At 6’2″ UCLA’s Natalie Chou is one of the few Asian Division 1 athletes and is looking to make a difference in the world.
“She wants to make a difference in the world,” coach Cori Close said. “There’s been an inner strength that has sort of organically come out of her. … She’s fighting. She’s fighting in a way we’ve never seen and I think that translates on the court.”
Chou is averaging 10 points and 4.3 rebounds a game, both career highs, as the No. 3 seed Bruins face No. 14 seed Wyoming in the first round of the Hemisfair Region in the NCAA tournament. UCLA (16-5) relies mostly on third-team All-American Michaela Onyenwere and All-Pac-12 guard Charisma Osborne, but role players like Chou will determine whether the Bruins can break through after four straight NCAA regional semifinals to reach their first Final Four.
“I feel like my calling in life is to inspire little girls who look like me. So if that’s on the basketball court, then I love that.”
Chou’s mother Quanli Li is the master who sharpened those tools. Li started playing basketball professionally when she was a teenager in China.
When Chou’s parents and older sister moved to Texas, where she was born, Li built her life on basketball. She didn’t have many friends and she didn’t know the language. But “basketball is universal,” Chou said.
“She always told me and my sister ‘Nothing comes easy, nothing comes free,’” Chou said. “I’ve learned to take that to heart. … No one’s ever just going to give you anything, especially with our background in this country.”