The departure of Jayda Curry was a significant loss to the Cal women’s basketball program. Curry, who led the Bears in scoring for the past two years, is one of four players who entered the transfer portal at the end of this season. While losing players like Curry, Evelien Lutje Schipholt, Amaya Bonner and Sela Heide hurts the program, the Bears have been active in the transfer portal to retool the team.
Alongside two incoming freshmen, Cal has added four players through the portal: Ioanna Krimili from University of San Francisco, McKayla Williams from Gonzaga, Ila Lane from UC Santa Barbara and Marta Suárez from Tennessee. With these new transfers, the Bears have added much needed depth, as well as a number of scoring options to replace Curry.
Krimili looks the most equipped to handle the scoring burden as the Bears added an accomplished guard from the West Coast Conference. She holds three first-team conference selections, averaging 18.0 points per game in four seasons at USF on 39.8% shooting from three.
“Krimili is a prolific scorer and shooter. She can really put the ball in the basket … and is someone who is proven against Power Five teams. We’re looking to her to help us on the offensive end,” Cal head coach Charmin Smith said.
With multiple years of collegiate experience, Krimili seems to be more than capable of replacing Curry’s offensive output with her sharpshooting.
Williams, the other guard Cal added in the offseason, is equally intriguing. While she isn’t the scorer Krimili is, the former Bulldog is a Swiss Army knife player with defense being her elite attribute — but her character is equally important to Smith.
“(She’s) a great student. She’s a winner and she’s won at all levels. She’s cut down nets at Gonzaga, she won at Windward with her high school team and we’re excited to have her,” Smith said.
Last season, the Bears lacked an elite defender who could lock up the opposing teams’ best players. The rising senior looks to become Cal’s de facto perimeter defender.
In the frontcourt, the Bears beefed up their big rotation with Lane and Suárez. Lane provides a post presence Cal hasn’t had in a while, with Smith describing Lane’s game as strong and physical. As a senior this past season, Lane averaged 11.8 points and 8.1 rebounds per game, leading the Big West.
Suárez, on the other hand, is more of an unknown. Her playing time has been limited due to injuries and personal reasons, but she was named to the SEC All-Freshman Team in 2021. Smith cited her versatility as a notable attribute, the rising junior is a big who can space the floor and crash the boards.
One of the questions that looms over this team is whether it can establish a culture conducive to winning. With four transfers out and four transfers in, there’s bound to be some hiccups along the way in terms of chemistry, but the returning veterans should go a long way in leading this team in the coming season.
“I’ve had conversations with the core — Leilani (McIntosh) and Kemery Martín in particular,” Smith said. “They are going to be significant leaders on this team. They (will) need to be more assertive in terms of what they want the culture to look like and feel like and help our younger players as well as our transfers understand what our circle is all about. ”
Entering her fifth year at Cal, McIntosh has become a recognizable leader in the locker room and on the court.
“(McIntosh) in particular has put in the time, the work, the sweat (and) the equity. She’s a huge part of who we are and why we are in the position to take a huge leap,” Smith said.
This class of transfers marks a significant step for the Cal women’s basketball program moving forward. The Bears are looking to rebound from a 10th-place finish in the Pac-12 and a first-round exit in the Pac-12 tournament — these new transfers give them a chance to do so.