March is here, and there is a pinch of sadness in all the excitement of making it to the Big Dance. While Cal women’s basketball has made it to its third straight NCAA Tournament, this is the last taste of madness for four of the Bears, and it’s been a fun ride for each and every one of them.
Cal will have three of its starters take the floor as they finish their collegiate careers, but in the postseason, the only game guaranteed is the next one. Seniors Kristine Anigwe, Asha Thomas and Mo Mosley and graduate student Receé Caldwell will be looking to prolong the eventual conclusion to their collegiate stories as much as possible. After that point, four Bears and the rest of the team will move forward, going their own directions.
Anigwe has been a force throughout all four of her years wearing blue and gold. So far, she has taken the floor 126 times and watched the tipoff from the bench only once. Starting from day one, the 6’4” center/forward showed everyone what she is capable of and how dominant she can turn out to be, something everyone has witnessed with no doubt this year.
As a freshman, Anigwe led the Bears in a total of seven categories, including points and rebounds. She notched the award for Pac-12 Freshman of the Year after receiving a record eight conference Freshman of the Week honors as well as the U.S. Basketball Writers Association National Freshman of the Year award, allowing her to become the focal point of head coach Lindsay Gottlieb’s offense early on.
Junior year was a step back for Anigwe. Even though she still led the team in scoring, her averages dropped from nearly 20 and 10 to 16.7 points and 8.8 rebounds per game as she averaged 29 minutes per game. Of course, the slight “regression” is meant in terms of Anigwe’s standards, since she still made the All-Pac-12 first team and was named an All-America honorable mention, both for the third straight year.
Anigwe bounced back big time in her senior year for one of the most remarkable seasons in college basketball history. She is leading the nation in rebounding and is currently averaging 22.9 points and 16.3 rebounds per game. Anigwe recorded a double-double in every single game of the season, and her career double-double count sits at 72. Additionally, she became Cal’s leading scorer, rebounder and blocker in program history this season.
Speaking of Cal record holders, the Bears will say goodbye to another one at the end of the season in Thomas. The 5’4” guard has the most 3-pointers made in program history, with 229 and counting. Thomas also did one better than Anigwe, as she started all of her 128 games wearing Cal colors. A symbol of consistency, Thomas has been one of the Bears’ best free-throw shooters, leading Cal in all but one year.
Thomas also recorded the second- and third-highest single-season totals for 3-pointers made in Cal history during her sophomore and junior years, respectively. Born and raised in Oakland, Thomas wrote herself a place in the history books not only with her records but also by marking herself in the Cal faithful’s memory with a buzzer-beater to win the game in her final home showing against archrival Stanford this year.
Caldwell came in as the program’s first graduate transfer and made her presence felt both on the court and in the locker room. Praised for her leadership by Gottlieb, Caldwell brought experience, shooting and passing to the table. Caldwell is currently leading the team in assists, with 134 this season. Caldwell also started all of her 31 games this season, displaying her consistency for the Bears while also leading the team by shooting 36.7 percent behind the arc. It’s been a short ride for Caldwell in the blue and gold but a memorable one nonetheless.
The graduating class for Cal is completed by Mosley, who has served as an important role player off the bench in all of her four seasons with the Bears. Mosley played in 95 games and surprisingly saw the most responsibility in her first year with the team. She played in all 31 games off the bench as a freshman and averaged career highs in minutes, points and rebounds, with 2.8 points and 2.3 rebounds in 13.3 minutes per game.
The Bears’ outlook will definitely change once this class hangs up its Cal jerseys, and Gottlieb will have a busy offseason creating a different game plan for the young Bears to stay competitive once the era of Anigwe and Thomas is over. That’s a long time ahead, however, as the Bears are preparing for a run in the NCAA Tournament.
“It can’t be overstated,” Gottlieb said. “The rest of the team is playing for these seniors and playing with the knowledge that this is the last time with this group. … I think that group of seniors is really special.”