Bears just a couple of months ago. But at this level of play and at this early point in their careers, playing time won’t come easily for them. Down the road, the Liberty will rely on Boyd to shoulder more responsibilities by creating plays for others, guarding opposing point guards and rebounding, like Rajon Rondo.

On the other hand, it will take Gray a while before she climbs higher into the depth chart and gets significant minutes, given the roadblocks in front of her in the rotation. But given Gray’s potential when she gets into the paint, it won’t be surprising if Minnesota eventually relies on Gray as a role player when the team needs an offensive spark, like Marreese Speights for the Golden State Warriors.

Ritchie Lee covers women’s basketball. Contact him at [email protected].