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Australian guard Tara Manumaleuga joins Arizona women’s basketball

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Photo via @KeilMoorePSB/Twitter

Australian guard Tara Manumaleuga has joined the Arizona Wildcats women’s basketball team and practiced Tuesday for the first time since arriving in Tucson.

The freshman was announced as a member of the 2019 recruiting class in November, but graduated from high school in Australia in December, allowing her to join the Wildcats at the semester break.

While Manumaleuga is technically eligible to play immediately, she will redshirt and debut in 2019-20. She was not available to the media Wednesday, but will be in the coming weeks.

“She’s going to practice with us, get in shape, get stronger, get repetitions, learn the plays, which I think is a big advantage for next year because it’s kind of like a redshirt year but it’s a half a year,” UA coach Adia Barnes said before Wednesday’s practice. “That’s why we did that.”

Listed at 5-foot-9, Manumaleuga averaged 12 points per game in the 2018 FIBA U17 Women’s Basketball World Cup as a member of the New Zealand national team. (She was born in Australia, but her father is from New Zealand.)

Barnes envisions Manumaleuga playing shooting guard and small forward.

“She has good size and she’s a good shooter,” Barnes said. “So I think she’ll bring us that experience and that depth from the guard position, and someone that can really shoot the ball. And on top of that she’s a great kid, great part of the culture. We always talk about culture is the most important thing for us so we’re not bringing in anybody who doesn’t fit that.”

Manumaleuga is the cousin of former Arizona tight end Brandon Manumaleuna. She is one of four international players that comprise UA’s 2019 recruiting class, which you can read about here.

“We have some different connections through some friends,” Barnes said of landing Manumaleuga. “It wasn’t like a direct line connection but (assistant) Morgan (Valley), myself, (assistant) Salvo (Coppa), we looked at a lot of film, talked to her a lot, got to know her. She came here in the summer on an official visit. She was also being recruited by some different Pac-12 schools and Iowa and some other schools, but her brother played in the States so we had a good connection with her brother and talked to people we know in Australia, obviously. She kind of fit everything we’re looking for.”

Barnes said Arizona is still looking to add two or three more players to its 2019 class. It has spots to fill after losing freshman Shalyse Smith and sophomore Kiana Barkhoff to transfer this fall.

“We’ll have another six or seven (freshmen), but then in the future that’s not what I want,” Barnes said. “I don’t want six or seven and going through this every year. After that we’ll have smaller classes.”