Bumped. GO BRUINS. -N
With basketball season only two weeks away, I thought it was time to start looking into what we can expect for the upcoming season, and generate some interest and knowledge about the team before things tip off with their first regular season game November 12th. Part 1 of the season preview will cover our personnel for the upcoming season.
Of course, everything starts at the top. Coach Nikki Caldwell enters her third season as the reigning Pac-10 coach of the year, following a 25-9 record last season, a second place Pac-10 finish, and advancing to the second round of the NCAA tournament. There is no denying that Nikki has quickly changed the culture of the program with a focus on defense, rebounding, and fundamentals.
Following UCLA's best season in over a decade, UCLA is poised for an even stronger season with so much returning talent. UCLA returns 4 starters, and 9 out of 12 scholarship players from the year before. Erica Tukiainen is the only starter not to return, along with Allison Taka and Moniquee Alexander who graduated last year. With those who are coming back, UCLA returns 80% of minutes played, 84% of their scoring, and 85% of their rebounding. With so much of the foundation of their success from last season returning, one can only get excited to think how the team will perform with an extra year of experience and coaching under its belt.
I'll take a look at the Roster after the jump (all stats based on last season)
UCLA brings in 3 freshman for the 2010 class. While Nikki's skill at recruitment has been seen in her 2011 class that features 4 recruits, 3 of which are rated in Hoopsgurlz top 30, the 2010 class features no recruit in the top 100. Still, with so much upperclassmen experience on the team this season, UCLA can afford to have a few players that can use a year or two to grow within Nikki's system. Clearly, Nikki saw something in each of them. Our freshmen are:
#13 Thea Lemberger, a 5-6 Guard from Santa Monica, and the highest rated of our incoming players
#20 Rhema Garder, a 6-1 Guard/Forward from Upland, and the sister of Junior Rebekah Gardner
#34 Corinne Costa, a 6-4 post player from Brentwood, and gives the team some added size with the departure of Moniquee Alexander.
UCLA returns 4 sophomore players, including 1 starter.
#2 Jackie Shepard, a 5-10 Walk-on Guard. Jackie didn’t play much last year, averaging under 2 minutes a game.
#5 Mariah Williams, a 5-3 Guard. Mariah averaged about 14 minutes a game as a back-up point guard, with a season high of 15 points against Oregon.
#11 Atonye Nyingifa, a 5-11 Guard/Forward, she is a redshirt sophomore after sitting out last season with an injury. In her freshman year she worked her way into the starting lineup due to her impressing Nikki with her rebounding skills, and was a highly rated recruit out of high school.
#23 Markel Walker, a 6-1 forward and a starter for the vast majority of last year and the gem of Nikki’s recruiting class last year. Markel averaged 10.8 points and 7.5 rebounds a game her first year.
UCLA has only two juniors on the roster.
#33 Jasmine Dixon, the 6-0 Forward and transfer from Rutgers. After a strong first season, she has been added to the preseason wooden watch list. She led the team with a 15.3 scoring average, as well as in rebounding at 8.0 a game. Her most memorable game came on the road when she brought the Bruins back from a 16 point second half deficit to Oregon thanks to 31 points and 20 rebounds.
#35 Rebekah Garder, a 6-1 Guard. Rebekah started to develop her 3-point shooting and while she finished the season at 30%, it sure seems she improved as the season went on. One of only 2 players to shoot above 80% at the line, she averaged 6.9 points and 2.1 rebounds a game and led the team in blocks.
UCLA features 4 seniors this years, 2 of which are regular starters.
#1 Nina Earl, a 6-1 Forward, was a starter 2 years ago, only to see her minutes decrease when Jasmine Dixon arrived. When she is on the court, she shot over 50% last season and was often used for her hustle and defensive focus. It will be very interesting to see how she steps up in her senior year while still playing behind Dixon.
#3 Darxia Morris, a 5-8 shooting guard who is also comfortable handling the ball when asked to, averaged 8.6 points a game last season and actually had more assists and fewer turnovers (but it was close) than our main point guard, Doreena. Darxia is a streaky shooter, but seems to play much better when a game is in crunch time. With the departure of Tukiainen, she’ll be needed to a threat from beyond the arc after shooting 33% last year
#4 Christina Nzekwe, a 6-4 Forward was our third leading rebounder and shot blocker despite playing only 16 minutes a game. She averaged under 3 points a game however, and if she can provide more of a scoring option in the post, that would greatly benefit the team.
#21 Doreena Campbell, a 5-10 Guard and our major ball handler. She was the best freethrow shooter on the team at 88% and best returning 3-point shooter at 40% last season. She averaged just under 10 points a game, and was the only player to start every game last season. While Jasmine Dixon and Markel Walker may grab most of the media’s attention, Doreena Campbell as a senior and the floor leader will be looked on to provide a sense of leadership to the team.
That is a look at our roster for the upcoming season. In part 2 of the season preview next week, Bruinmarcher will join me in looking at the questions for the upcoming season as well as what to expect from this team for the year. I will also take a quick look around the pac-10 and nation to put the Bruin team in perspective of where they fit in in the conference and the nation.
The season is only a few weeks away, get excited! GO BRUINS!!