Benefield: Santa Rosa High grad Morgan Bertsch leaves her mark on UC Davis basketball court
It was like something out of an investigation scene from a crime show: Grainy footage, hitting pause, looking at images to see what no one else sees.
UC Davis assistant women’s basketball coach Matt Klemin was watching game film of a player interested in becoming an Aggie. It was immediately clear that the player who sent the film was not Division I-caliber.
But that player from the other team, coming in and out of the frame? She’s something.
“’Who is that gazelle running in the back of this film?’” Aggies head coach Jennifer Gross remembered thinking.
The camera wasn’t focused on that player, but she stood out. But who was she?
“(Klemin) wasn’t sure who they were playing,” Gross said of the game tape. “Through a little digging, he realized it was Santa Rosa High.”
And the player was Morgan Bertsch.
Intrigued by what they saw on someone else’s film, the coaches came to watch Bertsch play for the Panthers.
Gross makes no bones about what they saw.
“She had a horrendous game. She was sick,” Gross said. “We were like, ‘I don’t know about this kid.’”
Still, they invited Bertsch to an Aggies camp the summer after her junior season. After one day, they knew.
“She’s not there yet, but the ceiling is really high,” Gross remembers the coaches thinking.
How about this for a ceiling: That essentially un-recruited post player who suited up for a solid Santa Rosa High team (but never played AAU hoops) on Sunday dropped in 31 points against Pacific to break the Aggies’ 35-year-old career scoring record. The 2014 Santa Rosa High grad has scored 1,712 points and counting.
Oh, and in the same game, she tallied five blocks to total 155 and break that school record, too. And she’s two games into her senior season, so you can bet those numbers will rise.
“I wish I could say I had a gut feeling” about Bertsch, Gross said. “Sometimes in recruiting you can get a little lucky.”
The Aggies, who play at Portland State tonight, clearly hit the jackpot with Bertsch. She has rewritten the record books. She has the single-season points record, the most career 20-point games and the most 20-point games in a season.
And that’s just basketball.
The biomedical engineering major slated to graduate in June also put in four seasons of varsity track and field and broke UC Davis’s high jump record as a junior.
I’m not making this up.
“It couldn’t happen to a better person,” Gross said.
And it could be argued that it couldn’t have happened to a different person.
Yes, Bertsch found her way onto the team with perhaps a little luck and thanks to a keen eye from the Davis coaching staff, but from there she made herself into the player she is today.
She redshirted her freshman year but in the second year in the program, Bertsch had grown her game so much that the Aggies were running plays specifically for their new post player.
She has started nearly every game of her career.