Signing week was a whirlwind time for Arizona women’s basketball. The Wildcats signed their highest-rated recruit since sophomore Cate Reese with two-sport star Lauren Ware putting her name on a national letter of intent for both basketball and volleyball. She’s joined in the class by Turkish point guard Derin Erdogan.
The team spent most of the week on the road, though, including their trip to Austin for the big win over Texas. After their return to Tucson, coach Adia Barnes finally had time to talk about her class.
Compared to last year when Arizona brought in five freshmen and two transfers, it’s a small group. Barnes says that’s what they want to see going forward.
“We don’t need a whole lot,” she said. “And, then, people forget we have Shaina (Pellington) sitting out. So next year already...we’re going to be able to play Shaina and then Lauren and Derin, so three players again. But that’s ideally in the big picture what you want. You don’t want years of introducing seven new players. It’s just a lot, so we want to even out the classes where we have three, then we have probably three the next year, and then two the next year. So we’ll slowly have smaller classes.”
Three of the Wildcats’ Pac-12 opponents signed classes currently ranked in the top 20 by ESPN with Oregon taking the nation’s top class. Utah’s class was originally ranked No. 20, but has since fallen just outside the top 20. Arizona was one of eight Pac-12 teams that signed at least one top-100 player with 16 of ESPN’s top 100 opting for a school in the conference.
Who are Arizona’s two recruits and what will they bring to Tucson?
High school: Century High
Hometown: Bismark, North Dakota
Height: 6 feet, 5 inches
Rankings: No. 22 overall, No. 3 post (ESPN); No. 13 overall, No. 4 post (Prospects Nation)
Adia’s assessment: “Lauren is a 6-5 versatile post player. Tremendous footwork, a great touch around the basket going right or left. A good 17-foot shot. She’s going to be a star in the Pac-12. So, we’re really excited to get her. And she’s a two-sport athlete.... She’ll be impactful for volleyball and she’ll be impactful for us. So it’s not a lot of players that can do that, that are good enough to be elite on both teams, but she has a potential to do that.
“But for basketball, she’s got good timing. And volleyball, because she’s a great volleyball player, it gives her really good hands and good timing. So, she’s gonna help us a lot. But the unfortunate part is we won’t have her for most of the non-conference. But we’ll have our when we really, really need her in the Pac-12, before it all starts.”
High school career: Ware will be one of those top-100 players making her way to a Pac-12 school next year. She moved up the ESPN HoopGurlz rankings even after she was injured in a summer volleyball tournament and was forced to sit out her senior seasons of both volleyball and basketball.
When Ware verbally committed to Arizona this summer, she was the No. 30 recruit in the nation according to ESPN. The latest rankings have her at No. 22 and the No. 3 post player in the class. Prospects Nation has her at No. 13 overall and as the No. 4 post. Either way, she’s impressed a lot of people.
It’s not difficult to see why.
Ware averaged 17.3 points per game to go along with 11.1 rebounds, 4.6 blocks and 2.1 assists as a junior in high school. She won the North Dakota Gatorade Player of the Year awards for basketball in both 2017 and 2018.
How she fits at Arizona: Arizona currently has five frontcourt players on their fifteen-player roster. The Wildcats only lose Dominique McBryde after this season, but that still leaves a big hole.
McBryde sat out her junior year after transferring from Purdue, but she has started 40 of the 42 games Arizona has played since she became eligible. She has appeared in 41 of the 42. Barnes relies heavily on McBryde not just for her play, but also because she helps the younger frontcourt players.
Ware won’t immediately be called on to take that leadership role, but she could make an imposing frontcourt duo with Cate Reese when volleyball season ends. She will have to earn that spot first, though.
When Ware arrives, she will join Semaj Smith, another 6-foot-5 post player who was ranked in the top 100 out of high school. The competition between the two, along with Sevval Gül, should be positive for the entire frontcourt.
If her rebounding rate translates to college, it could be her biggest contribution to a team that often struggles to rebound the ball. Barnes has described the ability to rebound well as “a mentality.” She doesn’t feel that anyone on the current team has that mentality. Ware could bring it.
Current teams: Istanbul Universitesi SK and Turkish national team
Hometown: Istanbul, Turkey
Height: 5 feet, 7 inches
Adia’s assessment: “Derin’s a strong, powerful guard. She can play the one, she can play the two. She’s really fearless. She looks to score. She’s very smart, but she’s like a gamer. She’s not the typical body type of a European guard. She’s strong and finishes well. And great mentality. Comes from a very good club overseas. Mom used to play, is very involved in the federation in Turkey. So she’s going to be a really good player for us. But just like freshman, she’s gonna have to learn, just like the transition with Sevval. I think another area that’s going to really help Derin is the fact that Sevval’s here, just like Lucia (Alonso) has helped Helena (Pueyo).”
Club and international career: While Erdogan often plays point guard for her national team, she’s listed as the starting shooting guard for Istanbul Universitesi SK. The club is currently 8-0 in the Turkish Women’s Basketball League (TKBL) with their next game scheduled for Monday, Nov. 25. Over those eight games, Erdogan has averaged 10.1 ppg, 4.3 rpg and 4.9 apg.
She has played for the Turkish national team at various levels for the past several years. This summer, she spent time on both the U18 and U20 teams representing her country in Division B of the European Women’s Championship at both age levels. At just 17 years old, she is often the youngest player on both her national and club teams.
As a distributor, Erdogan had the most international success with the U18 team this summer. She averaged 6.7 points, 3.6 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game. As a scorer, she had a slightly better tournament with the U20 team. There, she had 8.0 ppg, 3.7 rpg and 2.0 apg.
How she fits at Arizona: With seven returning players who can play one of the guard positions, Erdogan will have plenty of time to develop. Arizona will lose Alonso, Tee Tee Starks and Amari Carter at the wing positions, but Pellington will be eligible to play next year.
With the logjam at the positions Erdogan plays, it is unlikely that she will be called upon to make an immediate on-court impact. Barnes looks to get all of her players as many opportunities as she can, though, and it’s fair to expect that she will do the same for Erdogan.