Cal's Youth Movement Taking Hold
And here she is again, in a gym full of young, inexperienced players, not entirely sure what she has or how they will perform when games begin in two weeks.
"It's going to be an interesting season," Boyle said. "I think we're going to be good. I'm just not sure when."
Boyle has taken the Bears from a struggling program to one that has cemented itself among the national elite -- a regular member of the rankings, an NCAA participant, a player in the Pac-10.
Last year ended with the program's deepest foray into the NCAA Tournament -- to the Sweet 16, where Cal fell to Connecticut. This upcoming season isn't quite like starting over, even though Boyle's freshmen outnumber her returnees.
She has a trio of veteran guards with seniors Alexis Gray-Lawson, Lauren Greif and Natasha Vital. They will provide the leadership, experience and, in a change from Cal's post-dominated game with Ashley Walker and Devanei Hampton, most of the offensive punch.
The offense is likely to switch from the post-oriented triangle to something more free form to allow the guards room to create scoring opportunities. Defensively, the Bears will be more pressure-oriented as well.
"We're letting them go a little bit to see because I think that's more conducive to what we have," Boyle said. "Allowing people to play and get to the basket ... we could look different."
Gray-Lawson, the fifth-year senior who arrived with Boyle back in 2004, is being asked to go from a hot-cold shooter who could bust out for 37 against Stanford in one game and then tally just a handful of points in another, to a consistent source of point-production.
"When you have post players like Dev and Ash, you say, 'Ok, you guys go ahead'," Gray-Lawson said. "But this year, because you don't know what you are going to get, I have to be selfish."
The seven freshmen that came to Berkeley this year, comprising one of the top recruiting classes in the nation, is down to six active players. Tierra Rogers, the San Francisco product whose father was murdered at halftime of one of her high school games in 2007, is no longer able to play after being diagnosed with a heart defect after collapsing following a training session last month. Rogers had surgery following her diagnosis to implant a defibrillator and her playing career is over.
Rogers remains on scholarship and with the program. She was named as one of the three team captains along with Vital and Greif, a chance to serve as a leader for the freshmen and stay closely connected to the team. She is going through counseling and learning to cope with a new life that doesn't include basketball. The team is coping as well.
"There was the initial shock of telling them that she wasn't going to be able to play anymore," Boyle said. "Not every day for her is a good day and we all make sure on bad days that she's with us. None of us have been through this, so we are all trying to figure out what it should look like and we aren't going to have the answers tomorrow."
Cal's freshman class includes prep All-American DeNesha Stallworth of nearby Richmond, a 6-3 forward/center who was the state's leading scorer last season at 27.7 points a game; McDonald's All-Americans Gennifer Brandon (forward) and Eliza Pierre (guard); guard Layshia Clarendon, a WBCA All-American and center Talia Caldwell from Los Angeles.
"They are a coachable group and they want to do well," Boyle said. "It's a quicker turnaround with the upperclassmen, who are able to tell them, 'This is how we do it'. More of our systems are in place than four years ago. It all happens more quickly now."
Greif said her new teammates are gaining an understanding of how hard to play every day, how mistakes are an opportunity to learn.
"It means doing a lot of drills two or three times and not being excited about it, but we have to do it," Greif said. "There's a lot of 'You can do its' out there, a lot of 'Don't worry, turnovers happen...' But it's also fun to see them perform because you don't know everything that they have."
The Bears will learn about themselves quickly, particularly with a Nov. 22 home date against Baylor.
"On the first day of practice I was thinking, 'Oh boy, we've got a long way to go', but by Wednesday I was thinking that we are going to be all right," Boyle said. "Every day you see a little bit more from each of them."