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Virginia Tech grad transfer Trinity Baptiste isn’t Arizona’s new Dominique McBryde

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Trinity Baptiste
Photo courtesy Virginia Tech

The Arizona Wildcats may have found their Dominique McBryde replacement—and “possibly even an upgrade”—by adding Virginia Tech transfer Trinity Baptiste, opined ESPN’s Graham Hays who ranked the forward as the No. 5 graduate transfer in the country.

Arizona coach Adia Barnes sees it a bit differently. While McBryde and Baptiste are both 6-foot-1 and shoot a high percentage from 3, their similarities pretty much end there.

“I think the difference is Trinity is going to be a stronger inside player,” Barnes said. “I think more rebounding, more isolating, more of an attack mentality, probably a little bit more aggressive offensively.”

The numbers bear that out. Baptiste averaged 9.5 points and eight shots in 23 minutes with the Hokies this season. McBryde averaged 6.9 PPG and 5.5 shots in 28 minutes as a senior.

As for rebounding, Baptiste tracked down 6.4 boards per game. McBryde, 3.5.

“Rebounding is one of the things that I thought we did not do well and that was one area we had to get (better) in, so I knew she makes us better in that area, like tremendously better,” Barnes said of Baptiste. “But Dominique was very smart and Dominique was never forcing shots and stuff, so Trinity will have to fit the role.”

Baptiste could have a hard time replacing McBryde’s defensive prowess too. McBryde’s versatility was a big reason the Wildcats were elite on that end, even though Sam Thomas and Aari McDonald receive the most recognition from folks outside the program.

“Dominique is one of the smartest basketball players I’ve ever coached, so I think that is hard to fill,” Barnes said. “Dominique made us special because she could guard a 4, she could guard a 5, she could guard a 3. So we switched a lot when she was in. We could switch 1 through 4.”

A surprise signing

That Baptiste signed with the Wildcats came out of left field to anyone that follows women’s basketball closely.

Barnes, too.

Because when Baptiste announced she was transferring from Virginia Tech, she cited a desire to move closer to her hometown of Tampa, Florida. She even communicated that to Arizona’s staff after virtually meeting with them—then changed her mind and decided Tucson could be a good fit for her.

“I did not think we’d have a chance,” Barnes said. “And I know she’s a beast. I was watching her Synergy (highlights), I was so excited. I was like, ‘whoa, she’s a missing piece that we need.’ And at first, I called her and we had a really good conversation. And the next day, she texted me and she was like, ‘oh, coach, I’m going to stay close to home.’ And I was like, ‘oh man’ because I thought we had a really good conversation, she was engaged. And then she basically broke up with me the next morning, and then she called me back.

“And then I was like, ‘oh, did you change your mind, have a change of heart?’ Then we just started talking. She started watching more film, just talked about what we’re doing here. She was really excited and that’s never happened to me. Then she decided to sign and I’m really, really excited about her.”

It’s the second straight offseason Arizona has landed a graduate transfer. Around this time last year, the Wildcats added Amari Carter from Penn State. She proved to be invaluable during the team’s historic 2019-20 season, starting all 31 games, providing veteran leadership and, after a slow start, emerging as Arizona’s steadiest 3-point shooter.

Will Arizona continue to be a player in the grad transfer market moving forward?

“Ideally in a perfect situation I don’t want to really go after a grad transfer every year,” Barnes said. “But I think the difference is when you lose a Dominique, you’re younger in that position. Someone that’s really good that can add (to your team) right away, you take them. And I think you’re going to see most programs do that...because you can get a lot better fast.

“Because think about it: we were preseason No. 7 before that signing. And I think with [Baptiste] we could have even bumped up a little bit. In a perfect world, you don’t want to do that, but they’re really attractive because a lot of times they bring you leadership. You know what they’ve done, they have experience and they add value. But I wouldn’t take [a grad transfer] that wasn’t an impact player...because I’d rather develop a younger person.”