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

This post was updated on June 2nd at 23:58

UCLA has a handful of athletes who play two sports, three of them in the 21 sports allowed. Most recently, Gabriela Jaquez became the third when the sophomore women's basketball forward was named to the UCLA softball team's roster ahead of the NCAA tournament. In the spirit of diversity, the Daily Bruin sports editors debate which athlete would excel in a second sport and what that second sport would be.

Athlete: Adem Bona
Sports: Men's volleyball
Joseph Crosby, Sports Editor

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

The basketball star is currently participating in the NBA Draft cycle, attending the NBA Draft Combine in May and waiting to hear if his name will be called in late June.

But for the purposes of this exercise it still fits.

The sophomore forward/center is not only one of the most athletic players to wear the blue and gold this year, but also one of the most athletic individual players in college sports. With a bSPARQ – a measure of a basketball player's athleticism – of 107.43, Bona is in the 99th percentile of all players to ever appear at the Combine.

His standing high jump of 35 inches and his maximum high jump of 40 inches – his best and fourth-best results at the 2024 Combine, respectively – and his height of 6 feet 2 inches explain why Bona is so talented, if still a little inexperienced, in basketball.

But his stunning physicality also makes him a potentially dominant volleyball player.

Merrick McHenry has been a driving force for the UCLA men's volleyball team this season. The middle blocker was named MPSF Player of the Year. At 6'10″, the redshirt senior frequently showcased his absurd vertical abilities while helping lead the Bruins to another national championship.

Now imagine Bona next to him.

Bona wouldn't be out of place, still 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 up with the rest of the country, but excel.

For now, the NBA is Bona's future, but if he were interested in a second sport, coach John Speraw would likely be the first call Bona would receive.

Athlete: Merrick McHenry
Sports: Men's basketball
Ira Gorawara, Deputy Sports Editor

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

Kevin Durant won two consecutive NBA championships in 2017 and 2018.

His impact reverberated at both ends of the court and earned him the title of MVP of the Finals in both series.

The championships helped the small forward – a titan in his role – make a name for himself through a deft combination of athleticism, versatility and a smart use of his towering stature. The nature of his position requires skill at scoring, defending, facilitating plays and being a pivot in the net.

Sound familiar?

Basketball and volleyball are two chapters of the same playbook. They are cut from the same cloth – or net – and combine versatility, size and coordination.

Within the common framework of the two sports, there is an even greater similarity between two key roles: the small forward and the middle blocker.

McHenry – the mainstay of the UCLA men's volleyball team – just won his second consecutive national championship and can already check off several items on Durant's list.

The middle blocker plays a role reminiscent of Durant's and is the anchor of UCLA's offensive and defensive strategies.

McHenry's 6-foot-8 height — albeit four inches shorter than Durant — has helped make him a standout middle blocker at the college level.

But his time in Westwood is coming to an end, and perhaps McHenry's five years under Speraw have qualified him for another professional sport.

His combination of athleticism, versatility and strategic thinking has set him up for a seamless transition to basketball. The middle blocker – sorry, small forward – has raised the bar for a player's vertical and is equipped with the technique and hand-eye coordination to mimic Durant's seamless mid-range shooting game.

The NBA's opponents are not particularly interested in Durant's copy – one is enough.

But McHenry's quest for a third consecutive victory may require a sporting reorientation.

Athlete: Carson Yates
Sports: Wrestling
Benjamin Royer, deputy sports editor

(Daily Bruin archive photo)
Veteran outfielder Carson Yates runs to third base at Jackie Robinson Stadium. (Daily Bruin archive photo)

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

One condition: The entire team – in the first year – may only consist of current Bruin student-athletes.

Who calls first?

The UCLA weight room has the answer. Carson Yates, a senior outfielder for the UCLA baseball team, is as big a guy as you could imagine – he displays explosiveness that could be dynamic on the mat.

Not only was he a former high school football recruit and attended numerous DI programs, but he also won intramural team challenges in the weight room in the fall.

At 6'4″ and 220 lbs, Yates is a strong hitter and I'm confident he would be able to take on the best NCAA wrestlers with the punching power they need.

Although he ended up on the diamond, it is clear that any sport he wanted to participate in would have been open to him.

Perhaps a future in sports entertainment – ​​such as with the WWE – would be the compromise for Yates' future after UCLA.

Athlete: Kiki Rice
Sports: Women's football
Cecilia Schmitz, deputy sports editor

Second-grader Kiki Rice dribbles the ball. (Aidan Sun/Daily Bruin)

UCLA's greats include a number of versatile athletes.

Jackie Robinson was successful in four sports during his time at Westwood. Many of UCLA's original beach volleyball players began their careers 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 football and basketball seasons didn't overlap.

Kiki Rice, star sophomore guard for the UCLA women's basketball team, was named Gatorade Player of the Year twice in District of Columbia region not only in women's basketball but also in soccer before heading to the West Coast.

Rice led her high school team to two DCSAA championships as a forward, and it's not hard to imagine her having the same success at Wallis Annenberg Stadium.

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

As a defender for UCLA, Rice commands the court and sets the tempo on the field while defending and scoring goals. Her quick thinking and acumen translate easily, making her a strong midfielder who can read the field and make plays on both ends of the court.

In addition, at 1.80 meters tall, she would be one of the tallest players in the team and would be able to score goals and compete with the opposition's central defenders thanks to her physical presence in the penalty area.

Unfortunately for UCLA, both women's soccer and basketball begin in the fall, so Rice will have to stay on the court and not be able to showcase her tremendous athletic talent in either sport.