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Arizona alumni Esmery Martinez and Helena Pueyo selected in 2024 WNBA Draft

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Marison Bilagody
Arizona women’s basketball’s Esmery Martinez grabs a rebound in McKale Center on Thursday, Feb. 9. The Wildcats lost to Stanford University 60-84.

The Arizona Wildcats alums Esmery Martinez and Helena Pueyo saw their dreams come to fruition as they were selected in the 2024 WNBA Draft, which was held at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York City on Monday, April 15.

“If you look at all of these players, none of them were super highly rated players, and they got better and improved in our system,” said Arizona head coach Adia Barnes. “It shows that we develop pros […]. The goal is to sustain success, and you want to produce pros. You want to take players that are underrated and give them the opportunity to make a team, get to the WNBA, get to a camp, get drafted, because that shows that they’ve gotten better.”

Martinez, a formidable presence on the court during her two-year stint with the Wildcats, was chosen in the second round with the 17th overall pick by the New York Liberty. 

“They liked her athleticism. There aren’t a lot of forwards in this draft, and there aren’t a lot of post players available. They liked the way she can shoot the three, they like her toughness, and think she can really develop even more,” Barnes said, referring to what WNBA teams liked most about Martinez.

Pueyo, known for her defensive prowess and leadership, followed closely behind, selected with the 22nd pick by the Connecticut Sun

“You see Helena as a freshman and you see her now, and she is a much-improved player, and it just shows her dedication and her skill development,” Barnes said.

Their selections add to the legacy of Arizona basketball in the WNBA, making them the 12th and 13th players drafted from the program. The tandem selection of Martinez and Pueyo marks a significant milestone for the Arizona women’s basketball program, being only the third time in its history that two players have been drafted in the same year.

During her time with the Wildcats, Martinez earned recognition for her defensive prowess, receiving All-Pac-12 Honorable Mention distinctions in 2023 and 2024. Notably, she was also named to the Pac-12 All-Defensive Team in 2024. A consistent performer, Martinez averaged 11.1 points, 6.3 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 2.0 steals per game in her final season with Arizona.

Meanwhile, Pueyo solidified her place in Arizona basketball history as a defensive stalwart, setting records for career steals (312) and single-season steals (110 in the 2023-2024 season).

 “The way she performed in the Pac-12 Tournament, she really stepped up a gear, and I think her stock really rose a lot because she was able to help guide [the team] to the NCAA Tournament with a really young team,” Barnes said on Pueyo’s rise in draft position.

As Martinez and Pueyo embark on their professional journeys, they join an elite group of Wildcats that have made it to the WNBA. Their selections signal not only personal achievements but also the program’s continued success in producing top-tier talent for the professional ranks.

Looking ahead, both Martinez and Pueyo will soon begin preparations for the upcoming WNBA season. Training camp commences April 28, followed by preseason games starting May 3. Final roster decisions will be made by May 13, with the season officially tipping off May 14.


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