LA JOLLA, Calif. — It's more reload than rebuild for the UC San Diego women's basketball team in 2018-19.
After winning its third-consecutive California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) regular-season championship and advancing to the NCAA West Region semifinals in 2017-18, the Tritons have even bigger aspirations for the upcoming season.
UC San Diego brings in a new class of four freshmen and one junior transfer to help push toward the 2019 Elite Eight in Columbus, Ohio. The group is highlighted by CIF-Southern Section Division 3 Wooden Award winner Julia Macabuhay from La Salle HS in Pasadena, Calif., as well as junior transfer forward Haleigh Hatfield from High Point University and freshman guard Brianna Claros from Pinewood HS in Los Altos Hills, Calif.
In addition, the Tritons are extremely excited to add freshman guard Madison Baxter from Foothill HS in Pleasanton, Calif., and local freshman forward Kendal Johnson-Ellenbeck from nearby La Jolla Country Day School.
“It’s very exciting anytime you add youth,” said UC San Diego head coach Heidi VanDerveer. “Youth has great enthusiasm, and our team already has a passion for basketball and being a great team.
“Adding the youthful exuberance of these four freshmen to a team that is already experienced and talented will be a great mix.”
Baxter averaged 23.1 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.1 steals per game as a senior at Foothill High en route to earning East Bay Athletic League (EBAL) MVP honors. She led the league in scoring in both her junior and senior seasons and eclipsed 1,000 career points. Off the court, Baxter was also the Senior Class Treasurer at Foothill HS.
Why she chose UC San Diego:“I chose to attend UC San Diego for its highly acclaimed medical program, amazing basketball program and beautiful campus and location. The players and coaches, along with the teachers and student community, made me feel super welcomed and at home!”
Coach VanDerveer on Baxter: "It is great to have Madison join our Triton family. With her 3-point range, she is a player who can stretch the defense. She will get out in transition and work hard to get easy baskets. Madison will add depth to our perimeter. She is an excellent worker and loves to compete."
South San Francisco, Calif.
Claros averaged 11.2 points and 4.4 assists per game as a senior, and was named West Bay Athletic League (WBAL) MVP. The 5-foot-5 guard led the Panthers to the NorCal Open Division title as well as an appearance in the State Open Division championship game. Claros was later named to the San Francisco Chronicle All-Metro Third Team and also played in the 2018 NorCal Asian-American All-Star Game this offseason.
Why she chose UC San Diego: “I chose UC San Diego because I loved being on campus and the culture they have established. It made me excited to be a part of a welcoming community.”
Coach VanDerveer on Claros: "We are extremely excited to have Bri Claros join our Triton family. Along with being very skilled guard, Bri is extremely competitive and has a great understanding of what it takes to win. Offensively she can shoot the three, as well as attack the paint to create for herself or her teammates."
La Jolla Country Day School
San Diego, Calif.
Johnson-Ellenbeck averaged 9.3 points and 7.9 rebounds per game as a senior at La Jolla Country Day, leading the Torreys to the second round of the CIF-San Diego Section playoffs. She earned First-Team All-CIF honors and was also a First-Team All-Coastal League selection. Johnson-Ellenbeck was named High School Athlete of the Week by The Mighty 1090 AM and Prep Athlete of the Week by The San Diego Union-Tribune in December after going 6-for-6 from 3-point range in a victory over Mission Hills Alemany. In addition, she was also nominated for the 2018 McDonald’s All-American Game.
Why she chose UC San Diego: “I chose UC San Diego because I would be able to stay close to my family while also getting a great education in a strong science program. I’m also going to have the opportunity to play basketball at the next level, which is a dream for me.”
Coach VanDerveer on Johnson-Ellenbeck: "Adding Kendal to our Triton family is wonderful. She provides us added versatility and brings a true passion to our team. She is a gritty player who does whatever her team needs to do to win. Kendal is a high energy player who makes plays!"
Mount Tabor HS/High Point
A junior transfer from High Point University, Hatfield played in 27 games with 23 starts for the Panthers as a sophomore. The Winston-Salem, N.C., native scored over 1,000 points in high school, earned a place on the Big South All-Freshman team her first season at High Point, and recorded a Big South Tournament record 23 rebounds in a game during the 2017 conference tournament.
Why she chose UC San Diego: “My decision to commit to UC San Diego was made easy by the incredible coaching staff. Coach Heidi (VanDerveer) will push me to be my best. My teammates are kind and competitive, and La Jolla is so beautiful. I knew I wanted to commit the minute I walked onto campus!”
Coach VanDerveer on Hatfield: "Haleigh is a seasoned veteran who has a tremendous offensive skill set and is a tenacious rebounder. She is a player who can exploit mismatches and provide us added versatility. In addition, she adds a toughness to our team. We are glad to have Haleigh join our Triton family."
La Salle HS
The 2018 John R. Wooden Award winner as CIF-Southern Section Division 3 Player of the Year, Macabuhay averaged 26.8 points, 8.3 rebounds, 7.5 assists and 4.2 steals per game as a senior at La Salle High School. She earned Santa Fe League Player of the Year honors for the second-consecutive season, and landed on the All-CIF First Team en route to leading the Lancers to a league title as well as an appearance in the Division 3A quarterfinals. In addition, Macabuhay received 2018 Star News/Tribune All-Star Game MVP accolades and has already been inducted into the La Salle HS Athletic Hall of Fame.
Why she chose UC San Diego:“UC San Diego just felt like the right choice for me. The coaches and players made it feel like I belonged there and nowhere else. There was something about the school that told me this is where I’m supposed to be.”
Coach VanDerveer on Macabuhay: "Julia is a dynamic guard who has an ability to make plays both in transition and in the half court. She is extremely crafty and is able to score in a variety of ways. She is also an excellent passer. She is accustomed to setting the tone for her team. Julia is a tremendous addition to our Triton family.