The 2019-20 academic year is almost here, so we will be looking at some of the Arizona Wildcats you need to know for the upcoming season.
Ira Lee — Men’s basketball
Lee is the only junior scholarship player on the roster, so he gets this spot by default. The eccentric forward hasn’t put up big numbers at the UA and can be prone to foul trouble, but you can always count on him to play with effort and energy. To this point that has translated into rebounds, blocks and some emphatic dunks.
Arizona has a lot more talent in the frontcourt this year, so it’s unclear exactly what Lee’s role will be, but his intangibles alone make him the kind of player that any Final Four contender can use. And if he can make some strides offensively, like honing his jumper, he can be more than just an energy player.
Kylan Wilborn — Football
Star running back J.J. Taylor and linebacker Colin Schooler are obviously the headliners of the junior class, but Wilborn is listed because the Wildcats are counting on him to have a bounceback season after losing two key pass rushers in PJ Johnson (NFL) and Dereck Boles (graduation).
After a stellar freshman season in which he had 7.5 sacks and was a Freshman All-American, Wilborn’s production dipped considerably as a sophomore, with just two sacks and three tackles for loss in 11 contests. It didn’t help that he was limited in several games due to injury, so perhaps a clean bill of health will do him some good in his junior season.
Aari McDonald — Women’s basketball
How much better can Aari get? Last season McDonald was the nation’s third-leading scorer and shattered Adia Barnes’ single-season scoring record by pouring in 890 points in 37 games (24.1 PPG).
Expectations were high for the Washington transfer, and McDonald easily exceeded them.
As weird as it sounds, the Wildcats are hoping she doesn’t put up the same kind of numbers in 2019-20 because that would mean the team is more balanced and not relying on her to do, well, everything.
McDonald was second in the country in usage rate, and also led Arizona in assists and steals, and was second in rebounding, despite standing at 5-foot-7.
Returning their entire starting five and adding five international recruits, the Wildcats should have a more complete squad this season, especially when it comes to depth, size, and 3-point shooting. If they don’t reach the NCAA Tournament it will be a disappointment.
Matthew Dyer — Baseball
Dyer was worth the wait. After sitting out a season following his transfer from Oregon, he crushed the ball in his first year with the Wildcats, posting a slash line of .393/.480/.571 with four homers, four triples, 10 doubles and 28 RBI.
Dyer split time between catcher, first base and outfield, showing a ton of versatility defensively.
Unfortunately, he missed the final stretch of the season after breaking his hand (against Oregon, ironically) in early May.
Hannah ‘Peanut’ Martinez — Softball
Martinez enjoyed a breakout season in 2019, emerging as the top corner outfielder on the team after hardly playing at all as a freshman.
The speedy slapper started in 45 of 51 games, hitting .280/.308/.368 with two homers and 20 RBI in the No. 8 spot of the batting order. Her defense is what really stood out, making several spectacular plays and only one error. And if Martinez doesn’t have the best arm among Arizona’s position players, she is certainly in the top three.
Paige Whipple — Volleyball
Whipple was second on Arizona in kills last season, making her the presumed frontrunner to take over for Kendra Dahlke as the lead outside hitter.
While already solid, Whipple is probably only scratching the surface of what she can be. Her sophomore year got off to a rocky start after she was diagnosed with an umbilical hernia that limited her development in the spring leading up to the season.
Not only that, but she was one of several UA players to suffer a concussion this past season. If Whipple can stay on the court and away from the trainer’s room, expect her to show why she was a top-30 recruit coming out of high school.
Jada Talley — Soccer
The Corona, California native was Arizona’s leading scorer last season, tallying (get it?) seven goals in 21 games. That was six more than she scored as a freshman, so you wonder what kind of increase she’ll experience as a junior.
Speed is, and always will be, the name of Talley’s game—legend has it that she ran before she crawled—but she was noticeably sharper with the ball as a sophomore, making cleaner touches and better decisions.
Still, Talley was tied for seventh in the Pac-12 in shots while being tied for 14th in goals, so improving her finishing will be the key to taking that next step as a player.
Yu-Sang Hou — Women’s golf
The legendary Haley Moore and Bianca Pagdanganan have graduated, which means Hou, a key part of the 2018 national championship team in her own right, is now the face of Arizona women’s golf.
The WAGR pegs Hou as the No. 36 amateur in the world. She is coming off a sophomore season in which she was named to the all-conference team and actually posted the best average on the Wildcats (72.84) to go along with five top-10 finishes.
Jordan Geist — Men’s track and field
Geist was the Pac-12 Men’s Field Athlete of the Year after capturing another shot put championship. He also excels in the hammer and discus throw events, never finishing outside the top 3 all season.
He finished third in NCAA Championships in the shot put, and earned First-Team All-American status with a toss of 20.31 meters.