It’s finally here.
At 7:00 p.m. tonight, the Bears will hold their preseason opener at Haas Pavilion against Sacramento State. While it may only be a preseason game, fans will get a good look at what they can expect from their team in this upcoming year. The Bears followed their disappointing 2020-21 season with a couple of very promising exhibition games. Today, the Bears will face Division I competition for the first time since last season, and have the chance to set a brand new tone.
The Bears must improve upon last year’s halfcourt offense if they want to rise toward the top of the Pac-12. Coach Charmin Smith has emphasized the need for more movement off of the ball to collapse the defense and free up open shooters. Smith anticipates that a healthy roster and new game plan will allow the offense to bounce back from a disastrous 2020-21 campaign.
“We were missing a lot of playmakers last year, a lot of scorers, a lot of people who can put the ball in the basket. So, having them on the floor I think will allow us to be a lot better in scoring points. … With some changes that I’ve made, I think we move a lot better offensively and we’re not as stagnant as we’ve been in the past,” Smith said. “I’m excited to see how that correlates to more points as well.”
Smith also wants to see the team improve at improvising once the initial offensive action fizzles out.
“We’re really good with Option A or B, but if that was taken away we didn’t really move to get into C, D and E,” Smith said. “That’s what I mean by the movement … in terms of the back end of our sets and our continuity offenses, like people knowing how to keep … moving for a better shot as we get deeper into the shot clock.”
Jayda Curry is already making a sizable impact in situations where the shot clock is running low. The freshman has shown an ability to consistently create shots off of the dribble, especially from the left elbow. Curry is a three-level scorer, so the defense often lets her shoot from midrange to deny open threes and layups. This ability to create open looks at the end of the shot clock is exactly what Smith is looking for, and this shot creation should earn the freshman a lot of playing time.
While Curry has been the premiere offensive player outside the restricted area, Dalayah Daniels gives Cal a legitimate scoring threat around the basket. After leading the Bears in points as a freshman last year, her sophomore season carries lofty expectations. Despite being listed as a guard and forward, the 6’3” Daniels is often the tallest on the floor and fills the role of a center. She posts up smaller defenders, sets screens and terrorizes the offensive glass.
Curry and Daniels are the biggest standouts thus far, but more are sure to emerge in this upcoming preseason. Even though exhibition games are not official, the Bears have played like they’re in March Madness. The Bears dove for loose balls and took hard charges. And tonight, they’re sure to put all of their effort into putting on a show at Haas Pavilion.
Casey Grae covers women’s basketball. Contact him at [email protected].