The UCLA basketball women’s team made some huge strides this past season, and that experience is going to help them become a major threat in the world of women’s college basketball during the 2019-20 season.
Next season, just like the Wu-Tang Clan, the UCLA basketball women’s team will be nuthin’ to “mess” with (sorry for the censorship, this is a family blog). And why is that?
This group of women was already expected to be competitive in 2019-20, seeing as they have a good mix of youth, experience, talent, and coaching. But three things will help them raise the bar heading into next season.
1. The Bruins Pulling Themselves up by Their Bootstraps
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The first reason has to do with the Bruins’ late-season rise during Pac-12 play. UCLA was expected to finish 6th at the beginning of the season but unexpectedly fought their way to fourth. With the Bruins finishing 10-7 in the non-conference, it was believed that the Bruins might stumble a bit in conference season.
That was not the case as the Bruins came together at just the right time. Let us go back real quick… UCLA lost two superstars from the previous season in Jordin Canada and Monique Billings. Both were so efficient that they took the workload and placed it squarely on their shoulders. But with both heading to the WNBA, who was going to pick up the slack? The simple answer, everyone.
Many could foresee Michaela Onyenwere’s development and she did not disappoint as she became the team’s leading scorer with 18.3 points per game. Kennedy Burke was good coming into this season, but by the end, she was great as the senior leader lifted the Bruins up in several contests. Lindsay Corsaro, who cut short her freshman year due to injury, was one of the top freshmen this season and is developing into a dangerous three-point shooter. But UCLA’s success also coincided with the rise of one player in particular.
2. Japreece Dean
Then there is Japreece Dean, the second reason UCLA will elevate their game next year. Dean had some big shoes to fill with Canada’s departure and it took some time, but by the end of the season, she was playing otherworldly, especially as a facilitator. On the season, Dean averaged 14.1 points and 4.9 assists per game. In the last ten games of the season, those numbers rose to 17.2 ppg and 6.3 apg.
This midseason development is important because it shows how she can adapt and grow into her role which will be important traits to take into her extra season of eligibility. Dean was not expected to be with the Bruins next year as it was believed she exhausted her time due to her transfer from Texas Tech in her sophomore year. That was cleared up a few weeks ago when the NCAA granted her an extra year of eligibility. With her progress and the fire she brings to the court, it cannot be understated how big this is.\
3. The Addition of Five Ballers
Lastly, UCLA may be losing three players, but they are gaining five and are now filled to the brim with talent. In women’s hoops, coaches have 15 scholarships to work with (unlike the men who have 13). Head coach Cori Close has done a bang-up job recruiting and bringing in transfers during her tenure, and next year those moves will pay dividends.
The Bruins get to (finally) use the talent and expereicne of sharp-shooter Natalie Chou who had to sit out this season after her transfer from Baylor. She will not only add to UCLA’s offense, but her skills could land her a starting gig.
Additionally, Close brings in four top recruits which are headlined by 5-star point guards Jaden Owens and Charisma Osborne, both of which have excellent ball control, the ability to dash down the court and have no fear driving into the lane. They will be joined by 4-star guard Camryn Brown and forward Brynn Masikewich. Brown looks to be a solid backup on the wing while Masikewich has the length and skill to contend for a starting spot in the frontcourt next to Onyenwere.
Progress. Dean. Five new Bruins. This is what will help speed up the process of elevating UCLA women’s basketball among the nation’s elite. This is not hyperbole, this is everything coming together at the right time. Close has built something special and it will soon be unleashed upon the world and to that I, say, “you have been warned.”