Bridgette Conejo, a former soccer player, did not pick up a basketball until the age of 10. If not for sun damage to her face putting a stop to her soccer career, Conejo could have possibly been part of the CSUN women’s soccer team that has been in the Big West semifinals the last two seasons.
Instead, she opted to play basketball for the Matadors and is among the top three returning players for the upcoming 2010-11 season.
On a squad that won a mere four games last season, junior guard Conejo is not worried about points, rebounds or any other statistics. She just wants what’s best for her team.
The Matadors have been plagued with lackluster seasons over the years, but with a transformed coaching staff, Conejo believes this is the fresh start the program needs.
“I think it’s started with these new coaches. They bring so much to the table, I can’t even describe how much they are going to do for us,” said Conejo, who averaged four rebounds and 10 points per game last season. “They’re so intense and expect so much of you, which is a struggle every day, but a good struggle.”
Jason Flowers, former UCLA guard and first-year CSUN head coach, said the staff expects plenty from Conejo.
“We have asked a lot of Bridgette, meaning we have asked her to get outside of her comfort zone in a lot of different ways,” Flowers said. “We asked her to do some things that maybe she isn’t use to doing, we have asked her to change some parts of her game and anytime you have that, it can be tough for a player.”
Conejo said that he definitely improved her as an individual as well.
“He challenges me every day with his demands of intensity, introduced a lot of new moves to me and made me play a lot quicker in tempo. He wants my moves to not be hesitation, if I am going to attack then do a quick move and go to the basket,” said Conejo.
Once she started basketball, Conejo excelled, playing at parks and the YMCA before playing at Bishop Montgomery High School. She started all four years there, receiving All-Del Rey First-Team league honors for three years and showed her offensive skill, averaging 15 points, five rebounds, three assists and three steals per game her senior year.
“I have a passion for the game, I enjoy playing basketball and I get that drive for wanting team success, and I want to do whatever it takes to get to that Big West Tournament,” Conejo said. “If I approach anything in life I want to do well at it, I don’t want to make a fool out of myself.”
The team is the reason why she enjoys playing the game, which Conejo says is similar to a family. The camaraderie helps build character, discipline, and responsibility.
As far as confidence is concerned, she does not think the team is quite there yet.
“Once we start the season and build our chemistry I think we are going to gain a lot more confidence but right now we are much more curious and excited about the upcoming season,” Conejo said.
Individually, she says that her endurance is the strongest point of her game. Defensively, she says she has plenty to work on.
“I need to work on my ball pressure and I need to work on my closeouts,” Conejo said. “I didn’t make a conscious effort of actually boxing out and putting a body on someone so I can crash the boards offensively and defensively.”
Overall, she said she just wants the best for her team.
“Personally I just want to contribute as much as I can, I just want to play consistently whether it’s me being out there to offensively rebound or being out there to send a spark,” Conejo said.