The UCLA Women’s Basketball team is committed to helping build the community. When they played Stanford, both teams displayed unity by coming together and holding their match up. All season long Pac-12 teams have demonstrated to show their support for equality by unifying before every game.
UCLA head coach Cori Close with her team, there is real unity. “We want to be elite basketball players, and we want to compete for national championships, but we don’t want to stop there. We want to be able to say our community is different, and our heart is different because of the work we did together.”
Close said coming together is one the things she’s most proud of with this team. “They taught me more than I have taught them in this arena. It’s been consistent, not when it’s just on social media.” According to Close, the UCLA Women’s team are committed on a day to day basis to push equality.
She noted they work with a black-owned business. “We have black-owned caterers that we have every week. We adopted a family and used our recycling money to provide for Christmas. There’s so much more that the media doesn’t get to see, but our hearts get to see. Our mindset is different, and I’m hopeful that we will make a real difference in our community.
The lady Bruins are ranked #11 overall in the country. Close reiterates that she has high hopes for this team, which is why she never takes it easy on them. She understands they are a good basketball team. “I believe in this team,” says Close. “I’m tough on them because I love them so much. I know what they can become. I want them to fall in love with the process of becoming great. I want them to have a championship mindset.”
Last week, UCLA faced a tough number one ranked Stanford team and lost 61-49. The Bruins played tough defensively, but Close said she wouldn’t congratulate them for something that’s already expected. “I won’t throw them a party for something I already expect them to be solid at.”
Close understands she has a good basketball team, and it will be challenging against more challenging opponents. “That’s what’s in front of us as a program. Are we going to lean into that hard and make adjustments?” Close hopes to become a tougher opponent when facing high ranked opponents. She notes on one hand they are really frustrated because it’s something they let go. “The question is how to learn best from each situation. On the other hand, you go wow, this really bolts well for our future if we let the tough games touch our hearts and minds.” UCLA will use its tough games as a measuring tool for success, according to Senior Michaela Onyenwere.
Freshman Emily Bessoir is grateful for the opportunity to play at UCLA. She states she learns from her coaches and her teammates. “I’m really grateful for the opportunity I have here. Going into practice, I try to learn as much as I can from the players,” says Bessoir. “I’ve been having a great time here, and I’ve developed a lot with the help of my coaches and my teammates, so I’m really thankful to be here.”
Close said that’s her job and responsibility as a coach is to find a way to help her players grow in non-traditional ways. “I don’t have all those answers yet, but I guarantee adjustments will be made.