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Arizona women’s basketball hopes to add one more 2021 recruit despite geographical challenges

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: JAN 25 Women’s USC at Arizona Photo by Jacob Snow/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Arizona Wildcats have three 2021 commits so far—five-star post Aaronette Vonleh, four-star guard Madison Conner and Estonian guard Anna Gret Asi—and head coach Adia Barnes is hoping to add one more in the next month or two.

“It’s shaping up the way I want it to,” she said. “We have a post, we have some really good guards. ... So if we add this other commitment, I’d be very, very happy.”

Barnes expects it to be one of the top classes in the country, which says a lot considering the geographical disadvantage Arizona is at.

While the Wildcats have already landed two West Coast players in Vonleh and Conner, Barnes said the talent level in the region is down in this cycle, forcing her to recruit out east.

The problem is the coronavirus crisis caused the NCAA to shut down on-campus and in-person visits since March, restrictions that were recently extended through the end of September.

“We knew we’d potentially add someone late because people are waiting, wanting to visit, but now the calendar just got pushed back, so realistically these players aren’t going to come on visits,” Barnes said.

It’s part of the reason Arizona has seen highly-regarded point guards like Aziaha James (Virginia native), Jasmine Shavers (Texas), and Jada Walker (Virginia) commit elsewhere, even though they all had the Wildcats among their finalists.

Normally, Barnes would be traveling the globe (international recruiting has been a focus in her program too) to meet and evaluate these players, then hosting them at the UA.

These days, Barnes uses Zoom, PowerPoints, and virtual visits to try to simulate the in-person experience—she joked that she’s had to upgrade the internet at her house to deal with the increased bandwidth—but it’s just not the same.

“We’re asking someone to sign from across the country without being on campus,” Barnes said. “So for me, that’s a really big disadvantage. And we might lose some kids because of that. I’m very confident if they were to visit we’d get some of these kids.”

The Wildcats still have two more elite guards on their radar in Kayla McPherson and Kyndall Hunter, but McPherson is from Georgia and Hunter is from Houston, so Arizona is behind the 8-ball if they want to stay close to home.

The Wildcats may have a better shot with Anaya James, an all-state guard from Torrance, California, who was recently named the Daily Breeze’s player of the year. They have also offered Khylee Pepe, another guard from Torrence.

“We will sign one more player, probably, and then I’ll be very, very happy,” Barnes said. “That’s going to be another top class.”