Exciting back-to-back days of college basketball are set to take place at Haas Pavilion this weekend, serving as an important platform to spotlight Black female coaches and shed light on their inadequate representation in Division I basketball. The Raising the B.A.R. Invitational goes beyond the game of basketball to provide awareness and support for Black women, not only in the sports world but on a much larger scale.
Day one kicks off Saturday at 11 a.m. between Cal and Arkansas-Pine Bluff, two teams on different trajectories at the start of the season. These opponents have never faced off against each other, but the Bears hold a 5-1 record while the Lions sit at 1-5.
Arkansas-Pine Bluff has struggled offensively as of late, not scoring more than 59 points in any of its last three games — all resulting in losses. For Cal, the offensive numbers have also lacked in the last three competitions, despite winning all three. The Bears have not scored over 70 points since their game against Idaho, so both teams are hoping to jumpstart their offenses.
After this first game of the tournament, Gardner-Webb is set to compete against SMU on Saturday while Arkansas-Pine Bluff faces off against Gardner-Webb on Sunday morning.
To bookend the Invitational, Cal plays against 5-2 SMU in a first-time matchup between these teams. Both enter the tournament with a four-game win streak — the Bears most recently defeating Montana 65-44 and the Mustangs taking down Arkansas-Pine Bluff 74-45.
SMU will look to its top scorers in Jasmine Smith and Chantae Embry to lead the fight against Cal. Smith has scored 96 points in the first seven games of the season and averages 13.7 a game, while Embry has accumulated 90 points and averages 12.9 a game.
Cal’s offensive leaders in Jayda Curry, Kemery Martín and Evelien Lutje Schipholt will aim to meet SMU at the rim in what should be a powerful matchup. In six games played, Curry has 78 points scored and averages 13 a game. Martín and Lutje Schipholt both have 65 points or more and average 11.2 and 10.8 per game, respectively.
But basketball is just one of the three components to B.A.R., signifying “Basketball, Activism and Representation.” Activism in Women’s basketball alludes back to Title IX and Black female coach pioneers such as Bessie Stockard and Jolette Law. In recent times, the emergence of many organizations such as the Women of Color Athletics, or WOCA, and their chats provide an avenue for change, movement and greater representation.
The Raising the B.A.R. Invitational features a full lineup of Black women coaches: Cal’s Charmin Smith, Arkansas-Pine Bluff’s Dawn Thornton, Gardner-Webb’s Alex Simmons and SMU’s Toyelle Wilson. Representation is at the forefront of this event and adds to the important progress made this year, including doubling Black women head coaches (from six to 12) in the NCAA tournament back in March.
The Power Five Conferences also experienced an increase in Black women coaches this year: Joni Taylor (Texas A&M), Amaka Agugua-Hamilton (Virginia) and Felisha Legette-Jack (Syracuse) taking the helm at their respective schools in 2022.
This invitational hosted by Cal proves incredibly special as it highlights the incredible strides by Black women coaches and aims to continue inspiring change and bring people together through the sport of basketball.
Even with the progress initiated by the Raising the B.A.R. Invitational, there is much progress to be made toward equal representation. Coaches such as Smith, Thornton, Simmons and Wilson along with many others are the trailblazers working together to ensure a more diverse and inclusive future for Black women in college sports and beyond.