A Charismatic Star’s Silent Struggle Eliza Pierre Dealt with Loss of a Brother during Cal’s NCAA Tournament Season By Miquel Jacobs
ake the time to watch any of California’s women’s basketball games over the past few years and there is no mistaking the energy, charisma and all-out defensive skills from No. 4 in the Blue and Gold, a 5-7 guard who hustles every play. Eliza Pierre has made her mark in Berkeley and across the Pac-12 and will go down as one of the top defensive players in Golden Bear history. “Eliza is one of the most magnetic, energetic people I’ve been around,” head coach Lindsay Gottlieb said. “I’ve known her a bit from the recruiting process, but when I got the job in May [of 2011] and started the process of connecting with the players, she was someone with an instant bond. That’s just who she is. Once she lets you in, you’re in.” Entering her senior season in 2012-13, Pierre is a rare breed of player that puts team first, defense second and individual acclaim at the back of the pack. She is a player who has been named to the Pac-12 All-Defensive team every season of her career to date, yet doesn’t mind succumbing her starting spot to help groom a budding freshman. She is a player who entered the season sixth in the Cal history books with 203 career steals and has Mazetta Garrett’s school record of 295 in her sights, a mark that has stood for 28 years with few true challengers. Most importantly, Pierre is a player who, despite being a McDonald’s All-American in high school and a top-25 recruit nationally, does not mind doing whatever her teammates or coaches ask of her for the betterment of the program. The team saw just as much at the start of last season when the two-year starter welcomed the idea of freshman point guard Brittany Boyd taking the starting point guard spot. “I really prefer coming off the bench as opposed to starting,” Pierre said in explaining part of her willingness to go with the new plan. “I never had that opportunity in high school, but there are definite advantages to it. In my role, I’m able to see what the other team brings before I step on the court. When I come in, we’re able to keep the energy level up. That’s the great 10
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thing about our team. There is no let-up when any of us get into the game, whether it’s me, Mikayla Lyles, Afure [Jemerigbe], Layshia [Clarendon] or Brittany [Boyd].” Opponents will vouch for that statement. Pierre has two of the top 15 single-season steals marks in program history, led by her 90 steals in 2010-11 that is the fourth-best mark at Cal. The addition of Boyd to the mix last season saw the duo combine for 132 thefts on the year, making the point guard tandem one of the most feared in the conference with no break over the course of a 40 minute game.
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The 2012-2013 Winter issue of Cal Sports Quarterly