Bruins Host Master's College Monday Night
Nov. 9, 2009
Nikki Caldwell's Bruins will battle The Master's College on Monday, Nov. 9, at 7 pm in Pauley Pavilion in its only exhibition contest prior to the start of the regular season.
The Master's College (Santa Clarita, CA) went 16-14 last season in NAIA competition. They are led by 6-1 senior guard Annie Gillespie (13.5 ppg, 5.5 rpg) and 5-3 junior guard Erica Inge (12.2 ppg, 5.5 apg).UCLA (19-12 last year) will open the 2009-10 season in the University of Iowa Hawkeye Challenge against Illinois State on Saturday, Nov. 14 (Iowa and Santa Clara are also in the tournament).
2009-2010 OUTLOOKHead coach Nikki Caldwell came to UCLA a season ago stressing that her teams would defend and rebound the basketball. The 2008-09 team did just that while winning 19 games and posting the nation's seventh-best rebound margin (8.7/g) and the 24th-best steals mark (10.7/g). It now looks to lift the bar even higher in the coming season.
Coach Caldwell welcomes back a solid base for 2009-10 which features four starters and nine letterwinners --- and includes the top four scorers from a year ago; three of the top four rebounders; the top two in assists; the top five three-point shooters; five of the top six in blocked shots.
'The players have come up with a theme to this season --- go hard or go home,' explained coach Caldwell. 'With that in mind, I have asked all the players to hold each other accountable as we approach drills, practices and games and not to cut corners.'
'We will rely on our quickness and athleticism to push tempo at every opportunity,' continued the second-year mentor. 'On offense, we will play people at multiple positions and spread the court. We will be creative with our full-court pressure defense, working to delay and disrupt. We want to be aggressive for the full 94 feet.'
'If you asked me for one difference on this year's team, it would have to be the team chemistry,' related coach Caldwell. 'We are all on the same page, with the same focus on the task at hand. We live in the moment.'
The three Bruins making up the senior class feature players who cover the perimeter to the inside game. Center Moniquee Alexander (6-6) is coming off of the most productive season of her career (4.5 ppg/ 4.4 rpg).
Guard Erica Tukiainen (6-0) is a versatile wing player who earned honorable mention all-conference honors after posting a career-best 8.3 ppg scoring average. She also converted on a team-leading 27 three-point shots.
Guard Allison Taka (5-8) is a vocal leader and a quality threat from the outside. She tied for third on the team in three-point shots made (18) last season.In addition, the Bruins return four juniors, including leading scorer guard Doreena Campbell, last year's leading scorer (12.9). She earned second-team all-conference accolades a year ago while finishing among the Pac-10 statistical leaders in five categories --- scoring-11th; assists-sixth; free throw % -eighth; steals-T14th; assist/turnover ratio-sixth. She netted 26 three-point shots (26-65) and ranks as the best percentage three-point shooter in UCLA history (49-118, .415), with over 100 attempts.
Forward Nina Earl appeared in all 31 games last season and averaged 6.0 ppg. She started four contests and played double digit minutes in 23 games.Guard Darxia Morris saw action in 27 games with 11 starts last season and averaged 8.1 ppg. She makes things happen, as evidenced by her finishes of 15th in the conference in assists (2.5/g) and 13th in steals (1.4).
Forward/center Christina Nzekwe saw action in 29 games with 14 starts and posted career-best numbers almost across the board.
The sophomore class features a pair of players who stepped right into the rotation a year ago and also adds one highly honored transfer.
Forward Atonye Nyingifa saw action in all 31 contests and started the final 16 games. She was selected to the Pac-10 All-Freshman squad and was the lone Bruin chosen to the Pac-10 All-Tournament team. She led the team in rebounding during the Pac-10 games only (5.6 rpg).
In May of 2009, she was invited to take part in the USA Basketball Trials, however, she suffered a serious knee injury during that competition. She is continuing her rehabilitation process as the start of the season approaches and is expected to once again be a key contributor this year.
Guard Rebekah Gardner had her moments in her freshman campaign and poured in a career-high 13 points in the win over USC.
Jasmine Dixon (5-11) transferred to UCLA from Rutgers last year and will be eligible to compete in mid-December after the completion of the 2009 Fall Quarter. Dixon averaged 3.2 points and 1.6 rebounds in the five games she played at Rutgers.In addition, the Bruins welcome two exciting freshmen who each bring with them a national reputation. Forward / guard Markel Walker was a McDonald's All-America selection after averaging 25.6 ppg and 14.1 rpg for Pittsburgh, PA Schenley HS.Mariah Williams is a guard with electric speed and quickness. She averaged 11.8 points per game and 6.4 assists while leading Regis Jesuit HS to its first Colorado state title last season.
CAMPBELL ALL-PAC-10 PickDoreena Campbell, UCLA's leading returning scorer, was selected by the media to the pre-season All-Pac-10 squad. She was joined by Stanford's Jayne Appel, Cal's Alexis Gray-Lawson, Arizona's Ify Ibekwe, and Stanford's Jeanette Pohlen.
LOOKING AHEADUCLA opens up the home schedule on Thursday Nov. 19 against Hawaii at 7 p.m. in Pauley Pavilion. UCLA last met the Rainbow Wahines in November of 2002 and dropped a 66-70 decision in Honolulu. Hawaii was 8-23 overall last season and finished seventh in the Western Athletic Conference.
CHALLENGING SCHEDULEThe Bruins will face a schedule that features 10 teams which advanced to post-season play last year. Seven appeared in the NCAA Tournament (Iowa, Utah, UC Santa Barbara, Tennessee, Stanford, Arizona State, Cal), and three played in the Women's NIT (Illinois State, Kansas, Oregon State).