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.
A couple days ago we highlighted the freshmen, so now it’s time to examine the sophomores.
Men’s basketball — Brandon Williams
Williams was one of the few bright spots last season, averaging 11.8 points and 3.4 assists per game, the second-most on the team. His shooting line—.377/.316/.819—was not great but it improved throughout the year, as he shot .417/.383/.845 in Pac-12 play.
Williams and Nico Mannion will give the Wildcats one of the most dynamic backcourts in the country, with two lead guards capable of shooting, slashing, and distributing.
Health will be the key for Williams. He missed several games last season because he felt pain in the knee he had surgically-repaired in high school.
Football — Donovan Laie
Despite being thrown into the fire as a true freshman, Laie was one of the top pass-protectors in the Pac-12, only allowing a quarterback pressure on 2.1 percent of his snaps, the third-best mark in the conference.
More impressive is that he did so while shuffling between right and left tackle. But now that Layth Friekh has graduated, the 6-foot-5, 318-pound Laie is expected to take over full time at left tackle where he has a chance to develop into an NFL-caliber lineman.
“All the parameters the NFL sets, he’s got all those,” new offensive line coach Kyle DeVan said in the spring. “I can definitely see him playing on Sundays because he’s going to keep progressing. I’m excited to work with him for the next three years and see where it goes.”
Women’s basketball — Cate Reese
Starting as a true freshman in the rough and tumble Pac-12 isn’t easy, and Reese certainly took her lumps, but she got better and better as the year went on, averaging 11.8 points and 6.8 rebounds per game when all was said and done, earning a spot on the All-Pac-12 Freshman team.
Proof of Reese’s development can be seen in her WNIT numbers. She averaged 14.2 points and 6.2 rebounds per contest during UA’s championship run.
Head coach Adia Barnes expects the former McDonald’s All-American to take a big leap next season.
“Cate should be able to finish better, not fall so much. You should see an improved 3-point shot. She has to become more versatile,” Barnes said in April. “She’s got to have a go-to move and not always settle for fadeaways. She’s got to get stronger and finish better. She has to be able to step away and shoot it consistently from 3, and that’s how her game will have to evolve because she’s never going to be the power, back-to-the-basket five.”
Baseball — Austin Wells
The Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, Wells absolutely tore the cover off the ball in 2019, hitting .353/.462/.552 with five homers, seven triples, 15 doubles and 60 RBI.
He set Arizona freshman season records in runs scored and on-base percentage and was the first Wildcat freshman (1976-current) with at least 60 runs and 60 RBI in a single season. Wells led the Pac-12 and all Division I freshmen with 73 runs scored.
That led him to earn Freshman All-American honors from every major college baseball outlet.
Wells was durable too, starting in all 56 games, the first Wildcat freshman to do that since Kevin Newman in 2013.
Quick shoutout to infielder Dayton Dooney, who also racked up a ton of Freshman All-American honors.
Softball — Marissa Schuld
Loaded with juniors and seniors, Arizona did not get (or need) much production from its freshmen during its run to the Women’s College World Series. The headliner of that group was two-time Arizona Gatorade Player of the Year Marissa Schuld, who was limited to four at-bats and 14.2 innings in the circle, serving as UA’s No. 5 pitcher.
Schuld will have her work cut out for her again in 2020 if she wants to crack the rotation. Arizona graduated ace Taylor McQuillin and No. 3/4 pitcher Gina Snyder, but added highly-coveted transfer Mariah Lopez from Oklahoma, assuring the Wildcats will have one of the top staffs in the Pac-12.
As far as Schuld’s bat, the Wildcats have voids to fill at first base and designated player, and could use some more production in left field, so perhaps that’s where Schuld can make her mark.
Remember, she holds Pinnacle High School’s all-time home run record in addition to the all-time strikeouts record.
Volleyball — Whittnee Nihipali
Nihipali was the Nevada Gatorade Player of the Year and an Under Armour All-American honorable mention as a senior at Las Vegas’ Shadow Ridge High School, but only appeared in 27 sets as a freshman at Arizona, recording 16 kills with a .130 hitting percentage.
But having a year under her belt should do some good for the 6-foot-1 outside hitter, who will be in the mix to help the Wildcats replace kills leader Kendra Dahlke.
Soccer — Brooke Wilson
Arizona’s freshman class was terrific last season, especially center back Hallie Pearson, who started every game, and midfielder Emily Knous, who was a key playmaker and earned a spot on TopDrawerSoccer’s Freshman Best XI Second Team.
But the reason Wilson, who was actually the highest-ranked recruit, is listed here is because she flashed a ton of potential before her season was derailed by a broken leg.
Before the injury, she scored three goals and an assist in seven games. After she recovered from it, she scored four goals in three games during the spring season, then carried that into the summer when she scored six goals in eight games in the WPSL.
Pac-12 games are almost always decided by one goal, so Wilson’s ability to find the back of the net could swing a few of those conference battles in Arizona’s favor.
On the flip side, watch for sophomore Kendyll Humphreys, who did not play last season but is the only returning goalkeeper on the roster.
Men’s tennis — Jonas Ziverts
2019 marked the first time Arizona men’s tennis reached the NCAA Tournament since 2010, and you can thank Ziverts for that.
The Swede was touted as the highest-ranked recruit head coach Clancy Shields has brought in, and he did not disappoint, going 12-7 with 10 of those wins coming from the No. 1 spot in the lineup.
Ziverts was the first Wildcat to play at the NCAA Singles Championships since All-American Roger Matalonga in 2006, and was one of just four freshmen to make the All-Pac-12 team.