By Scott Mammoser
Kristine Anigwe hasn’t slowed down since being named National Freshman of the Year in 2016. The 6-foot-4 senior center for the University of California is leading Division I in rebounding at 14.4 per game, while the Golden Bears climbed to a high of No. 13 in the national polls this December.
Following a heart-breaking one-point loss at Arizona State, in which she scored 21 points with 16 rebounds, Anigwe listed how she has improved in her four years at Cal.
“I got stronger, I rely on my team more, and I trust my coaches and teammates,” Anigwe said. “I need to become more consistent and to get back on the defense and the offensive end, as well.”
Through the second week of January, Anigwe is scoring about 22 points per game, about five more than last year. Her rebounding is also up about six boards per game from her junior season, as 6-foot-7 Teaira McCowan of Mississippi State at 13.5 is one behind her for the national lead. In recent mock WNBA Draft predictions, Doug Feinberg of the Associated Press listed her in the No. 10 slot, while Howard Megdal of High Post Hoops selected her at No.11 to the Atlanta Dream.
Originally from Phoenix, Anigwe won world championships at both the Under-17 and Under-19 levels before heading to Berkeley, where the program advanced to the Final Four in 2013. The Golden Bears did not have any freshmen on the 2013 Final Four team who would be seniors during Anigwe’s rookie season.
“She’s a terrific player,” Cal coach Lindsey Gottlieb said, “and it’s good to recognize what a special player she is. She came in as a highly-talented athlete with great skills set. I think she’s added strength, she’s added a skill set away from the basket, and I think she’s matured as a basketball player. The stat area where she has improved this season is rebounding. She can find ways to punish you on the boards, whether or not she’s getting looks.”
Coach Gottlieb also mentioned she was really proud of her ability to fight through the double and triple teams early in the 62-61 loss to the Sun Devils and let teammates make plays.
The Pac-12 might be the toughest conference in women’s basketball this season, and Anigwe is one of six from the league to be listed in the midseason Wooden Award watch list. She is second behind Colleen Galloway for the school career scoring record, and she is the only player, male or female, to notch a double-double in every game this season in Division I. It should be a very interesting spring and beyond for Anigwe.
(Follow Scott Mammoser on Twitter: @SMammoser)