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One thing Helena Pueyo can improve in sophomore season with Arizona women’s basketball

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: JAN 24 Women’s Arizona State at Arizona Photo by Jacob Snow/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Players can start returning to campus for voluntary workouts on June 15, according to the Pac-12. While members of the Arizona Wildcats women’s basketball team may not be back that soon, the extended period of downtime will require them to start thinking about conditioning sooner rather than later. Then, they can start thinking about improving their games.

What does each player need to improve on? We are taking a look at the returners to discuss the biggest areas of improvement they need to address. Links to the previous installments of this series can be found at the bottom.

Next up is Helena Pueyo.

Getting to the line

Helena Pueyo was recruited primarily because of her shooting ability. It was hoped that she could help spread the floor for Aari McDonald and Cate Reese to better operate in the paint. Her stats say she is very efficient at that.

Her scoring is heavily reliant on her 38.3 percent outside shooting percentage with 63.4 percent of her points coming from beyond the arc. She ranks in the top 10 percent of Division I in 3-point percentage, according to stats service Her Hoop Stats.

Pueyo was also a very solid defender in the 2019-20 season, especially for a freshman. She may not have the quickness of some of her teammates, but her length and anticipation are spot-on. She ranks in the top 15 percent of women’s basketball in steals, and has put a stop to many more possessions via deflection.

She also ranks in the top third of the sport in assists while accounting for 1.5 dimes per turnover.

It’s difficult to find a hole in the game of someone who accomplished all of that while playing her first year in a foreign country. Considering the philosophy of Adia Barnes on offensive rebounding (i.e. only two players crash the boards and everyone else gets back on defense), there is really only one other deficit that pops out: the ability to get to the free throw line.

Once she got to the line, Pueyo was good for 77.3 percent of her free throws. The problem was that she shot just 22 all last season. Her free throw attempts were so scarce during her freshman year that she didn’t reach the minimum requirements for Her Hoop Stats to even rank her free throw percentage.

It might seem obvious that a 3-point shooter wouldn’t get to the line as often. Pueyo’s 2-point shooting attempts aren’t at a huge disadvantage when compared to her peers, though. When considering the percentage of her points that come from 2-point distance, she was still in the top 12 percent of Division I players.

Yet, she has a free throw rate of just 13 percent, placing her behind almost 70 percent of her peers. Just 8.8 percent of her points come at the line, which puts her in back of 87 percent of the players in the game.

Of the eight players who made up Arizona’s primary rotation last year, Pueyo’s 0.8 FTA per game were above just the 0.7 of Semaj Smith and the 0.3 of Lucia Alonso. Her 21.6 minutes per game were far above the 14.3 of Smith and the 13.9 of Alonso, though.

Pueyo doesn’t need to remake her game. Her outside shooting is too important for Arizona. She’s also not going to turn into the foul-drawing machine that McDonald is, but there’s still room for improvement.

Whether it’s about earning the respect of the officials or taking advantage of her defender more often when she does get inside, bumping her attempts up closer to the 2.4 made by Sam Thomas will help the Wildcats put the defense on its heels more often. Putting your opponents in foul trouble is never a bad thing.

Take a look at our evaluation of Helena’s freshman season...

Did you miss previous installments in this series? Here’s where you can find them...