LOS ANGELES - The 2013-14 women’s basketball season officially got underway today with the first official practice in Pauley Pavilion.
The practice usually starts at Noon and lasts till 3:00 p.m. Today the team didn't get onto the court until around 12:30 p.m. as a special guest was in the house, UCLA Hall of Fame inductee and Olympic gold medalist, Rafer Johnson. Johnson shared his insights and passion for competitive greatness with the team and then demonstrated to the Bruins how to put their socks and shoes on correctly, the way John R. Wooden taught him.
Head Coach Cori Close enters her third year with the Bruins after guiding UCLA to the second round of the NCAA Tournament last year and a Pac-12 Tournament runner-up finish. She sports an overall record of 40-24 (.625).
This year UCLA will have the distinction of having the first televised conference game when they host USC on Dec. 30 (7:00 p.m.) and the last televised conference game on March 2 when they visit Utah (1:00 p.m.). The Bruins will be making a total of 18 television appearances, the most in school history, during the 2013-14 regular season.
UCLA posted a 26-8 overall record and a third-place finish in the competitive Pac-12 Conference (14-4) last year. 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.
The Bruins return two senior starters from last year's team that advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the third time in the last four seasons. Leading scorer Atonye Nyingifa (11.6 ppg, 7.1 rpg) and Thea Lemberger (8.6 ppg, 2.6 apg) will lead a young but talented squad.
In addition, UCLA returns sophomore guard Nirra Fields (7.8 ppg, 3.5 rpg) and junior forward Kacy Swain (3.1 ppg, 3.0 rpg). The Bruins also regain the services of three players that missed most of last season due to injury. Redshirt junior Corinne Costa (4.0 ppg, 2.0 rpg) only played five games last year while redshirt freshman Lauren Holiday (1.3 ppg, 2.0 rpg) only played in three contests. Both will be back this season, as will redshirt junior Rhema Gardner, who missed the entire season a year ago. UCLA also retains the services of its newest scholarship player, junior guard Madeline Brooks (0.5 ppg, 0.1 rpg).
The Bruins will be without sophomore guard Kari Korver for the season. An MRI revealed a tear in her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and a tear in her lateral meniscus last week.
However, the Bruins bring in a recruiting class that features freshman guard Dominique Williams (Phoenix, Ariz./St. Mary's Catholic), freshman forward Paulina Hersler (Södertälje, Sweden/Igelstavikens Gymnasium), freshman center Savanna Trapp (Esko, Minn./Esko HS) and junior center Luiana Livulo (Lisbon, Portugal/Northwest Florida State).
While Trapp is slated to redshirt the season and Hersler might not be available until the start of conference season while rehabilitating from a knee injury, Williams and Livulo will look to make an immediate impact.
UCLA opens its regular-season at Nebraska on Friday, Nov. 8 at 10:00 a.m. (PT). The Bruins will host 13 regular-season home games after playing an exhibition game in Pauley Pavilion versus Vanguard on Oct. 31.
To become a season ticket holder today, click here, for as little as $40 and get ready to show some UCLA Women’s basketball pride!