March 17, 2022 

Layshia Clarendon on induction into the Pac-12 Hall of Honor

'Oh, damn, I was pretty good back in the day'

Layshia Clarendon didn’t exactly know what to think when they first were notified that they would be a member of the Pac-12’s 2022 Hall of Honor class. He had just completed a workout — one of their myriad as they work their way back from a stress fracture in their foot suffered at the end of last season — and glanced at her phone only to notice a missed call from one of their former coaches from the University of California.

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“[My reaction] wasn’t anything super dramatic. I think I was just a little caught off guard, like, ‘Oh, okay. That’s cool. Like, wait, what does this mean? And what are all the details?” Clarendon, who uses he/him, she/her and they/them pronouns interchangeably, told The Next. “I think it more sunk in when I was at the event and kind of realized the company that I was in.”

While surrounded by family, friends, and former coaches, Clarendon’s name became immortalized in the annals of Pac-12 history on March 7 alongside other all-time greats such as Olympic track stars Jackie Joyner Kersee (UCLA), Tanya Hughes (Arizona), English Gardner (Oregon), and Jenny Simpson (Colorado) as well as soccer standout Tina Frimpong Ellertson (Washington). She was the only women’s basketball member and Cal Golden Bear inducted this cycle.

Growing up in San Bernardino in southern California, Clarendon knew two things: That he wanted to play basketball at a high level and that they wanted to do so on the West Coast. They concluded their high school career as Cajon High School’s all-time leader in points (2,875) and assists (944) and garnered WBCA All-American recognition in 2009 as a senior. He resisted overtures from big-name collegiate programs such as Notre Dame and other East Coast powers, instead, narrowing down their choices to Arizona State, UCLA, and Cal. In the end, head coach Lindsay Gottlieb and the Golden Bears won out.

“California, ultimately, felt really good in my heart and I knew it was the place for me to be,” Clarendon said. “It was a little bit away from home, but it was still kind of close enough. And it was definitely that place. [I was] a young, closeted queer person and I just knew when I went to Cal that, like, there were a lot more people like me there. And I knew I had great teammates, and I had a weird, constant campus that really reflected the person that I was internally, even if I couldn’t necessarily do that outwardly at the time.”

Clarendon excelled at Berkeley, culminating with the Golden Bears registering a 32-4 record and Final Four appearance during the 2012-13 season. The Indiana Fever eventually selected them with the ninth overall pick during the 2013 draft and she will be entering her tenth WNBA season this summer.

Clarendon pointed out he is among the first, if not the first, gender non-binary athletes inducted into the Pac-12 Hall of Honor, a fact that they are proud of. They are also prominent in various social justice movements as well, an outspoken Black athlete who seamlessly moves beyond the court to speak out on racial injustices.

“It’s like all those identities, I think, for me that are wrapped up in one that are a really big deal to be inducted into the Hall of Fame,” Clarendon said.

Time for reflection is often pushed aside by many high-level athletes as the drive for the ever-nebulous “more” propels them forward. Clarendon provides no exception. However, the Pac-12 Hall of Honor ceremony allowed for them to do just that, with revelations manifesting, even if they were already obvious to those who’ve watched him play over the years.

“I kinda was like, ‘Oh, damn, I was pretty good back in the day. I did a lot of cool things!’” Clarendon said. “I set out to go to Cal to help make West Coast basketball more known and that’s why I didn’t want to leave the West Coast. I ultimately wanted more of our talent to stay in California. So, to see that I reached that goal, I think that’s really, really cool. It just reminded me that I did come out and do something really big that I wanted to do.”

Written by Lucas Seehafer

Lucas Seehafer is a general reporter for The Next. He is also a physical therapist and professor at the undergraduate level. His work has previously appeared at Baseball Prospectus, Forbes, FanSided, and various other websites.

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