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Arizona Wildcats to know in 2018-19

Here are some UA student-athletes to watch this season

morgan-mcgarry-arizona-wildcats-soccer-womens-2019-redshirt-senior-season-end-high-note Photo courtesy Arizona Athletics

The first Arizona Athletics event of the 2018-19 year is right around the corner, as the UA soccer team officially opens its season against Albany on Aug. 17.

Before that arrives, here are some UA athletes to know this season across a variety of sports.

Brandon Williams — Men’s basketball

Arizona lost its top five scorers from a season ago, and it only brought in one recruit ranked in the Top 70, so 2018-19 should make for an interesting year in the desert.

Brandon Williams, who decommitted then recommitted to Arizona, is the team’s most intriguing player.

A high four-star recruit, Williams will likely start at one of the two guard spots and should emerge as Arizona’s top shot-creator. He averaged 24.7 points, 5.0 rebounds and 2.7 assists as a senior at Crespi High School in Encino, California.

Had Williams not missed his junior year because of knee surgery, Arizona head coach Sean Miller thinks he would have been a McDonald’s All-American.

“I don’t think there are six guards in his class who were better than him,” Miller said in May. “He’s today’s version of a guard, in that he can both score and distribute. He’s a great athlete — 6-foot-2, very explosive. And we’re thrilled to have him back. A winner as well. He’s won at every level.”

Since the Wildcats are in a transition year, Williams’ performance could be the difference between them making or missing the NCAA Tournament. No pressure.

Others to know: G Brandon Randolph, C Chase Jeter

Aarion McDonald — Women’s basketball

The 5-foot-7 point guard sat out last season after transferring in from Washington, but was Arizona’s best player in practice from all accounts. The Fresno native is most known for her speed and defensive prowess.

In her lone season at UW, McDonald averaged 9.8 points, 1.4 assists and 1.4 steals in 24.1 minutes, helping the Huskies reach the Sweet 16. She showed an ability to shoot from long range, draining 33 of the 100 3-pointers she attempted.

McDonald started in 21 games for the Huskies, and in the NCAA Tournament she averaged 13.7 points per game.

While at UW, McDonald had the opportunity to share a backcourt with NCAA all-time leading scorer Kelsey Plum, who went on to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 WNBA Draft.

McDonald should start on opening night and elevate UA’s guard play considerably. The Wildcats are young and went 6-24 last season, but they added an influx of talent and could make a run into the postseason this year.

Others to know: F Sam Thomas, F Cate Reese

Khalil Tate — Football

Khalil Tate made Arizona football relevant again when he took the college football world by storm in Week 6 last season. He rushed for a quarterback FBS-record 323 yards after replacing an injured Brandon Dawkins, leading UA to a 45-42 victory over Colorado, which eventually turned into a four-game winning streak.

With Tate at quarterback, Arizona’s offense finished with the No. 3 rushing attack in the country, and he became the first player in conference history to be Pac-12 Player of the Week four straight weeks. Despite only starting eight games, he accounted for 26 touchdowns and nearly 3,000 yards.

He is a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate heading into the 2018 season, making him the most hyped Arizona football player...ever?

If Tate stays healthy and the Wildcats’ youthful defense improves, they have a legitimate shot of winning the Pac-12 South.

Others to know: LB Colin Schooler, LB Tony Fields II

Nick Quintana — Baseball

The long-haired third baseman led Arizona baseball in several offensive categories in 2018, including home runs (14), RBI (55) and slugging percentage (.592). Quintana also hit .313 and showed good patience at the plate, drawing 32 walks to give him an on-base percentage of .413.

He started in all 56 games and only made seven errors, boasting a solid glove at the hot corner.

Quintana will be a junior next spring, meaning it could be his last season in Tucson. He was an 11th-round pick out of high school in 2016, and could play his way into the first few rounds of the 2019 draft.

Arizona missed the NCAA Tournament in 2018, so it’s looking to bounce back in 2019.

Others to know: IF Cameron Cannon, LHP Randy Labaut

Alyssa Palomino — Softball

One of the great stories at the UA can be found in Alyssa Palomino. She tore the ACL in her right knee in her first year on campus, then tore the ACL in her left knee in her second year on campus which robbed her from playing in the postseason in 2017.

Yet, Palomino returned to the diamond in 2018 and posted her best season to date, becoming Arizona softball’s 100th All-American. The redshirt sophomore blasted a Pac-12-best 19 homers to go along with 42 RBI and a sparkling .363/.446/.715 slashline.

Palomino successfully switched positions, too. She was an outfielder when she first arrived at the UA, but moved to first base in 2018 to preserve her health and fill a team need.

As long as she stays healthy next spring, she’ll be in for another big year as a redshirt junior.

The Wildcats return nearly all of their key contributors, so maybe 2019 will be the year they finally return to the Women’s College World Series. They lost in Super Regionals in 2018 and haven’t reached the WCWS since 2010.

Others to know: SS Jessie Harper, LHP Taylor McQuillin

Morgan McGarry — Soccer

McGarry came out of nowhere to become one of Arizona’s best players in 2017. She appeared in just four games as a redshirt freshman, but switched to outside back and flourished immediately at her new position, earning a spot on the All-Pac-12 Second Team as a redshirt sophomore.

Head coach Tony Amato says other coaches have reached out to him to compliment McGarry’s play.

McGarry won 61 percent of challenges and 65 percent of tackles. A converted forward, she also showed an ability to facilitate UA’s attack with accurate crosses. She tallied an assist in UA’s 2-1 comeback victory over Washington.

The Danville, California native will be a redshirt junior in 2018, and is listed as the No. 46 prospect on Chris Henderson’s 2020 NWSL Draft Big Board. No Wildcat has even been drafted before, though senior goalkeeper Lainey Burdett might have something to say about that in January.

The Wildcats won a program-record seven conference games in 2017, and they return most of their starting 11 in 2018, so a special season could be in store.

Others to know: GK Lainey Burdett, MF Kennedy Kieneker

Julia Patterson — Volleyball

After an odd freshman year that forced her to burn her redshirt out of necessity, Patterson took over as UA’s full-time setter in 2017 and finished fifth in the Pac-12 in assists per set (11.14).

The then-sophomore also led the Wildcats in double-doubles with 12, which was the ninth-best mark in the Pac-12.

In March, Patterson was one of just two setters selected to the U.S. Women’s Collegiate National Team - China Tour roster.

Rebuilding after a Sweet 16 appearance, the Wildcats had a very young team in 2017 and finished 11-18 (5-15 Pac-12). There is nowhere to go but up in 2018.

Others to know: OH Kendra Dahlke, OH Paige Whipple

Haley Moore — Women’s golf

Moore produced the biggest moment for Arizona Athletics in 2017-18 when she sank the putt that won UA its third women’s golf national championship.

It was fitting that it came down to Moore since she was the team’s best performer all season. She was named first team All-Pac-12 and earned honorable mention All-America recognition from the Women’s Golf Coaches Association.

The Women’s Amateur Golf Ranking pegs Moore as the No. 25 amateur in the world.

Arizona returns all its key golfers from last season’s championship team, so look for it to have another strong go-round in 2018-19.

Others to know: Bianca Pagdanganan, Gigi Stoll

Other Arizona Wildcats to watch

  • Alejandro Reguant (men’s tennis)
  • Maddi Leydin (gymnastics)
  • Hunter Davila (men’s cross country)
  • Katrina Konopka (women’s swimming)
  • Camila Wesbrooks (women’s tennis)
  • Jordan Geist (men’s track and field)
  • Ainise Havili (beach volleyball)
  • Chatham Dobbs (men’s swimming)