During her sophomore season, Cal guard Layshia Clarendon was asked to step up as a facilitator by default with Avigiel Cohen suffering an off-season injury and defensive specialist Eliza Pierre being solid, but still lacking a consistent jumper.
But the Pac-10 tournament made one thing very obvious: Cal was much more effective with Claredon functioning as more of a scorer attacking the basket than as a facilitator trying to set up other people.
Going up against incoming Cal freshman Brittany Boyd in Saturday's San Francisco Pro-Am playoff meeting, that was even more evident.
Although the unstructured play of the Pro-Am is not at all the best environment to evaluate players, the informality of the environment says quite a bit about a guard's character or "personality", if not their quality.
Watching Boyd and Clarendon run their respective teams was certainly a study of contrasts - as described previously, Boyd is likely to be a much better facilitator than any of the highly touted NCAA freshman point guards in the nation from last year. While Boyd was looking back and forth for others while dribbling the ball, Clarendon was looking dead at the defender in front of her and often passed only after a defender prevented her from getting to the basket (which she did quite well). Former Cal guard Natasha Vital also leaned more toward the scoring end of the spectrum in this setting.
To be clear, Boyd did not have nearly as good a day as she did the first time I saw her - her shot wasn't falling, she made a few turnovers on bad passes, and she picked up a number of fouls trying to guard Clarendon, a bigger guard who is not afraid of contact as she goes to the basket.
But nobody can say Boyd is lacking for confidence - she's willing to head into traffic, through defenders, and remain patient for the play to unfold as she hopes rather than rushing an opportunity. And as a guard, a lot of that comes down to basic ball handling ability - Boyd doesn't seem to have any fear of losing the ball or, if she does, masks whatever vulnerabilities she has pretty well. She appears just as confident going baseline with her left as she is dribbling left to get a better angle on a pass.
Nevertheless, what Clarendon's scoring ability also showed was that Boyd will still have work to do on the defensive end - Boyd, as one might expect coming out of high school, struggled to stay in front of Clarendon and picked up fouls on a couple of occasions around the basket as she tried to stop Clarendon from scoring.
Clarendon, in contrast, did not dribble with her left hand more than three times and that was only in the backcourt to set up reversing course back to her right to evade a defenders pressure. On most occasions, Clarendon only dribbled left to set up a jumper or pass to a teammate. It's not a huge deal, if maybe a bit surprising given how loose defenses were playing; despite the aversion to going left, she made relatively good decisions with the ball, rarely turned it over, and was able to drive right against almost anyone in the gym anyway.
What gave Boyd so much trouble when they were matched up is that when Clarendon puts her head down to drive, it's a straight line to the basket and daring someone to step in front so she could draw a foul and go to the line. Standing one's ground in that situation is as much about strength as a mindset of holding one's ground that makes defense difficult for any incoming freshman guard.
Clarendon's Bay City team ultimately won the game 89-82, in no small part due to her efforts. But there's little reason to read too much into Boyd's matchup with Clarendon in terms of what it means for her potential - she has the tools to be a productive player on both ends of the floor. With increased strength that almost any freshman who takes working out seriously will add, Boyd could become just as confident staying in front of players like Clarendon at the next level.
For now, Boyd's strengths as a complement to Clarendon are probably more important than her weaknesses - Clarendon is a solid scorer, Boyd is clearly a distributor who sees the court well even when making mistakes, and Eliza Pierre is unquestionably among the best perimeter defenders in the nation. Together with Avigiel Cohen, Cal will have a much stronger guard rotation this year, even as Boyd goes through the standard process of expanding her game.