Model moment for Medford’s Chamberlin
Former South Medford star back on the court with Ducks after year away modeling
The words of welcome were barely out of the mouth of Oregon women’s basketball coach Kelly Graves when all eyes turned to Medford’s Ula Chamberlin during a team practice Tuesday.
In that moment, Chamberlin found herself not knowing exactly what to do for maybe the first time on a basketball court.
Capping off a whirlwind of a month, Chamberlin found herself going from a modeling venture to walk-on player to scholarship player for the Ducks.
“Honestly, I was super in shock,” Chamberlin said Thursday morning of the post-practice announcement. “I was very surprised. It’s something I’ve been working for but I didn’t know it was going to come that soon as I’ve only been with them for about a month.”
“I just feel so thankful and blessed,” she added, “and I’m just so excited that I get to play in front of my family for my last go-round and get to do it at Oregon.”
Considering the path it took to get to this point, the emotions Chamberlin showed of amazement and pure joy during the now-viral video in Medford could not be denied.
“It’s crazy because a lot of times you don’t really hear of that happening so quickly for players,” the 5-foot-8 guard said of being put on scholarship. “But I think it was just a blessing from God, and I was praying about it. This is a dream to be able to play at a school like this. I’ve always wanted to play in the Pac-12 and just to be able to do it at home in front of my family is even more exciting for me.”
Chamberlin exited South Medford High in 2019 as its all-time leading scorer, and was an instant hit at Weber State as she led the team with 3-pointers (43) and assists (72) during her freshman season while finishing second in points per game (10.5) and total steals (28).
Shortly into the 2020-21 season, Chamberlin realized a change of scenery was needed and played three games for Weber State before transferring to UC San Diego for the 2021-22 season. In her lone season at UCSD, Chamberlin played in 23 games and averaged 4.0 points, 2.2 rebounds and 1.3 assists.
Around that time, however, Chamberlin’s former modeling pursuits started to pique her interest and she spent the last year away from the court and in front of a still camera.
“When COVID hit, I picked back up modeling,” she said. “I started modeling when I was in fifth grade but, obviously, I stopped doing that for a very long time because sports was just my life and I knew I wanted to go to college for it.”
Re-catching the modeling bug led Chamberlin to signing with four modeling agencies, and another quest was set upon during the 2022-23 school year.
“It was a very exciting thing,” said Chamberlin, who turns 23 in October. “I actually just got back from New York in July and have had some pretty cool opportunities within this last year traveling out of the country, working for Nike, Jordan, Buckle, Shein, just a bunch of these amazing brands. I honestly had the time of my life doing it and it’s a big passion of mine outside of basketball.”
“I just got a bunch of opportunities that I couldn’t really pass up on, so that’s all I did this past year,” she added. “I was kind of missing playing basketball and competing a little bit so then I just put my foot back in the door and now we’re here.”
Chamberlin had been attending Oregon all along while focusing on modeling and attended some Duck games — and that led to her next step.
“I just missed basketball,” she said. “I asked coach Kelly (Graves), ‘Hey, can I run some open gyms out here with you guys? I just want to have fun and want to compete.’ They needed some numbers, as well, after a lot of girls transferred out so I was running some open gyms.
“One thing kind of led to the other, he showed up to a practice and he liked what he saw and offered me a spot. I was a walk-on just for a little bit and recently just got this opportunity to be on scholarship. It happened so fast and it was such a blessing and I’m so thankful for it.”
Chamberlin officially joins an Oregon roster that will be almost completely revamped from a year ago, when the Ducks went 20-15 overall and 7-11 in Pac-12 play. She joins transfers Bella Hamel, Peyton Scott, Kennedi Williams and Priscilla Williams, international forward Filippa Tilliander and freshmen Sofia Bell and Sarah Rambus as newcomers on the roster.
Returning from last year’s squad are Chance Gray, Phillipina Kyei, Grace VanSlooten, Kennedy Basham and Sammie Wagner, who was a redshirt in 2022-23.
“I would say we have a pretty young team so I think me being experienced and being an older girl now, I can just bring a lot of leadership,” Chamberlin said of how she hopes to help the Ducks. “Of course, I’m a shooter and that’s my passion and that’s what I want to contribute, but being able to lead these younger girls and set an example and a good tone throughout this whole season is really important as an older player now.”
It’s not an unfamiliar role for Chamberlin, whose final two seasons at South Medford involved helping bring along a host of promising freshmen and, later, sophomores with good friend Bella Pedrojetti. One year back in school as Panthers but roommates these days, Pedrojetti plays at Bushnell and led the Beacons at 12.5 points per game last year.
“It’s just going to be exciting to be part of it all,” said Chamberlin, who is pursuing a degree in PR and marketing with a minor in sports business. “I’m just really thankful to have this opportunity.”
Chamberlin isn’t the only member of her family to find a new team here in the offseason, with younger sister, Kaili, transferring from McNeese State in May to play at Austin Peay. The 2021-22 Southland Conference and Louisiana Sports Writers Association Freshman of the Year, Kaili Chamberlin averaged 9.7 points and 4.1 rebounds per game in two years at McNeese State.