“Sea Lion Spotlight of the Week” is a weekly column presented in The Point to highlight a student, faculty member or staff member of Point Loma Nazarene University. The goal of this column is to feature a figure of PLNU so that the population of PLNU can get to know them and why they’re being featured.
A coach, a mentor, a humble leader and a Christ follower, PLNU Women’s Basketball Assistant Coach Grace Ricafranca was born and raised in Hacienda Heights, CA and grew up immersed in basketball culture.
With a Los Angeles Lakers fanatic father and two older brothers who played basketball, Ricafranca grew to love the game quickly.
“The biggest thing I love about basketball is the relationships and connections I get to build within the process,” Ricafranca said. “Being able to see strong young women develop vulnerability with one another to build friendships that last beyond the four years they play collegiately is really special.”
In 2008, Ricafranca graduated from Los Altos High School. She played on the varsity basketball team for three years, where she was honorably mentioned in the Miramonte League of the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) Southern Section.
After graduating, she went right into coaching at her high school for two years. Ricafranca served as the assistant coach and eventually head coach, all while earning her bachelor’s degree in business administration from Biola University on a full-ride scholarship.
After her first coaching job, opportunities began presenting themself for Ricafranca which unexpectedly turned into a career for her.
“God kept opening door after door,” Ricafranca said.
In addition to coaching at Los Altos High School and being a full-time student at Biola, Ricafranca managed the Biola women’s basketball team.
“My experience at Biola was difficult in terms of finding my belonging outside of basketball, but a big part of me was shaped,” Ricafranca said. “I learned how to love Jesus and people well. That’s carried over into how I can love people intentionally.”
In her final year at Biola, she took on another coaching position at Whittier Christian High School.
“It was hectic to be a head coach/trying to figure out my life,” Ricafranca said.
After graduating from Biola, she became the assistant coach of the Biola women’s basketball team for five seasons while earning her master’s degree in coaching in athletic administration from Concordia University, Irvine.
Deciding to move on and seek out coaching opportunities elsewhere, Ricafranca found herself at Pepperdine University where she was the assistant coach for two years. During that time, she had the opportunity to be a part of the coaching staff for the United States Philippines Under 16 (U16) team through Fil-Am Nation Select.
The team competed in the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) Asia Cup and took home the bronze medal.
“It was fun to be a part of bridging the gap between the Filipino Americans and the Filipinos from the country,” Ricafranca said. “It was an awesome experience to see young Filipino women here in America get the opportunity to represent their country of the Philippines — to have that honor of representing a people and something beyond yourself and really this whole nation. It’s a very powerful program to be a part of.”
Five years after her father — Dario’s — passing, Ricafranca has honored his legacy by continuing to coach. According to Ricafranca, Dario had a deep love for the game.
“His legacy was to do our work as best as we can which has created my drive for excellence within coaching,” she said.
“Being able to coach the Philippines National team, I felt that [honor]. My dad had such a deep love for his home country of the Philippines and being able to do that, made him proud,” Ricafranca said.
According to Ricafranca, her drive for coaching is fueled by her passion for basketball and working with young women.
“I love the game, I love to mentor young women and empower them and compete, so it felt like the perfect mixture of doing what I’m passionate about,” Ricafranca said. “God opened up doors that I didn’t know were possible. The Lord’s really guided my steps.”
Ricafranca’s mother, Amy, also played a significant role in her journey with basketball.
“My mom has been a great supporter of my life and my passion for the game and I appreciate her,” Ricafranca said.
According to Ricafranca, her mother, who worked for Biola in their accounting department, organized the meeting between her and the head coach to be a part of the team there.
“I was shy and she [her mother] scheduled the meeting and we met with him and I shared my desire and love for basketball. Because of that meeting, I am coaching today,” Ricafranca said.
Ricafranca is now going into her third year as the assistant coach for PLNU.
“It’s an honor to be at a place like Point Loma,” Ricafranca said. “In my two years, going on three, my experience of meeting people out here has been so positive, warm and encouraging.”
Preparing for the upcoming season, Ricafranca has one goal: to compete at a higher level.
“We only brought two new kids in [on the team] and we’re able to start at a faster pace and more ahead than we ever had,” Ricafranca said. “I hope we finish at the top of the conference. That’s always the goal, but that won’t happen unless we continue to compete and fight every day.”
One piece of advice that Ricafranca would give to a student who is struggling to find their belonging in a community is to never give up.
“Find people that are passionate about what you’re passionate about, connect with them and then don’t give up meeting with them and pursuing them. It’ll be worthwhile in the end, for sure.”