California had one extra team meeting before the start of practice.

The Bears were all invited to a wedding Sept. 22 when coach Lindsay Gottlieb married Patrick Martin.

“It was an absolute no-brainer that we were going to include the team,” Gottlieb said during the recent Pac-12 media day. “They are our family, not just my family, but Patrick’s too and I wanted to have it be less about look at us and more about a celebration of our family and the people that are really important to us. So it was beyond my wildest dreams to have the team there. They were part of it and they were with all the other important people in our lives.”

California has 11 players back from last season when they went 21-11 following a loss to Virginia in the NCAA tournament.

“I’m happy that everybody on our team decided to come and experience the celebration for her,” senior guard Asha Thomas said. “As much as she puts effort into us, we wanted to be there for her and her new journey as well. It was an emotional day, but we had fun too. He had our dancing going, she wanted to incorporate that.”

The Bears are picked to finish fourth in the conference with three returning starters, including 6-foot-4 senior Kristine Anigwe, who averaged 16.7 points and 8.8 rebounds per game last year. Thomas averaged 12.8 points and 3.5 assists while sophomore point guard Kianna Smith averaged 8.6 points and 4.8 assists.

In addition to signing two freshmen, Gottlieb added her first graduate transfer when Recee Caldwell arrived from Texas Tech, where she averaged 10.7 points and 6.0 assists last season.

“We have a chance to be really good,” Gottlieb said. “I think it’s our most depth and capable pieces since the (2013) Final Four team. We do have depth, we have veteran leadership and youth and I think that’s the formula.”

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Gottlieb has led the Bears into the NCAA Tournament during six of her seven seasons.

“We have the pieces to do something special this year and we are excited about that,” Thomas said. “With our team dynamics, how we feel personally, trying to get our bodies right and our minds right for a long season that we are trying to prepare for.”

As Gottlieb prepared for a season that she thinks can include a long run in March, she recently visited with Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr.

“He is a ‘less is more’ kind of guy and we talked about how long their season went and how you keep people fresh,” she said. “So I would say I’m more aligned with that type of philosophy anyway. … For me to grind them out now because I want one more rep or one more possession doesn’t make sense to me. It was a nice validation to see that’s what the Warriors are about.”

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This article is written by Steve Mims from The Register-Guard, Eugene, Ore. and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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