Kim Tom has a perfectly vivid memory of her first practice as a Banana Slug.
She was playing against the seniors and got off a floater that she thought was going in, until it was furiously swatted by forward (and blocking machine) Sarah Mackey.
"Fitz (Sarah Fitzgerald) was laughing as we went back down the court. Geena Giovanetti comes and puts her arm around me and says 'Welcome to college basketball'."
After a temporary shock at her indoctrination, Tom composed herself.
"I thought 'I don't think I can do this'. Everything felt super fast and me being the only freshman I just got put into the drill," she said of the transition to college ball. "In college everyone knows how do do all this already; it's just in the little details.
"Luckily my team and coaches were able to guide me, after a couple of practices it was easy just to get used to the level of play."
The only senior on this year's squad, Tom has been able to grow as a player her four years at UCSC.
"I've learned to refine my game and learn where I fit in. In the beginning, I was just a role player. but later I learned to be a mid-range shooter, and this year I transitioned into a top notch defender as well."
When Tom was being recruited in high school, her AAU coach was former UCSC guard Erin Joo's dad, so Kim got to come to UCSC's elite camps and then came to games and was familiar with her future teammates by the time she was a senior.
"I felt super comfortable. I knew I'd get a really good education and the transition would be easy being close to home," she said. "When I came here on the first day, they welcomed me with open arms."
The senior hopes to work in physical therapy when she graduates, and has interned at an outpatient clinic in San Francisco where she worked with athletes and ballet dancers.
"I think being in basketball actually helps with my academics because it helps with my time management," she said.
Coming off consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances, the Banana Slugs had one of the toughest schedules in the country this season, including a game in Vegas against defending national champions Amherst.
"We really upped our level of play. It was one of our best games of the season even though we lost," recalled Tom.
"Going into it there was a lot of pressure because we knew they were a top-ranked team. Coach usually matches me with one of their top players, so going into it I knew I had to be mentally prepared for this game."
The Slugs followed up that loss with a 20-point win over Hamline to close 2017, a game where the team played spectacular and Tom's all-around play put her on the All-Classic team.
"From that Amherst game, it gave us momentum because we were already super pumped had a chip on our shoulder because we wanted to win so badly.
Kim says the team's work ethic has been great despite the trying season.
"It's hard in practice, but it's kind of nice at the same time because it means everyone has to step up," she said. "In games, I know that whoever comes in for me is ready and know they have to keep up the level of play."