It's Erica McCall vs. Greg McCall as Stanford hosts CSU Bakersfield

ByMICHELLE SMITH
December 22, 2015, 1:55 PM

— -- If all goes well Tuesday night, Erica McCall is hoping she will be able to hop on the bus with the opposing team and hitch a ride home for Christmas.

The question of course, is, well for whom?

When 12th-ranked Stanford takes on Cal State Bakersfield, the matchup will include an intriguing subplot. Erica, Stanford's junior forward, will face off against her friends on the Roadrunners roster -- and her father.

Greg McCall is in his fifth season as the head coach at Bakersfield, his alma mater. He had just been hired while his daughter's recruitment was heating up. Stanford, UCLA and UConn were recruiting Erica, who grew up in Bakersfield, California. Still, he made his pitch.

"I didn't try really hard," Greg said. "She was already highly recruited by the time I got the job. I told her, 'You live your dream and I'll live mine.' I told her that I would love to coach her, and she could always come home if it didn't work someplace else."

But Greg knew that his daughter was going to find her own way. He has been through this before. DeWanna Bonner is Greg's eldest daughter, and the WNBA All-Star has carved out an impressive professional career, winning two championships with the Phoenix Mercury.

Greg's two daughters -- who are half-sisters -- are very different players. The 6-foot-4 Bonner is long, lithe and was never really interested in knocking around in the paint. Despite her size, Bonner -- who grew up loving volleyball and cheerleading -- was always a perimeter player.

Erica, meanwhile, likes to battle for position and rebounds. Her dad calls the 6-3 forward a "workhorse." She is a hustler whom Tennessee coach Holly Warlick described as "all out," and Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer calls Erica the team's "heart and soul." She has seven double-doubles this season, averaging 14.0 points and 10.5 rebounds a game.

Erica has been the young Cardinal's most consistent performer so far this season, and she has grown into that role. She spent her freshman season under the wing of All-American Chiney Ogwumike, then stepped into a larger role as a sophomore. Still, a summer playing among the best collegiate players in the nation set her on her current path.

Erica was the co-captain for Team USA at the World University Games this past summer. She returned to The Farm a more confident player.

"Erica has always been passionate about basketball," VanDerveer said. "She works hard and she loves to play. She's a better screener and a better finisher this year. But the biggest change was in her confidence."

She came back from her USA experience as a "completely different player."

"I feel like I know now that I can compete with the best players around the world and I learned how to be a leader," she said.

Bonner is in Russia, playing until spring when the WNBA season begins again. She talks to younger sister Erica "when she needs me."

"She is such a hard worker," Bonner said via email. "You are going to get her best effort every night and I love that about her game."

Greg said he talks to Erica before and after games. She calls him after a rough practice, or a particularly interesting day in class.

"We talk about a lot of different things," Greg said. "Being a coach, I think I understand what the coaches want from her and what they expect and I try to help her to see that."

Greg said he talks to Erica about the virtues of slowing down.

"She gets so hyped and anxious to do well and she works so hard," Greg said. "One of the biggest things I tell her is to slow down."

Greg said his policy with all of his kids -- Erica, DeWanna and son Justin -- is to stay out of the way of their coaches. And he tries to keep a lid on the basketball talk at the dinner table.

"I've always been involved and I coached them as kids, but I've tried to be just a normal parent in the stands," Greg said. "I'm a basketball fanatic. I'm addicted. It runs in my veins. I wouldn't know what to do without it. But when I'm home with my kids, I'm dad."

Erica said she thinks "half of Bakersfield" is making the trip to the Bay Area to watch the game. Her high school coach and at least one of her teachers will be in the stands at Maples Pavilion in addition to her family and friends.

"It's going to be a special moment for me and for her," Greg said. "I think we are both very excited. We've already joked about the talking we are going to do."

Greg's Roadrunners have had a difficult start to the season and are 2-10 after playing tough opponents like South Carolina, Arizona State, UCLA and Oregon State.

Regardless of Bakersfield's record, Erica expects a tough game. Her dad knows the "ins and outs" of her game, so she's going to have to be at her best.

"He has a scouting report, that's for sure," Erica said. "And his players are my friends and they know my game, too. I'm sure he is going to tell his players my weaknesses. So I'm going to have to counter that."

VanDerveer also reminds Erica that she's playing for bragging rights at Christmas dinner. And of course, that four-hour ride home to Bakersfield.

"If she hits the game-winner against us," Greg said, "she might not get that ride."

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