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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Five freshman athletes that can have instant impact in 2019

Sofia Moraga
Arizona Men’s Basketball Head Coach, Sean Miller, surveys the court during the Arizona-California game on Thursday, Feb. 21, 2019 at the McKale Center in Tucson, Ariz.

You haven’t seen them play in an Arizona Wildcat uniform yet, but you’ll know their name soon enough. The Wildcats have added talented freshman across the board in several sports so here are a few that have the chance to set themselves apart.

Zeke Nnaji – men’s basketball

While Nico Mannion and Josh Green headline Sean Miller’s 2019-20 recruiting class, Hopkins High School grad Zeke Nnaji may be the x-factor to next year’s squad. Nnaji is 6-feet, 11-inches tall, providing the Wildcats with the much needed height that last year’s team lacked outside of Chase Jeter. Nnaji is the No. 39 overall ranked prospect in his class, making him one of the four players inside the top 100 to commit to Arizona. The forward is a highly mobile big man with the ability to stretch the floor and score inside. He averaged 24.6 points and nine rebounds per game in his senior season while being named a finalist for Minnesota’s Mr. Basketball award. Look for Nnaji to compete for a starting spot at the four position with Ira Lee.

Jalen “Boobie” Curry – football

After the loss of redshirt junior DeVaughn Cooper because of violations of athletic department policy and departures of last year’s seniors Shun Brown, Shawn Poindexter, and Tony Ellison, Arizona’s wide receiving core is full of question marks heading into the 2019 season. Head coach Kevin Sumlin may have found his next guy, however, as St. Pius X High School graduate Jalen Curry has already begun to open some eyes at the preseason camps. The four-star prospect stood out in the April Spring Game by making a few catches, one of them being a back shoulder sideline catch to keep both feet in bounds. Curry broke the state record for most receptions in a single game with 26 back in October of 2017, while totaling 18 touchdowns in 12 games that season. His big build at the receiver position gives Khalil Tate a large throwing target to pass to out wide. 

Isabella Dayton – softball

It’s hard to imagine that this Arizona softball roster could get any more talented with its strong core of upperclassmen mixed with its young group of talent, but incoming freshman Isabella Dayton could be the upgrade that unlocks the full potential of this lineup. Bella was originally committed to Ole Miss but flipped to Arizona after a change of heart. Dayton is the perfect leadoff hitter who excels at getting on base and stealing bases while also being a solid defensive outfielder. She hit .586 with 30 stolen bases in her junior year of high school in Wylie, Texas while playing club ball for the SoCal Choppers in the offseason. Dayton was also named the Freshman of the Year in 2016 before being crowned back-to-back District 6A Offensive Player of the Year in her sophomore and junior season.  

RELATED: “We broke the curse.” Arizona routs Ole Miss to advance to Women’s College World Series

Dawson Netz- baseball

While UA baseball’s offense has been nothing short of excellent this season, ranking second in the country in on base percentage and third in runs this season, the other side of the ball has been the downfall of this year’s team. Arizona’s pitching staff ranks 270th in ERA at 6.74 as a team, making it safe to say that the Wildcat’s pitching staff could improve. Netz should undoubtedly improve the roster with his 0.44 ERA in his four years at Maranatha High School. He is a 2018 All-American Classic Player with a low to mid 90’s fastball and a plus curveball. Netz also swings a hot bat, hitting .403 in his senior year. Dawson is expected to be selected in the upcoming MLB Draft but if Arizona can convince him to come to Tucson, he will be a great addition to the team. 

Grant Gunnell- football

The quarterback depth chart is mediocre at best behind Tate so the addition of early enrollment Gunnell is a positive for Arizona. Gunnell has the potential to be the future of the program after coming off of a high school career that included setting the all-time passing yard record in the state of Texas while throwing 195 touchdowns at St. Pius X High School. His accuracy as a passer paired with his 6-foot-5 inch frame makes him the ideal build for a quarterback prospect to develop under Noel Mazzone’s offense. Although Tate has proven and solidified himself as next year’s starter, Gunnell could make an appearance next season if the ‘Cats begin to struggle early on the offensive side.

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