Dreams of Fields
Published Sep 25, 2012 8:00 AM
While UCLA women’s basketball coach Cori Close was in Chile last year evaluating talent at an international competition, she had her recruiting sights set on Canadian standout Nirra Fields. Close had seen film on the explosive, high-scoring hoopster and was very impressed.
“She does some things in creating her own shot and opportunities for her teammates that very few women can do,” Close says. “She’s really a step ahead in her mental game.”
Close wasn’t the only college coach wowed by Fields’ skills. The 5’8” guard, who was born in Vancouver and grew up in Montreal, received numerous scholarship offers before narrowing her choices to UCLA, Kentucky, Louisville, Miami and Oklahoma.
Ultimately, she decided “UCLA was the best fit”— athletically and otherwise. “If anything ever happened, like I got hurt and wasn’t able to play basketball,” she says, “I felt I could still have a great time here.”
Fields’ journey to Westwood required a team effort, starting with her supportive single mother and six brothers in Canada. There, she began to focus on basketball as a pre-teen and dominated every age group in which she played. Impressed with the American teams she played, Fields dreamed of moving to the United States to compete at a higher level.
Her dream came true when a chance meeting with a stranger at a local tournament led to Fields leaving home for Ohio, where she befriended the sons of then-Cleveland Cavaliers coach Mike Brown. After the high school she was attending closed, she received a scholarship to a Virginia boarding school for her junior year. When Brown was named Lakers head coach in 2011, he and his wife invited Fields to join their family in Los Angeles.
The third move proved to be a charm. As a senior, Fields led Santa Ana’s Mater Dei High School to a state championship and was honored as Gatorade California Girls Basketball Player of the Year, the Los Angeles Times’ girls’ player of the year and a McDonald’s All-American.
Now that she’s a Bruin, Fields won’t rest on those laurels; for her, college means a clean slate—new goals and a chance to prove herself again. “I want to play my heart out for [the seniors] – help them and the team as much as I can by doing anything and everything I can on the court and off the court.”
While she dreams of playing professionally someday, right now she’s focused on November – when she’ll hit the hardwood in the newly renovated Pauley Pavilion. “I’m eager to play in that environment, knowing that we have live TV games and a really good team and a really hard schedule,” she says. “That’s exactly what I want.”