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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Adia Barnes continues to reel in high recruits

Simon Asher

Arizona women’s basketball coach Adia Barnes gives a pep talk to her team before media day on Oct. 10, 2016. 

Perception has a funny way of being skewed from person to person. Such is the case with the Arizona women’s basketball team.

From the perspective of a casual observer, it may seem like the program is toiling in the depths of an abyss. Those with a better view though know that Arizona women’s basketball is a sleeping giant suddenly getting a much-needed wake-up call.

In the past two months, head coach Adia Barnes and her staff have been relentless, scouring every corner of the earth for talent. She has gotten it in a hurry by way of freshmen and transfers, both local and international. However, the program’s turnaround won’t be a sudden worst-to-first scenario for the Wildcats — at least not yet.

In terms of a win-loss record, the 2017-18 season could resemble the one from last year, but the attitude and long-term prospects should be far different. An influx of new faces is set to replace the five seniors the team lost this season and provide a much-needed change in perspective.

RELATED: Winter is coming: Adia Barnes is infusing Arizona Basketball with new blood, dead set on changing the culture of women’s hoops

Kat Wright, Kiana Chew, Sam Thomas, Sammy Fatkin and Marlee Kyles will all come in hoping to make an immediate impact. However, with the exception of Wright, a transfer from Florida Atlantic, little should be expected right away. 

Modest expectations don’t mean that the brand of basketball being played won’t be significantly different though. Chew in particular is dead-set on changing the culture, especially on the defensive end — something Arizona hasn’t exactly been stellar at the past couple seasons.

“All I want to do is play defense,” Chew said. “I love being able to defend someone and shut them down, I look forward to playing at this level and can’t wait to show what I can do.”

Thomas and Kyles echoed those sentiments and said that this defensive mindset was the one thing that all four incoming freshman had in common. This is a far cry from the mindset of years past, when Arizona was a doormat for the Pac-12 far too often.

But since Barnes has taken over, she has pursued players that resemble those on the successful teams that she was a part of as a player and coach. 

She recruits based on academics, character and work ethic, choosing players that genuinely love to get into the gym and put in the work.

Barnes’s efforts are all in preparation for a breakout season in 2018-19. That’s when her four freshman will have a season under their belts and transfers TeeTee Starks, Aarion MacDonald and Dominique McBryde will be eligible to play. MacDonald and McBryde in particular are players to watch.

RELATED: Arizona Women Athletics continue to be inspired by the ones before them

McBryde is a transfer from Purdue and was a Big Ten honorable mention selection as a sophomore. MacDonald was an All Pac-12 freshman team selection, transferring from Washington. Both are huge finds for Barnes, but there are more. 

Barnes also secured Italian five-star post player Valeria Trucco as well as the highest-rated recruit in program history, No.12 overall, in the form of Catherine Reese from Texas.

Barnes is currently in Chicago on the recruiting trail at the Nike Girls EYBL after stops in Louisville and Dallas the past week. 

She has been adamant that she would be able to secure the players necessary for the program to turn around, saying so at various times throughout this past season.

Barnes also said that it would be a year or two before she was able to get the kind of high-caliber talent necessary to compete in the Pac-12. She may be ahead of schedule.

Follow Saul Bookman on Twitter

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