Tiffany Cheng

Senior guards Doreena Campbell and Darxia Morris will be looked on to lead the No. 15 UCLA women’s basketball team to a first-place finish in the Pac-10 this year after placing in second last season behind Stanford.

Rex and Silent Killer aren’t the best of friends, but they’ve embarked on a four-month mission together.

During each assignment, the oft-overlooked Silent Killer will snipe from distance; Rex, with tyrannosaurus-like range and speed, will be the driving force behind each assignment.

It all begins on the backcourt, where this duo applies a suffocating pressure that commands a distinct fear in the opposition.

Darting from sideline to sideline, S.K. and Rex feast off of mistakes, intent on one thing: taking back what is theirs.

For the No. 16 UCLA women’s basketball team, S.K., better known as Doreena Campbell, and Rex, short for Darxia Morris, form a senior-guard tandem that bears the responsibility of sparking a full-court, Nolan Richardson-eque “40 Minutes of Hell” pressure defense.

The Bruin offense is predicated on points off turnovers and transition scoring, so it’s a heavy responsibility.

“We are a gambling team, and I like that we are a gambling team,” coach Nikki Caldwell said. “I like that they are unpredictable, and I like that when we are scouted that we can only do one thing, because we do a lot of different things.”

That unpredictability is seen in Campbell, who is known for her spontaneous scoring attacks.

“That’s why we call her S.K. for “˜Silent Killer,’” Morris said. “She’ll have 20 points, and you wouldn’t even know it. She’s full of surprises.”

Spontaneity is also reflected in her on-court creativity and toughness, modeling her game after one of her idols, Pete Maravich. Campbell’s parents worked in the military, and it is perhaps in her upbringing that her grit originates.

“She’d fall on the floor and get back up like nothing happened,” Morris said.

Because of her parents’ professions, the 2010 All-Pac-10 first teamer grew accustomed to moving every few years. From Germany to Virginia to California, Campbell has experienced different cultures, and it’s easy to tell it’s made her more contemplative.

Some may very easily be disgruntled and frustrated from such a childhood, but it’s one that Campbell embraced.

If there’s one part of UCLA that she particularly welcomed, it was the academics, as she aims to practice medicine.

“I especially enjoyed California, the people here,” Campbell said. “But what it comes down to is academics. It’s a world-renowned school ““ people know about UCLA worldwide.”

UCLA is a school that Morris long knew about ““ even if she had aspirations in another sport.

Raised in Pasadena, Morris went to Muir High School, where she lettered in softball.
“Softball was my No. 1 sport, not basketball,” Morris said. “I played since I was young, and I got into basketball because of my sister. Because I was good, I started to focus more on basketball than (softball).”

It’s safe to say that both Caldwell and Bruin softball coach Kelly Inouye-Perez would welcome the range and speed Morris exhibits day in and day out.

“Everyone calls me Rex, but sometimes they call me “˜Quick Feet’ because when I get the ball, I go,” Morris said.

Think of Morris as a Zenyatta among a field of thoroughbreds, able to cover and make up ground to come up with a potential game-changing play.

“She’s our energy,” Campbell said. “In one instant she can get us going and turn it around like that. It gets the team going and the flow going.”

This duo feeds off of each other’s attributes, and their chemistry has already paid dividends, forcing the starting Vanguard Lions backcourt into 10 turnovers in the Bruins’ exhibition win on Nov. 8.

“I’ll be coming down and maybe I get caught up,” Campbell said. “If I go down the court, and I get stuck, Rex would be there. It’s just that awareness that we have each other’s back. I think that eventually, that is going to escalate to the rest of the team, and that will help build a better bond for us.”

Though very different in style and even personality off the court, the backcourt mates seem always in sync on it.

Last year, both were among the most efficient in the conference in assist-to-turnover ratio, and it’s a mind-set that these two backcourt leaders share.

“In a way, it starts with us,” Campbell said. “We have to be the leaders for our team, so if we do turn it over, we have to let it go and just continue. From there, everyone can just go.”

Though different in playing style, each brings a different attribute to the team that gets the Bruins going.

Caldwell identified this week’s before the season began.

“What gets this team going is our guard play,” she said. “We go as Campbell and Morris go.”

It’s a highly complimentary remark from a coach whose intensity has both inspired and coerced a Bruin team to its best finish in two decades last season.

In 2008, UCLA introduced Caldwell as the next women’s basketball head coach, and most of the players had never met her. As they patiently waited until after the conference to talk with her, one of player’s phones went off.

She glanced over to her new team and said, “Well, we know that we won’t have phones going off in our meetings.”

With this season dedicated to John Wooden and his legacy, Caldwell expects her leaders to maintain a high level of excellence.

This same expectation is reflected in Campbell and Morris’ defensive prowess, yet it is off the court where both feel Caldwell’s impact resounds the most.

“Coach Nikki has been life-changing,” Morris said. “She’s teaching me to see basketball in different ways. It’s unbelievable how she can get your mind to think a different way in basketball. The ball is going to stop bouncing one day, and what is important is life after basketball.”

So maybe it’s more than a four-month long mission that Rex and S.K. are on.
If it’s Wooden they want to emulate, it may very well be a journey that lasts a lifetime.

But for now, the team goes as Campbell and Morris go, and getting defensive stops is a start.