(Left to right) Kalaya Buggs, Sydney Nelson, Breanne Ha and Jeanette all garnered CCAA honors for the 2023-24 season. | Courtesy of CPP Athletics

Four CPP women’s basketball players awarded All-CCAA honors for the first time in two decades

By Jonathan Shone, March 26, 2024

Four members of the Cal Poly Pomona women’s basketball team have secured All-CCAA honors for the first time since the 1999-2000 season, designating a milestone achievement for the program.

Guard Kalaya Buggs and forward Sydney Nelson were named to the All-CCAA First Team and All-CCAA Second Team, while guard Breanne Ha and forward Jeanette Fine both received All-CCAA Honorable Mentions.

Nelson also became the fourth CPP women’s basketball player to be awarded CCAA Freshman of the Year, cementing her place in the program’s history amongst former award winners Jordyn Shane (2015-16), Cydnie Jones (2012-13) and Reyana Colson (2007-08). Moreover, she was the only freshman to win All-CCAA Honors in the conference.

Nelson consistently scored double digits this season, totaling 441 points and becoming the team’s top scorer and the conference’s eighth-highest scorer. She also led the Broncos with 25 blocks, 100 offensive rebounds and 192 total rebounds, showcasing her defensive and rebounding proficiency.

Nelson attributes her success to having dependable teammates who strengthen her confidence on the court.

“It just shows how much work our team puts in because I didn’t win Freshman of the Year on my own,” Nelson said. “It was definitely a team effort knowing that the team has confidence in me, knowing that I can rely on them.”

Nelson began playing basketball at age 5 in a children’s league, where she competed with cousins and against all-boys teams. Throughout her schooling, including at Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Eastvale, California, she played for multiple teams often coached by her father, whose unwavering support is crucial to her career.

“We’re a very tight knit family, so he knew how to coach me in a way that benefitted me the most and starting that at a young age definitely helped,” Nelson said. “And he’s still here at every one of my games.”

Although Nelson has consistently thrived as an offensive player upon joining the Broncos, she has placed more focus on exerting defensive effort.

“It definitely opened my eyes to ‘hey, you can be a defensive player too’, you can go in and grab boards, you can jump or you’re quick so you can get around these posts or these taller players,” Nelson said.

Buggs, CPP’s top two-way guard, registered an impressive season as well, on her way to securing a first team selection. She collected two CCAA Player of the Week awards during the weeks of Jan. 22-28 and Feb.12 to 18, guiding the Broncos to consecutive wins in both periods. Buggs was also awarded an All-American Honorable Mention by the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA), an honor received by only 40 players nationwide.

By the season’s close, Buggs topped the conference charts with 150 successful free throws out of 189 attempts, while also leading the Broncos with 61 steals and 116 assists. Furthermore, her 79.4% accuracy from the free-throw line, 1.3 assist-to-turnover ratio and 119 defensive rebounds all stood as the team’s best.

Buggs was introduced to basketball in first grade and played for travel ball teams in Southern California coached by her parents and underwent a similar trajectory as Nelson, transitioning between teams during high school that forced her adapt to different team dynamics.

“Playing with the same people for a while was actually really fun, but I think what helped me the most is just having to change teams every year after a certain point because that helped me better adjust to learning my teammates earlier,” Buggs said.

Upon transferring from Coastal Carolina University to CPP in 2022-23, she put together a breakout year for the Broncos where she generated elite free throw and assist numbers.

In her second stint with the Broncos, Buggs not only bolstered her performance from last season but has embraced her responsibility to mentor the team’s younger players.

“I think just knowing my role on the court, just knowing that I’m an upperclassman, I’ve been here before, like I’ve been in a lot of tough situations, and I’ve made those mistakes before,” Buggs said.

Ha, one of the two All-CCAA Honorable Mention recipients, has rapidly emerged as CPP’s best three-point shooter. Draining 73 three-pointers at 35.6% accuracy this season, she surpassed her previous year’s total of 61. Furthermore, she broke the former single season record of 71 set by Anna Jones in 2000-2001, moving her to second place in the program’s history.

Ha formerly played for Rosary Academy and Los Osos High School, the latter of which she led to a CIF Southern Section Division 3A title as a freshman. She eventually transferred to Etiwanda High School where she competed until graduation. By the end of high school, she had been awarded Freshman State Player of the Year, Newcomer of the Year, All-CIF First Team, All-Baseline Second Team and All-Baseline First Team.

Ha debuted for the Broncos in the 2021-2022 season as a redshirt freshman, starting 15 out of 23 games played with limited minutes. The increased role she was given over the ensuing seasons has molded her into an elite sharpshooter, a pivotal reason CPP has reached the postseason the past two years.

Fine, who missed the start of the season due to injury, concludes the selections with averages of 12 points and 5.6 rebounds per game, ranking third and second on the team respectively.

Before college, Fine excelled at Canyon Springs High School, earning distinctions like Offensive Player of the Year, Lady Pioneer Award, Team MVP and three Conference MVP titles. Alongside basketball, she briefly competed in track and volleyball, and her academic success earned her multiple scholarships.

Fine, with two GSAC All-Conference nods and an NAIA Honorable Mention in her seasons at Hope International, transferred to CPP after her sophomore year. Following her return from injury, she demonstrated resilience and emerged as a crucial player, making significant contributions for the Broncos down the stretch.

Although the team faced a tough defeat in the NCAA Division II Regional Quarterfinals to end its season, standout performances throughout the campaign signify a bright future for the program’s development moving forward.

Feature image courtesy of CPP Athletics

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