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One thing Tara Manumaleuga can improve in sophomore season with Arizona women’s basketball

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: JAN 31 Women’s UCLA at Arizona Photo by Jacob Snow/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

On June 17, the NCAA voted to allow basketball programs to begin required activites with coaches starting on July 20. Activities can continue for up to eight weeks, ending either on the first day of classes or Sept. 15, whichever is first. The NCAA had already voted to allow voluntary weight training and conditioning at team facilities, which will continue through July 19.

The Arizona Wildcats have some additional hurdles to clear if all the players are going to return to Tucson by the middle of July. On June 29, Arizona Athletic Director Dave Heeke froze the return of any more student-athletes due to the state’s growing COVID-19 numbers. That followed the governor’s executive order that shut down gyms in the state beginning on June 28.

The women’s basketball team has even more challenges. The large international contingent kept the entire freshman class from arriving in time for summer work last season. At that time, the roadblock was international competition.

This year, the novel coronavirus has created new barriers in the form of travel bans into the U.S. Arizona not only returns five international players from last year’s team, but the Wildcats add two in this year’s class.

The program has players from Australia, Canada, Spain, Latvia and Turkey on the roster. Presently, international students can return to the U.S. directly from Australia, Canada, and Turkey, but students within the Schengen Area (which includes Latvia and Spain) cannot. International students from restricted areas are being told that they must first spend 14 days somewhere that isn’t restricted before entering the country.

Since basketball was shut down in March, the players, coaches and support personnel have been meeting virtually. Players have been doing their best to keep in shape on their own. The ability to engage in conditioning has varied considerably, though. Adia Barnes said that some of the players in Europe were not even allowed to leave their apartments at one point.

After conditioning is addressed, players and coaches can think about improvements that need to be made. 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 Tara Manumaleuga.

Fewer turnovers or a better midrange game?

On June 28, Tara Manumaleuga spoke to fans on Adia Barnes’ weekly Instagram Live show. One question was about what she was working on over the summer since she is able to workout on the basketball court at her house. She hit on two of her biggest shortcomings as a freshman.

“Probably trying to handle the ball better,” Manumaleuga said. “I’ve been working on my pull-up jumpshot. I can shoot the 3, but I just want to develop more within. ... Like Amari (Carter), she can shoot the 3, but she can (pull up).”

Carter didn’t have great 3-point numbers in her only season in Tucson, but she improved as the season went on and she was able to get inside the arc to pull up from midrange. With Aari McDonald’s ability to drive to the basket, Cate Reese’s ability to hit from inside, and Helena Pueyo’s ability to shoot from outside, the Wildcats could use someone with a midrange game to replace that contribution.

It would certainly be a change for Manumaleuga, who garnered 75 percent of her points from outside the arc last season. Is that the most pressing need for improvement, though?

Last season, there were times when Manumaleuga was put into the game and taken out immediately due to turnovers. Arizona, as a team, struggled taking care of the ball, so an improvement there would likely have more of an impact. It would allow her to stay in games, and it might improve her ability to get closer and hit that midrange jumper she’s looking for.

While she didn’t have enough playing time to qualify in Her Hoop Stats’ advanced stat rankings, the service notes her turnover rate was 22.2 percent last season. In her limited time on the court, she had 10 turnovers to six assists.

That turnover rate would have ranked Manumaleuga in about the 31st percentile if she had qualifying numbers. By comparison, McDonald had a 17 percent turnover rate (ranking in the 62nd percentile) despite handling the ball on every possession and having a more high-risk game. Carter, who Manumaleuga notes as a role model for her midrange game, had a turnover rate of just 14.4 percent placing her almost in the 80th percentile.

No one expected Manumaleuga to have numbers similar to one of the best guards in the country or a fifth-year senior. As a freshman, she had neither the experience nor the playing time to hit those numbers, but they will be something she should strive for over the long-term.

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

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