2017 Pac-12 Women's Basketball Media Day: UCLA makes big statement on international stage
SAN FRANCISCO – Summer is the time for international basketball competitions, and the Bruins past and present were represented better than most across the globe in July and August.
It starts with seniors Monique Billings and Jordin Canada, as the two helped the USA U23 team win gold at the U24 Four Nations Tournament in Tokyo, beating Australia, Japan and Canada by an average of 32 points per game.
While the Four Nations Tournament was going on, UCLA alum Nirra Fields was named MVP of FIBA Women’s AmeriCup after leading the Canadians in scoring (14.5 points per game in six outings) en route to the AmeriCup title.
Not even two weeks later, former Bruin Atonye Nyingifa helped the Nigerian Women’s National Team win the 2017 FIBA Women’s AfroBasket, averaging 9.1 points and 4.9 rebounds in helping the Nigerians qualify for the 2018 FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup in Spain.
If that’s not enough action for ya, sophomore forward Ally Rosenbum played for Israel at the FIBA U20 Women’s European Division B Championship. Rosenbum averaged a healthy 7.3 points and 7.6 rebounds per game as the Israeli’s starting center en route to the team’s seventh-place finish.
“It’s just really fun to watch basketball make the world smaller,” head coach Cori Close said at 2017 Pac-12 Women’s Basketball Media Day. “I remember when I recruited Nirra Fields, what a dream it was for her to represent her country…Atonye, I haven’t seen her smile that big…I don’t have kids of my own, but if I had kids, there’s something about watching your kids do very good things.”
While Billings and Canada both had fun playing for Team USA, Billings thinks the two of them are bringing more back to the Westwood campus than just good memories.
“The mentality [with Team USA] was just gold and win, and I think that’s something we brought back to our program,” Billings said. “It was just win.”
With so much talent on the American roster, featuring players like Oregon’s Sabrina Ionescu, Stanford’s Brittany McPhee, Ohio State’s Kelsey Mitchell and Tennessee’s Jamie Nared in addition to Billings and Canada, Billings noted that personal stats didn’t matter. An attitude like that back at UCLA could translate to a lot of wins for a team that returns four starters from a Sweet 16 effort in 2016-17.