As soon as the Arizona Wildcats won the WNIT, Adia Barnes transitioned into recruiting mode, needing to fill two roster spots via the transfer market.
She said she was looking for players who could check two boxes: help the Wildcats on the court and fit the team’s do-good culture off of it.
It is that second requirement that made the addition of Oklahoma transfer Shaina Pellington particularly interesting.
She can definitely play. In her two years in Norman, Pellington averaged 13.1 points and 3.1 rebounds per game on 46 percent shooting. In 2018, she was the Big 12 Freshman of the Year. She is also one of just two college players on the Canadian National Team.
But the way her sophomore season ended raises some question marks. Pellington was suspended for a game for violating team rules, and saw her playing time dip as the year progressed, failing to appear in the final five games of the season.
Oklahoma coach Sherri Cole “indicated Pellington’s play during practice, and select games” was the reason, according to the Norman Transcript.
But Barnes said she believes in second chances and deemed Pellington worthy of one after getting to know her.
“I love her hunger, her work ethic, and I think once you have to leave somewhere, and it’s your last opportunity somewhere, you also value things a little bit better,” Barnes said. “I’m sure she looks back and there’s decisions she probably made in college—just like all of us in our first couple years—that you wouldn’t make now. And that comes with maturity. But I think she’s very happy here. I think she’s a player that will really help us on and off the court. She’s really smart. She’s very perceptive...and she’s won and she’s played at a high level.”
Pellington, who chose Arizona over several schools, said her interaction with Barnes during the recruiting process was “pretty straightforward.”
“She kept it really short and sweet,” Pellington said. “It was ‘we’re very interested in you and we would love for you to come and play here.’ And that’s kind of how my visit happened. It was just telling me and I was all for it. I like the relationship I was able to build with her, and I trusted her.
“She’s a younger coach, and she’s not just a coach that speaks from no experience. She’s played the game at the highest possible level, so I would say that is one thing that I respect so much about her is that she knows what it takes.”
Pellington said Barnes didn’t ask her about how things ended at Oklahoma.
“Because on my visit, she wanted to keep the visit about me,” Pellington said. “Not just what I had gone through, but who I am as a person. Basketball-wise, they knew a lot about me already, so it was solely focused on me and that’s what I loved about my visit.”
As for the report about Pellington not practicing hard at Oklahoma, she subtly denied it.
“There were a lot of things said, and I don’t know what I can and can’t comment on, but all I can say is you don’t have the accolades that I have if you don’t practice hard,” she said.
Pellington transferred from Oklahoma for “a lot of reasons” but boiled it down to the fact that it simply “wasn’t the greatest fit.”
“I’ve learned a lot,” she said. “I mean, I’ve made my fair share of mistakes. I’m human, we all do. But I wouldn’t change it at all. I learned a lot, I grew a lot, and it is what it is, you know?”
If Pellington’s work ethic truly is an issue, it has not showed in her early moments as a Wildcat. Barnes said Arizona’s practices have already been more competitive than they were last season, partly because Pellington is proving to be a formidable matchup for star point guard Aari McDonald.
Pellington said McDonald is the first person she’s played with who can “match me speed-wise.”
“Shaina is an athlete that can stick with Aari at times, and so I think it’s going to make Aari better, and I think it’s gonna make Shaina better every single day,” Barnes said. “So I’m really excited to see that because it’s awesome to see in practice.”
Pellington’s new teammates have been in awe of her athleticism and aggression, especially when it comes to driving to the rim. When she gets a head of steam, she is hard to stop.
“She definitely gets up and down the court,” said Amari Carter, a grad transfer from Penn State who is Pellington’s roommate. “She loves to attack, so I think that will definitely put pressure on defenses when she gets to play.”
Pellington cannot play in 2019-20 due to NCAA transfer rules, but plans to use her sit-out year to improve her 3-point shooting among other things. She shot just 7 for 53 from behind the arc last season. Pellington said playing in the FIBA circuit for the Canadian National Team this summer has eased the college game for her.
“You’re playing alongside pros, WNBA players, Olympians,” she said. “So I mean I go there and I come back and everything’s just so much slower for me. Every decision becomes easier because you train with the top of the top there. So I’m always grateful when I get the opportunity to play for my country, and I’m always excited about the things I learned and able to come back and bring to my team.”
Pellington has high hopes for her future, and doesn’t sound like someone who’s unwilling to work to achieve them.
“I want to go as far as I possibly can go,” she said. “If I can make it to the WNBA, that’s my dream since I was a little kid. Playing in the Olympics as well—and overseas.”
Oklahoma transfer and former Big 12 Freshman of the Year Shaina Pellington discusses why she chose Arizona and what she hopes to improve on in her sit-out yearPosted by AZ Desert Swarm on Friday, October 4, 2019