In her second year as a Bruin, UCLA basketball player Michaela Onyenwere is quickly growing into a leader the team needs.
It is hard to talk about the women’s UCLA basketball team’s recent success without talking about Jordin Canada and Monique Billings, especially since they did so much for the Bruins during the 2017-18 season. But that season is over and the Bruins, Canada, and Billings have all gone their separate ways.
With that in mind, UCLA is trying to sustain their success, but who do they have to lead them and keep that continuity? Meet Michaela Onyenwere. A Bruin that is slowly developing into not only the emotional leader but a leader in the scoring column.
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If you didn’t know about Michala Onyenwere last season, then you were not paying much attention. Though she only averaged 6.9 points for the season, she made herself known with a handful of impressive performances. In the season opener, she logged 19 points and 10 rebounds. It was the first of three double-doubles on the season, which is not much, but it was just the start.
In January of 2018, Onyenwere received her first Pac-12 Freshman of the Week honor when she averaged 15.5 points and 10 rebounds during a two-game stretch on the road. Her efforts for the season culminated in receiving another Pac-12 honor, making the All-Freshman Team.
Now that is all well and good, but sports is all about “what have you done for me lately”. Well, lately Onyenwere has been destroying those stats with an impressive breakout sophomore season.
This year, the 6’0 forward has been leading the Bruins in the scoring column with 16.3 points per game, but that only tells a small part of the story as she is averaging 22.3 ppg in conference. To start off Pac-12 play, Onyenwere scored 27 against USC. She knocked that effort up a notch in her next game with 29 against #18 Cal. And though she could only manage 11 against #6 Stanford, she was able to log her fifth double-double of the season with 12 rebounds.
In all three of those games (which were all on the road), the Bruins were competitive and did not quit, even when they fell behind. That is in large part due to Onyenwere’s production which has been the spark the Bruins have needed at times.
But that was only the beginning as UCLA’s schedule does not get any easier.
Though the Bruins return home this week, they do so with #10 Oregon State and #5 Oregon visiting Pauley Pavilion. That is quite an obstacle to overcome, but if the Bruins continue playing as they have and if Onyenwere can continue her dominance under the rim, the Bruins have a chance to shake up the Pac-12 standings.
It is going to be hard, but then again, what hasn’t been hard for a team that lost their two best players? What helps ease the pain is having a player like Onyenwere who can pick up the slack and put the weight of the team on her back to try and get those Ws. Not only is this experience good for the team’s chances this year, but it is shaping her to be a leader in the coming seasons.
Again, if you haven’t been paying attention to UCLA women’s basketball and Michaela Onyenwere, I suggest you start doing so.