Saturday, May 30

Battle of the Editors: Incoming freshman recruits carry potential to bolster UCLA athletics

Freshman forward Mia Fishel scored two goals and notched one assist in No. 5 UCLA women's soccer's first three games. Prior to coming to college, Fishel was a staple for the United States U17 Women's National Team. (Niveda Tennety/Assistant Photo editor)

UCLA has a history of reeling in some of the best recruits from California, the country and the world. This year’s crop of Bruin freshmen is no different, so the Daily Bruin Sports editors each picked their most anticipated incoming recruits.

Mia Fishel, women’s soccer
Jacqueline Dzwonczyk, assistant Sports editor

If the season ended today, Mia Fishel would still be in contention for most impactful freshman.

The UCLA women’s soccer forward notched two goals and an assist in her first three regular-season games, not to mention a goal in an exhibition match.

Fishel’s five points put her in a tie for second-most points on the Bruins as of Sept. 18. She is tied with junior forward Ashley Sanchez and has just one point less than senior midfielder Jessie Fleming, placing Fishel in contention with two of the three UCLA players on the 2019 MAC Hermann Trophy watchlist.

Aside from scoring categories, Fishel has been a catalyst for the UCLA offense, creating 21 shots for herself, including 11 on goal, in the first six games of the season.

Prior to joining the Bruins, Fishel was a key member of the United States U17 Women’s National Team, scoring the opening goal of the 2018 FIFA U17 Women’s World Cup and the go-ahead goal in the 2018 CONCACAF U17 women’s semifinals.

It was clear from day one that Fishel was going to be good for the Bruins, but it would have been hard to predict she would make an impact this fast.

Freshmen guards Jaden Owens (left) and Charisma Osborne (right) were both five-star recruits and 2019 McDonald’s All Americans. The two helped UCLA women’s basketball put together ESPN’s No. 10 recruiting class in the country. (Courtesy of Brian Spurlock/USA Today)

Charisma Osborne and Jaden Owens, women’s basketball
Sam Connon, Sports editor

The Bruins didn’t necessarily need another point guard this season, considering redshirt senior Japreece Dean was granted a fifth year of eligibility in March.

But it never hurts to get reinforcements.

UCLA women’s basketball added two guards on the recruiting trail in 2019 who also happened to be five-star McDonald’s All Americans – Jaden Owens and Charisma Osborne. Owens and Osborne were the No. 13 and No. 22 prospects, respectively, in their class.

This isn’t the first time the Bruins have added multiple five-star recruits in the same offseason either. Guard Jordin Canada and forward Monique Billings joined the squad in 2014, three years before junior forward Michaela Onyenwere and junior guard Chantel Horvat hopped on board.

Something about these two feels different though.

While Osborne has been heralded as a cutthroat scorer who can shoot from anywhere on the court, Owens has built a reputation as a true floor general. Owens is 5 feet, 6 inches tall – the same size as Dean – but Osborne is a longer 5 feet, 9 inches.

Osborne averaged 21 points, 7.3 rebounds, 5.1 assists and 3.2 steals per game in her senior year at Windward High School, while Owens put up 20.4 points, 4.4 assists and 3.7 steals a night during her junior year at Plano West Senior High School.

The two will be in a crowded backcourt alongside Dean, sophomore guard Kiara Jefferson, redshirt junior guard Natalie Chou and redshirt sophomore guard Lindsey Corsaro in year one, but I am more excited about what the pair will do over the course of their four years in blue and gold.

Keep an eye on the Owens-Osborne duo – they’ll be running the show in Pauley Pavilion for years to come.

Incoming freshman Drew Baird is the only recruit set to join UCLA men’s tennis this season. Baird was ranked as high as No. 3 in his recruiting class, according to Tennis Recruiting Network. (Courtesy of Drew Baird)

Drew Baird, men’s tennis
Jared Tay, assistant Sports editor

The Bruins lost only one player – Maxime Cressy – to graduation in the offseason, and their lone recruit has a chance to seamlessly fill that void in the lineup.

Incoming freshman Drew Baird of Holly Springs, North Carolina, was coach Billy Martin’s only signing for the 2019-2020 season. Baird is listed as a blue-chip recruit – the highest designation for collegiate tennis prospects – and has already made appearances in four junior Grand Slam tournaments, including a run to the Round of 16 of the 2018 Australian Open.

In 2019, Baird reached his career-high recruiting ranking as the No. 3 prospect in his class.

A graduate of IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, Baird will bolster an already young UCLA squad that saw seven freshmen on its roster last year. Martin’s singles lineups frequently consisted of at least three freshmen, and it should come as no surprise if the Bruins rely on the success of their young starters this season as well.

Baird’s Universal Tennis Rating is listed as 13 out of 16, on par with sophomore Govind Nanda. Nanda held down the No. 3 singles spot as a freshman in 2019, playing as high as No. 1 against Grand Canyon.

If Baird can measure up to Nanda, it’s safe to say he will be one of the most dominant Bruins on the court, as Nanda tallied a 17-5 singles dual-match record last season.

For a Bruins squad that is filled with young talent, Baird will undoubtedly have big shoes to fill. But with only one senior on this year’s roster, it’s clear that Baird and the rest of the underclassmen are the backbone of Bruin tennis.

UCLA softball coach Kelly Inouye-Perez said in an interview that incoming freshman middle infielder Maya Brady has the star power to make a potentially huge impact with the team this spring. (Ashley Kenney/Daily Bruin)

Maya Brady, softball
Coral Smith, assistant Sports editor

The Bruins will have a chance to repeat as national champions, and if they do, Maya Brady is likely to play a big role in that run.

The incoming freshman middle infielder is one of four recruits for reigning champion UCLA softball’s 2020 season, and racked up a hefty resume during her four years at Oaks Christian High School.

Brady was named Softball America’s No. 2 recruit in the nation after hitting .558 with 12 home runs in her senior year, and compiling a .464 batting average throughout her high school career.

Though the Bruins already have a shortstop in rising junior Briana Perez, Brady showed in high school that she is solid on defense anywhere in the infield. With her offensive potential, the team will undoubtedly find a starting spot for her.

And beyond Brady’s proven talent and future potential, her last name draws additional buzz. The niece of six-time Super Bowl champion quarterback Tom Brady and daughter of Fresno State All-American pitcher Maureen Brady, Maya Brady had teams drooling over her athletic lineage.

If Brady can live up to even some of the hype, she should prove to be an integral part of UCLA softball both this upcoming season and for years to come.

Freshman attacker Tommy Gruwell entered his college career having already played with multiple upperclassmen Bruins at the 2018 FINA National Championships and the 2019 World University Games (Alice Naland/Daily Bruin).

Tommy Gruwell, men’s water polo
Jason Maikis, assistant Sports editor

Tommy Gruwell didn’t take long to make his presence known.

The freshman attacker opened his college career with No. 2 UCLA men’s water polo by scoring a hat trick in the Bruins’ season-opening 15-3 win over Fordham, and followed with two more goals on the weekend.

Before coming to UCLA, Gruwell played on Team USA at the 2018 FINA Youth World Championships, and earlier this summer he played with four fellow Bruins on Team USA at the World University Games.

On a team with seven freshmen and six redshirt freshmen, Gruwell and other young players will see plenty of playing opportunities. And with No. 5 California, No. 1 USC and No. 3 Stanford populating UCLA’s final stretch of opponents, coach Adam Wright will need to rely on underclassmen to bring UCLA its fourth championship in six years.

Gruwell can win sprints, draw exclusions and score with the best in college water polo, and time will tell what success he can bring to UCLA.

But no matter what happens in the pool this season for the Bruins, Gruwell will be an integral player in the Bruins’ success for seasons to come.

Wright didn’t call his new recruit a “program-changer and culture-changer” for nothing.

Assistant Sports editor

Dzwonczyk is currently an assistant Sports editor for the women's basketball, women's soccer, beach volleyball, men's golf and women's golf beats. She was previously a reporter on the women's soccer, beach volleyball and women's tennis beats.

Sports editor

Connon is the Sports editor and a reporter on the football and men's basketball beats. He was previously an assistant Sports editor for the baseball, men's soccer, women's golf, men's golf and cross country beats and a reporter on the baseball and women's basketball beats. Connon also contributes movie reviews for Arts & Entertainment and co-hosts Daily Bruin Sports' weekly podcast, "Out of Bounds." Connon is a third-year Communication student from Winchester, Massachusetts.

Assistant Sports editor

Tay is currently an assistant Sports editor on the baseball, men's soccer, men's tennis, cross country and women's tennis beats. He was previously a reporter on the men's tennis beat.

Assistant Sports editor

Smith is currently an assistant Sports editor on the softball, gymnastics, women's volleyball, swim & dive and rowing beats. She was previously a reporter on the softball, women's volleyball, rowing and swim & dive beats.


Maikis joined the Bruin as a freshman in 2018 and contributed until 2019. He was an assistant Sports editor in 2019 and contributed for the football, men's basketball, men's tennis, women's tennis and men's water polo beats.

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