When the 2018-19 girls all-state high school basketball teams were recently announced, one name rang a bell to long-time California hoops observers. Ali Bamberger of Carondelet High was one of 10 players named to the first-team all-state Division I squad.
Those with a long memory harken back to 1988 when Ygnacio Valley postman Eric Bamberger—Ali’s father— was awarded all-state laurels. They are the state’s first-ever father-daughter duo to receive the same top 15 accolade, according to Cal-Hi Sports editor and publisher Mark Tennis.
Ali Bamberger, a 6-3 center, is headed to the University of Washington this fall after helping Carondelet to four consecutive North Coast Section championships. She was joined by four classmates who had four-year varsity careers. Emily Howie, Erica Miller, Alex Brown and Tatyana Modawar joined her as the Cougar’s Fabulous Five that won 99 games and lost only 25.
Brown and Bamberger actually go all the way back to second grade when they started playing CYO basketball for St. Bonaventure. The girl’s dads coached them in those early years. Ali Bamberger transferred from Highlands Elementary to Saint Agnes School and played for Saints CYO through seventh grade.
Dad Eric Bamberger says his daughter “wasn’t one of the best 1 or 2 players” when she began playing. “She was a year younger than most of the girls in her class [Ali Bamberger graduates this spring from Carondelet as a 17-year-old] but she was able to shoot with both hands. She just needed to get more confident and aggressive.”
Ali Bamberger says she realized her love of basketball between eighth grade and high school. “I broke my foot. The doctor took a look at my growth plate and said I had 3-4 more inches to grow. I was 5-11 then and I was very excited.”
She played water polo in the fall of her freshman year at Carondelet (just like her basketball hero Jayne Appel had done at Carondelet) and she was very nervous when basketball tryouts came around. Cougars coach Elgin Leslie had taught her at St. Agnes but wasn’t that familiar with her basketball skills.
Bamberger had been playing club basketball since she was in fourth grade with Cal Stars and skipped eighth grade CYO to concentrate on the AAU club.
With Cal Stars, Bamberger traveled the country, playing in top-level tournaments including the Nike circuit in Kentucky, Illinois, South Carolina and George, besides up and down the West Coast. Fellow all-state honorees Madison Campbell (Clovis West), Brooke Demetre (Mater Dei), Angel Jackson (Salesian), National player of the year Haley Jones (Archbishop Mitty) and Hannah Jump (Pinewood) were her teammates on Cal Stars.
Her dad helped Ygnacio Valley to the Northern California Division I basketball championship in 1987, the first ever for a school east of the Caldecott Tunnel. The Warriors won a school-record 28 games that year and also featured future NFL receiver Chris Walsh and Chris Roach. They lost to Mater Dei in the State title game.
As a senior Ygnacio and Bamberger won NCS and were runner-up at NorCal. Bamberger was a three-time all-league and two-time all-state player plus named 1988 Bay Area, Northern California and California Division 2 Player of the Year.
The 6-9 Bamberger played basketball under four coaches at St. Mary’s College after turning down a football scholarship to Cal as a tight end. His Gaels went to the NCAA Tournament in 1989. After graduating from St. Mary’s, Bamberger competed in the Continental Basketball Association, an NBA farm circuit, then in France, Australia and South Africa.
Bamberger coached boys basketball at Ygnacio Valley, Deer Valley and most recently, Clayton Valley Charter. He stepped down from CVCHS after a record-breaking 2018 season in order to watch his daughter and son, Mason a 6-3 De La Salle freshman, play this past season.
The Bamberger family, including mom Kate, will take a break from basketball this summer for some long-delayed vacation trips.