Oct. 4, 2011
The UCLA women's basketball team had its first official team practice of the 2011-12 season on Monday under the direction of new head coach Cori Close as the squad prepares for its initial season in the Pac-12 conference.
Coach Close welcomes back eight returning letterwinners and two starters from last season's record-setting 28-5 squad. The Bruins bring back returning starters Markel Walker, a junior guard/forward, who averaged 8.5 points and 5.4 rebounds per game last season, and Atonye Nyingifa, a redshirt junior forward, who posted 8.8 point and 5.4 rebound per game averages a year ago. Senior guard Rebekah Gardner, who started 11 games in 2010-11, is also back after recording 7.9 ppg and 3.3 rpg last season and finishing second on the team in three-points shots made with 23.
Expected to be among the list of returning letterwinners was honors candidate Jasmine Dixon, a senior forward, who led the team with a 7.3 rebound average (8th in the Pac-10) and a 2.4 steals average (3rd in the Pac-10), along with placing second in scoring with a 12.1 average. However, Dixon suffered a ruptured right Achilles tendon in September and is expected to miss the season.
The 2011 team finished with a 28-5 record (16-2, second in Pac-10) after advancing to the second round of the NCAA Tournament for the second straight season. The 28 wins rank as the second-most in school history. The 16 wins in the Pac-10 conference are the program's best total ever.
The Bruins added two recruits signed in last year's early period, 6-3 forward Kacy Swain (St. Bernard's HS) and 5-11 guard Moriah Faulk (Santa Monica HS). Five-seven guard Alexis Perry (Brea-Olinda HS) was added to the incoming class in May.
UCLA, which finished with a No. 13 national ranking (ESPN/USA Today) last season, will start the 2011-12 season hosting the first round of the WNIT Tournament. The Bruins will also welcome San Diego State and Tennessee on the non-conference home schedule to be played this season in Collins Court in the John Wooden Center.
The road slate includes games at the Cal State Northridge Tournament against West Virginia and then either Northridge or Cornell, Loyola Marymount, LSU and a trip to Philadelphia to meet Temple and St. Joseph's. Fourteen games are on tap against teams which appeared in the postseason last year (Tennessee, Temple, Stanford, Arizona State in NCAA Tournament) (USC, Arizona, California, Colorado, St. Joseph's in WNIT).