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UCLA Leads All Pac-12 Schools with Five on WNBA Opening Day Rosters

May 7, 2022
2021 WNBA Rookie of the Year Michaela Onyenwere

The WNBA kicked off the 2022 season on May 6 with a Pac-12-leading five Bruins on opening day rosters - Monique Billings (2015-18), Kennedy Burke (2016-19), Jordin Canada (2015-18), Rebekah Gardner (2009-12) and Michaela Onyenwere (2018-21).

UCLA is also well-represented with WNBA staffs. UCLA Athletic Hall of Famer Noelle Quinn (2004-07) serves as head coach of the Seattle Storm. The Las Vegas Aces, whose President is former UCLA head coach Nikki Fargas, has two Bruin alumnae on staff. UCLA Athletic Hall of Famer Natalie Williams (1991-94) is the team's General Manager, and Natalie Nakase (2000-03) is an assistant coach. Another UCLA Hall of Famer, Nikki Blue (2003-06) is an assistant coach with the Phoenix Mercury, and Kari Korver (2013-17) is the Director of Basketball Operations for the Los Angeles Sparks.

Monique Billings – Forward, Atlanta Dream, 5th Season
Billings returns for her fifth season with the Atlanta Dream. She was selected by the Dream as the 15th overall pick in the 2018 WNBA Draft and is averaging 6.2 points, 5.9 rebounds and 0.8 steals per game in 114 career games. In 2021, Billings shot a career-high 49.5% from the field and averaged 8.1 points per game. She enjoyed a breakout campaign in 2020, averaging 8.5 points and 8.5 rebounds while starting 16 of 22 games, and had a dominant opening-night performance with 30 points and 13 rebounds in a win over Dallas. Billings graduated in 2018 as UCLA's all-time leader in blocks with 228 and ranks No. 10 on UCLA's all-time scoring list with 1,761 points and No. 2 in rebounds with 1,159. She helped lead the Bruins to a WNIT title in 2015 and an Elite 8 appearance in 2018.

Kennedy Burke – Guard, Washington Mystics, 4th Season (1st with Mystics)
Burke was claimed off waivers by the Washington Mystics just this week and will join her third team in four seasons, after previously playing with the Seattle Storm and Indiana Fever. Burke played in 23 games with Seattle in 2021 and averaged 2.9 points and 0.8 rebounds per game, with a season-high of seven points vs. Chicago on Aug. 29, 2021. In 2020, she made 11 starts in 22 games for the Fever and averaged a career-high 7.2 points. She also increased her field goal percentage from 38.5 percent as a rookie to 44.9 percent in 2020. Burke compiled 1,515 points across her career with UCLA and was a member of the senior class that advanced to the Sweet 16 in four-straight seasons, including an Elite 8 appearance in 2018.

Jordin Canada – Guard, Los Angeles Sparks, 5th Season (1st with Sparks)
Los Angeles native Canada signed with her hometown team Los Angeles Sparks in February after four seasons and two WNBA Championships with the Seattle Storm. Canada was the No. 5 overall draft pick by the Storm in 2018 and averaged 7.2 points, 4.1 assists, 2.1 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game in Seattle. She was the WNBA steals leader in 2019 with 2.3 steals per game and was named to the WNBA All-Defensive First Team that year. Canada had a historic career in Westwood, finishing her four years as the program's all-time leader in assists (831) and the No. 2 all-time leading scorer (2,153 points). She was a three-time All-Pac-12 honoree and three-time All-Pac-12 Defensive Team member, as well as the 2018 Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year and 2015 Pac-12 Freshman of the Year. She also earned second-team All-America honors by the UWBWA as a senior and was a two-time honorable mention AP All-American. Canada was MVP of the 2015 WNIT and led the Bruins to the Elite 8 in 2018 and the Sweet 16 in 2016 and 2017.

Rebekah Gardner - Guard-Forward, Chicago Sky, 1st Season
While wrapping up an MVP season in Spain with Spar Girona, Gardner signed with the Chicago Sky for her first season in the WNBA after five seasons overseas. This season, Gardner is averaging 13.7 points, 5.5 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.8 steals in 30 games. During her senior season at UCLA in 2011-12, Gardner led the Bruins in scoring (15.9 points per game) and steals (61) and also averaged 6.4 rebounds per game en route to first-team All-Pac-12 honors.

Michaela Onyenwere – Forward, New York Liberty, 2nd Season
Onyenwere was the sixth overall pick by the New York Liberty in the 2021 WNBA Draft and became the 2021 WNBA Rookie of the Year after averaging 8.6 points and 2.9 rebounds per game. She played in 32 games and made 29 starts and led all WNBA rookies in points per game, field goals made (91) and three-pointers made (37) while ranking second in total rebounds (94). In her WNBA debut on May 14, 2021, she finished with 18 points and five rebounds against the Indiana Fever. Two weeks later on May 29, she scored a career-high 29 points and grabbed five rebounds against the Atlanta Dream. Onyenwere finished her career with the Bruins in 2021 as the No. 4 scorer in program history, compiling 1,888 points across her four seasons in Westwood. She also became the first two-time AP All-American in program history after receiving third-team honors in each of her final two seasons.

Noelle Quinn – Head Coach, Seattle Storm, 2nd Season (4th season overall)
Quinn, a recent inductee into the UCLA Athletics Hall of Fame, enters her second season and first full season as head coach of the Seattle Storm. Quinn had a 13-year professional playing career that concluded with a WNBA Championship with the Storm in 2018. She joined the Storm coaching staff in 2019 and was elevated to Associate Head Coach in 2020, helping guide the Storm to their second title in three years. She took over as head coach on May 30, 2021. As a Bruin, Quinn was a two-time AP honorable mention All-American and three-time first-team All-Pac-12 honoree. She compiled 1,867 points for the Bruins from 2003-07, currently ranking seventh on UCLA's all-time scoring list, and helped lead UCLA to the Pac-10 Tournament title in 2006.

Natalie Nakase – Assistant Coach, Las Vegas Aces, 1st Season
Nakase joined the Las Vegas Aces coaching staff after serving 10 years with the Los Angeles Clippers organization, most recently as the assistant coach for their G League team, the Agua Caliente Clippers. She had also served for three years as the player development/assistant coach for the LA Clippers. Nakase made history in Japan in in 2011-12 when she became the head coach of the Saitama Broncos, the first female head coach in the league's history. A three-year starter and team captain for the Bruins from 2001-03, Nakase was an honorable mention All-Pac-12 player in 2002 and led the Bruins in assists and steals in both 2001 and 2002.

Natalie Williams - General Manager - Las Vegas Aces, 1st Season
A member of the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame and UCLA Athletic Hall of Fame, Williams begins her first season as General Manager of the Las Vegas Aces. Williams, a 2000 Olympic gold medalist, played seven seasons in the WNBA and was named to three All-WNBA first teams and four all-star teams. She averaged 13.1 points and 8.3 rebounds during her WNBA career and still ranks seventh in WNBA history in rebounds per game. Williams also played for two seasons in the ABL, winning league MVP honors in 1998. At UCLA, Williams was a two-sport All-American and the Pac-10 Female Athlete of the Decade (1987-96), earning two first-team All-America honors in basketball and being named the national player of the year two times in volleyball. She finished her Bruin basketball career averaging 20.4 points and 12.8 rebounds per game.

Nikki Blue - Assistant Coach - Phoenix Mercury, 1st Season
Another UCLA Athletic Hall of Fame player, Blue enters her first season as an assistant coach for the Phoenix Mercury after spending over 14 years coaching in the NCAA, most recently at Arizona State from 2019-22. Blue was the 19th overall pick in the 2016 WNBA Draft and spent four seasons with the Washington Mystics and one with the New York Liberty. Blue was a standout player at UCLA, earning first-team All-Pac-10 honors all four years (2002-06) and honorable mention All-America honors twice. She finished her Bruin career ranked fifth all-time at UCLA in scoring (1,797 points), second in assists (602) and third in steals (325). As a senior in 2006, she led the conference in assists with 189, and she helped lead the Bruins to their first Pac-10 Tournament title.

Kari Korver - Director of Operations - Los Angeles Sparks, 3rd Season
Former Bruin sharpshooter Korver begins her third season as the Director of Basketball Operations for the Los Angeles Sparks. Korver helps facilitate all operations and logistics for the Sparks and is among the youngest executives in professional basketball. At UCLA, she tied the school record for made three-pointers in a career (256) and set a new record for single-season three-pointers (77 in 2016-17).