Despite its 0-3 record, UC Davis women’s basketball is ringing in the holiday season in joyous fashion.
First, it was a sneak peek at USC — maybe the nation’s most improved big-time squad. Then Sunday, the Aggies got a taste of top-shelf play with a trip to No. 6 Stanford.
With each step, it seems that UCD gives its fans another gift.
Come Nov. 26, San Jose State is in town as part of a doubleheader with the Aggie men (against Sacramento State) at The Pavilion.
After that, the locals play six straight games on the road — including a monster of a mission at No. 1 Connecticut on Dec. 5.
Houston Baptist visits Davis on Dec. 21.
And it’s all a terrific prelude to what the UCD faithful hope will be a fruitful Big West Conference campaign come the new year.
On Tuesday, UCD head coach Jennifer Gross allowed Aggie Nation to open some more presents early when she announced the signing of five new recruits, including Santa Rosa High’s 6-foot-4 Morgan Bertsch.
“I couldn’t be more excited about the quality and character of the five student-athletes joining our Aggie family next season,” Gross said. “This is an extremely exciting class with talent, size and versatility. (They) give us depth at every position.”
Joining Bertsch on campus next year will be swingmen Pele Gianotti of Roseburg (Ore.) High, Lauren Seyranian (Piedmont High) and Canadian Dani Nafekh plus guard Rachel Nagel of Whitney (Cerritos) High.
“Each individual provides a unique skill set on the court that will help our program compete as one of the top teams on the West Coast in the coming years,” Gross continued, adding:
“However, they also have a few things in common: In addition to being great people, who completely buy into the team culture that we pride ourselves on here at UC Davis, they are tremendous students who are highly motivated to succeed both on and off the court.”
Here’s a quick look at each:
Bertsch: The defending Redwood Empire high jump champion had a game-changing junior season on the basketball court last season.
Averaging 13 points per game, the paint-prowling Bertsch collected 12 boards a night and averaged 2.6 blocks per game.
All-North Bay League first-team honors went to this Panther, who becomes the first-ever Santa Rosa High female basketball player to earn a Division I scholarship.
“Morgan is a long, athletic post player who can really run the floor. She can score inside and has the ability to be an amazing pursuit rebounder,” Gross said.
Put her beside existing Aggie big Alyson Doherty (6-2), and UCD could build a long-awaited no-fly zone under the basket.
Gianotti: The lightning-quick scorer put up 696 points as a ninth-grader at Riddle High in Oregon. Now at Roseburg, the two-time league MVP’s freshman point total is a state record, breaking Trisha Steven’s 1984 mark. Stevens went on to play at Stanford.
Gianotti has averaged more than 20 ppg for her three-year prep career and was accorded all-Oregon 2A honors.
“My favorite thing about Pele is how incredibly hard she competes,” Gross said. “She is a versatile forward who brings a lot of physicality to the court. She can score all over the floor and is a tremendous rebounder.
“Pele is going to be a match-up nightmare for our opponents throughout the next four years.”
Nafekh: “She is long, sees the floor very well and is a great passer — a lot of the qualities I love in a point guard,” Gross explained about the 5-10 Oakville (Ontario) Trafalgar High standout.
Helping her Red Devils win the region’s Tier 2 championship in 2012, Nafekh shot 49 percent from the field and averaged 15.6 points per game.
Nagel: With the 5-10 guard running the show, the Whitney Wildcats have won three consecutive Academy League titles.
Last year, Nagel put in 26.2 ppg and came averaged eight boards a game. As a sophomore, she averaged a double-double (23.7-10).
She also is an accomplished volleyball player.
“Rachel brings great size and physicality to the guard position,” Gross said. “She can score with her mid-range game and she always seems to find an angle to put the ball in the basket.”
Seyranian: ESPN ranks her as the No. 18 recruit at forward-guard. The 5-11 soon-to-be-Aggie helped guide Piedmont High to the 2013 NorCal section championship game.
Seyranian averaged 20.1 ppg last season.
“Lauren is a versatile guard who can consistently knock down the three, hit the mid-range jumper and get all the way to the rim,” Gross explained. “She is a tireless worker who spends a lot of time in the gym … and her fundamentals reflect that.
“In addition to being a scorer, she can easily handle the ball against pressure and be a precision passer.”
Only three games in, and this season has become a gift that just keeps on giving.
— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at [email protected] or 530-747-8047.