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UCLA women’s basketball travels to Senegal and Germany

UCLA women’s basketball coach Cori Close coaches her team in a huddle. (Courtesy of UCLA Athletics)

By Gavin Carlson

Aug. 24, 2023 7:40 p.m.

UCLA women’s basketball began its 12-day trip to Senegal and Germany on Sunday.

The Bruins will play three exhibition games throughout the international summer series. The team is visiting both historical sites and tourist hubs as well as the hometowns of the two German members of the squad.

According to coach Cori Close, the team became interested in visiting the African country amid the racial justice movement in 2020.

Now three years later, Close’s program is finally able to fulfill the promise made to Black members of that year’s team.

“Michaela Onyenwere, Kiara Jefferson, Lauryn Miller – they were a big part in choosing that (Senegal),” Close said. “It kept getting pushed off because of COVID. We were supposed to go three years ago, and when we were now deciding to actually go, it was my promise to them that we would follow through with that and make sure that Senegal was a non-negotiable.”

Only two members of the 2019-2020 UCLA team are still with the program – graduate guards Charisma Osborne and Camryn Brown.

On campus that summer, Osborne and Brown joined Onyenwere, who is now in the WNBA, to form the program’s More Than a D.R.E.A.M committee. The committee focused on advocating for racial equality, especially through the show Bruin Table Talk, which focused on interviewing prominent Black UCLA alumni such as Baron Davis, Gabrielle Union and Cari Champion.

“It (the trip) was a commitment to some of those players that really had the hard, raw conversations of ‘What does it look like to create a culture that all of our players, all of you is welcome here?’” Close said. “I’m really excited to fulfill that commitment to them.”

Close added that the team’s visit includes working with NBA Africa, participating in an exhibition game against Senegal’s national team and spending time at Gorée Island to participate in the Louise Jones Girls Empowerment Clinic. The clinic involves the Bruins, NBA Africa and the Sports for Education and Economic Development Project all working together to connect with local youth in Dakar, all on the historic island.


After spending time in Senegal, UCLA will travel to Germany for more educational opportunities, basketball competitions and the opportunity to visit the hometowns of redshirt junior forward Emily Bessoir and sophomore forward Lina Sontag around Munich.

Close added that the team considered attending Spain for the second leg of the trip but ultimately decided on Germany in part because of Bessoir’s and Sontag’s excitement.

The team will start the German portion in Berlin, visiting war monuments and historical sites such as the Berlin Wall and Brandenburg Gate before competing against a local basketball club. The international summer series trip will ultimately end in Munich for more basketball and a trip to Dachau – a Holocaust memorial site and former concentration camp situated around 10 miles northwest of Munich.

In addition to the historical sites, sophomore guard Kiki Rice said she is excited to be introduced to her teammates’ home country.

“I’ve been to the airport in Germany, and that’s basically it,” Rice said. “I’m really excited. I think it’s going to be great to go see where Em (Emily Bessoir) and Lina (Lina Sontag) are from, see their homes and kind of see where they grew up.”

At the same time many of the players will be familiarizing themselves with these new places, sophomore center and new Bruin Lauren Betts said the trip is also a chance to further her relationships with new teammates she recently met.

“First travel experience with this team, so I’m just really looking forward to making memories and spending time with my new team,” Betts said. “I’ve never been to both of those places before, so it’ll be really fun.”

Betts transferred to UCLA after playing her freshman season at Stanford. She joins freshman forward Amanda Muse as the only two new Bruins on the roster for the upcoming season.

Muse, Betts and the rest of the team will have the opportunity to improve their on-court chemistry during the three games UCLA will play during the international summer series.

When asked about the trip, the games themselves were the first thing Osborne mentioned.

“I’m excited that we finally get to play a game,” Osborne said. “That’ll be super fun, just finally being able to play against other people and see how we’re doing and see where we’re at.”

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Gavin Carlson | Sports staff
Carlson is currently a staff writer on the football, men's basketball and women's basketball beats. He was previously a reporter on the softball and men's golf beats.
Carlson is currently a staff writer on the football, men's basketball and women's basketball beats. He was previously a reporter on the softball and men's golf beats.
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