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KEEPING TRACK / JASON REID

Oenning Regaining Her Confidence After Some Growing Pains at UCLA

February 09, 1995|Jason Reid

Encouragement appears everywhere UCLA point guard Jamie Oenning looks, which obviously is good. If only Oenning stopped encountering reasons to need so many major confidence boosts.

Less than a year after leading Woodbridge to its greatest season in girls' basketball, Oenning is struggling. She expected some growing pains while learning a new position after starting at shooting guard in high school. Oenning also figured that better competition would initially make life as a Bruin a bit difficult.

What has happened, however, is worse than Oenning's worst-case scenario.

"It's been hard," she said. "But I don't know if anyone can have the perfect expectation of how (college) is going to be, and then come in and have it that way.

"There is a lot of stuff I didn't realize I had to know to play (point guard), simple things like having to make real deliberate movements and getting the ball to the right spots at the right time.

"There is so much to think about, and you have to be strong because of the intensity of the defenders in the (Pacific 10 Conference)."

Much to take in, indeed.

Yet Oenning, 18, is being too hard on herself, according to someone who should know.

"She's made great strides since the beginning of the season," UCLA assistant coach Pam Walker said. "At times she's looked unsure on the court, I'm sure people at Woodbridge are not used to seeing that, but going from off (guard) to the point is a huge jump, especially at the Pac-10 level."

Oenning (5 feet 7) has played in 17 of 18 games. She started for the first time Jan. 7, against Oregon State, and averages about nine minutes per game.

She averages only 1.5 points and less than one rebound, but Walker said Oenning's contribution is key.

"She has a very calming influence," Walker said. "It's not reflected in the stats. It is in how the team runs with her on the floor."

Thanks to the Bruin coaching staff's tireless instruction, prodding and patience, Oenning is slowly regaining the confidence that helped make her a first-team Times all-county selection. With Oenning averaging 13.5 points and 4.7 assists last season, Woodbridge won the Southern Section Division II-AA championship, advanced to the State Division II title game and finished 32-1.

"The coaches have done a great job helping me and guiding me along," she said. "They're not letting me feel like I'm in a situation where I can't perform."

Despite her success in high school, Oenning wasn't the object of a heated recruiting battle. Not even a mild battle, for that matter.

Many college coaches questioned if Oenning had the goods to make it in big-time women's basketball. The Bruins, though, were not among the majority.

"I wasn't a prolific scorer, I didn't average some absurd number like 25 points and people doubted my quickness and overall athletic ability," Oenning said.

"But I'll take a 32-1 and a title over scoring a bunch of points any day. It was so positive."

Even with her early rocky moments, Oenning expects a long, successful run in Westwood.

"Most people dream about playing at a school this size," she said. "There certainly has been a lot of fun too. I wouldn't trade this experience for anything."

*

New, tough experience: Terence Wilborn and Marmet Williams were accustomed to astonishing success at Mater Dei High.

They haven't been quite as lucky in college.

Both play for San Jose State, one of the nation's worst men's basketball teams. The Spartans (1-17, 0-10) are in last place in the Big West Conference.

Wilborn, a starting sophomore forward, averages 4.2 points and 3.4 rebounds. Williams, the Spartans' sixth man, averages six points and 3.1 rebounds.

*

A key Ute: Brandon Jessie's presence has helped Utah return to prominence in the Western Athletic Conference.

Jessie (Edison High) is the Utes' second-leading scorer and rebounder. A junior swingman who was the co-state player of the year last season at Ventura College, Jessie averages 16 points and 5.8 rebounds.

After struggling last season, Utah (17-5, 8-3 in conference) is tied for second place with Texas El Paso and Wyoming.

*

Super sub: Freshman guard Nicole Erickson (Brea Olinda) leads Purdue reserves in scoring with a 6.6 average and in assists (1.7). The Boilermakers (16-6, 8-3) are in first place in the Big Ten. Erickson is a two-time Times county player of the year.

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