The UCSB women’s basketball program is getting healthier even as it remains shut down with the rest of the collegiate athletic world by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Coach Bonnie Henrickson announced on Monday that Megan Anderson, a record-setting three-point shooter at San Jose State, is transferring to UCSB to join a recruiting class that includes fall signees Anya Choice and Alyssa Marin. Four Gauchos who were injured last season are also rounding into shape, she reported.
“We’re pretty excited with where we’re at right now,” Henrickson said. “There’s a lot of fluidity in our recruiting, but we’re able to now spend more time with the 2021s (next year’s senior class).”
Anderson will sit out next season as a redshirt and then play her senior season at UCSB in 2021-22. Choice, one of five finalists for California’s Ms. Basketball Award after a stellar career at Santa Rosa’s Cardinal Newman High, and Marin, who starred at Camarillo High, will be eligible to play next season.
Anderson, a 6-foot forward, set a single-season record at San Jose State when she made 43.8% of her three-pointers (46-for-105) during her freshman year. Her career three-point percentage of .403 is also the school record. She ranks second in career threes with 185 and would have easily broken the school record of 199 had she remained at San Jose State.
“She can really stroke it,” Henrickson said. “Megan also has a real high basketball IQ. She likes to get into the gym and stay in the gym. She really likes to work.”
Her older sister, Emily, led Cal Poly in three-pointers during her senior season of 2017-18.
“Megan’s parents (Jill and Nick Anderson) are also Cal Poly graduates, but we’re going to have them wearing Gaucho blue now,” Henrickson said.
Anderson averaged 8.8 points and 3.3 rebounds at San Jose last season while playing a team-high 31.7 minutes per game. She was interested, however, in joining a UCSB program that trended upward last year by winning five its last six games to finish second in the Big West Conference.
“I am so grateful for this opportunity, I cannot wait to be a Gaucho,” she said. “I’m looking forward to this new chapter.”
Anderson was part of a prep powerhouse at Clovis West High which won the 2017 CIF-Central Section Open Division championship during her senior year with a 34-2 record. She earned Cal-Hi All-State honors twice while helping Clovis West go 117-15 during her four years on varsity.
Although Anderson must sit out next season, Doris Jones will be eligible and expected to make a major impact after having sat out last season as a redshirt. She spent her freshman year at Houston before setting the all-time scoring record at Diablo Valley College, surpassing the 1,000-point mark in just 51 games. She was voted to the JC All-State First Team as a sophomore.
“Doris can really create a shot for herself,” Henrickson said. “She scores at all three levels: from the three-point line, with the mid-range game, and in getting to the rim. At 5-foot-9, she can grab the rim. She’s real bouncy.”
UCSB does need to replace the three-point shooting of Coco Miller, who received All-Big West honorable mention, and Tal Sahar. The two graduating seniors accounted for more than half of the team’s three-pointers.
Aliceah Hernandez, a 5-9 junior guard, shot 41.9% from three in 13 games before getting hurt. Also expected back after injury-redshirt seasons are 6-4 center Natalia Bruening and guard Bri Anugwom, both of whom started two years ago, as well as guard RyAnne Walters, who played only eight games last year before getting hurt.
“We’ve got a lot of kids coming off crutches and out of boots, we’re as healthy as we’ve been in a long while,” Henrickson said. “Although we can’t be together now, we have been doing Zoom calls as a team on Sundays, and it’s been good to see everyone’s faces and catch up on all their rehab.
“A few of them have been very creative with their workouts, and our strength-and-conditioning coach has been able to connect with them on Instagram to show them exercises.”
The Gauchos are counting on their two high school recruits to help with the outside shooting next year. Marin, a 5-9 guard, made 81 threes for Camarillo while averaging 21.6 points. Choice, a 5-8 guard, made as many as nine three-pointers in a game. She averaged nearly 30 points, netting 43 in a CIF-North Coast semifinal against Salesian Prep.
“Alyssa is a phenomenal passer who can score the ball at all three levels,” Henrickson said of Marin. “She has a real high basketball IQ. She’s a dynamo offensively and was a great leader on her high school and summer teams.
“Anya is another dynamic, explosive athlete who scored over 2,000 points to set her school’s scoring record. She’s also a very good defender.”
Choice, she added, was in good company as one of five finalists for California’s Ms. Basketball Award.
“The winner of that award was also the National Player of the Year,” Henrickson said, referring to Oregon-bound Te-hina Paopao of La Jolla Country Day. The other three were Duke-bound Vanessa De Jesus of Sierra Canyon, Stanford-bound Brooke Demetre of Mater Dei, and junior Kiki Iriafen of Harvard-Westlake.
Choice will join a Gaucho roster headed by Ila Lane, a 6-4 center who earned All-Big West Conference first-team honors last year as a freshman, and honorable mention point guard Danae Miller. Lane led the nation in rebounding with an average of 13.0 per game. She was also 18th in field-goal percentage at .576 and led the Gauchos in scoring with a 15.3-point average.
“What’s really exciting, and what we’re incredibly proud of her for, is how much she’s grown her game,” Henrickson said. “We’re excited knowing how much harder she’ll be to guard next year, allowing us to move her around the floor based on her talent, hard work and coachability.”
She said UCSB has never had this much depth during her five seasons as its coach.
“Our practices next year are going to be really, really competitive — and they need to be for you to get better,” Henrickson said. “We did that this year with a short bench and roster, and we got a lot better as the season went on.
“That’s why, with how far we’d come the last few weeks, having the rest of the season cancelled was the hardest pill to swallow.”