While volleyball is winding down its season, women’s basketball is just getting started, and softball is preparing for February, all three programs are also looking towards the future. National letters of intent were announced by the Arizona Wildcats this week.
Let’s get to know the athletes who will be calling Tucson home beginning in 2019.
After a top 5 class in 2018, Arizona’s 2019 class won’t be as highly touted. For one thing, they are all international players, who are unknowns to many stateside recruiting services. Only Prospects Nation regularly evaluates and ranks international players, and they aren’t ranked alongside U.S.-based prospects.
- Birna Bennonysdottir, a 6’5” post player from Iceland, comes to Arizona with a four-star rating from Prospects Nation. She has the size of a true center, which Arizona could use. She averaged 16.6 points per game and 7.7 rebounds per game at the 2017 U18 FIBA Champsionships. In August, she averaged 12.4 ppg and 6.8 rpg at the 2018 tournament.
- Tara Manumaleuga is a legacy Wildcat of sorts. She is the cousin of former Wildcat tight end Brandon Manumaleuna. She’s also a four-star guard who played for the New Zealand national team in the 2018 U17 Women’s Basketball Cup, although she is from Australia. She averaged 12 points per game at that tournament, but shot only 27.3% from the field. She is listed anywhere from 5’9” to 6’ on different sites, which will make her one of the taller guards on the team. The big advantage Manumaleuga has is that she will be on campus in January, so she will be able to begin acclimating to college life and engage in conditioning before most of her class. Her film is available on Hudl and on her YouTube channel.
- Mara Mote will come to Tucson from Latvia, where she played for the national team in the 2018 U18 Women’s European Championship. She starts for the junior team of the TTT Riga basketball club in her home of Riga, and is listed as a reserve on the roster of the senior-level team.
- Sevval Gul rounds out the class for the Wildcats. She is a 6’4” post player for Fenerbahce, a club team in Istanbul, Turkey. Her current teammate is former Washington star Kelsey Plum. In the 2018 U18 European Women’s Championships, she averaged 10.8 ppg on 42.5% shooting. She also pulled down 9.1 boards per contest.
The Wildcats were able to sign two top 100 recruits for the 2019 class, including a player who coach Dave Rubio believes is the best player in Arizona.
- Simone Overbeck is a 6’ outside hitter who comes in as the No. 72 recruit in the nation according to PrepVolleyball. The Newbury Park, CA native was a multi-sport athlete in high school, but will focus on indoor volleyball in college. Her sister Kayla plays basketball at USC. In her senior season at Newbury Park High School, she averaged 4.7 kills per set on a .309 hitting percentage. Although Arizona has a strong class of hitters who are sophomores this season, they will be looking to replace a lot of production when senior star Kendra Dahlke graduates.
- Kamaile Hiapo is a 5’7” all-around player who will focus on playing libero at the collegiate level. PrepVolleyball rated her just behind her new teammate at No. 76 nationally. Rubio believes that she was the best player in the state this year and the best libero prospect Arizona has ever recruited. The Wildcats have primarily used Makenna Martin as their libero for the past two seasons, with Emi Pua’a backing her up this season. Both are juniors, so Hiapo will have time to develop.
Arizona Softball has been criticized by some for not recruiting at the level of some of the current powers of the game. Coach Mike Candrea and staff signed a class with three top-40 recruits for the 2019-20 school year. The biggest concern is the lack of pitchers in the class considering that ace Taylor McQuillin is a senior this season. Arizona will have to hope that Marissa Schuld develops into a top line pitcher or go after a transfer.
Candrea’s comments about the class are available on Arizona Athletics’ YouTube channel, along with discussion of the schedule for the 2019 season.
- Sharlize Palacious (Catcher) from Chula Vista, CA will help fill in once Deja Mulipola leaves Tucson. She’s ranked No. 38 by Extra Innings SB and No. 53 by FloSoftball. Her club team, OC Batbusters, had four catchers who either went to top Division I programs in 2018 or will in 2019, so she also spent some time at first base. Over her three years playing for Eastlake High School, she averaged .530 and had 13 home runs.
- Bella Dayton (OF) from Wylie, TX is ranked No. 23 by Extra Innings SB and No. 26 by FloSoftball. She originally committed to the University of Mississippi, but will end up a Wildcat. She plays her club ball for the SoCal Choppers, based in Santa Ana, CA, and her high school ball for Wylie High School. FloSoftball described her as a “prototypical lead-off hitter (who) blends speed with gap-to-gap power.” She was the district offensive player of the year and all-state first team twice.
- Janelle Meono (OF) is out of Hacienda Heights, CA. The Glen A. Wilson H.S. senior is ranked the No. 35 recruit by Extra Innings SB and No. 45 by FloSoftball. She was all-CIF first team twice. She plays her club ball for OC Batbusters, along with several future Wildcats. She has hit .652 over her career for the Wilson High Wildcats.
- The GymCats announced five signees: Zaza Brovedani out of Head Over Heels Athletic Arts in Emeryville, CA; Libby Orman out of Classic Gymnastics in Chanhassen, MN; Malia Hargrove out of Flips USA Gymnastics in Reno, NV; MacKenzie Barile out of Desert Lights Gymnastics in Glendale, AZ; Avery Staffaucher out of Gold Medal Gymnastics in Scottsdale, AZ.
- Arizona Swim & Dive also announced several of their signed recruits for both men and women: Casslyn Treydte, who swims the freestyle for Fusion Aquatics, out of Fontana, CA; Hannah Farrow (butterfly/Irvine Novaquatics) from Fountain Valley, CA; Hunter Ingram (freestyle and butterfly/Irvine Novaquatics) from Tustin, CA; Axana Merckx (IM and backstroke/Kelowna Aquajets) from Kelowna, BC; Ellie Jew (IM and breaststroke/Lake Oswego Swim Club) of Portland, OR.