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Arizona women’s basketball season review: Shaina Pellington

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Canada’s Shaina Pellington plays against Cuba during the... Photo by Ron Palmer/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The Arizona Wildcats never got to complete their historic 2019-20 season. After setting one record after another and securing what was sure to be a chance to host the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament, the team saw its drive for a special ending to the year stopped in its tracks when the coronavirus pandemic shut down the sports world in mid-March.

While we’ll never know what this team could have accomplished in the NCAA Tournament, a full regular season and conference tournament worth of competition is more than enough to assess each individual player’s performance.

Shaina Pellington

  • Year: Junior
  • Height: 5-foot-8
  • Position: Guard
  • 2019-20 statistics: No stats

Season breakdown

After playing at Oklahoma for two seasons and being named the 2018 Big XII Freshman of the Year, Shaina Pellington left the Sooners over issues that spilled into the local media. She got her second chance in Tucson when she transferred to Arizona before the season. Her only comments on the matter came at local media day, when she responded to a question by saying that she wouldn’t have gotten where she was if she didn’t practice hard.

All evidence was that she did practice hard at Arizona. My first glimpse of her on the court was in the Richard Jefferson gym where she and Sam Thomas went head-to-head in a defensive drill. Assistant coach Salvo Coppa eventually had to stop the drill because neither wanted to give an inch—even if she had to bend the rules of the drill a bit.

On Mother’s Day, head coach Adia Barnes said on Instagram Live that Pellington would try to come up with her own plays during practice even though she wouldn’t be in the games. Barnes praised the high level of competitiveness Pellington showed throughout her sit-out year.

Barnes has talked all season about the speed of Pellington. She said that the transfer was the only one on the team who was close to Aari McDonald in that regard. The coach is definitely looking forward to having the duo in the backcourt next season.

Arizona fans didn’t get to see Pellington in cardinal and navy this season, but there were plenty of opportunities to watch the future Wildcat on the court. Over the winter, she played in two tournaments to help the Canadian national team qualify for the Tokyo Olympics. She scored 11 points off the bench in the game that officially qualified them for a berth.

The Canadian women—who were ranked No. 5 in the world—lost only once in their 12 qualifying games. That loss came to the No. 1 team, Team USA.

The players who would be heading to the games had not been announced yet when IOC announced the postponement, but there was every indication that Pellington would be among them. When the team is finally announced, Pellington hopes to be one of two Arizona women headed to the delayed games in 2021. Nigeria will likely include former Wildcat star Ify Ibekwe.

Quotable

Before the season, Barnes talked about what Pellington brought to Arizona and why she wasn’t concerned about the experience at Oklahoma: “I love her hunger, her work ethic. And I think once you have to leave somewhere, and it’s your last opportunity somewhere, you also value things a little bit better. I’m sure she looks back and there’s decisions she probably made in college—just like all of us in our first couple years—that you wouldn’t make now, and that comes with maturity. But I think she’s very happy here. I think she’s a player that will really help us on and off the court.”

What’s next?

As has been the case for the past several years, Arizona will have a lot of talented guards next season. There are no guarantees, but everything Barnes says indicates that Pellington has the inside track on starting in the backcourt alongside McDonald next year.