Women's basketball: Jordin Canada's legacy with UCLA goes beyond court
Of the 109 NCAA championship trophies glimmering at Jordin Canada, none said women's basketball. At that time, when she was a top prospect in the country visiting UCLA while also being courted by powerhouses like Connecticut and Tennessee, Canada realized that her college choice wasn't going to be about trophies already sitting behind glass-paned cases.
It was going to be about the new ones she could bring.
So she shunned other well-established programs. She picked the Bruins.
She didn't just want to be part of a legacy, she wanted to start one with NCAA championship trophies and Pac-12 championship prizes.
Four years later, the 5-foot-6 senior point guard is approaching the twilight of a collegiate career that's made good on a promise to leave a lasting mark on UCLA women's basketball, although the Bruins are still hunting for their first contribution to the school's famed collection of NCAA championships that now boosts 114 titles.
"I wanted Jordin's game to transform in an uncommon way throughout her experience with the way that she viewed the game and the way she led the game and the way that she produced in the game, but it's also about what she's doing in the community," head coach Cori Close said.
It’s Rivalry Week!! In this weeks Coach’s Corner, @CoachCloseUCLA details what’s coming up for us! Enjoy! Full video: https://t.co/7TWReIbuJd’s-corner-series #UCLAWBB #GoBruins pic.twitter.com/cPM4MNGUEK— UCLA W. Basketball (@UCLAWBB) January 31, 2018
Canada is UCLA's do-everything point guard, the school's all-time leader in assists and the first woman in Pac-12 history to score 1,800 points and dish out 700 assists who is also preparing for a post-basketball career in pediatric nursing. She is in position to move into third place on UCLA's all-time scoring list -- she needs just two points in Friday's rivalry game against USC at 8 p.m. at Pauley Pavilion to pass Rehema Stephens' 1,887.
Canada had difficulty believing in her own trophy-filled vision for the program after the team limped to a 13-18 overall record and 8-10 mark in Pac-12 play after the conference tournament in 2015, her freshman season. She was part of the top-ranked recruiting class in the country, she thought. People were expecting the freshmen to turn this program around immediately.
They could only muster a WNIT invitation.
"I was thinking about the distractions and the other people and the outsiders instead of just thinking about the team and what we needed to do to get better and grow," Canada said.
Jordin Canada does it all. Canada led No. 9 @UCLAWBB to two victories in which she averaged 20.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, four assists and two steals over the weekend.— Pac-12 Network (@Pac12Network) January 29, 2018
Congratulations Jordin on being named #Pac12WBB Player of the Week: https://t.co/wglL2zd5k2 pic.twitter.com/CQWnIbHs4A
It was the run to the WNIT championship that shaped Canada, whose 31 points in the title game are still a career high. She lifted the trophy and fully embraced the vocal leadership role she acknowledges she didn't want as a freshman.
"She used to be like a mute, like a mouse," said senior guard Kelli Hayes, who along with Monique Billings and redshirt junior Lajahna Drummer were also part of UCLA's vaunted recruiting class in 2014. "As a point guard, you're supposed to be the floor general, you're supposed to be loud and vocal and that's not how Jordin was. She was someone who leads by example. ... Now she's still leading by example but she's added her voice."
Canada has steered the ninth-ranked Bruins to second place in the Pac-12 standings, one game behind No. 6 Oregon, and a six-game winning streak entering Friday's rivalry game. She is a top-10 candidate for the Nancy Lieberman Award, which is given to the top point guard in the country.
When she takes the court, she pulls per long black hair into a pony tail and slips a compression sleeve on her left arm. She transforms into her basketball self, bursting with confidence and courage, a complete juxtaposition to an off-court persona that Close describes as shy, sensitive and cautious.
That contrast was why Close knew Canada could build something special in Westwood.
She has the sensitivity to want to nurture her hometown program with the courage to challenge national powers, Close said.
After scoring 21 points and dishing five assists in UCLA's home win over Stanford on Jan. 21, which kept the Bruins ahead of the Cardinal in the Pac-12 standings, Canada quickly shifted between her personas after an interview with Pac-12 Networks. She paused before walking off the court as young fans called her name, clamoring for autographs. Canada peeled off her white arm sleeve and handed it to a fan. The fan's jaw dropped and she jumped up and down, clutching the cloth to her chest.
The moment made Close think about the legacy Canada wanted to create at UCLA. There wasn't a trophy in sight. It didn't matter.
"When I saw that on the replay on TV, I go, Jordin did it," Close said. "That's her legacy."
This article is written by Thuc Nhi Nguyen from Los Angeles Daily News and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.