Freshmen Morgan Bertsch and Siler Schneider are having big impacts for the UC Davis women’s and men’s basketball teams.
Bertsch averages 13.1 points to lead the women in scoring and is on pace to be the program’s most prolific freshman women’s scorer since Carol Rische 36 years ago.
Bertsch, a 6-foot-4 forward, is a big reason the Aggies are battling for the Big West Conference championship. She is second on the Aggies in steals and blocked shots and averages 4.9 rebounds, and her 58.1 shooting percentage is one of the best in the nation.
“For her size, the things she is able to do is very impressive,” UCD women’s coach Jennifer Gross said. “We feel she could be quite the player over the course of her career.”
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Schneider, a 6-3 guard, has become a key for the Aggies’ men. He’s the second-leading scorer at 10.3 points and also is second in assists for a UCD team that still harbors ambitions of a high seeding for the Big West tournament in March despite injuries and inconsistency.
Schneider made a three-pointer with 1.7 seconds left to give UCD a 63-62 victory over Cal State Northridge on Jan. 14. He also had a career-high 21 points in a 64-56 loss at Boise State on Dec. 30 and a three-pointer that forced overtime in an 80-75 loss at Seattle on Dec. 28.
“I’ve seen big-time players have the moments he has and not be able to produce,” UCD men’s coach Jim Les said. “That’s more a credit to his makeup as a player and a person. And the self-confidence he has.”
For her size, the things she is able to do is very impressive. We feel she could be quite the player over the course of her career.
UC Davis women’s coach Jennifer Gross, on Morgan Bertsch
Schneider and Bertsch credit being two years removed from high school for their strong freshman seasons.
After helping his unbeaten Lansing High team win the Kansas state championship, Schneider spent a year at the Air Force Academy prep school, where he developed physically. But when he decided he wasn’t interested in pursuing a military career, he remembered Les’ interest. He visited UCD last January and saw the Aggies’ 81-78 win over Cal Poly in overtime on national TV and in front of 5,317 revved fans at the Pavilion.
“My visit was the first time ever being in California, they treated me well, and I committed on the spot,” Schneider said. “They had everything I wanted as far as basketball and education.”
Les knew Schneider could contribute immediately, but Schneider has done a lot more than the former NBA point guard anticipated.
“Every game you can see his confidence rising,” Les said. “He’s a playmaker on both ends of the floor. He’s just playing at a high level. It’s fun to watch. It’s fun to coach. He’s adjusted to Division I basketball about as quickly as any freshman I’ve been around.”
Bertsch redshirted last season, giving her more time to mature, bond with her teammates and adjust to the rigors of her biomedical engineering major.
“I’m so happy I did it,” Bertsch said. “I got the whole year to practice with them. It helped me develop great chemistry. The only hard part was having to watch the games from the sidelines.”
Gross said Bertsch “was a steal.” Because she didn’t play travel basketball and had a higher profile in track and field – she was a two-time North Coast Section high jump champion for Santa Rosa High – Bertsch received her only Division I basketball scholarship offer before her senior season from UCD.
I’ve seen big-time players have the moments he has and not be able to produce. That’s more a credit to his makeup as a player and a person. And the self-confidence he has.
UC Davis men’s coach Jim Les, on Siler Schneider
“UC Davis just kind of jumped the gun,” Bertsch said. “Other colleges started asking about me toward the end of my senior year, but I was already committed.”
Gross and her assistants knew Bertsch was special even before she started putting upsingle-season records for points, rebounds and blocked shots as a senior at Santa Rosa.
“We saw the potential right away: A 6-3 athlete that could run the floor, had good hands and could finish,” Gross said. “We were fortunate to get in early with her, to get to know her and to build a relationship.”
When Bertsch isn’t shooting jumpers, she’s high-jumping on the track team. She finished in a fourth-place tie with teammate Katie Barber in the high jump at last year’s Big West Conference track and field championships.
“Track training helps me for basketball, with my agility and speed,” she said. “I can beat people down the court for wide-open transition layups. And, of course, it helps me vertically.”