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Arizona Wildcats mailbag: On facility upgrades, 2020 recruiting targets, softball transfers, and more

arizona-wildcats-isaiah-white-usc-alan-griffin-illinois-johnny-juzang-kentucky-transfer-portal-2020 Jacob Snow-USA TODAY Sports

It’s Mailbag Monday! You asked us questions about the Arizona Wildcats on Twitter and we answered them! We got quite a few football questions, so we will save those for another mailbag next week or later this week.

Make sure to follow us on Twitter at @AZDesertSwarm and me at @RKelapire to participate next time.

Let’s get into it.

@AndyBlaho: What facility upgrades would you make if you were the athletic department? I want to hear some creative ideas.

Arizona soccer is one of my favorite programs to cover, so I would overhaul their facilities. They deserve it. They need it.

The program is, in my view, a sleeping giant.

  • It’s in the best, most reputable soccer conference in the country.
  • It’s proximal to Southern California, the deepest recruiting pipeline in the sport.
  • It has established a winning pedigree over the past seven seasons, so recruits these days only know Arizona as a perennial NCAA Tournament team, not the bottom feeder it used to be.
  • The UA/Tucson community will support women’s sports in droves as we’ve seen with softball and now women’s basketball.
  • Soccer is big in Arizona as a whole. Look at the enthusiasm surrounding Phoenix Rising.

The only thing missing is modern facilities. Built in the 1990s, Mulcahy Stadium is more or less a high school venue with Arizona’s branding slapped on it.

In a dream scenario, you’d replace it with a new on-campus facility—the best location being where beach volleyball plays on Enke Drive, just east of Arizona football’s practice fields. Another spot is Dave Sitton Field (where the men’s club team plays) next to the UA rec center, though space might be an issue there.

Especially when it comes to non-revenue sports, you need to make it as easy and comfortable as possible for fans to attend games.

Mulcahy misses this mark in several ways.

The parking is constrained and disorganized. The bleachers are, like I said, something you’d see at a high school. There is no shade during those scorching weekend games. There is one concession stand and like two restrooms. Not nearly enough when attendance figures can spike above 1,000.

There is also that extra effort it takes for students, particularly freshmen who live on campus and are impressionable customers, to make their way over to 15th and Plumer.

This is also an inconvenience for the players, who have to drive to practice as opposed to walking over from their McKale Center locker room like other sports do. Yeah, it’s a short commute, but student-athletes are already so pressed for time that it adds an unnecessary item to their schedule.

If an on-campus facility is not an option, the next best thing would be to kill two birds with one stone and overhaul Mulcahy and Drachman Stadium (where track and field competes) into one mega-facility by constructing a concourse that serves both programs.

It would include multiple locker rooms, a film room, restrooms, concession stands, the whole nine yards. (Visiting teams currently do not have a locker room at Mulcahy. They dress in McKale Center and then bus over for the game. It’s a homefield advantage of sorts but overall not a good look for the program.)

Looking at the satellite image below, the best spot for the concourse seems to be between the soccer pitch and the east side of the track, right where the Mulcahy parking lot and clubhouse currently reside.

Space is pretty limited, so the current soccer pitch could be turned into a parking lot and the soccer team would play its games on the infield of the track. A new grandstand would be built along one of the sidelines of the track, preferably the east side since that would allow for easy access to the new concourse.

So basically something like this:

Yes, there is already a large section of bleachers along the west side but they have seen better days and have no shade. That is a must since the bulk of soccer season is in the hot months of August and September.

Arizona soccer routinely sneaks into the Top 25 as it is, but its ceiling to this point has been the Round of 32 or, on a rare occurrence, a Sweet Sixteen. State-of-the-art facilities and an electric atmosphere that can woo recruits (and their families) and excite the fanbase are the keys to taking the next step, in my opinion.

Maybe Arizona will never challenge Stanford, UCLA, and USC for Pac-12 and national titles, but there is nothing stopping it from being the next best thing in the West.

Unfortunately, no projects are in the works and this economic climate could make one financially unfeasible for the foreseeable future.

@Jacobma77833453: Any idea if there is any other basketball players for the 2020 class that Arizona can bring in besides Tibet Gorener now that Kerwin Walton is off the board?*

Gorener was the only reported target at the time of his commitment, but Kerr Kriisa and Daniel Batcho were off-the-radar additions, so I’m sure the Arizona staff has other targets we’re not aware of.

At this point though it might make more sense to stick with 12 scholarship players instead of the maximum 13. That would put the Wildcats in the market for midseason transfers like Stone Gettings and James Akinjo and/or allow them to roll over a scholarship to 2021 where they should have more success recruiting higher-end American players. (It can’t go worse than 2020.)

That said, one 2020 target to monitor is Frank Anselem. The four-star center recently reclassified from 2021 and reopened his recruitment after previously narrowing it to three finalists.

Arizona was not of those three preferred schools, but Anselem officially visited the UA in October, so there was at least some level of mutual interest. The Wildcats don’t need another athletic big man who’s raw offensively, but they could use another body.

*This was updated after Gorener’s commitment

@altman_bj: When will the NCAA finally come down with their ruling and/or sanctions for the U of A basketball program?

It’s impossible to answer this because the NCAA works on its own timeline.

But given how much Arizona struggled to recruit American players in this cycle, it’s pretty clear that its recruiting efforts have been hurt by the uncertainty that comes with looming sanctions—possibly more than if the punishments had been issued already. At least that way recruits would know what they are getting into when they are considering the Wildcats.

@Irishtike09: Who else will leave from softball? What does the 2022 season look like after all the seniors are gone?

The only obvious transfer candidate left is Riley Kuderca, a speedy sophomore outfielder who has only had one at-bat in two years (though she did miss the 2020 campaign with an injury).

Other than that, the roster could be set. Not including Dejah Mulipola, the Wildcats currently have 22 players, a very doable number to carry. They had 20 players in 2020 but 23 at the start of the 2019 season. And despite the large roster size, that team was extremely cohesive on its way to the Women’s College World Series.

As far as 2022 goes, the hope is that this freshman class—the incoming freshmen plus the freshmen who were just granted an extra year of eligibility—will be ready to take the reins when they are sophomores. At that point, there will only be two seniors—Hanah Bowen and Peanut Martinez. Both are solid, but neither are stars. The junior class will be just as barren, only consisting of Kuderca and Izzy Pacho.

Arizona can also reload through the transfer portal. Oregon did that under second-year coach Melyssa Lombardi. Before the 2020 season was canceled, the Ducks were in the Top 10 despite having a dismal 2019 campaign.

@Pac12lovefest: Do you think Mike Candrea will retire if this star-studded senior class wins the World Series?

No way. In my four years of covering Arizona softball, never have I gotten the sense that Candrea has even considered retiring. He is 64 going on 34.

“When you have a passion for something, it’s amazing how 35 years has gone by,” he told me in March. “I don’t feel like I’m that old. I think young people keep you young.”

What’s cool is that whenever Candrea does decide to step away, UA legends Caitlin Lowe and/or Taryne Mowatt will be waiting in the wings to take over and keep the tradition going.

@booradley1968: Have any of the three freshmen hired agents? What’s your best guess about Zeke Nnaji or Josh Green staying?

Zeke Nnaji signed with Adam Pensack of Pensack Sports Management Group. No word on Nico Mannion or Josh Green. But there is still zero chance they return for their sophomore seasons.

@tcampos583: What do we have to do to get Arizona basketball new uniforms?

I don’t know, but Arizona is definitely due for a fresh look. Here are the seasons Arizona has introduced a new uniform design:

  • 2007-08
  • 2010-11
  • 2014-15
  • 2016-17

One year with those hideous gradient uniforms was enough, let alone four. My proposal? Just modernize these and never change them again:

Gilbert Arenas #0