Recee Caldwell is excited to be a Golden Bear
For the first time in program history, Cal women’s basketball added a graduate transfer to their program in 5’9” guard Recee’ Caldwell out of Texas Tech. Caldwell spoke with GoldenBearReport.com, providing insight into her decision to come to Cal and what she hopes to bring to the program.
Caldwell has had an interesting journey to Cal, playing her freshman season at UCLA before transferring to Texas Tech. A former McDonald’s All-American, Caldwell comes to Cal with plenty of experience and the opportunity to be an impact player.
“So, coming out of high school I chose UCLA,” Caldwell explained. “I played there for a year. I actually got hurt in January and transferred right after school ended in May or June. Went to Texas Tech. My dad became the assistant coach there so that was my main reason in going there. I redshirt my first year. Obviously I couldn’t play for transfer rules. Played the next two years and because I graduated I was eligible to be a grad transfer and that’s why I’m here at Cal Berkeley.”
When it came time to figuring out where she wanted to play her fifth year, Cal seemed like a natural fit. While she’s never actually donned a Golden Bears uniform, Caldwell already has a really strong relationship with the Cal coaching staff and players, going back to her days in high school.
“The staff is incredible here first of all,” Caldwell said of why she chose Cal. “I’ve had relationships with them since I was in seventh grade. Coach G has always been my person. Even though I went to other schools we always had a great relationship. Whether it’s through recruiting, we just always kept in contact. She was just always a really good person. A good sort of mentor to me.
“The other reason was I was with Wendale [Farrow] at UCLA and I realize the importance now of being at two different schools the importance of assistant coaches. They’re with you every day. Coach G doesn’t get to be around us a lot of the time or sometimes because she has head coaching duties, but you’re working out with your assistant coaches every day so the fact that he knew his stuff, he knew what he was doing, that was really important to me. So, the fact that he was here was just a plus for me and then also I’ve known a lot of these girls growing up. Ever since I was in 6th-7th grade being from California. So, the chemistry and being happy in my last year was really important to me.”
While she is known for her ability to shoot from beyond the arc, Caldwell feels her biggest asset is her experience and ability to provide veteran leadership. Her hope is to be a mentor to some of the younger players on the team.
“First and foremost I think I bring four years of experience,” Caldwell said. “Being in two different situations and then also leadership. I’m a threat on the offensive end, so I think that helps obviously basketball wise, but I think off the court stuff is really what I can help this team with.
“I feel like I can play both point guard and shooting guard. Growing up I was always a point guard, but I think since I can shoot the ball, it would be an easy adjustment to move off ball. I saw a little bit at Tech and at UCLA honestly. I think with Coach G’s system, it’s going to be really hard to guard us just because we’ll have five people on the floor that can really score the ball and then we’ll have four guards that can shoot it. So I don’t really know how you can really double Kristine Anigwe unless you want three pointers, so I think the personnel will really fit the system.”
With her added leadership, Caldwell believes in Cal’s ability to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament. The biggest key in her mind is making sure they make the necessary preparations in the offseason to develop both mentally and physically.
“Yeah, it’s a very hard question,” Caldwell admitted. “I think it’s up to us. I know we have the talent for it. I mean our five on the court at all times are always threats on the offensive end. It’s really how much we push ourselves to get there. Like our offseason is so important. How much dog we develop and our fight and our grit I think will take us however far we need to go.”
One of the things that should help Caldwell thrive is the style of play in the Pac-12. While the Big XII is a more physical brand of basketball, the Pac-12 plays a more finesse style that better suites Caldwell’s game.
“Pac-12 I feel like is a lot more finesse,” Caldwell said. “Big XII you go over there and it’s just so physical. I feel like you get away with a lot more in the Big XII as to holding and the physicalness of the game. I think in the Big XII you could just see in the difference of the players. Like you have 6’5”, 6’6” girls every night. You usually have two of them in the Big XII. Pac usually have like stretch-fours that can play fives that really just have finesse type of games. So I just think it’s two different styles of play.
“Obviously, I would pick the Pac-12. I just think in the Big XII you get away with so much. Whether it’s off ball screens, you have people holding you; Pac-12 I feel like, I don’t know how to say it, but you don’t get away with as much honestly. So, I think the Pac-12 I would say.”
Going a little bit deeper, Caldwell said that the real difference lies in the Pac-12 being much more free flowing, allowing offensive oriented players to thrive with very little resistance from defenders.
“Yeah, I think you see that with Jordin Canada,” Caldwell said. “That girl went to the free throw line I don’t know how many times a game. But you just can’t guard her if you can’t hand check her. I think the Big XII you get away with a lot more as far as hand checks and that type of thing.”
While she has only been on campus for a little over a month, Caldwell already feels like she is building chemistry with her new teammates. What helps is that she came to Cal already familiar with a lot of the players and their different styles of play.
“Like I said, I’ve known these kids since we were kids,” Caldwell said. “Like Teezy, KA, I’ve seen Kenzie Forbes growing up because she was in my sister’s class, so I’ve known them for a while. It’s just different and it’s cool now being able to get on the court with them. I’ve never played with KA nor Teezy nor Kenzie, but just being in pickup, workouts and stuff, it’s cool to see our progression from the first day to now our third week. I just think that we have a really good group.”
While she is excited to play with all of her new teammates, the chance to play with Kristine Anigwe has Caldwell particularly excited. Caldwell is confident that Anigwe will make her life on the court much easier and that in turn, she’ll be able to help Anigwe dominate in the post like she has for her first three years.
“She makes the game so much easier,” Caldwell said of Anigwe. “Like I said, I don’t know how you can…you can’t double her if we’re making shots. There’s just no way, so I feel like it’s vice versa. So we make the game easier for her and she also makes the game easier for us. We’ve seen Kristine score over three people consistently over her past three years here. I mean it’s just an every day thing. But I feel like we’re going to make her job easier because now you can’t send three. Hopefully you can’t send two, so one on one it’s usually an automatic bucket.”
As far as the underclassmen go, all of them have really impressed Caldwell. McKenzie Forbes in particular has made an impression due to her versatility and ability to play multiple positions. Caldwell didn’t shy away from comparing Forbes to one of the star players of the Golden State Warriors.
“It’s going to be great to see them develop over their career,” Caldwell said of the underclassmen. “Kianna had to start last year and she did a phenomenal job at point guard in the Pac. That’s really hard to do. Seeing her work ethic is awesome. It reminds me of like a younger me. She’s a coach’s kid also, so it’s going to be really cool to see her develop over the next years. Bird is growing every day. Her work ethic is incredible as well and then Kenzie’s my freshman. She’s my favorite if I had to say so.
“She can do everything. It’s pretty cool to see. She’s like a Draymond Green. She plays the one through four. She can literally like during practice, Coach G can be like hey go get the ball, but she’ll also get the rebound and push it. She’s a 6’1” small forward. Like she literally plays like Draymond Green with a better jumper. So, just throw that in there. She’ll have a chance to be one of the best here.”
As far as life off the court is concerned, Caldwell already feels really comfortable at Cal. The overall vibe of the community really meshes with her and is making her transition very smooth.
“It’s awesome. It’s great. It’s so active here. There’s so much to do,” Caldwell said. “They’re really interested in activism and I think that’s really important for what our generation is harping on now. Just changing the world. Like we literally have world changers here. It happens every day, every weekend. Instead of the extra curricular activities that you see going on at other schools, there’s literally kids here that are trying to change the world and that is huge for me.”
Switching gears to the academic side, Caldwell will be getting an M.A. in Public Health at Cal after graduating from Texas Tech with a B.A. in Business. Her decision to study business was largely due to a desire to keep up with a world that is becoming more business oriented.
“Yeah, so I’m getting my masters in Public Health. I think I should finish in one and half years, so that’d be cool to finish pretty early as compared to two,” Caldwell said.
“I feel like everybody needs to have a business side to them. I think I was pretty good at communications. I think that would have been an easier route for me to take, but I didn’t really know anything about business so I felt like going to school for something I did not know anything about was really gonna help me in the future. The world is ran off of transactions and that type of thing so me getting my degree in business I feel like just helped me overall as a person.”
When it is all said and done, the main thing that Recee’ Caldwell hopes to accomplish is lead Cal to a deep run in the NCAA Tournament. The NCAA Tournament is a place she’s never been before and Cal having been there back-to-back times presents her with an excellent opportunity to finally get there:
“I want to make a deep run in the tournament. My three years playing I haven’t been able to make the tournament yet. I haven’t had that opportunity. At UCLA we went to the NIT and won it, but I also did not play because of my knee injury. So first of all I have a whole healthy season. That is the foremost priority that I have because I haven’t had one since I’ve been in college and then making a deep run in the tournament.”