Senior guard Thea Lemberger has spent this summer in an unpaid internship at BDA Sports Management. Working in the marketing department, she has been helping BDA clients find community relations work to give back to the community. She has also assisted the digital marketing team with finding sponsorships and/or partnerships for BDA clients for various projects, utilizing social media.
BDA Sports Management is one of the top three sports agencies in the country and currently represents 39 NBA athletes (including two Bruins, Darren Collison and Ryan Hollins).
But Lemberger has also spent the summer getting her body ready for another competitive Pac-12 season.
Last year, the Bruins advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the third time in the last four seasons, as second-year head coach Cori Close directed UCLA to a 26-8 overall record and a third-place finish in the competitive Pac-12. A consistent team all season, the Bruins compiled four separate winning streaks of at least five games, including two streaks of six consecutive victories.
UCLA advanced to the Pac-12 Tournament title game, losing by a 51-49 margin to top-seeded Stanford, before cruising past Stetson, 66-49, in a first-round meeting of the NCAA Tournament. The Bruins’ season ended with an 85-72 setback to Oklahoma in the NCAA Tournament’s second round. Alyssia Brewer, Atonye Nyingifa and Markel Walker each secured All-Pac-12 Team honors. Nyingifa led the Bruins with 11.6 points per game, while Brewer registered 11.1 points and a team-best 7.7 rebounds per contest. Walker was named an honorable mention All-American by the Associated Press.
But with only two starters returning (Lemberger and Nyingifa), UCLA will be relying on its only two seniors to lead the way.
"I think we are headed in the right direction," Lemberger said. "It will be about execution this year. We probably won't have all of the pieces in place in 2013-14 because of injuries and stuff, but that doesn't mean we can't get it done."
Lemberger says that she has learned a lot in the last three seasons about what it takes to be successful and how to lead a team.
"At this point in my career, I understand what it takes to be successful," she added. "To make all of those sacrifices and to do what is needed and not reap the rewards is really tough. A lot of teams go through that. Everyone puts in the same hours in practice. But if I can share my insights and awareness and if our team has chemistry, we can accomplish great things this year. I have learned that great leadership is not only conveyed verbally, but by actions as well."
With three dominant post players in Brewer, Walker and Jasmine Dixon all gone to graduation, as well as losing one of the better team defenders in guard Mariah Williams, the Bruins will be younger and less experienced than last season. But Lemberger isn't worried.
"What I learned from the workouts this summer is that this year's team will have a different vibe," she said. "We all want to help each other out and have really good chemistry. We just need to embrace that, strengthen that and run with it. But in order to be successful, we will need to play with that chemistry as well.
"We have a lot of talent on this team. We have shooters all over the floor. With me, Kari Korver and Nirra Fields across the top, defenses will not be able to play off anybody. But Kacy Swain can shoot it and Atonye can knock shots down, so we have scorers. We will just be a little small inside."
When asked what she is most looking forward to about the 2013-14 season, she replied, "I'm excited to play with Nirra more this season. She has been aggressive this summer and looks good out there. Sometimes when you are a freshman and playing with a lot of seniors, you can be a little timid. I think she has already shed that and is ready to play. I think she is poised to have a really good season."
This summer, most of the Bruins have been in Los Angeles all summer working out and going to summer school. It has been like an extended pre-season with the team welcoming in four new faces and personalities. The team will also have new personnel on the sidelines as Wendale Farrow has been hired as the new video coordinator and Lisa Friesen has been named the new athletic trainer for women's basketball.
"We have really been working out hard and sculpting our bodies in the weight room," Lemberger said. "We have gotten stronger and more athletic. We have also been working on our skills and playing a lot of basketball. I'll definitely be entering the season in the best shape of my life. Last summer, I took A-Session off to go play in Israel, but I actually spent less time in the gym than I did this summer."
Lemberger says that she would like to return to Israel after her college days are over and aspires to play professionally in Israel.
"I'm set on going to play in Israel," Lemberger said. "I want to play as long as my body allows me to. But I'm down to go anywhere. I would love to travel, play basketball and have an adventure."
As for the adventure that will be Lemberger's senior season, that begins in Pauley Pavilion with an exhibition game on Oct. 31 with Vanguard at 7:00 p.m. The 2013-14 UCLA women's basketball schedule will be released in the coming weeks.