Clarendon A Quiet Superstar
By Kevin Danna
When Layshia Clarendon takes the court, you won't see her hootin' and hollerin'. A very even-keeled player, Clarendon isn't one to get emotional after a big play; she just goes about her business.
"She is vocal in terms of helping us achieve those goals and being a leader off the court and talking to her teammates, but you're never necessarily going to notice that on the court," said Cal head coach Lindsay Gottlieb. "She is a little bit more of a silent assassin. She just makes big shots, makes big plays and doesn't have a whole lot of drama with that."
But when the drama is at its highest, Clarendon is at her best. Whenever the Golden Bears need a bucket, they call on No. 23 to get the job done. And in return, the San Bernadine, Calif., native has more than answered the call.
Against Washington State, Clarendon scored 13 points in the second half and four in the final minute to hold off the Cougars in a five-point victory in Berkeley. In Palo Alto, she scored 11 points in the final seven and a half minutes to force overtime against the fourth-ranked Stanford Cardinal, a game in which Cal was trailing by 14 points with a little more than eight minutes remaining.
"I think that experience we've had the last two years, knowing that this game could really cost us or we can't lose this game; we've got to find a way," Clarendon said, reflecting on her end-of-game play. "It's that find-a-way mentality, and it's just win however you can. Figure it out."
Gottlieb points to Clarendon's tireless work ethic as the reason for her late-stage success - always taking care of her body, getting up extra shots, grinding in the offseason. Those extra shots have helped Clarendon develop a sweet 17-footer, which Gottlieb believes is the difference between her guard and many others at the collegiate level.
"The mid-range game is what I think separates her," Gottlieb said. "She can create her own shot, she can shoot over people and so she has the skill level to be able to take and make big shots."
While Gottlieb is in her first year as Cal's head coach, she spent 2005 through 2008 in Berkeley as an assistant. It was during her time as the associate head coach under Joanne Boyle that she recalls how much of a priority Clarendon was as a top-notch recruit for Cal.
"I vividly remember the conversation the first time Charmin [Smith] went to see her play when we were here as assistants together and Charmin came back and was like, 'We need to get this kid. She is going to be one of the best guards in the Pac-12,'" Gottlieb said.
Charmin Smith's assessment of Clarendon as a high-school junior is dead-on, and has been from day one. Clarendon is battle tested, having averaged 25 and 34 minutes per game in her first two years in the East Bay. With a slew of injuries affecting those previous Cal teams, Clarendon was asked to pretty much do it all. As a sophomore, Clarendon led the Golden Bears in assists and was second in scoring, steals and three-point shooting, all the while pulling down more than five rebounds per game (third on the team).
With no seniors on this year's Cal roster, Clarendon is well-prepared to be one of the veteran leaders on her team.
"Sophomore year, [the coaches] were like 'You've played so many minutes, you're already like a junior.' And now it's like, 'You're a junior, but you have played so much that you have senior experience,'" Clarendon said. "So it has always kind of been that way growing up here over the years."
As a result of her leadership, along with the guidance given by fellow juniors Talia Caldwell and Eliza Pierre, the Golden Bears are in second place in the Pac-12 and have already assured themselves of another winning season.
"I think Layshia's leadership is mainly by example. She is so prepared, so selfless," Gottlieb said. "I think what she has taken on this year is the ability to guide those younger players."
Cal is poised to make a deep run in the Pac-12 Tournament and beyond with a resume worthy of an at-large invitation to the Big Dance in March, and expect Clarendon to be a major component of the Golden Bears' potential postseason success. Just don't expect her to scream and shout when she hits a big shot in a key situation; she'll be too busy getting back on defense.