Players hog all the attention.
Sure, they’re athletic gazelles.
Sure, they look better in uniforms than we do.
Sure, they’re cool.
But the players make up such a small part of the fun.
The “team” goes far beyond just 13 girls.
And one of those glanced over, taken for granted, extremely important part of the puzzle team members that I want to highlight today is our very own Dave Marcus, the man behind the mic.
Since 2003 Dave has worked closely with UCLA.
The sharp looking man in the suit? That’s Dave.
The man with the voice of an angel? That’s Dave.
The UCLA play-by-play radio extraordinaire? That’s Dave.
His presence is felt, his commentary is never negative, and his passion runs deep. I’ve had the pleasure of calling a few games with Dave this season. I don’t know how the man does it. He typically goes on air for two straight hours. All by himself. No sidekick to allow him even a gulp of water! He does it all. The commentary, the set-up, the production. Despite the plate full of responsibilities his voice remains crisp and his commentary is never short of insightful.
However, his gifts weren’t given overnight.
He has worked and worked and worked at his craft.
“When I was a kid, very few games were televised. Radio was our open window to the sports world. Like many who went on to do play-by-play, I would make believe I was announcing on the radio even when I was in the backyard playing catch with my dad. It used to drive him crazy. I grew up listening to the greatest radio announcers of all time, including Vin Scully with the Dodgers, Dick Enberg with the Angels (later Rams and UCLA basketball on TV), Bob Kelly with the Rams, and Fred Hessler with UCLA football and basketball. I almost never missed a game. The Los Angeles announcers were known for their impartiality, unlike many of the markets across the country where they openly cheer for the home team. I have always tried to honor that tradition and call my games objectively.”
Midway through the first quarter of my first color commentary gig with Dave, he politely reminded me to stop saying “we.”
“We are dominating the boards right now," says Nicole.
“We can’t get over screens," says Nicole.
“If we can stop them in transition, we’ll win handedly," says Nicole.
What can I say? I’m a Bruin. And I want the world to know it.
Unfortunately, not everyone else does. I must be careful with my verbiage, with my nicknames, and with my subjectivity.
Dave makes this look easy. He is so polished. Not only does he know the ins and outs of UCLA basketball, but he is also plugged in to nearly every other team in the country.
I asked him how long it takes to prepare for a game.
“I search out as much information as I can about women’s college basketball year round. I always try to stay knowledgeable enough to be conversant about all the teams in the country, not just UCLA. Back in the old days, it was hard to even get basic statistics to prepare for a game. You had to get the sports department of each school to fax them over and that process usually wasn’t easy or quick. If we were lucky, we could get a school to mail us a media guide, which was a paper guide about the size of a phonebook.”
Dave, you’re not that old. We still know what media guides are. Phonebooks on the other hand? No promises.
UCLA found a diamond in the rough. They found a man full of passion about women in sport. They found a man, and made him family.
Many may not know what he looks like, many may not even know his name, but many know his voice; he’s the man behind the mic, and his name is Dave.
“I think it’s about time you write a blog about LA,” said Miss Debbie, the best boss I’ve ever had.
Oh, don’t tease me, Debbie.
I didn’t even mean for it to happen, either. I was literally having a normal day. I didn’t even mean for it to be spectacular.
So, without further ado, let me tell you allllllllll about “A Day in LA.”
Like any other off-day, I started it off right, at Philz Coffee.
Philz is a California staple, made famous by the hit TV show Silicon Valley, another California staple.
Philz is located in the heart of Santa Monica. Think: beach town, sunshine, and sweet & creamy coffee.
After Philz I texted my boyfriend and I told him to pack up a few pb&j’s and fill up the gas tank.
Today was a Six Flags day.
Six Flags Magic Mountain is only a 30-minute drive from campus. Naturally, when Cyber Monday came around, we knew what we had to do— buy season passes.
It was a beautiful day. Again guys, I didn’t mean for this day to happen. It just happened. It just happened to be a gorgeous sunny and 75 degree day, with a gentle, light wind feathering my hair in between every jump shot.
Did I mention it’s February?
And it’s sunny and 75.
After visiting the roller coaster capital of the world (did I mention Magic Mountain is the roller coaster capital of the world?), we needed to quench our thirst.
The college kid in me hasn’t died yet. You can’t beat a $1 Coke, whether you’re in LA or a place a lot less cooler than LA.
I had dinner plans with Lindsey Corsaro that night. So after we downed a couple refills of caffeine, I met her at a fun, local more-Californian restaurant in Westwood.
In typical Lindsey and Nicole fashion, dessert was in store after our dinner of vegetables.
To Salt n’ Straw!
Salt n’ Straw is another LA favorite in the heart of Hollywood and Venice.
What is Salt n’ Straw one may ask?
Ice cream. Lots and lots of ice cream. But it’s not just “ice cream.” It’s Kelli Hayes-type ice cream.
In order to have Kelli Hayes-type ice cream, we need Kelli Hayes.
20 minutes later the three of us were in line waiting for a scoop.
After downing chocolate gooey brownie, honey lavender, and salted caramel truffle delights, we knew the night wasn't done there.
Kel was all hyped up on sugar (and salt).
She took the reigns and dubbed herself navigator for the night. First on the slate of great was LACMA. To look at the lights.
From LACMA we went to Griffith Park. Juuuuuuust a tad too late. Pulled in at 10:30pm. Closed at 10. But here’s a visual. A visual of what we would have seen had the guards given into our plea.
We would have looked through telescopes and stuff.
From LACMA we went to Mulholland Dr. To look at more lights.
From Mulholland we went to SC. To stare down enemy territory the night before. The calm before the storm.
(No picture needed).
From SC we went to LA Live. It wasn’t very live. It was a ghost town down there. The lights of Staples Center weren’t even turned on. But again, Kelli wanted to go, so we went anyway.
From LA Live we went to (don’t tell coach) California Donuts. We really just went to look at the donuts, I mean, at least that’s what we’ll tell coach if she asks.
From Fruity Pebble long johns to Reese’s peanut butter chocolate frosted, we looked, and then we bought.
After donuts and after checking the clock, we realized we had been together for four straight hours.
Just a girl and her friends. Going to dinner and dessert.
So what makes it unique?
This girl and her friends
…live in Los Angeles.
And THAT was just a regular 'ol day in LA.
I’ve been hearing the phrase “follow your dreams” a lot lately.
“One day I will follow my dream. And I will open up a restaurant."
“I’m just doing this for now so someday I can really follow my dream.”
“What are you doing here? Go follow your dream!”
So, let me ask you--
Are you following your dream?
I’m going to be honest here.
I hate that question. I truly believe some people just don’t have the luxury. Many are forced to pay massive student-loans right out of college. Many are primarily focused on putting food on the table for the night.
But some are just too scared. Some don’t want to take the risk.
For those people out there— I want to say, stop running from your insecurities. Run straight to them.
When I stepped foot onto the campus of UCLA, for the first time ever, I felt like I truly accomplished “my dream.”
It has always been my dream, ever since I was a little girl, to play basketball in front of huge crowds, have people know my name, and make whichever team I was on better than I found it.
I wanted to change the game. I didn’t just want to be the next Skylar Diggins. I wanted to be better than Skylar Diggins.
Even after my first three years of college basketball, I still felt like I was searching. I felt as if whatever dream I had worked up in my fantasies since I was a little girl was all a myth. I felt as if it couldn’t be attainable for me. I saw it happen to other girls, and they seemed happy, but when I looked in the mirror I only saw how sad I truly was.
I felt as if dreams didn’t really exist.
But then I came to UCLA.
I lived my dream at this school.
And because of this school, I’m living my dream now.
These girls may not realize it. They might still be caught up in all the drama.
The playing time trials, the pity parties, the schoolwork, the struggle with time management, etc., but one day, one day they will wake up and realize that they are living their dream.
Jordin Canada is breaking record after record.
Monique Billings is doing things that no other post her size has ever done before.
Lindsey Corsaro is a leader of the team as a redshirt freshman.
Chrissy Baird is a living legend for walk-ons everywhere.
Japreece Dean is proving that second chances spark monumental beginnings.
Michaela Onyenwere is showing that freshman can be playmakers too.
Kelli Hayes is reinventing what it looks like to be a student-athlete.
Kayla Owens is a confident killer, who shoots with a smile on her face.
Kennedy Burke is on the cusp of being one of the greatest guards to play at UCLA.
Ally Rosenblum is following in her father’s footsteps, 20 years later.
Lauryn Miller is putting on for her city, every single time she laces up her shoes.
Lajahna Drummer is transforming strong into beautiful.
Chantel Horvat is family, even when her own lives 8,000 miles away.
If you don’t ever go out on a limb, if you don’t ever take that risk, you’ll never know what could have been.
These girls put in the work. They signed on the dotted line and left comfortable for uncomfortable.
And look where they are now.
They're among the stars, living their dream.
It's 5:15pm and I’m sippin’ a java with Lindsey Corsaro in Santa Monica.
It’s Christmas break.
Everyone’s favorite time of year. It’s when the girls get to focus on one thing and one thing only— basketball.
And then after basketball…
Instead of cramming for midterms, cranking out a 5-page paper, or stressing over that calculus homework you forgot how to do, you get to sit back, relax, and do as professional basketball players do.
Just for a month you get to take the student out of student-athlete.
You take a little extra time in the ice bath. You shoot a few more shots than normal. You study the scout a little more. You really embrace your role.
And then afterwards… it's back to play.
Everyone else on campus is gone. Football’s over. The students are back home drinking eggnog with mom and dad. But the men’s and women’s basketball teams? They’re in the gym.
December 26th is never an easy date. The clock strikes 5:30pm and practice begins. The few days you’re allotted for break whizz by. The Holiday Ham catches up with you too. It’s especially not easy for the long distance bunch. I remember leaving for school on Christmas night one year. Some coaches even schedule practice Christmas Day. But as hard as it might be, once everyone arrives back on campus, your family #2 steps right into its role.
Whether it’s movie nights, coffee runs, late night walks through an empty campus, lunch dates with the men’s team, or Groupon Six Flags splurges post-practice, the team really gets to enjoy their time as teammates.
I feel like it’s time to truly bond with your sisters. You have no worries in the world. All you have to do is play basketball, eat, and sleep. An athlete’s dream come true.
There’s something special about giving your all for a common cause. About waking up early, staying late, surrendering a few days of Christmas break, getting to know your teammates on a different level, and dedicating every waking moment with a group of people all in search of the same goal.
The girls may not be at home, they may feel lonely or miss the familiar feeling of family, but Christmas break is when the second family is born. It’s when it solidifies the team, its togetherness, and its dedication.
It's when practices become battlefields.
It's when teammates sacrifice as sisters.
It’s when team becomes family.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from our UCLA Basketball Family to yours!
Los Angeles has been up in flames the last week.
For those of you who don’t know where Skirball is— it’s in UCLA’s backyard.
Most of the coaching staff lives in Bel-Air. Kari Korver does too. I live right across the street.
Coach Tony was told to evacuate his house. Coach Cori and Coach Shannon were told to be on high alert. The charter flight to Stillwater, Oklahoma was on the agenda to fly the team out the next day. They weren’t sure what to do.
Sometimes in life we think we have it all planned out. We anticipate our schedules will dictate the next 24 hours, but then we wake up with the sniffles, news declaring immediate evacuation due to a fire that has spread overnight, or a phone call from a friend describing a sudden injury that has stripped him/her from their everyday routine.
I can speak on behalf of many when I say that because of basketball I am prepared for the unexpected.
I am ready for the future that is so unfamiliar, so unpredictable, so fragile.
My little brother flew into town today with a boot strapped to his foot. He sprained his ankle in last night’s game.
Healthy all year until one minor misstep.
Lucky for Luke, he’s only missing a couple games.
Unlucky for me, it’s his one road trip out west and he won’t be playing in any of the three California games.
I don’t know how parents do it.
The heartbreak that we kiddos cause our parents after an injury, or simply the fact that some of us live a million miles away from mom and dad, makes it incredibly hard for them to cope after sacrificing 18 years of their income towards overly priced Batman band-aids, Bactine, and chicken noodle soup when our tummies were acting up.
College athletics isn’t all rainbows and butterflies.
With the game winning jumper at the buzzer, comes the devastating loss in OT.
With the start of a prosperous season brewing, comes a torn ACL midway through the first half.
Basketball isn’t just a game.
It can be so much more if you let it.
It can teach you how to cope, how to prioritize, and how to persevere.
Lindsey Corsaro and Chrissy Baird were hurt all of last season.
They are some of my best friends. Kari’s too. Neither of them got to play with us our senior seasons.
For Chrissy, after a tumultuous year and a half long absence from the game she loves, she has officially been cleared to play again.
For Lindsey, after sitting out all of her freshman year, she was cleared to play at the start of season.
Two games in she sprained her ankle.
Her mom and dad were in the stands. They flew all the way out from Indiana. Just to see their baby girl hobble back into the training room at the start of the second half.
Her parents had booked flights for the Baylor and UConn games that following weekend.
Her Uncle Bill and Aunt Martha had booked flights to come to Vegas for Thanksgiving the weekend after that.
And in a blink of an eye— it all came crashing down.
It’s hard for the parents who witness their children get hurt.
It’s hard for them to leave their precious child in some trainer's hands in a far away state to recover without them.
But what’s hardest is getting back up again, going through the grueling rehab process, and making the most of what you have while you’re healing.
What’s hard is learning through the pain, focusing internally, and taking the necessary steps to maintain a growth mindset through one’s hardship.
Basketball prepares you for life.
It prepares you for the unexpected.
It prepares you for the fires.
Los Angeles is tough; Lindsey is tough; Chrissy is tough; Luke is tough.
These fires won’t consume them. They’ll fight back and rise from the ashes.
Basketball taught them to.
September 8, 2015:
The day of my official visit at UCLA.
Coach Jenny picked me up from the airport. My 6’9” father sat crammed in the backseat smushed next to my mother, while I lived the lap of luxury at shotgun. He wanted me to see the city, and talk to coach.
I’ll never forget how the 405 looked that day. Christmas came early. Bumper to bumper, red taillights were lit up like Rockefeller Center. Still til this day I haven’t seen worse traffic coming out of LAX.
I sat in the front seat mesmerized. It took us an hour and a half to go the approximate 10 miles to campus.
I don’t think I stopped smiling the entire time. I thought it was so cool.
“Look how many people live here.”
It was 11am on a Tuesday.
I hadn’t met any of the coaching staff yet. Coach Jenny was my first impression. And if anyone knows Coach Jenny, one knows that first impression left a lasting impression. I love that woman with all of my heart.
We met the rest of the coaches just past Venice Beach for lunch on the water.
I remember Coach Cori asking me on the phone earlier that week, “What would you prefer? Brunch on the beach, or a quick hike to Hollywood and a bite by the sign?”
It was comical, really.
“Did she really just ask me that?”
There I sat mulling over which beach I wanted to have brunch at. Was it going to be Malibu? Santa Monica? Or did I want to go inland and wine & dine in Beverly Hills or Hollywood?
NUTS, PEOPLE. NUTS.
This was their real-life. Their day-to-day. I was used to deciphering between Dairy Queen or Caine’s Chicken.
(Still fantastic options, don’t get me wrong).
From the outside looking in, I thought I had died and gone to Disney.
That was an option too. Disneyland.
Half of my visit I sat pondering the fact as to why anyone would ever go anywhere else. Had people just not seen this place?? Was it undercover? Was there something wrong? There had to be something wrong.
After brunch by the beach, Coach Cori took the Korn clan to campus.
I had never been. I think when I was little I drove past it once. But it’s so well hidden off of Sunset Blvd. that it’s so easy to whiz right past its beauty.
It really is undercover.
I think I was expecting a concrete jungle. A dilapidated, run-down, overcrowded prison in the middle of LA. That’s what was plaguing my mind due to the not-so-friendly stereotypes my Texas neighbors had given. Little do those Longhorn fans know.
Coach Cori was driving down Sunset and the sunshine was beaming. It was a picturesque day like any other, sunny & 75. We pulled into campus after passing the notorious white arch that read, “Bel-Air Estate.”
“That’s where Coach Tony & I live. He’s a little more up the mountain than me, but we’re so fortunate to be just a 5 minute commute from campus.”
Someone should have pinched me.
“Did she just say she lives in Bel-Air? THE Bel-Air? Does she know Will?”
Being a senior transfer, I really wasn’t planning on being swayed by the sights and sounds of the big city. I knew what the college basketball scene looked like. And that’s what I was there for. I knew what I wanted, and I knew what I didn’t want. My job was to find out if UCLA was just that.
We went straight to Pauley.
Pick-up with the girls.
I wanted to meet them. I wanted to get a feel for them. I wanted to play with them.
I will never forget Nirra Fields.
Jordin Canada or Monique Billings.
Kari Korver or Kennedy Burke.
Kacy Swain or Paulina Hersler.
Lajahna Drummer or Chrissy Baird.
The one and only, Kelli Hayes.
I had been playing college basketball for 3 years.
I knew what talent looked like, but the definition of talent transformed before my eyes once I saw Jordin dribble the ball, and Monique run the floor.
Believe it or not folks, I used to think I was athletic. And then I shared the same basketball court with the UCLA Women’s Basketball Team. It was like watching Shania Twain sing a ballad—absolutely beautiful.
I committed as soon as Cori offered.
I knew this place was where I wanted to be.
This school would challenge me not only physically, but mentally and spiritually, too.
It would encourage me to seek out relationships with girls who could not be any more different than me.
I would have to focus in the classroom at an entirely different level.
I would have to pass the looming conditioning test before I was even allowed to step foot on the court.
I was a senior, and I felt like a freshman again.
Extremely humbled, I knew I wouldn’t want to go out any other way. I wanted to work.
Just a few days ago, I watched Jordin & Mo take the reigns and lead the charge against the Baylor Bears.
A team I was very familiar with coming from the Big XII myself.
The seniors put on a show, and the freshman followed suit. They took down the #3 team in the nation, handedly.
The energy in Pauley Pavilion was special that night. I was lucky to be emcee’ing that game and I had never been more real with an audience. I wanted them to get on their feet with me, and they did.
As I stand back and watch games from a different point of view, I can’t describe to you the overwhelming sense of pride that overcomes me.
The pride that stems from being a Bruin.
I worked so hard for it. And these girls do too.
I used to be an outsider.
But then I met Cori Close. And now— now, I’m family.
Now and forever, I'm a Bruin.
In college basketball the month of October is a tough one to get through. The light at the end of the tunnel looks like a distant flicker in the wind. The first game is in early November, so the month of October is dedicated to preparation.
And by preparation, I mean practice.
And by practice, I mean sprints.
The girls have to get in shape. Starting with the one and only conditioning test.
20 down-and-backs in 25 seconds or less.
But what happens when it all ends?
What happens when you graduate?
What happens when you don't have to work out anymore?
What happens when you see your once defined calf muscles turn to mush?
What happens when swimsuit season is no longer your favorite season?
What happens when you start looking like…like…like your mother?
You sign up for cycle class.
Being a poor, newly employed 23-year-old, cycle class is kind of a rip off.
Being an educated, recent UCLA grad, I was smart enough to find a GroupOn.
10 classes for $60? With shoe rental?? That’s just $6 a class compared to the preposterous $20 per.
I could do that.
Living in Westwood, you’re in a bubble. You’re surrounded by Bel-Air, Brentwood, and Beverly Hills.
AKA the Promised Land.
I used to love going to Beverly Hills when I was an undergrad because what kind of undergrad gets to go to Beverly Hills so casually??
I’ll tell you who—UCLA students. It’s the coolest, most ridiculous thing in the world. So up my alley.
Long story long, I decided to sign up for my cycling class in Beverly Hills. I no longer could grapple with my lackluster calf muscles so I signed up for the first class at the crack of dawn the following morning.
7:00am with Shannon.
I will never forget 7:00am with Shannon.
Being on time has never been my specialty, except for when I played under Cori Close.
No longer being under Cori Close, I have resorted to my old ways.
It was 6:58am and I was strapping on my shoes faster than Shannon could cycle.
And boy could she cycle.
As I sheepishly slid onto my seat, I realized I made it right on time.
Shannon asked if anyone needed any last-minute help strapping on their cycle shoes.
I don’t know about you guys, but those things are the pits. I never win. After several failed attempts I caved and asked Shannon for help.
“Lay your foot flat, and push up into the rivet.”
“No, not like that.”
“Are you listening to me?”
“Don’t panic, we’re in this together.”
I’m not kidding you when I say this—it took Shannon and I 4 & 1/2 minutes to strap my cycle shoes in.
4 & 1/2 minutes later, Shannon was not a fan of Nicole Kornet.
First cycle class down, nine to go, and I was not off to a good start. At this point I was begging for Cori’s infamous conditioning test to return.
But the tale doesn’t end here.
If I didn’t play basketball I would have tried my very best to be a hip-hop dancer. I truly believe that’s why I always played the way I played. I put on a performance each and every game, because all I’ve ever wanted to do was perform in front of a crowd.
During that cycle class, I discovered that my dream was just that—a dream. I truly lack rhythm.
Shannon’s eyes were glued to me all class.
“Hands at position 3!”
“You’re clearly on the wrong gear if you’re pedaling that fast.”
“One and two and one and two and one and two.”
I was a lost sheep amongst wolves.
Amongst beautiful, physically fit, Beverly Hills bombshells who wore the matching sports bra/spandex combo and everything.
Meanwhile, yours truly, was sitting front & center wearing a pair of her father’s old Milwaukee Bucks practice shorts from the late 80’s with an over-sized tee to boot.
I fit right in.
Finally, after 45 minutes of sheer torture, both mentally and physically, it was time to get out.
Problem was I couldn’t get out.
Shannon liked that one. She begrudgingly waltzed over and yanked my feet out of the stirrups. I have a wicked bruise on my upper shin thanks to her forceful gusto.
During my day in LA I learned two things:
No matter what stage of life you’re in it’s important to get out and get going. Lucky for me, I live in California.
If you can’t handle the Beverly Hills cycle shaming, there are plenty of monstrous mountains that have your name written all over them, or a Pacific Ocean that will drown your sorrows, or a plethora of healthy food options that will allow you to skip exercising altogether!
This was my “Day in LA.” Tell me about yours!
“This is your Bruin card. With this, you have access to all 7 cafeterias on campus.”
Jaw-dropped, I never pictured heaven to be so hilly.
So sunny. So peppy. So blue & gold.
I had been on campus not yet 5 minutes and I couldn’t get over that staggering fact.
And these weren’t just your “everyday cafeterias.” These were extraordinary works of art, with top-notch chefs allowing your taste buds to correctly “taste” for the first time.
Sure, it may have something to do with the fact that I was raised on Uncrustables and Oatmeal Crème Pies, but I choose to believe otherwise.
I choose to believe that I had made it to heaven.
Some think I’m still taking classes. Some think I’m mooching off the girls just to cop snacks from the locker room. Some think I’ve hit rock bottom.
Like I said, two years just wasn’t enough.
My time as a student-athlete has come to a close, but my time as a UCLA employee has just begun.
I’m an avid blogger. I became one after one of the biggest transitions of my life took place. Here, at UCLA.
But you see, you don’t have to wait until something monumental hits you square in the face in order to do so.
Anyone can be a writer.
You just have to pick up the pen.
Throughout my blogs UCLA’s four letters dance across the pages quite a bit. However, there is still so much to this school and this city that goes unnoticed.
Which brings me back to the 7 cafeterias.
Every Wednesday I will be posting a blog about one of the above:
Sometimes I’ll blab on and on about the cafeteria food, but sometimes I’ll dive a little deeper and get in sync with the girls.
With segments such as Bruin Beliefs, NBA Family Ties, Why I Love LA, and My Favorite Flavs, one will be able to get a look behind the curtain into the lives of players old & new, the adventures the girls stumble into, and sometimes, maybe most of the time, stories that involve yours truly, too.
With segments such as Rookie Seasons, Empty Nesters, and How To Get Over A Loss In 10 Hours, I’ll touch upon the struggles of what it’s like to be a freshman, the struggles of parenting a freshman, and the dreaded shape of an L on your forehead.
I will be narrating the journey of the 2017-2018 UCLA Women’s Basketball team.
The good, the bad, and the ugly.
I will do my best to describe in obnoxiously colorful adjectives just how UCLA runs the show, the people who form its foundation, and the city away from home that has become the city I now call home.
These four letters represent something much bigger than embroidery.
They represent a bond.
So join me! Every Wednesday. As I pick up the pen.