LOS ANGELES -- UCLA Head Women’s Basketball Coach Cori Close announced today that Rhema Gardner has decided to medically retire from the sport of women’s basketball, ending her playing career at UCLA.
Gardner, a guard/forward out of Upland, Calif., will remain with the team as an undergraduate assistant and continue her work towards a degree in sociology.
“I am so thankful for Rhema’s contribution to this program,” Close said. “She has been battling pain in her knee since she was in high school. The way she has played through extreme pain and still found ways to contribute on the court has been nothing short of heroic.”
Gardner averaged 1.8 points and 1.8 rebounds per game this year, playing in 26 games for an average of 14.5 minutes per game. She led the team in field goal percentage at 44.2 percent (23-for-52).
“I have really enjoyed my four years as a student-athlete here at UCLA and have learned something new every year,” Gardner said. “There have been some ups and downs, but I had a great time with the coaching staff and my teammates. I have made strong friendships and bonded with some tremendous girls that have become like sisters to me. My time as a student-athlete was exceptional and although I'm not going to be playing next year, I'm very much looking forward to being involved with the team next year in a different role.”
Problems with her left knee began while Gardner was a junior in high school in 2009. She tore her ACL on a fastbreak layup in a game and had surgery to repair it but never had the proper rehabilitation.
She began her collegiate career playing in 22 games off the bench as a freshman in 2010-11, averaging 1.0 points and 1.2 rebounds per game. She played in all 30 games as a sophomore (2011-12), making 20 starts while averaging 3.6 points and 4.5 rebounds per contest. She scored a career-high 18 points in the season-opening win over McNeese State that year and had 12 double-digit rebounding efforts.
Gardner had arthroscopic surgery to remove floating cartilage in her left knee in October of 2012 and was forced to take a medical hardship and redshirt the 2012-13 season while going through rehabilitation. Gardner finished out the 2013-14 season as a redshirt junior and was limited to just 11.8 minutes per game in Pac-12 play and did not practice with the team starting in January of 2014 due to pain and swelling in her knee.
“She will still be a part of the family and will still be intricately involved,” Close added. “We can’t wait for the adventure that awaits her in her fifth year with this program. It just won’t be in a uniform and on the court. We are grateful for her involvement and contribution and respect the sacrifices that she has made for this team.”