From the jump, star freshman Lauren Ware has been a key contributor for Arizona during its 8-1 start.
The former five-star recruit is averaging 6.6 points, 6.0 rebounds and 1.2 blocks in 18.6 minutes off the bench while shooting 46% from the field. Ware has scored eight or more points in five of Arizona’s nine games, including a pair of double-doubles in the wins over USC and Utah.
The 6-foot-5 post met with the local media Wednesday before the Washington road trip to discuss that, her volleyball career being on hold, and some other topics. Here’s the full interview and transcript.
What have you learned about yourself so far?
I’ve learned a lot about myself. I think every day, every game that we have, I learned something different, whether that be just by watching film or my coaches talking to me about the game. But the coaches do a really good job of focusing on the things I need to work on in games and translating that into practice and letting me improve on those things.
In what areas do you think you’ve improved the most?
I would say definitely finishing around the rim, just having patience and balance in the paint and stuff like that. And then also just post defense is something I’m still working on. But I think I’ve improved with that and just being able to defend farther out on the post.
How has your knee held up? This is your first season back from a torn ACL.
Yeah, I’m feeling really good. I’ve been going into rehab and stuff like that and just getting treatment done, so that’s obviously been a big help.
What did the team learn from the Stanford loss?
I think we tried to just focus on us a lot more. Obviously we have a lot of games coming up, but I think in practice focusing on us a lot was important for us—our offense and our defense, just trying to mesh well with each other and get some of that unity back together on the court. So I think we definitely bounced back from that game...but we still need to improve every day so we’re just kind of focusing on ourselves right now.
What have you noticed about the level of competition in the Pac-12?
In my opinion, the Pac-12 is the best conference in the country. I mean, every game that we play is a tough one. On any given night, any team can come in and they’re going to give us our best shot. So I think playing in a conference like this has really made me a better player and also just the competition that we play every night is amazing, so it’s definitely good conference to be in, for sure.
What are some things you’ve been working on?
Definitely finishing with my left hand and being able to go both ways is something I’ve been working on a lot and the coaches have emphasized on me. And then also just balance. I’m still working on that a lot because that’s gonna help me with my finishes and stuff like that. And then post defense as well, rebounding and boxing out and stuff like that is something that our whole team really needs to work on and I’m working on that a lot.
You didn’t have much of a non-conference season to get acclimated, but how have you felt about the way you’ve adjusted to the Pac-12 game so far?
I think I’m doing pretty good. Obviously it was definitely a big adjustment just coming in and not having those non-conference games was kind of rough. But the coaches really prepared me really well for the style of play that I’d be going up against coming in as a freshman. Obviously it’s a big jump, but I think I’ve been doing pretty good and the coaches have helped me out a lot.
What’s been your favorite moment of the season so far?
I’d have to say the ASU game was probably my favorite game that we’ve played so far, just because obviously it was a big rival and we played a really good game. ... We just had a lot of really good energy and everyone was playing really well together, so that was super fun.
Volleyball started practice this week. Have you popped your head in there to see what’s going on? (Ware is a two-sport athlete)
They got back this week, so it’s definitely cool seeing them back in the gym. And they play really soon actually, so they’re definitely working hard and they’ve been doing two-a-days, so I know they’re trying to get back on track with their game coming up. But yesterday actually they were in [Richard Jefferson Gymnasium] when we got done with practice, so I went and I peeked through the door to just kind of see what they were doing. But I have a lot of good friends on the team so they kind of told me how it was. I called them yesterday night just to ask about practice and they’re doing really good so I’m excited for their season.
What’s it like being part of the team but not really being part of it this season? And how do you stay up to date with everything?
Yeah, it’s definitely tough not being able to be there, but Dave (Rubio) and Rita (Stubbs) text me like every day after the games and stuff like that to tell me congratulations, good job or whatever it is. So I talk to them a lot. And then my teammates, we’re all really close and I have a lot of really close friends on the team, so we talk basically every day. So it’s not really much different. It’s just the fact I’m not practicing with them, but I still talk to them pretty much every day.
It’s 32 degrees is Bismarck right now. What’s it been like living in Tucson where it’s 70 degrees this time of year?
It’s definitely different. They’re getting snow now. It’s really crazy. I think Christmas was the toughest part for me just because there was no snow. I can’t even imagine Christmas without snow on the ground, so it was definitely a little weird but I’m happy with the weather we have now. I’d rather be in this weather than 32 degrees.
How do you bond with your teammates on the road with all the COVID protocols?
It’s definitely been kind of tough just because of the protocol. We have to stick with our group, like our roommates, so it’s kind of hard to do those things, which sucks. But I mean just going on the road, obviously we eat meals together and stuff like that which is nice. That’s kind of when we get all of our talking in and kind of hanging out with the team as a whole.
When the pandemic is over, what is one thing you’re looking forward to doing?
I miss my dogs so much. That would probably be one thing—just going home and getting to see my family, my dogs and just my friends from back home. It’s definitely weird coming in as a freshman. You don’t go without seeing your friends for like two days and now I’ve been like six months without seeing my friends and my family,