Nov. 12, 2002
Bruins Wrap-Up Exhibition Play Vs. West Coast All-Stars - The UCLA women's basketball team will close exhibition play on Sunday, Nov. 17 against the West Coast All-Stars at 2:00 pm in Pauley Pavilion. West Coast All-Stars have dropped previous contests to UC Santa Barbara (95-81), UNLV (80-71) and Nebraska (97-63). Amongst the West Coast All-Stars is Nicky McCrimmon, a member of the two-time defending WNBA champion Los Angeles Sparks.
Looking Ahead - The Bruins will open the regular season on Nov. 23-24 at the Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort Classic hosted by the University of Hawaii. UCLA's first opponent will be the host school, Hawaii, on Nov. 23. The Bruins will play Sacramento State on Nov. 24. UCLA opens up the home slate with a game versus St. Mary's on Dec. 3 at 7:00 pm.
Last Game's Recap - The Bruins showcased fine depth but fell just short in the 2002-03 exhibition opener to Love And Basketball, 77-74. Michelle Greco led UCLA in her first game since Dec. 1, 2001, scoring 12 points. Freshmen Julia Pitts, Nikki Blue and Lisa Willis totaled 11 points apiece as 12 of 13 Bruins scored in the game. UCLA led the game at halftime, 42-40, but Love And Basketball started the second half on a 15-4 run. Former UCLA standout Janae Hubbard led all players with 21 points and 10 rebounds.
2002-03 Outlook - Coach Kathy Olivier welcomes back nine letterwinners, including four of the top five scorers, and adds five talented newcomers for the 2002-03 season. Four returning starters are back, as is the 2001 Pac-10 scoring champ Michelle Greco, who is cleared to play after a medical redshirt season a year ago.
Senior point guard Natalie Nakase, a starter in the last 58 straight Bruin games, returns after a season in which she improved her scoring average, (4.4 to 7.9), assists average (4.4 to 5.1), rebound average (1.9 to 3.1) and free throw percentage (.500 to .783). Senior guard Jalina Bradley, who has 39 career starts, has improved her scoring average for three straight seasons. Junior forward Whitney Jones led the team in scoring last season (9.5) and is the leading returning rebounder (5.2). Junior forward Jamila Veasley, a starter in 18 games last season, is also back.
Greco, who was averaging 23.6 points per game before going to the sidelines after five games last season, led the Pac-10 in scoring in 2001 (19.9). Doctors recommended her sitting out the remainder of last season upon reviewing test results conducted after mild concussions in her sophomore and junior seasons.
Junior Gennifer Arranaga, who was UCLA's hottest player at the end of last season, averaging 17 points and six boards in her last four games, and senior Natalie Jarrett offer veteran spark off the bench. Krystle Johnson and Sissy Pickett provide experience in the frontcourt. Walk-on senior Melissa Maurin rounds out the list of returning players.
Coach Olivier welcomes five outstanding newcomers to the team. All-Everything guard Nikki Blue (West High School in Bakersfield, CA) was regarded by several publications as the No. 1 combo guard in the nation. She averaged 28.9 points per game and finished her prep career as the No. 3 scorer in the State. Guard-forward Lisa Willis was a member of one the nation's most successful prep programs at Narbonne High School. Guard Ortal Oren was a member of the Israeli Junior National team. Forward Julia Pitts was the Cal-Hi Sports Female Athlete of the Year after starring the sports of basketball, volleyball and track at North Torrance High School. Forward-center Emma Tautolo, daughter of former Bruin footballer, John, averaged 21 points a game at Moreno Valley High School.
Greco Named to Pre-Season All-Conference Team by Media - Michelle Greco was selected by the media to the Pre-Season All-Conference team for the second consecutive year. Greco was joined by Stanford's Nicole Powell, USC's Ebony Hoffman, Washington's Loree Payne and Oregon's Shaquala Williams
Bruins Picked To Finish Seventh/Eighth In Pac-10 - The Pac-10 media selected the Bruins to finish seventh in the conference race this season in a pre-season poll. Stanford was the near unanimous choice to finish first, followed by Washington (two first-place votes), Oregon, USC, Arizona, Arizona State, UCLA, Oregon State, California and Washington State.
The Pac-10 women's basketball coaches picked UCLA to finish eighth in the conference. Stanford was the near unanimous choice to finish first, followed by Washington, Oregon (one first-place vote), USC, Arizona, Arizona State, Oregon State, UCLA, California and Washington State.
Greco Named To Pre-Season All-America Team - Michelle Greco was selected to the Women's Basketball News Service pre-season All-America second team, joining Stanford's Nicole Powell (first team) as the only two honorees from the Pac-10 Conference.
Blue Earns Pre-Season Freshman Honors - Freshman guard Nikki Blue was selected by Women's College Hoops.com as one of 21 "Freshmen of Impact" for 2002-03 and was also named to the Women's Basketball News Service pre-season All-Freshman team. Blue was a McDonald's, WBCA and Parade All-American last year as a senior at Bakersfield West HS and averaged 28.9 points per game. Blue finished her prep career as the No. 3 all-time scorer in the State.
Oren To Sit Out First Three Regular Season Games - Freshman guard Ortal Oren must sit out the first three regular season games this year for playing on a club team in Israel with players the NCAA considered to be professionals. Oren, who can play in the exhibition games, will be eligible to return for UCLA's second game in the UNLV Tournament.
San Jose to Host Pac-10 Women's Basketball Tournament - The 2002-03 season will conclude with the Pac-10 Women's Basketball Tournament to be played at the HP Pavilion in San Jose,CA on March 7-10. All conference schools will participate in the tournament, with the winner receiving the conference's automatic bid to the 2003 NCAA tournament. The team that finishes the regular season atop the Pac-10 standings, based on the results of the double round robin play, is the conference champion.
Bruins to Open Season At Waikiki Classic vs. Hawaii - UCLA will meet the University of Hawaii in the season opener at the Waikiki Beach Resort Classic in Honolulu on Nov. 23. UCLA leads the series with the Rainbow Wahine by a 4-0 count. The teams will be playing for the first time since the 1984 season (a 70-48 Bruin win in Pauley).
Challenging Schedule Ahead For Bruins - Once again, UCLA's schedule will be a challenging one, as the Bruins could play 18 games against teams which advanced to post-season play last season. Consecutive non-conference games will be played against NCAA Tournament teams from Georgia, Pepperdine and Baylor in December. In addition, the Bruins will face the usual Pac-10 Conference foes, seven of which made post-season appearances last year.
Multi-Sport Star Expected to Join Team In December - Two-sport athlete Whitney Jones is a starting midfielder for the second-ranked UCLA women's soccer team. The soccer playoffs run through Dec. 8 this season. Jones, UCLA basketball's leading scorer in 2002 with a 9.5 per game average and the Bruins' top returning rebounder with a 5.2 average, will join the team at the conclusion of the soccer season.
Greco Takes Aim For Record Books - Senior guard Michelle Greco will look to keep climbing the UCLA scoring charts in 2002-03. Already ranked No. 15 on the career points chart with 1,158 points, Greco is nine points away from tying the great Jackie Joyner for 14th place. Greco needs just 64 points to break into UCLA's Top 10. Also throughout the year, Greco looks to challenge Denise Curry's long-standing career free throw percentage mark of .818. Entering the year, Greco holds a career free throw percentage of .813.