2006-07 UCLA Women's Basketball Outlook
Oct. 19, 2006
The Bruins welcome back eight letterwinners from last year's team which won the Pac-10 Tournament and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Leading scorer and rebounder Noelle Quinn (18.1 ppg, 8.2 rpg) tops the list of three returning starters, which also includes forwards Amanda Livingston (29 starts in 2005-06) and Lindsey Pluimer (60 straight starts).
Quinn became just the eighth player in UCLA history (joining Maylana Martin: 1999; Natalie Williams: 1994, 1993, 1992, 1991; Rehema Stephens: 1991; Dora Dome: 1988; Necie Thompson: 1982; Denise Curry: 1981, 1980, 1879, 1978; Ann Meyers: 1978, 1975) to average at least 18 points and eight rebounds per game a year ago as a junior while earning honorable mention All-America honors and first-team All-Pac-10 accolades for the second time. Her season total of 580 points was the most scored by a Bruin player since the 1991-92 season (Rehema Stephens, 595). Street & Smith's Magazine has named her one of the 'Terrific 10' players in the nation for 2006-07.
Livingston, a senior, shot over 50% from the field in the final 22 games of the season. She is known for her hustle points and intangibles, while providing a strong, physical presence on the interior.
Pluimer ranked eighth in the conference in field goal percentage (.481) a year ago and connected on over 54% of her shots in the last 13 games of the season. She scored in double-digits in 20 games. Also a standout in the classroom, she earned third-team All-District 8 and first-team All-Pac-10 academic honors.
'Noelle Quinn proved herself as one of the nation's top players a season ago,' said UCLA head coach Kathy Olivier. ' In fact, all of these players stepped it up a notch down the stretch. We closed the season with some very big wins for the program and these three players had a central role. They provide a strong base for us to build this year's team on.'
In addition, the Bruins return seniors Julia Pitts, a 6-2 forward; Consuelo Lezcano, a 6-4 center/forward and Shaina Zaidi, a 5-8 guard. Pitts was able to get back into action after a medical redshirt season and appeared in 11 games. In limited minutes, her experience helped her make some key plays in some big games for the Bruins. Lezcano saw action in 18 games and made three starts in 2006. She is a valuable role player for the Bruins who offers some matchup answers on the inside. Zaidi was in 12 games and is a dangerous perimeter shooter. Last year's newcomers round out the list of returnees, Chinyere Ibekwe (center) and Tierra Henderson (guard), each saw action in all 32 games.
UCLA adds six talented newcomers to this year's mix, but it will not be easy to replace the school's all-time leading three-point shooter (guard Lisa Willis) and a player ranked in the top-five all-time at the school in points, assists and steals (guard Nikki Blue). Coach Olivier welcomes a talented and balanced class including 6-6 center Moniquee Alexander, All-State guard Amy Horton, All-State forward Erica Latimer, guard Alexis Olivier, guard Allison Taka and All-CIF guard Jerica Williams.
Olivier, who is set to begin her 14th season as head coach at UCLA and 21st season overall on the Bruin bench said, 'I can't wait for this season to start. This year we will need to blend our experience with our youth and come up with a winning formula. Different people will need to step up at different times to make this team the best it can be. Our returning players know they have to be primed to perform each and every time out if we are to have the kind of season we are capable of. We know they are capable of getting it done; now they just have to show that they can do it consistently, game in and game out.'
'With six new faces and our defensive focus, it's going to be a different look than last year,' she continued. 'We are going to need our freshmen to mature at a rapid pace in order for us to be successful. But they are a very coachable group, and they realize how much they can learn from the returners. This group is very excited to be Bruins.'
Noelle Quinn (6-0, senior) had a tremendous bounce-back season (she missed the last 12 games of the 2004-05 season due to a knee injury), leading the team in scoring and rebounding.
She finished the year ranked third in the Pac-10 in scoring, second in rebounding and fourth in assists (3.84). She scored 20 or more points in 10 of the last 16 games of the season and averaged 20.5 points and 8.9 boards while shooting 53.2% from the field in the final 16 games of the 2006 season. She had seven double-doubles in that span, and the team went 12-4. An outstanding student as well, Quinn earned first-team Academic All-District 8 honors.
Quinn enters her senior season ranked 13th on the all-time school scoring list (1,280 pts.) and 15th in rebounding (583). She had more assists than turnovers in all but five games in the 2005-06 season. She was voted Pac-10 Player of the Week three times last year, and her career total of eight awards ties her for the all-time lead in the conference award.
'Noelle does everything well. There is not one piece of her game that she does not do at a high level,' said Olivier. 'Defensively, she gets it done. She can rebound, she can make the good pass, and she has proven many times that she can shoot the ball. But what makes Noelle such a special player is that she has amazing awareness. She is always looking to put her teammate in a position to be successful. You can't underestimate how much of a positive that is for a team.'
'It's her senior year, and Noelle knows how to win. That's what she does,' continued Olivier. 'She has been more vocal in the off-season and has worked as hard as ever to make her game even better. She was especially good for us down the stretch last season. She knows that she has to find a way to give us that production not only in February and March, but throughout the season.'
Shaina Zaidi (5-8, senior) saw action in 12 games last season. She has maintained a solid work ethic and shown steady improvement over the course of her career. She will look to use the experience she has gained, especially the past two seasons, to her advantage when competing for playing time this season.
'Shaina does a lot of things for our team which do not show up in a box score or stat sheet,' Olivier pointed out. 'She is a leader who finds a way to help everyone on the team both on and off the court. She is a solid ball handler and a good three-point shooter.'
Guard Tierra Henderson (5-10 sophomore) saw action in all 32 games during her freshman season a year ago. She is an outstanding all-around athlete who offers a strong defensive presence on the perimeter and is a battler on the inside.
'Tierra has an aggressiveness that you cannot teach,' said Olivier. She gets after it and keeps working to make herself a better player. She wants to be a contributor to this team. On defense, she is gifted and brings tenacity to the team. She has done a lot of individual work on offense during the off-season and I am anxious to see the results.'
Jerica Williams (5-8, freshman) can play both the one and two-guard positions. She averaged 17.0 points and 5.1 assists en route to earning the CIF San Diego Player of the Year honors as a junior. She led her Mt. Miguel HS team to three straight CIF Div. II titles and a berth in the CIF Southern California finals in 2006.
'Jerica has a great attitude,' Olivier stated. 'She is ready to do whatever the team needs her to do. She is a capable shooter and ball-handler and is going to be a good overall solid player.'
Amy Horton (5-10, freshman) was one of the top prep scorers in the nation a year ago, averaging 36 points, 11 rebounds and four assists as a senior at Haralson County, GA high school. She was a three-time All-State selection and an honorable mention Parade All-American.
'Amy has Lisa Willis-like shooting range from the perimeter and great form on her shot,' said Olivier. 'She's a very offensive-minded player who is not afraid of anything. She's a strong player and has great tenacity that is definitely going to help us this year. '
Allison Taka (5-8, freshman) is a true point guard who captained her Culver City HS team the past two years. She was named the Most Outstanding Player in the Ocean League last season after averaging 16 points and leading the league in assists per game. She is a hard worker and can be a vocal leader.
'Allison brings the intangibles to a basketball team,' said Olivier. 'She is the type of kid who just says give me a chance and I will show you. I will outwork people and get results.'
Alexis Olivier (5-8, freshman) was a starter at Los Alamitos HS last season and averaged six points and three rebounds per game as a senior. She earned the Top Scholar Athlete award, Most Improved award, Coach's award and the Hustle award.
'Ali has a great attitude towards the game and is a player who understands that it's all about the team,' Olivier said.
Julia Pitts (6-2, redshirt senior) came on to play in 11 games last season and was a factor in several contests even though her minutes played were limited. Injuries cut short each of her first two basketball seasons at UCLA. She redshirted during the 2004-05 season in an attempt to allow her to move closer to full health. As a freshman in 2002-03, she suffered two torn knee ligaments in a December game against Baylor and was lost for the balance of that season. At the time of her injury, she led the Pac-10 Conference in shooting percentage with a .674 mark and had been a starter in her first eight games. She was averaging 10.0 points and 5.9 rebounds. In 2003-04, she started nine times and saw action in 18 contests before undergoing surgery for a torn meniscus in her left knee on Feb. 12, 2004. She returned to competitive action on the track team in the spring of 2005 and played with the basketball team on its summer 2005 tour of Australia.
'Julia has struggled through multiple knee surgeries during her career,' said Olivier. 'When she was healthy, she was able to put up some solid numbers for us, and we would love to have her back to 100%. Julia has kept a great attitude throughout her years here, and I know that she wants her last year to be a great one.'
Amanda Livingston (6-1, senior) has been a starter in 57 of the last 59 Bruin games. She averaged 5.7 points and 2.4 rebounds while seeing action in 31 games last season. Livingston shot a career-best 51% from the field a year ago. She scored in double digits in four key wins last season over Georgia, Charlotte, Cal and Stanford.
'Amanda is a very competitive, extremely physical player who brings it each day and makes things happen,' Olivier said. 'She was super focused this off-season and is ready to roll. This summer was the first offseason that she has really been healthy since she got here. She has been able to work hard and put forth a lot of effort to make her senior season special.'
Consuelo Lezcano (6-4, senior) saw action in 18 games last season and made three starts. She has worked hard to improve her game and is prepared to be a steady contributor. She runs the court well and is very active at both ends. Her length can bother opponents at the defensive end of the court.
'This is Consuelo's senior year, and it's really important to her that she contributes to the success of the team,' noted Olivier. 'She has great size and keeps the ball up high. She works very hard and keeps a positive attitude.'
Lindsey Pluimer (6-4, junior) has made 60 straight starts for the Bruins and averaged 10.6 points and 5.4 rebounds per contest last season. She ranked tied for fourth in the Pac-10 in free throw percentage (.795) and ranked eighth in field goal percentage (.495). She scored in double digits in 10 of the last 17 games of the season, highlighted by a 16-point effort in the championship game of the State Farm Pac-10 Tournament against Stanford. Pluimer has proven to be a clutch player, hitting a put-back basket to help send the game to overtime against Cal and sinking free throws to win the game in the final regular season game at Oregon last year.
Both Pluimer's field goal percentage (.431 to .485) and free throw percentage (.759 to .795) improved significantly from her freshman season. Her assist total for the year almost tripled (17 to 47) from her first year in the program. Pluimer also excelled in the classroom and earned first-team All-Pac-10 Academic team honors and third-team All-District 8 academic honors.
'Lindsey has always been consistently good,' said Olivier. 'Now I'm really looking forward to seeing what she does now that she's an upperclassman. You can see the difference in her already. She carries herself like an upperclassmen, her confidence is very high, she's more outspoken, and she's stronger.'
Olivier continued, 'Lindsey is an extremely talented player. She's shooting the ball well, she knows the game, and she's very versatile. Her versatility is really going to help us. She is effective both inside and out. Her game has improved each season she has been with us and I expect this season will be her best yet. I think she's excited about her expanded role on the team. She knows she has to do more this year, and she's excited about that.'
Chinyere Ibekwe (6-4 sophomore) was brought along slowly last season and developed into a real playmaker as the season progressed. She averaged 5.0 points and 3.8 rebounds while appearing in all 32 games, but came on strong towards the end of the campaign. She made 6-10 shots from the field in the NCAA tournament and 10 of 17 shots in the Pac-10 tournament games. Ibekwe had eight points, four rebounds and a blocked shot in the Pac-10 tournament championship contest and helped secure the victory with a pair of free throws in overtime.
'Rey Rey is very determined to make a positive impact on this team this year,' said Olivier. 'She is working hard, she brings an aggressiveness in the post. The experience she gained last year down the stretch is going to pay off this year. She has passion for the game and for being a Bruin, and she's going to do whatever she can to help the team.'
Moniquee Alexander (6-6 freshman) is a post player from Edison Academic Center at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, FL where she averaged 12 points and 10 rebounds per game last season. The Harbor City, CA native was an All-State selection in Florida and was named co-MVP of the adidas Tournament of Champions in 2005. She also saw action with Team USA at the 2005 USA Youth Development Festival Alexander is a capable post-up player who will be a nice complement to the Bruin perimeter players.
'Mo is a good-sized post player,' Olivier said. 'She provides a big target inside and has good hands. She will be a threat down low and help us get some easy baskets on the inside, both in a half-court set and from offensive rebounds.'
Erica Latimer (6-0 freshman) is a versatile wing player who will fit in nicely with the returning Bruin players. She was selected first-team All-State last season after averaging 17.5 points, 10.0 rebounds, 4.5 steals, 4.0 assists and 2.5 blocks at Los Angeles' Windward HS, which advanced to the State finals. She was named MVP of her league, CIF Player of the Year, first-team All-State and an honorable mention McDonald's All-American. She also has some international experience, having played for Finland's National team in the European Championships.
'Erica came here in great shape. She had a very good high school coach and has excellent fundamentals. She's going to help us defensively and offensively this year,' said Olivier.
'Once again we are playing a high-quality pre-season schedule, which includes games with Baylor, Oklahoma, Tennessee and UC Santa Barbara,' said Olivier. 'Three of those four games will be in front of our fans. We have a couple of key tournaments at New Mexico and Hawaii which will also feature some high quality opponents,' said Olivier. 'We feel that you have to play the best to be the best. There is no better way to help prepare for the challenge of competing in the Pac-10.'