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Senior signoff: Izzy Anstey expresses gratitude for UCLA despite setbacks on and off the court

Senior forward Izzy Anstey guards an opposing player. (Nicolas Greamo/Daily Bruin senior staff)

By Izzy Anstey

June 10, 2024 4:09 p.m.

In 2014, I was driven to the hospital after months of sickness and diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. An hour later, despite the fear I felt myself drowning in when the nurse told me that it was time for her to give me my first dose of insulin, I decided I would give myself my first injection. It was at that moment I realized life would throw all it had at me, but it would never weigh me down.

Fast forward a few years, I had returned back to my usual self. I was healthy, figuring out life as a tall girl, growing as an athlete, and trying to get a grasp on what could be next for me. I was fortunate enough to make a junior national team to play for Australia, and after my last game, I got my first DM from a coach who, come to find out, would take a chance in recruiting a girl from the other side of the world:

“Enjoyed watching you play. Hope you have a safe trip home. Big things ahead for you. Keep up the good work.”

At this point I had no idea who Coach Tony was or that he was an assistant coach at UCLA, a school I’d only heard about as being in the heart of LA and a dream school for many. It wasn’t long before I felt like a fish out of water in the recruiting process, trying to figure out where my next home would be, with the only guarantee of it being far away from everything I had ever known.

In 2019, I visited campus for the first time on my official visit. As I stood out at the top of Janss steps, I turned to my parents and told them this was where I needed to be.

I had created amazing relationships with my coaches, fallen in love with LA and connected with the girls who would soon be my teammates. I committed in Pauley Pavilion the very next day.

I don’t think I was the only one who could never have predicted what the world would face in the next year. The world shut down, and I was stuck thousands of miles away from where I knew I needed to be. Melbourne, Australia, became the most locked-down city in the world, and I grew more defeated by the day, not knowing how long I would be kept away from pursuing my dream. To say the year that followed was hard would be an understatement. I became resentful toward the people trying to help me, lashed out at my family and found myself at a standstill. Should I give up on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that was so close yet felt impossible, or should I wait out the storm?

You’re reading this, so you know that I waited it out – a decision that I will always be grateful to myself for making.

I was finally in Westwood, and it felt like my plan was back on track. My teammates made the transition easy, I was finally back playing basketball and to seal the deal, I had the four letters across my chest.

My first year on the court brought me a rollercoaster of highs and lows, wins and losses, excitement and tears, but all I could hold on to was how grateful I was to be living out being a Bruin. I felt like I had found myself as a basketball player again after such a long time away from the court, and that I was where I needed to be to make an impact. I treated what was officially my sophomore year as my freshman year and learned the ropes from those who came before me. Now, I was ready to attack my second year on the court. Or so I thought.

At the end of my first year on the court, I had my first hip surgery, and after five gruesome months of rehab, I had my second. You would think that with only two hips, I was done fixing them and that it was finally time to rejoin my team. Wrong again. I played only six games that next season and found myself in tears after every practice and game, knowing that something was still wrong with my hip. Thanks to the neverending support from my athletic trainer, we discovered that I had retorn my labrum, and it was time for another surgery.

After all of these surgeries and consequential rehabs, my body had given up and I made the decision to medically retire in my senior year. I could no longer move the way I once did, I spent more time getting treatment than I did on the court, and my mental health took a hit.

Yet, somehow, when everybody else expressed that what I was going through was a nightmare, I couldn’t help but feel as if I was still living the dream.

UCLA allowed me to discover who I truly am, surrounded me with an incredible community and taught me that home is all about the people around me. As I go into my last few weeks in LA before moving back home, I know that UCLA will always be my second home. The memories I have made here will stay with me forever, and I know that whenever I hear somebody begin to count, I will always try to end it with an eight-clap.

Thank you, UCLA, for everything.

All my love,

Izzy

Anstey played for UCLA women’s basketball from 2021-2024.

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