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Individual expectations for next season's Arizona women's basketball team

Mike Luke Avatar
July 16, 2022

Last season’s Arizona women’s basketball team, while solid, lacked the punch of the previous year’s team. 

This is an issue that coach Adia Barnes quickly observed and spent the offseason striving for change, mainly by bringing in more offensive firepower.

With so many moving parts, here is a look at the preseason expectations for each player on the 2022-23 roster.

The big names

Shaina Pellington — The Cats need the senior point guard to continue to run the show while improving her 3-point shot. Pellington doesn’t need to become a prolific shooter, but she needs to be good enough to keep defenses honest.

On a team with so many new pieces, it will be on her shoulders to help so many moving parts adapt while continuing the late-game heroics she became so well known for last year.

Cate Reese — The biggest key is getting healthy. The senior forward played through a troublesome shoulder injury last year that required offseason surgery, but the hope is that she will come back rested and fully healthy. If this is the case, you can pencil Reese in for 15 points per game and all-conference honors.

Lauren Ware — The junior center averaged 6 points and 4 rebounds per game last season. With so much talk about incoming megastar recruit Maya Nnaji, Ware has slipped under the radar a bit this offseason.

But Ware showed noticeable improvement from her freshman to sophomore season, and if that continues, a twin towers lineup with Nnaji is certainly possible.

Maddy Connor — One of the hardest working players and best shooters on the team, it’s up to the sophomore guard to improve her defense. If that happens, Connor will get all the minutes she can handle, as she might be the best shooter on the team.

Helena Pueyo — The senior forward is almost a forgotten member of the team, but certainly not dismissed by Adia Barnes.

Pueyo is one of the best defensive players on the Wildcats and an underrated scorer. The competition for minutes will be fierce this season, but you can count on Pueyo finding herself somewhere in the rotation.

Incoming freshman

Maya Nnaji — The 5-star post prospect out of Minnesota comes in as the highest-rated recruit to ever sign with Arizona.

It will be an intense competition with Ware, but Nnaji is expected to play starter’s minutes and should be able to flirt with double-digit scoring and rebounding averages. With her height, skills and cerebral nature, it shouldn’t surprise anyone if Nnaji wins a litany of awards and leaves Arizona as one of the best players in school history.

Paris Clark/Kailyn Gilbert — The expectations for the freshman guards are much of the same: provide playmaking, ball-handling and quickness at the guard spots.

As two of the highest-rated players to ever sign with Arizona, Clark and Gilbert figure to push the 15-20 minutes per game mark this season and accumulate starter’s minutes as sophomores. Both players’ jobs should be to stress defenses with their quickness, and each feels like a program-changing recruit.

Lemyah Hilton — Given the level of competition in Canada and fuzzy rankings, it’s difficult to pin a statistical expectation, but the guard has played very well for Canada. And obviously Adia Barnes feels she is good enough, which is really all that matters.


Jade Loville — The Arizona State transfer guard has one role above all: score the basketball. 

Last season’s Arizona team lacked a player who could consistently get points off a spread-the-court-and-attack-situation. The hope is that Loville, the smooth-scoring wing who lit up Arizona last year, can become that leading scorer.

Esmery Martinez — Arizona loses a tremendous amount of defensive flexibility with the departure of Sam Thomas. The hope is that 6-foot-2  Martinez can guard wings and bigs with the same effectiveness Thomas did. 

With such a loaded roster, it will be hard for Martinez to replicate her 12 points and 8 rebounds per game from last season at West Virginia, but Martinez figures to play enough to have a chance.

Lauren Fields — Similar to Loville, the Oklahoma State-transfer guard was brought in to score. Fields has a reputation as a scorer and will be given every opportunity to post double-digit scoring totals.

As one can see, this roster has the ability to be incredibly dynamic next season. It will be on Adia Barnes to find the right roles and matchups for this talented team.

The guessing here is she will.

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