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Final buzzer: Scoring friendship, purpose and passion in the Daily Bruin -30-

Grace Whitaker stands for a portrait. (Michael Gallagher/Assistant Photo editor)

By Grace Whitaker

June 10, 2024 9:24 p.m.

Growing up, basketball was an escape for me.

Every piece of life stress, personal or academic, vacated my mind as soon as I stepped on the court. All I could focus on was the play and the moment at hand.

With a very amateur skill level in the sport, I knew that once I came to UCLA and was quickly introduced to the fast-paced nature of quarter system courses, I’d need a new activity that could eliminate all other stressors that surrounded me.

With this thought in mind, I recalled a moment from my freshman year of high school when a local reporter came to my school looking to write a feature on my older brother, Will. The ensuing article not only perfectly encapsulated my brother and his story but my entire family as well.

While this reporter spent just a few hours observing the crowded environment at the game and listening to people who knew Will, he perfectly crafted a hero’s profile that allowed every reader to feel that they were at the game and knew my brother.

I thought that maybe this could be something I could do as well.

It was then that I decided to apply to Daily Bruin Sports. I expected to find a welcomed escape from school stress, a first-hand look into being a journalist and the ability to cover sporting events for the school I’ve loved since I was a kid. What I instead found at DB was so much more.

I stepped onto the Pauley Pavilion court for the first time in 2022, set to cover a women’s basketball rivalry matchup, terrified to write my first breaking article. But once the whistle was blown and the ball tipped off, I found the same sense of peace that I once knew when I was the one on the court.

The words came to me like second nature; I interpreted the stats, watched the plays and added some colorful vocabulary to make it interesting. It was no prize-winning article by any means, but it was something with my name on it and something that brought me incredible joy to make.

Since that day, I’ve had the privilege of writing over 120 articles, traveling to Las Vegas and Albany, New York, to cover tournaments, and attending press conferences with sporting legends Caitlin Clark, Angel Reese, Jaime Jaquez Jr. and more.

But above all else, I’ve been blessed with the privilege of writing feature articles on a slew of athletes, with the ability to tell their story in the same way that reporter told my brother’s.

Daily Bruin gave me purpose. It allowed me to explore and combine my greatest passions – writing and sports – to craft dozens of stories and to watch some of the greatest sporting games of the past few years, and for that, I am forever grateful.

But I couldn’t have done it without a group of incredible people who encouraged me to believe in my abilities and took a chance on me at this paper.

Thank you to my mom. Your sacrifices were one of the main reasons I made it to this point. A lot of kids say that they couldn’t have done it without their parents, but I genuinely know that to be true.

Thank you to my brother, my sports encyclopedia, for being my first call when I need to understand what a certain stat means or when I can’t remember the name of a player. You’re the best.

Thank you to Sam Settleman, Joseph Crosby, Lauryn Wang, Jack Nelson and Gavin Carlson for not only being the greatest coworkers and making me exponentially better at my craft but also being the greatest of friends and journeying along this wild ride beside me. I’ll cherish our friendship (and trivia victories) forever.

Thank you to my roommates. There’s no better way I could think of than to spend my final year of college with you all. Thank you for being my home away from home. I love you all.

And lastly, to my dad, to whom all my stories, hard work and diligence at UCLA are dedicated to. You were my greatest inspiration and the original Bruin who always encouraged me to follow my dreams.

This one’s for you.

I scored my final basket in my high school’s senior night game. After the final buzzer rang, I left the ball on the court and walked off as the lights shut off, fearful of where I would go next and unsure how much sports would continue to impact my life.

Today, I put my pen down on my final article for the Daily Bruin, with immense passion still running through me for the art of storytelling and the beauty that is sports.

I’m still unsure of where that’ll take me. But this time, I’m excited and inspired knowing I’ll find out eventually.

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Grace Whitaker | Sports senior staff
Whitaker is currently a senior staff writer on the football, men's basketball and women's basketball beats. She was previously an assistant Sports editor on the women's basketball, women's soccer, beach volleyball and cross country beats and a contributor on the women's basketball and beach volleyball beats.
Whitaker is currently a senior staff writer on the football, men's basketball and women's basketball beats. She was previously an assistant Sports editor on the women's basketball, women's soccer, beach volleyball and cross country beats and a contributor on the women's basketball and beach volleyball beats.
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