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‘finding balance’: Monique Billings harmonizes basketball, professional endeavors

Dallas Wings forward Monique Billings high-fives fans after a game against the Los Angeles Sparks on May 26 at Crypto.com arena. Billings notched 18 points and 12 rebounds on the night. (Jeremy Chen/Photo editor)

By Ira Gorawara

June 2, 2024 10:51 p.m.

This post was updated June 3 at 12:19 a.m.

Balance is often elusive.

It’s easily attainable in words. But realizing it in its entirety is rare.

Though it can be sculpted with intention, the constant flux of life’s currents disrupts a firm outline. One misstep, and the balancing act can crumble.

But balance is the compass that steered Monique Billings through seas, fostering self-discovery on and off the hardwood.

“I want to do all the things. I have this platform, this opportunity for such a small amount of time – I want to max out while I can,” the Dallas Wings forward said. “There’s so much that basketball has taken me to, whether it’s meeting different people, experiencing different parts of the world and just allowing me to be open.”

In defiance of the hurdles of balance, Billings practices and preaches the alignment of passions and wellbeing. The former UCLA women’s basketball star – beyond affirming her berth among the WNBA’s elite – evolved into a polymath.

(Daily Bruin file photo)
Billings attempts a jump shot between two Huskies during her time as a Bruin. She averaged 12.5 points and 8.2 rebounds through her four years as a forward for UCLA women’s basketball. (Daily Bruin file photo)

A chaos theory concept, the butterfly effect, illustrates the impact of minute variations – altering the course of history in a way that may defy prediction.

It’s a concept Billings champions and one that took effect in her own life.

The catalyst: UCLA women’s basketball coach Cori Close.

“The one thing I really, really appreciate about Coach Cori is the way she invested in us as women off the court so it wasn’t just one dimensional – you are just a basketball player,” Billings said. “She brought in a lot of people to teach us how to pour into ourselves mentally, spiritually, emotionally. … I’m able to feel free and have fun and not be burned out on the court because of the things I was able to do off the court, and that’s the thing I appreciate most about my experience at UCLA.”

Billings accumulated a plethora of awards in her Bruin tenure – graduating with two First-Team All-Pac-12 honors and two All-Defensive Team recognitions, as well as finishing No. 1 in program blocks and No. 2 in program rebounds.

Less than two months before tossing her cap, the Atlanta Dream selected her with the 15th overall pick in the 2018 WNBA Draft.

Upon her departure from Westwood, Billings ventured into sports broadcasting, social media, modeling and self-improvement – harnessing the power of balance to excel in each arena.

After her second year in the professional ranks, Billings traded in her jersey for a microphone as a sportscaster during the offseason.

(Jeremy Chen/Photo editor)
Billings raises both hands as she runs back on defense. (Jeremy Chen/Photo editor)

Engaging with students on Bruin Walk, Billings not only sharpened her on-camera prowess but also cultivated a following that earned her YouTube channel, “MONIQUE BILLINGS,” digital acclaim. She has since worked with Bally Sports for the Atlanta Hawks and the Pac-12 Networks.

“Talking about the game and being able to analyze it is something that I’m just really passionate about, as well as playing it,” Billings said. “The two for me have gone hand in hand. I’ve been so fortunate, so blessed, to be able to have the opportunity to be on TV while playing and having a basketball career being able to balance the two.”

Carving her tenets into paper, Billings released her first book, “finding balance: a playbook for wellness,” in February 2023. While training in Orenburg, Russia, in 2021, the frigid temperatures of the outdoors kept Billings confined to indoor spaces through most of the day. It was here – her “sanctuary” – where her words ran fluid and thoughts found expression in ink.

“I wrote (this book) to help us learn how to navigate those different roles and to become the best versions of ourselves as we navigate them,” Billings said. “It’s a practice, and something I continue to practice. But it’s always going to change. Balance is going to look different at different seasons of your life, and you just have to be open and okay with that.”

Through Billings’ six-season stint in Atlanta, the offensive ace crisscrossed continents, leaving an imprint on professional leagues in South Korea, China, Australia, Russia and in the Women’s Basketball Super League in Turkey.

Billings’ worldwide odysseys were an extension of her ethos – embracing the kaleidoscope of her teammates and adversaries while anchored to her origins.

“It’s all just shaped me. I know who I am – my core is very solid, but my spirit is adaptable,” Billings said. “When you travel, you just see how much we’re also so much the same – like people are the same.”

(Jeremy Chen/Photo editor)
Billings attempts a one-handed layup against the Sparks. (Jeremy Chen/Photo editor)

On Feb. 2, Billings put pen to paper to officially join the Los Angeles Sparks, scripting what would be a 100-day chapter with the team. However, the Sparks waived Billings before the season tipped off, constrained by roster cap limitations.

In a moment reminiscent of her own spiritual guidance, Billings was engaged in meditation when she received a call from the organization.

“I’m in this grounded state, I’m taking this time for myself, and I have to really draw in and come into my court and say, ‘Okay, what is life trying to teach me right now? What is God trying to teach me?’” Billings said. “I know there’s something I need to learn from this. Taking that time just to be still to listen, to not always be so reactive, because on the other side of me getting waived, I’ve had this beautiful opportunity.”

Across the nation, the Dallas Wings scoured to fill a void in their lineup following forward Natasha Howard’s foot injury – extending a hardship contract to Billings on May 17.

“She has a motor,” said coach Latricia Trammell. “She can play multiple positions, defend multiple positions, she’s quick, can score, rebound. She just plays with passion. She definitely was the energy that when needed, that we were missing.”

Billings’ acclimatization was seamless. The Wings’ starting forward penned three double-doubles and four double-digit scoring tallies through six games donning the navy and green.

Continuing the course of her professional voyage, Billings has landed ashore on yet another land – proving her mettle amid unfamiliar terrain.

Trammell’s ambitions are crystallized for the season’s remainder.

“She’s a true example of what a professional looks like,” Trammell said. “Somehow, we’ve got to keep her.”

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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.
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