Usually it’s the Arizona men’s basketball team that loses underclassmen to the pros, but the women’s team could be facing a similar situation in April.
Redshirt junior point guard Aari McDonald was listed as one of the top 12 draft-eligible prospects in the 2020 WNBA Draft by WNBA.com’s Michelle Smith.
Here is why:
McDonald was among the nation’s leading scorers last season for one of the country’s up-and-coming teams, leading the Wildcats to the WNIT title. McDonald is the focal point of every defensive scheme and yet still gets her points on a consistent basis, suggesting that she’s capable of being an offensive spark. She is rewriting the record books at Arizona, owning the school’s single-season scoring record and is one of two players in Pac-12 history with 800 points and 150 assists in a single season.
McDonald, who redshirted in 2017-18 after transferring in from Washington, is eligible because she will be four years removed from high school by the time the draft rolls around on April 12. If selected, she would become the first Wildcat drafted into the WNBA since Davellyn Whyte was selected 16th overall in 2013.
The question is whether or not McDonald will declare after this season or stay for her redshirt senior season.
Players who were selected in the most recent WNBA Draft will make anywhere from $189,000 to $237,000 over the next four years, a sizable chunk of change that could be hard to turn down. It is not clear if McDonald is on track to graduate in four years.
Arizona coach Adia Barnes said last spring that she envisions McDonald playing in the WNBA one day.
“But she has to get better,” Barnes said. “She has to be a little bit more efficient with the ball. She’s got to improve her mid-range game ... and she has to be a higher percentage 3-point shooter. But I think also as we get better, her percentages will get better because she won’t work so hard for shots. And I think that as our players get better, she won’t have as many turnovers. But that’s still areas that she has to get better, but I think she has a bright future. I think she has the potential to be a really high draft pick, but she’s got to work and she’s got to want it. It doesn’t just come.”
In the meantime, McDonald will spearhead an Arizona team that is hoping to make its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2005.