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Wildcats notebook: Adia Barnes has a plan to get women's basketball back on top

Mike Luke Avatar
May 7, 2022

With so much talk about Arizona men’s basketball and football, it’s time to catch up on the whirlwind of events surrounding the other programs on campus.

Remember two weeks ago when so many fans were freaking out about coach Adia Barnes losing more than half of her basketball team to the transfer portal?

That was by design.

Like any good coach, Barnes learned from her mistakes and realized last season’s roster was comprised of too many players that just weren’t good enough to compete at the highest level.

Barnes wasted no time revamping her squad.

Her top-five recruiting class has been well documented, but additions through the transfer portal will be just as important if Arizona hopes to reclaim a spot among the nation’s elite.

In short time, Barnes has added two all-conference transfers and is in prime position to land another one.

It started with the commitment of Oklahoma State transfer guard Lauren Fields.

Dynamic with the ball, Fields can make plays off the dribble, which helped her average 15.4 points per game last season. She figures to garner major minutes immediately.

West Virginia transfer Esmery Martinez comes in with a different but equally valuable skill set. At 6-foot-2, Martinez averaged 11 points and 8 rebounds per game while emerging as one of the best defenders in the Big 12.

In hindsight, Arizona’s run to the 2021 championship game was a bit of fool’s gold because star guard Aari McDonald was able to cover up for her teammates weaknesses, particularly scoring.
Arizona fielded a top 25 team last season but it was clear that the Wildcats lacked the scoring punch to get far in the postseason.

Barnes is about competing for national championships and with her historic recruiting class coming in it’s imperative to fill the rest of the roster with scoring punch.

She isn’t done. Expect multiple difference makers to be added in the coming months. It might take a little time next season but expect Arizona to compete for the conference championship and be a high seed in the 2023 NCAA tournament.

The first year of Chip Hale’s tenure has been a source of confusion for many fans. At times, the Wildcats look like the team that was ranked for much of the season. At other times, the Wildcats appear inferior to lesser programs such as Nevada or Grand Canyon.

It’s difficult to judge Hale so soon. He was left with a powerful lineup, but little pitching and an almost empty recruiting class. One thing he can control is his team’s woefully inept fielding (the Wildcats lead the Pac-12 with 54 errors) but other than that, he certainly hasn’t looked out of place.

Hale’s predecessor, Jay Johnson, was an ace recruiter. Arizona has shown that it can be a top-10 job so Hale also should be able to recruit.


The once elite program has been a disaster this year but that shouldn’t come as a total surprise. Former Coach Mike Candrea may be the best softball coach of all time, but many programs around the nation had clearly caught up with Arizona, and the pitching on which he built so much of his empire has slowly deteriorated.

His handpicked successor, Caitlin Lowe, inherited a less than ideal roster. Combine that with first-year coaching growing pains and Arizona is enduring its worst season in recent memory. The Wildcats are 6-13 in Pac-12 play, good for last place in the conference standings and their 191 runs allowed are better only than Cal.

This was a big picture hire and Lowe has recruited well. It’s impossible to grade her in her first year, but it’s fair to expect massive improvement next season. Candrea spent years working on the his chain of succession. It’s more than reasonable to give his successor every opportunity to succeed.

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