Girls Basketball: Grandview star Michaela Onyenwere picks UCLA after long-awaited decision

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Grandview junior Michaela Onyenwere rises over Fairview's Ashley Panem on her way to two of her game-high 27 points in the third quarter of the Wolves' 81-31 Class 5A girls state basketball Sweet 16 playoff win on March 1, 2016, at Grandview High School. Top-seeded Grandview advanced to play Cherry Creek in the 5A Great 8 on March 4 at the Denver Coliseum. (Photo by Courtney Oakes/Aurora Sentinel)
Grandview senior Michaela Onyenwere is the winner of the past two Colorado Gatorade Player of the Year awards for girls basketball. The dynamic 6-foot forward announced her verbal commitment to UCLA on Nov. 12, 2016. (Photo by Courtney Oakes/Aurora Sentinel)

AURORA | Since she made her first “did she really do that?” moment in high school basketball as a freshman — it was very, very early — the clock has been ticking on the college choice for Grandview’s Michaela Onyenwere.

The Wolves’ star has scored 1,709 points and pulled down 812 rebounds in her three varsity seasons thus far and probably heard people asking about what prominent Division I program she’d end up with more than both of those totals combined.

Onyenwere — the two-time reigning Colorado Gatorade Player of the Year for girls basketball — finally revealed her decision live on television Saturday morning, the day after official practice began for her senior season. She picked UCLA after considering Arizona State, Louisville, Tennessee and Duke.

“I’m very relieved; now I can say I’m just going to UCLA and leave it at that,” said Onyenwere, the first player from an Aurora girls basketball program to commit to UCLA since Regis Jesuit point guard Mariah Williams in 2009.

Onyenwere revealed her decision live on Channel 9 as she used a pin to pop a balloon filled with confetti in UCLA’s blue and gold colors and also had a shirt on under her jacket.

ESPNW considers Onyenwere a five-star recruit and has her ranked as the No. 10 prospect in the entire country and she joins a recruiting class for the Bruins that also includes highly-rated Australian prospect Chantel Horvat — who got the same grade in ESPNW’s rankings as Onyenwere — plus Kayla Owens out of Langham Creek High School in Texas.

UCLA recently opened the 2016-17 women’s basketball season ranked No. 9.

Onyenwere enjoyed the more than just basketball feeling she got from coach Cori Close and her staff.

“I felt like all the places I visited had great program and great people, but at UCLA they really got to know me as a person,” Onyenwere said. “They look at the little things and want to focus on me becoming a better woman.

“They want to win games and win the national championship, but they are about other things besides that. This is going to shape me to be the person I’m going to be and I want to have opportunities other than basketball.”

Onyenwere has a personality the UCLA staff surely love, with a game to match. She averaged 24.4 points and 10.3 rebounds per game as a junior and helped coach Josh Ulitzky’s Wolves go undefeated until a loss to eventual Class 5A state champion ThunderRidge in the semifinals.

Over the summer, Onyenwere was part of the inaugural girls U.S. Select Team, the counterpart of the adidas boys team that has sent teams to Italy for several years. Overland grad and Indiana University signee De’Ron Davis played with that team in Treviso in 2014 and 2015.

Onyenwere scored at least 15 points in all three of the U.S. team’s games against some Italian teams with players who were in some cases much older than she was.

“Michaela is an exceptional athlete that possesses great energy,” Ulitzky said in a statement announcing Onyenwere’s Gatorade award last season. “She is a player that gives her best effort every time she is on the floor.

“She is a great teammate who does whatever is required to help her team win. Her leadership has been more evident as she has become more vocal and continues to lead by example in practice and in games.”

Onyenwere won her first Gatorade POY award as a sophomore when she averaged 23.7 points, 11.5 rebounds, 3.9 steals and 1.3 blocked shots.

Onyenwere is Aurora’s first repeat winner of the girls basketball Gatorade award and is the third individual for Aurora schools, as she has won twice following the Regis Jesuit duo of Justine Hall (2013-14) and Diani Akigbogun (2012-13). Onyenwere is now eligible for Gatorade’s national player of the year award, which is announced later in March.

Grandview has also had Gatorade Player of the Year award winners in volleyball (Lauren VanOrden, 2008) and baseball (Greg Bird, 2011). Aurora’s all-time list of Gatorade Award winners, here.

In its press release, Gatorade noted that in addition to her play, Onyenwere maintains a B average in the classroom serves in her church community as well as working with Special Olympics and as a youth basketball coach.

Courtney Oakes is Aurora Sentinel Sports Editor. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. FB: Aurora Prep Sentinel