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Four Arizona players nab Pac-12 honors

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: FEB 16 Women’s Washington State at Arizona Photo by Jacob Snow/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It was a record-setting year for the Arizona Wildcats and the Pac-12 took notice. Aari McDonald was named the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year and joined two of her teammates as All-Pac-12.

After being named a semifinalist for the Women’s Citizen Naismith Trophy earlier in the day, McDonald joined sophomore Cate Reese on the fifteen-player All-Pac-12 team selected by the league's 12 coaches. Junior Sam Thomas was named All-Pac-12 honorable mention. It marked the first time a trio of Wildcats had made the list since 2000.

Thomas joined McDonald on the five-player All-Defensive team making the Wildcats the only team in the league to place two players in that group.

Freshman guard Helena Pueyo was All-Freshman honorable mention.

McDonald became the first Wildcat to be named Defensive Player of the Year since Ify Ibekwe in 2011. Ibekwe won the award twice in her career at Arizona, also claiming it from the league’s media in 2010.

For McDonald, it was her first time as the conference’s top defender, but it was her second straight year as a member of both the All-Pac-12 and All-Defensive teams. The junior leads the Pac-12 in scoring (20.3 points) and steals (2.5) per game. She is also in the running for national defensive player of the year honors.

Reese made her first appearance as All-Pac-12 after being named All-Freshman last season. In her two seasons in Tucson she has reached sixth on the program’s all-time list for double-doubles with 15.

Thomas was named Pac-12 All-Freshman in 2018 and All-Academic First Team in 2019 before garnering her first appearances on the All-Defensive team and the All-Pac-12 honorable mention list. Her versatility is underscored by her status as the only Wildcat ever to have at least 100 blocks and 100 3-pointers in her career.

In a year that saw numerous breakout performances by freshmen across the league, Pueyo used her role as sixth woman on an experienced team to garner All-Freshman honorable mention.

The Wildcats now take their game to Las Vegas where they will await the winner between California and Arizona State in the Pac-12 Tournament. Arizona plays on Friday at 12:30 p.m. MST.