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Spanish wing Helena Pueyo commits to Arizona women’s basketball

Make that five international prospects in UA’s 2019 class

Photo courtesy Arizona Athletics

The Arizona women’s basketball team continues to corner the market on international prospects.

Adia Barnes and company received a commitment from Spaniard Helena Pueyo on Wednesday, their fifth 2019 commitment. All of them hail from overseas.

“I’ve been waiting for this one for a while,” said Barnes, unable to comment on Pueyo until she officially signs.

A 6-foot wing, Pueyo averaged 8.7 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.1 assists in the 2018 FIBA U17 Women’s Basketball World Cup. She also plays for Segle XXI in Spain’s second-best league, where she is averaging a team-high 12.8 points, 3.7 rebounds and 2.2 assists with a shooting line of .467/.387/.921.

Arizona’s four other 2019 recruits are Latvian guard Mara Mote, Turkish post player Sevval Gul, Icelandic forward Birna Beonnysdottir, and Australian guard Tara Manumaleuga. They have already signed and Manumaleuga actually joined the Wildcats at the semester break.

“I didn’t think I would have so many foreigners in that class. It just kind of worked out like that,” Barnes said in the fall. “There were certain specific kids that I went after for specific needs.”

Barnes said Wednesday that Arizona may add one more player to the class.

“It’s some pieces that we really needed and wanted,” she said of its makeup. “In the future, I don’t want classes of six or seven. It’s really hard. You have to start over. So ideally later as we continue to grow the program, which we are, it’ll be a smaller class. So if it’s six this year, next year it’s two. Then it’s two or three.”

Barnes is “really proud” of the direction of the program. The Wildcats are currently 17-10 overall and 7-9 in the Pac-12, capturing their first winning season since 2010-11. They will return their entire starting five next season.

“We’ve done a lot and this is our third year and we’re continuing to get better,” Barnes said. “And now better pieces are coming in that fit. I think when you first get a job you’re just trying to put stuff together. Then you get great kids and have a great base that are going to be really good players.”

Arizona also has a commitment from 2020 Turkish guard Derin Erdogan. In November, Barnes brushed off any concern that Arizona is recruiting too many international players.

“I don’t worry because that’s not going to be the whole future of the program,” she said. “But right now, I’m not going to not take a player because she’s foreign. Right now I can’t get the No. 1 player in the country … but in a couple years we will get them, so right now if I can get a higher player that is recruited by the whole Pac-12 and Ohio State and South Florida and a lot of great schools, I’d be crazy not to take them.”

Plus, Barnes is fond of the way the game is played overseas, having played there professionally.

“I don’t want players that aren’t fundamental,” she said in November. “It’s my job to teach better fundamentals and work on skills, but I want high basketball IQs … and that’s probably why I’m attracted to a lot of foreign kids.

“I played a lot of time overseas and if I didn’t play a lot of time overseas, I don’t think I would have looked so much overseas, just because I understand the game, I understand the fit. If I didn’t have those experiences I probably wouldn’t know to. A lot of people aren’t going to go to Serbia. I’m not scared to go. My job is to build the program the best way that I can and right now this is the best way and it’ll work. We have to have confidence in that.”

Barnes cannot comment on Pueyo until she signs, so here is what she has said about UA’s other 2019 recruits:

On Mote: “She’s a guard, she can score it. She can play the 2, she can play the 1, she’s athletic, good in transition, good in the open floor, good 3-point shot, so really kind of what we needed.”

On Manumaleuga “She’s a specialist, a 3-point shooter. but she has good size. She’s 5-10, 5-11, can get to the rim on straight line drives.”

On Gul: “She is a skilled post player. She’s a player that has a great shot, she can shoot the 3, she can shoot from the high post, she’s really smart, a good passer, and she has good size at 6-4.”

On Beonnysdottir: “Birna from Iceland is a versatile face-up 4. She can shoot the 3, pick and pop, plays a lot of our style, because we play 4-out 1-in, and she has the potential to be a good player, too. So if we add the other two players that I have in mind, which I can’t talk about yet, then we have a very strong class.”