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Michelle Smith: Jayda Curry making strong first impression with Cal women's basketball

Dec 10, 2021
California Athletics

For Cal head coach Charmin Smith, Jayda Curry is a first. That is, the first player she has ever recruited to Berkeley without first seeing her play live.

“Thank goodness I didn’t get it wrong,” Smith says with a chuckle about the freshman guard who has already established herself as a player to watch in the Pac-12.

Curry, from Centennial High School in Corona, has made quite the first impression and leads the 6-2 Bears in scoring at 19.9 points a game with a team-leading 18 3-pointers, while also pulling down 3.9 rebounds a game out of the backcourt. The nation's top freshman scorer has put up four 20-point-plus performances in eight games thus far and has been named Pac-12 Freshman of the Week three times in the season's first four weeks.

“I’m pleased with how I’m playing but it’s all about continuing to get better,” Curry said. “I have a lot of room for improvement and a lot to learn.”

And that should frighten Pac-12 opponents, who will see a much improved Bears team compared to the injury-riddled, pandemic-impacted squad that won just one game a year ago.

“I think she is going to be something special in this Conference,” Smith said.

Something that the Bears coach did not know for sure until Curry arrived on campus and joined her new teammates.

“It’s possible that I was in the same gym with her at some point, but I hadn’t seen her play,” Smith said.

But Smith watched film on Curry, heard feedback from her assistant coaches and saw that Curry had put up 40 points against Windward Academy, coached by Smith’s former Stanford teammate Vanessa Nygaard.

“I know what kind of coach Vanessa is, so that definitely impressed me,” Smith said.

The two talked in the spring and Smith called her to offer her a scholarship. Curry’s final high school season ran into the spring, so it wasn’t until almost July when Curry walked into Haas Pavilion, sight unseen to the head coach.

“It didn’t take me long to see when she started working out,” Smith said. “She has got that ability to perform at the next level that we hoped she would, that ability to score the ball.”

Curry said she is still adjusting to the pace of the college game, to some degree. And she said the coaches are encouraging her not to be too hard on herself, to play through her mistakes.”

She said she came to Cal to be an impact player. Mission already accomplished.

And she said she was not discouraged watching the Bears struggle through last season.

“Honestly, seeing what they had to go through, got me more excited to come, to do my best to help this team improve,” Curry said. “I want to have an impact and flip it back around to the winning culture Cal has always had. I want to play for these girls as much as I want to play with them.”

Smith said the thing she didn’t see on film was Curry’s humility.

“She seems to have a good personality and she’s a good teammate,” Smith said. “That is a really good thing when you are young and really talented.”