The UCLA men’s and women’s basketball teams are full of familiar faces along with talented new additions that will make them competitive in the Pac-12.
The women are predestined to maintain their dominance as they are ranked ninth in the AP women’s basketball preseason poll. With Bruin alum Japreece Dean at the helm, the Bruins were 26-5 overall and second in the Pac-12 last season. Now senior forward Michaela Onyenwere leads the team with career averages of 14.5 points and 7.2 rebounds per game.
Onyenwere is ready to cherish every moment she gets to play.
“I’m just really excited to be able to go to war with the women that we do have on the team this year,” she said. “Our versatility is something that we’ll definitely push as over the edge.”
Sophomore guard Charisma Osborne put on a marquee performance last season, scoring 12.2 points and 5.8 rebounds per game. In a February game against Washington State, Osbourne scored a career high of 32 points and 11 rebounds.
“She has just grown so much in her confidence and her leadership,” Onyenwere said. “She’s also super good at basketball and able to put the ball in the basket and she’s really really unguardable.”
The season has been modified from a 31-game season to 25 games. For the sake of the players’ health, 22 of those games will be conference games.
“The reality is you want to be able to prove who we are and our dominance and our ability to play and beat the nation’s best,” said UCLA women’s basketball coach, Cori Close. “But we were able to put the safety and the highest chance to play as many games as you could in play.”
The UCLA men’s basketball team has 10 returners on the roster. This could help the Bruins build from the 19-12 overall record and 12-6 conference record they achieved last year.
“All the guys that played major minutes are back,” said senior guard Chris Smith. “Hopefully the momentum will keep going because we still pretty much have the same guys from last season.”
Last season, Smith led the team with 13.1 points per game and came in second on the team in rebounds with 5.4. He believes he has room to grow.
“The sacred key to success is he has great attitude, so he’s coachable,” UCLA men’s basketball coach Mick Cronin said about Smith. “He’s been unbelievably coachable, which is why his rate of improvement was so accelerated.”
Among the returners are redshirt sophomore point guard Tyger Campbell. After sitting out his freshman season with an ACL injury, Campbell returned to the hard would last year to give the Bruins 8.3 points and 2.4 rebounds per game. Cronin expressed how a returning point guard has a tremendous impact on a basketball program.
“Returning point guards had a lot to do with your prospects for success on a particular season,” Cronin said. “I can’t tell you the last time UCLA has had a returning starting point guard. It’s been four, five, six years maybe.”
The men’s basketball team welcomes three new players, including sophomore guard, Johnny Juzang who transferred from Kentucky. He, and freshmen guard Jaylen Clark, competed with the Compton Magic.
The UCLA women’s basketball team will start their season by battling against Cal State Fullerton on November 27 at 4:00 P.M. and the UCLA men’s basketball team will tip-off their home game campaign against Long Beach State on November 30 at 7:30pm.