Daily Pilot College Athlete of the Month: Cindy Oparah

Amara Aguilar

It’s all about the practice for UC Irvine women’s basketball player

Cindy Oparah. Not basketball practice, a medical practice.

Oparah, a senior forward who leads the Anteaters in scoring with an

average of 15.4 points per game and rebounds with 9.7 per game, hopes to

take a shot at becoming a doctor after finishing her run at UCI and then

medical school.

The Daily Pilot College Athlete of the Month for January was

influenced in high school to take the path she is on now. It was at that

time that she got serious about basketball. It was also when her father,

a doctor with his own practice, had a stroke.

“His left side is paralyzed,” Oparah said. “It’s hard for him to get

around. I think I was in ninth grade when it happened. It was very hard.

It was a shock because he was always so active and on the go and then all

of a sudden he was sick.”

Although her dad’s illness was an emotional strain, Oparah kept

plugging away on the basketball court. She wasn’t a very confident

basketball player until the varsity coach at Brethren Christian High

helped Oparah take her skills to another level.

“She was the one that really believed in me and really pushed me to

take my game to a higher level, even when I didn’t have confidence in

myself or believe that I could become a player good enough to play

Division I basketball, let alone do well,” Oparah said.

In addition to playing on the varsity basketball team, Oparah ran

track in high school. She was a top performer in the long and triple jump

events, earning the individual league title for both events all four

years of her high school career. She earned the CIF Division IV-A

individual title in the triple jump her senior year.

Growing up, Oparah wanted to be a track star, but eventually her

athletic ability helped her gain a spot on the varsity basketball team

during her sophomore year in high school.

“I dreamed of playing Division I basketball out of high school, but

I’m not sure I really believed it until I was on the team and my coach

(guided me),” Oparah said. “She helped me realize my potential.”

Oparah chose to attend UCI to play basketball and because of

academics. She is a biology major.

“I enjoy learning about how your body works and how things of nature

work,” Oparah said.

Another reason Oparah chose the major is because of her

competitiveness, a trait she carries on to the basketball court.

“I like the competitiveness of basketball, being part of a team,”

Oparah said. “I like being part of something that is bigger than you are.

It’s always intrigued me that way.”

Although Oparah has been competitive this season, the Anteaters as a

whole have struggled. She had a team-high 21 points in UCI’s most recent

game, a 72-67 loss to host Idaho Thursday.

The Anteaters are 7-15 overall and 4-7 in the Big West Conference.It

hasn’t exactly been the senior year Oparah, a first-team All-Big West

selection last year, hoped for.

“I’m dealing with it,” Oparah said. “Obviously coming into the season

I wasn’t expecting to have so many losses under our belts this far into

the season, but you just deal with it and just remember why you are

playing. You still have confidence in yourself.”

The confidence Oparah is referring to doesn’t include showing off.

Although she is arguably one of the best players on UCI’s squad, she

doesn’t consider herself a flashy player by any means.

“Whatever it takes to get the ball in the basket, I’ll do it,” Oparah

said. “You don’t get extra points for style. I wouldn’t necessarily say

I’m a shy person, but I’m very reserved, not outgoing or outlandish or

anything like that.”

Oparah isn’t shy when it comes to pursuing her dreams. Although her

senior year at UCI is winding down, she looks forward to the future. She

plans on attending medical school in California, maybe even at UCI.

“My dream is to have my own practice,” Oparah said. “I see the impact

my father had on people and how grateful they were for what he did for

them. That is a motivation for me. That’s the driving force behind me

wanting to do it. Being able to be in that situation and see how people

respond. I really have a desire to help people.”