Page One

Experienced Bears looking to make a splash New coach inherits veteran squad, senior backcourt

Friday November 17, 2000

First-year head coach Caren Horstmeyer will have some good weapons at her disposal, but the Bears took a big hit when center Shavaki Jackson decided not to return to Cal for her senior year. The Bears will be a small, scrappy squad, and they will look to play an up-tempo game whenever possible. They should improve on last year’s 6-12 Pac-10 record, and anything better than .500 should lead to a post-season berth. 

Several key players are coming off of injuries from last year, and the three returning starters must take control of the team. An experienced backcourt will cover a lot of mistakes, but the Bears look vulnerable to teams with strong inside games. Two talented freshmen will press for playing time, but the seven seniors will set the tone. 


Backcourt: The Bears are in good shape at the guard spots with both starters returning. Senior Courtney Johnson isn’t a true point guard, but has improved at ball-handling and distribution while starting there for the past two seasons. She returns as the team leader in scoring (11.7 ppg), assists (3.1 apg) and steals (3.2 spg, 1st in Pac-10). Johnson will move over to shooting guard when either Nicole Ybarra or Latasha O’Keith comes in to run the point, letting her concentrate more on her scoring. 

Fellow senior Kenya Corley came into her own last year, averaging 10.5 ppg and showing great athleticism. A long jumper and sprinter for the Cal track team, Corley can dominate a game with her scoring, but has a tendency to let her fundamentals droop at times. If she can be more consistent this year, the Bears will be in good shape. 

Ybarra is a combo guard who suffered from an Achilles tendon injury last year. O’Keith is a freshman from Narbonne High School in Los Angeles, the No. 1 team in the country last year. She is expected to play quality minutes at both guard spots. Former walk-on Janet Franey will provide a sharpshooting presence when she’s on the court, and Becky Staubes gives Cal a big guard who can defend larger players. 


Frontcourt: The Bears will have to compensate for the loss of small forward Paige Bowie and center Shavaki Jackson, two of their leading scorers last year. The returning starter is power forward Lauren Ashbaugh, who led the team in rebounding last year (6.1 rpg) and blocked shots (22). She is a hard-nosed player who should play with more confidence in her final year at Cal. 

Genevieve Swedor and Ami Forney will battle for playing time at the center position. Swedor, a senior from Switzerland, is a more mobile player who should fit in with Cal’s running game, while Forney is more of a traditional center, providing strong rebounding. The junior started 11 games last season, but was hampered by a foot injury that cost her nine games. 

The power forward spot will be a dogfight, as sophomore Amber White will try to hold off talented freshman Kiki Williams. White was an honorable mention All-Pac-10 honoree last year, playing tough defense on some of the best scorers in the conference. But Williams, from Terra Linda High in Marin, is athletic and skilled. She can also play small forward, but look for her to get the most looks at the power spot. 


Newcomers: Williams and O’Keith are both expected to contribute right away, and they will both get plenty of opportunities to do so. Williams is very talented, but she will be taking a bigger step up in competition than O’Keith, so it may take her longer to adjust to the pace of the games. 


Outlook: The Pac-10 is up for grabs this year, with both Stanford and Oregon losing their best players to injuries. The Bears could surprise some of the top teams in conference play, especially if Johnson and Corley can mesh together and run the team. Cal doesn’t have a lot of size, so consistency on the fast break and tough defense will be the keys to victory this year. An NCAA Tournament bid wouldn’t be out of the question, but neither would finishing in the bottom half of the conference.