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Battle of the Editors: Which UCLA athlete would excel in a second sport?

UCLA men’s basketball sophomore forward/center Adem Bona elevates to grab a rebound. (Ella Greenberg Winnick/Daily Bruin staff)

By Joseph Crosby, Ira Gorawara, Benjamin Royer, and Cecilia Schmitz

June 2, 2024 6:15 p.m.

This post was updated June 2 at 11:58 p.m.

UCLA has a handful of two-sport athletes, with three across its 21 chartered sports. Most recently, Gabriela Jaquez became the third, with the women’s basketball sophomore forward joining UCLA softball’s roster ahead of the NCAA tournament. In the spirit of versatility, the Daily Bruin Sports editors debate which athlete would excel in a second sport, and what that second sport would be.

Athlete: Adem Bona
Sport: Men’s volleyball
Joseph Crosby, Sports editor

Adem Bona is only tangentially a UCLA athlete at this point.

The men’s basketball star is currently partaking in the NBA Draft cycle, attending the NBA Draft Combine in May and waiting to find out if his name will be called in late June.

But for the purposes of this exercise, he still fits.

The sophomore forward/center is not only one of the most athletic players to don the blue and gold this year but one of the most athletic individuals in college sports. Posting a bSPARQ – a metric designed to measure a basketball player’s athleticism – of 107.43, Bona ranked in the 99th percentile of all players to ever appear at the combine.

His 35-inch standing vertical jump and 40-inch maximum vertical jump – good for best and fourth-best, respectively, at the 2024 combine – and 6-foot-10 stature explain why Bona is so talented, if not a little raw, at basketball.

But his eye-popping physicality also creates a recipe for a potentially dominant volleyball player.

Merrick McHenry was a leading force for UCLA men’s volleyball this season as the middle blocker won MPSF Player of the Year. Standing at 6-foot-7, the redshirt senior frequently demonstrated his downright absurd vertical abilities while helping lead the Bruins to another national championship.

Now, imagine Bona alongside him.

Bona wouldn’t be out of place, still clocking in an inch shorter than redshirt sophomore middle blocker Sean McQuiggan. Bona’s unique combination of speed, size and athleticism would not only help him keep pace with the rest of the country but also excel.

The NBA is Bona’s future right now, but if he were to take an interest in a second sport, coach John Speraw may be the first phone call Bona receives.

Athlete: Merrick McHenry
Sport: Men’s basketball
Ira Gorawara, assistant Sports editor

(Yiming Ren/Daily Bruin)
Redshirt senior middle blocker Merrick McHenry soars in the air to serve the ball. (Yiming Ren/Daily Bruin)

Kevin Durant won back-to-back NBA championships in 2017 and 2018.

His impact reverberated on both ends of the floor – earning him Finals MVP for both series.

The title runs helped the small forward – a titan in his role – carve out his legacy through a skillful combination of athleticism, versatility and a shrewd deployment of his towering stature. The nature of his position demands adeptness in scoring, defending, facilitating plays and acting as a linchpin at the net.

Sound familiar?

Basketball and volleyball are two chapters of the same playbook. They’re cut from the same cloth – or net – weaving together versatility, height and coordination.

Nestled within the shared framework of the two sports is an even greater resemblance between two key roles: the small forward and the middle blocker.

McHenry – UCLA men’s volleyball’s mainstay – is fresh off a second-straight national championship, already ticking boxes off Durant’s manuscript.

Playing a role reminiscent of Durant’s, the middle blocker anchors UCLA’s offensive and defensive strategies.

McHenry’s 6-foot-7 stature – though four inches shy of Durant’s – has helped distinguish him as a standout collegiate middle blocker.

But as his time in Westwood dims, perhaps McHenry’s five years under Speraw chartered him for a different professional sport.

His blend of athleticism, versatility and strategic thinking have primed him for a seamless transition to basketball. The middle blocker – sorry, small forward – has raised the benchmark of a player’s vertical and is equipped with the mechanics and hand-eye coordination to emulate Durant’s seamless midrange shooting game.

NBA adversaries have limited desire for Durant’s carbon copy – one’s plenty.

But McHenry’s quest for a three-peat may require a trip down a different sporting avenue.

Athlete: Carson Yates
Sport: Wrestling
Benjamin Royer, assistant Sports editor

(Daily Bruin file photo)
Senior outfielder Carson Yates runs toward third base at Jackie Robinson Stadium. (Daily Bruin file photo)

Imagine this. UCLA Athletics charters wrestling at the Division I level.

One stipulation: the entire team – for its first year – must only be made up of current Bruin student-athletes.

Who’s the first call?

The UCLA weight room holds the answer. Carson Yates, a senior outfielder for UCLA baseball, is as big of a guy as they come — showing explosiveness that could be dynamic on the mat.

Not only was he a former high school football recruit – visiting numerous DI programs – but he also won internal team challenges in the weight room during the fall.

Standing at 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds, Yates holds power at the plate, and I have no doubt he’d also provide the power against NCAA wrestling’s best.

Although he ended up on the diamond, it’s clear any sport he wanted to compete in could have been his oyster.

Maybe a future in sports entertainment – such as WWE – could be the compromise for Yates’ post-UCLA future.

Athlete: Kiki Rice
Sport: Women’s Soccer
Cecilia Schmitz, assistant Sports editor

Sophomore guard Kiki Rice dribbles the ball. (Aidan Sun/Daily Bruin)

Among UCLA’s greats is a crop of multi-talented athletes.

Jackie Robinson lettered in four sports during his time in Westwood. Many of UCLA’s original beach volleyball squad got their start on the women’s indoor team.

Even this athlete’s teammate, Jaquez, recently added softball as her second sport as a Bruin.

If only the soccer and basketball seasons didn’t overlap.

UCLA women’s basketball star sophomore guard Kiki Rice – before making her way to the West Coast – was a Gatorade Player of the Year not only in women’s basketball but also in soccer in the District of Columbia region – twice.

Rice led her high school squad to two DCSAA championships as a forward, and it’s not difficult to imagine she would have the same success at Wallis Annenberg Stadium.

Basketball and soccer players have some overlap in the skills crucial to their sport – speed, coordination and endurance.

As a guard for UCLA, Rice commands the floor, dictating the pace on the court while both defending and scoring. Her quick thinking and acuity would translate easily, making her a strong midfielder who could read the field and make the necessary plays on either side of the pitch .

Furthermore, standing at 5-foot-11, she would be one of the tallest players on the team, bringing a physical presence in the box to score and go head to head with the opponent’s center backs.

Unfortunately for UCLA, both women’s soccer and basketball kick off in the fall, leaving Rice to the court and unable to flex her plethora of athletic talent in both sports.

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Joseph Crosby
Crosby was the 2023-2024 Sports editor on the football, men's basketball and NIL beats. He was previously an assistant Sports editor on the baseball, women's golf, men's water polo and women's water polo beats and a contributor on the baseball and women's golf beats.
Crosby was the 2023-2024 Sports editor on the football, men's basketball and NIL beats. He was previously an assistant Sports editor on the baseball, women's golf, men's water polo and women's water polo beats and a contributor on the baseball and women's golf beats.
Ira Gorawara | Sports editor
Gorawara is the 2024-2025 Sports editor on the football, men’s basketball and NIL beats and a Copy contributor. She was previously an assistant Sports editor on the men’s volleyball, men’s tennis, women’s volleyball and rowing beats and a contributor on the men’s volleyball and rowing beats. She is a rising third-year economics and communication student minoring in professional writing from Hong Kong.
Gorawara is the 2024-2025 Sports editor on the football, men’s basketball and NIL beats and a Copy contributor. She was previously an assistant Sports editor on the men’s volleyball, men’s tennis, women’s volleyball and rowing beats and a contributor on the men’s volleyball and rowing beats. She is a rising third-year economics and communication student minoring in professional writing from Hong Kong.
Benjamin Royer | Alumnus
Royer was the 2023-2024 Assistant Sports editor on the baseball, gymnastics and men's water polo beats and a reporter on the football beat. He was also a staff writer on the baseball, football and gymnastics beats in 2022-2023. He studied communication and graduated in 2024.
Royer was the 2023-2024 Assistant Sports editor on the baseball, gymnastics and men's water polo beats and a reporter on the football beat. He was also a staff writer on the baseball, football and gymnastics beats in 2022-2023. He studied communication and graduated in 2024.
Cecilia Schmitz | Assistant Sports editor
Schmitz is a 2023-2024 assistant Sports editor on the women’s soccer, beach volleyball, women’s golf and cross country beats. She was previously a contributor on the women’s soccer and beach volleyball beats and a staffer for the Outreach section. She is also a third-year political science and communication student.
Schmitz is a 2023-2024 assistant Sports editor on the women’s soccer, beach volleyball, women’s golf and cross country beats. She was previously a contributor on the women’s soccer and beach volleyball beats and a staffer for the Outreach section. She is also a third-year political science and communication student.
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