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Steve Mims | The Register-Guard | November 6, 2018

UCLA women's basketball expects NCAA tournament bid despite graduating two WNBA picks

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The UCLA women's basketball program graduated a couple of top picks to the pros.

Point guard Jordin Canada was the fifth overall pick in the WNBA draft by Seattle followed by Monique Billings going 10 picks later to Atlanta. It was the the first time the Bruins ever had two players go among the top 15 picks of the draft.

"We want to have gratitude for the people that came before us, including Jordin and Monique, but the biggest way we can honor them is to continue to move forward," UCLA coach Cori Close said during the recent Pac-12 media day. "We are not changing our expectations."

The Bruins placed third in the Pac-12 last season at 14-4 before losing to Mississippi State in the Elite Eight.

UCLA returns senior starters Kennedy Burke and Lajahna Drummer along with Japreece Dean and Michaela Onyenwere, who ranked among the top five scorers on the team while coming off the bench.

"I think we are going to be harder to scout because everybody knew the ball was going to go through Jordin and Monique's hands," Close said. "These are really capable women who have worked incredibly hard this offseason to be ready to step into new roles. I think everybody on the team knows they need to be counted on on a consistent basis."

Canada and Billings averaged 17.0 and 15.3 points, respectively, as seniors. Billings led the conference with 9.5 rebounds while Canada had a team-high 7.1 assists.

"Those two set a high standard, so I think it's good for our team to put that in the back of our heads and follow on through," Drummer said.

Close will use a group of players to replace Canada at the point, including Dean, Burke, and freshmen Kiara Jefferson and Lindsey Corsaro. It may be tougher to replace the 6-foot-4 Billings, but the arrival of 6-6 freshman Shayley Harris could add a presence on the inside.

"We have more versatility," Close said. "I think we have a lot of ways we can attack both offensively as well as using our length on the defensive end to create easy opportunities. I think we're more balanced and a little bit less predictable."

MORE: AP preseason women's basketball poll | Stanford looks ready for another title run

This article is written by Steve Mims from The Register-Guard, Eugene, Ore. and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to

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