At Pac-12 Media Day in October, Arizona head coach Adia Barnes had a strong opinion when asked about freshmen who transfer immediately after their first seasons. When asked by a reporter from Boulder’s Daily Camera about former Wildcat Aaronette Vonleh, Barnes didn’t hold back in her opinions.
“I want players who want to be at Arizona,” Barnes said. “And if you come to a top team, and you’re not playing your freshman year and you’re not willing to put in the work and get better, then that’s on you. If you want to go somewhere else, that’s okay with me. I’m perfectly fine with that, and I will sign the paper and let you go.”
This week, Barnes was more reserved in her statements. She said she hadn’t been asked about Vonleh much this year, but she was happy that the sophomore was doing well with the Buffaloes.
“I’ve known her for so long,” Barnes said. “Love her. She’s a great kid, great family. I was among the first to offer scholarships, like eighth grade. Played for one of my friends and my former teammates at Arizona. But I think that everybody has to be where they’re most happy and when you look at it, we had so many post players last year... She would probably have played 15-20 minutes a game this year. But I think she’s happy. She’s flourishing. She’s doing so well. She has a great head coach. I love JR [Payne]. So, I think that things happen the way they are, but I think that you’re gonna see so much more of that. I mean, you’re gonna see, I think every year, every top program, you’re gonna see a lot of transitions. I think even more now than ever, because of all the transfer stuff and I think this generation, there’s not a lot of resiliency. They want immediate gratification.”
Vonleh is averaging 11.5 points and 3.8 rebounds per game in 24.2 minutes while starting alongside Quay Miller. The pair gives the Buffaloes a strong inside presence, although neither is as tall as the frontcourts Arizona has faced of late. Both are 6-foot-3, although they are very strong.
There’s no question that Arizona could have used Vonleh last week when the Wildcats were down to two healthy post players while going up against multiple teams with players in the 6-foot-7 and 6-foot-8 range.
That won’t be a problem this week. Freshman post Maya Nnaji is now out of concussion protocol and has been in practice. Arizona also won’t be facing so many extremely tall post players.
The Wildcats will face a tough team in Boulder and a tough situation, though. Arizona State had to forfeit both of its games this weekend due to injuries. That means that both Colorado and Utah can spend all of their time focused on Arizona.
It also moved both teams up to a tie with Arizona at second in the Pac-12 standings. All three teams now have a 4-1 record although Arizona is the only one of the three that has actually played five games.
The Buffaloes are riding high after handing No. 10 Utah its first loss of the season. It was a game they needed to prove themselves, because they played a typically weak out-of-conference schedule. and lost to the only two good teams they had played.
Arizona has one advantage that is especially important when going to the Mountain schools, which involves flying between the two states between games. In the past few years, the women’s team has had the advantage of charter flights that the men have enjoyed for years.
“Chartering flights is...a game changer,” Barnes said. “Because after the game, get food, go. I mean, it’s like if you think about it realistically and like as a conference, it is a competitive advantage if you charter. You are at a disadvantage when you don’t. Maybe if like LA there’s so many flights. You’re still at a disadvantage, because the whole process is longer.”
It’s not just about the comfort, either. Barnes sees advantages for the health of her players.
“When you’re a charter you’re like pulling up at four and you’re leaving at 4:15,” Barnes said. “They’re checking your ID, you’re not walking to the airport, so less risk for flu, for strep, for COVID. So you’re staying healthier. It’s way more efficient on time. You’re off your legs more. You have more freedom on the flight. You can control the food on the flight.”
In the past, she said it was especially difficult to have a Sunday game in Salt Lake City. The games are usually scheduled to start at noon. After the game, there was nowhere to go as the team waited for their evening flight because everything was closed on Sunday. It was either spending hours at the airport or, occasionally, getting a few rooms at the hotel for the afternoon so people could rest. Now, they’re able to just get on their charter and go back to Tucson.
No. 14 Arizona Wildcats (14-2, 4-1 Pac-12) @ RV Colorado (13-3, 4-1 Pac-12)
When: Friday, Jan. 13, 2023 at 7 p.m. MST
Where: CU Events Center in Boulder, Colo.
TV: Pac-12 Network, Pac-12 Arizona, and Pac-12 Mountain
Streaming: Streaming is available via the Pac-12 Now app or online. Both options require a subscription via a TV provider. Streaming is also available with a subscription to a TV package that includes the Pac-12 Network via Sling, Fubo, or Vidgo.
Radio: Listen to the call by Derrick Palmer online on The Varsity Network or on the radio at KTUC 1400 AM.
Stats: Colorado Live Stats
Rankings: Arizona is ranked No. 14 by the Associated Press and No. 10 by the WBCA. Colorado is receiving votes in both polls.
Projections: While Her Hoop Stats projects an Arizona win at home or at a neutral site, in this game played in Boulder, the service gives Colorado that edge with a 52.6 percent win probability. The Buffs are favored by a very slim 0.7 points. The point total is projected to be 129.0.