With the Bruins’ season opener coming up on Wednesday, two recent injuries will test their depth from day one.
No. 20 UCLA women’s basketball graduate guard Gina Conti and redshirt freshman forward Angela Dugalić both suffered injuries that will keep them out of action for several weeks, a UCLA Athletics spokesperson confirmed Monday. Conti is dealing with a foot injury she sustained in practice that has since led to surgery, while Dugalić suffered a knee contusion on the Bruins’ trip to Texas for a scrimmage with the Longhorns at the end of October.
All early press signaled that the Wake Forest graduate transfer would be the starting point guard all season long, but in Conti’s absence, Close said that responsibility will now fall on graduate guard Jaelynn Penn and junior guard Charisma Osborne.
“They’re just going to have to do it for more extended periods of time,” Close said. “I think that’s one of the things that I am most proud of Charisma – she’s a winning player, she’s a leader, her handle is a little bit tighter, her 3-ball is looking good. I just want her to play like a scorer. The same with Jaelyn. They’re going to share that responsibility.”
Osborne would have originally started her year as the shooting guard in the offense with Conti being the facilitator up top, but now she will play early-season minutes at the point, a position she played for most of 2020-2021.
In the frontcourt, Dugalić was slated to play some minutes off the bench at the four and five. When sophomore forward Emily Bessoir went down with a torn ACL in October, however, the Serbian international was seemingly going to secure a good chunk of the minutes newly up for grabs.
Instead, there will be a mix of limited options playing in the post for the Bruins, as had been the case for the team last year when they were dealing with injuries, COVID-19 opt-outs and visa issues all at once.
“I have a lot of practice with this,” Close said.
Close revealed senior guard Kayla Owens will be starting at the power forward to open the season, with graduate forward Ilmar’i Thomas and redshirt freshman forward Izzy Anstey standing in as the others who will rotate in at the four and five. Thomas started every game and averaged 39.4 minutes a night for Cincinnati last season, playing down low despite her 5-foot-10 stature, while the 6-foot-4 Anstey was stuck overseas due to ICE and Homeland Security travel restrictions related to the pandemic.
The Bruins look like they will go small against Pepperdine on Wednesday and throughout the rest of nonconference play until depth in the frontcourt can be strengthened as they head towards the Pac-12 slate.