Arizona Wildcats fans shouldn’t panic when redshirt junior Aari McDonald goes through Senior Day ceremonies on Sunday.
Head coach Adia Barnes said it has nothing to do with the star guard’s WNBA Draft status.
“She’s always planned on doing that,” Barnes said Wednesday. “It wasn’t something that just came up. She’s graduating so she wants to walk with her classmates.”
The same thing happened last year when Tee Tee Starks participated in Senior Day ceremonies, only to return for a fifth season.
Barnes said McDonald won’t decide on declaring for the WNBA Draft “for a while.” One mock draft recently projected the UA guard as the No. 15 pick in the 2020 draft. Before the season, WNBA.com’s Michelle Smith listed McDonald as one of the top 12 draft-eligible prospects.
The new WNBA Collective Bargaining Agreement is set to raise the average player salary to $130,000 while minimum contracts will increase from $42,000 to $57,000, making for an interesting decision for McDonald.
However, in the fall Barnes outlined why it makes sense for McDonald to return for her redshirt senior season. She can earn a master’s degree, boost her draft stock, become the best guard in the Pac-12 (and maybe even the country), and continue raising the UA program to new heights.
“So financially, it would be even more beneficial to wait a year,” Barnes said in September. “It’s not something we talk about, it’s something she could think about later. But I mean, it’s a pretty good situation a year from now.”
McDonald (20.5 PPG) is currently eighth in the country in scoring and first in the Pac-12. She also leads the conference in steals per game (2.6) and was recently named a Naismith Defensive Player of the Year Semifinalist.
McDonald is 100 percent, will play vs. Stanford and Cal
McDonald missed both games on last weekend’s road trip with a lower left leg injury, but Barnes said McDonald will play vs. No. 4 Stanford and Cal this weekend.
“I’m not gonna play her 40 minutes, but she’ll play her normal minutes and she’s feeling good,” Barnes said. “There wasn’t a good time to rest her, but that was the best time if any. Because that was the time we’re going on a road trip where we can try to get a win and then come back home, our last weekend, fan appreciation night, senior night, right before the (Pac-12) Tournament so that was the best time to rest her, and it was needed and she’s way better now. So, she’ll be 100 percent but we have a lot of basketball ahead of us.”
The fourth-place Wildcats (22-5, 11-5 Pac-12) have already clinched a first-round bye in the Pac-12 Tournament for the first time ever, but are still striving for a third-place finish so they can avoid Oregon in the third round.
Arizona is also trying to lock up the right to host the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament, which would require securing a top-16 overall seed.
Redshirt junior Aari McDonald was listed as a top prospect in the 2020 WNBA Draft and could declare after this season.— Ryan Kelapire (@RKelapire) September 25, 2019
But Adia Barnes outlined why returning to @ArizonaWBB for her senior year will be a “tremendous opportunity.” pic.twitter.com/9hb4nIDvxT