The Arkansas women’s basketball team heads to the SEC tournament on Wednesday needing a huge spark. The player who can give it to them is not only their point guard, but also hails from right here in Fayetteville. Calli Berna doesn't get much public recognition on this team, but if you get to know her she doesn't need it.
“She's the heart and soul,” said head coach Tom Collen. “Everything emanates from her.”
“She's not a selfish point guard,” said senior forward Keira Peak. “She's a great disher.”
Not many people know it, but Calli Berna is already in the Arkansas record books and should be again soon. She holds the all-time mark for most assists in a season with 208 in 2012-2013. Next year as a senior, she'll likely break the record for most in a career (717). This season, she finished with 197.
“I know my teammates appreciate that pass,” said Berna. “I know some people may not see that I'm the one who passed it to them, but that doesn't matter to me. What matters to me is that the points go on the board.”
She's made it easy,” said Peak. “She's great at just dishing the ball off.”
As underappreciated as she is on offense, Berna is even more so on defense. Her coach even says she'll go guard someone else’s girl, come back to her own and not miss a beat.
“I nominated her for defensive player of the year,” said Collen. “I'm not even sure the other coaches in the SEC recognize that. She may not even get a vote.”
Berna is the face of this women’s team, not only for her leadership, but because she’s the home town girl, growing up playing ball in Northwest Arkansas her whole life.
“I have such a great opportunity here, not only in basketball,” said Berna. “I get to be around little girls who look up to me and that's something I take pretty heavily. I feel I have a great responsibility to be a good role model and play a sport that I love. So that's really exciting to get to do that day in and day out.”
Arkansas plays Ole Miss in the first round of the tournament Wednesday in Duluth, Ga.