When it comes to recruiting international players, Adia Barnes is the master of it.
Since taking over as the Arizona Wildcats women’s basketball coach in April 2016, the Wildcats have landed roughly a dozen foreign recruits from countries like Australia, Spain, Turkey, Iceland, and Latvia.
Barnes has plenty of connections overseas because she played there professionally and her husband Salvo Coppa, a UA assistant and Italian, used to live and coach there.
The Arizona men’s basketball team has recruited international players before—and had some pretty good success with them —but took it to a whole new level in this recruiting cycle by signing four international players in Kerr Kriisa (Estonia), Daniel Batcho (France), Bennedict Mathurin (Canada) and Tibet Gorener (Turkey).
Turns out, men’s coach Sean Miller reached out to Barnes for some insight.
“We actually talked. It’s funny because he told me he was recruiting some internationals,” Barnes said. “...I actually sent him a link to this global stuff, it’s a link we use tracking all the embassies and stuff, so I actually sent it to them last week. He’s going to sign a few, so he’s excited.”
I asked Adia Barnes if she helped Sean Miller recruit international players to Arizona, and she did!— Ryan Kelapire (@RKelapire) May 1, 2020
"He's going to sign a few, so he's excited." pic.twitter.com/k9uhAH1vHB
The men’s team is having to replace eight players, and one hope is that by recruiting international players in lieu of elite American prospects Arizona has a chance to build something that lasts as opposed to rebuilding/reloading every year because of the NBA Draft.
Barnes, whose star player returned for her redshirt senior season instead of entering the WNBA Draft, feels for Miller.
“His situation is very difficult,” she said. “You have to recruit like eight people a year. I would not want to do that. You have such a big turnover every year. I think with international kids, there are going to be some one-and-dones but I also think there’s a different level of motivation sometimes. If you look at the situations overseas, they’re nothing like they are here. Maybe if you get to the highest level of Spanish league or something, but I think sometimes they’re a lot more hungry and the work ethic is different sometimes, for women especially.”
She added: “The risk with international kids is how they adjust to everything.”
Barnes has also said before that international players tend to be more skilled (but sometimes less athletic) than American-born prospects.
“I don’t want players that aren’t fundamental,” Barnes said. “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.”