Arizona women’s basketball is very deep this year. Any number of players could snag the role as the starting two-guard. The voters for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Hoophall Awards think they know the best option on the roster. The group voted Arizona guard Taylor Chavez among the 20 players on the Ann Meyers Drysdale Award preseason watch list on Tuesday. The award honors the nation’s top shooting guard.
Chavez spent three years at Oregon before transferring to Arizona in the offseason. In 2020, she was named the Pac-12 Sixth Player of the Year as a Ducks sophomore. Last year, she missed multiple games due to COVID-19. Part of the year was spent flying back and forth between Eugene and her family’s home in Surprise, Ariz., and her on-court production and minutes fell off.
During the 2021 NCAA Tournament, Chavez had plenty of time to watch Arizona head coach Adia Barnes and how she interacted with her team. It made Chavez think about what it would be like to play for the Wildcats’ head coach.
“I wanted to play for Adia’s program,” Chavez said. “So being able to have the opportunity and be able to find ways to contribute to this team has been super exciting.”
Chavez should contribute a great deal whether she is the starter or not. She has plenty of competition for that starting spot including last year’s starting shooting guard, Bendu Yeaney. Other options are fellow junior Helena Pueyo, freshman Madi Conner, and freshman Anna Gret Asi. Depending on the size of the lineup Barnes chooses to use, even super senior Sam Thomas could join that mix although she will most likely be the starting small forward.
There are a lot of reasons to think that Chavez could step into the starting role. Over her career, she has connected on 41.4 percent of her shots from outside. The next best shooter among the possibilities is Pueyo who shoots 36.7 percent over her career. That stat holds both overall and from outside the arc, but Pueyo often hesitated to shoot last season. Like Pueyo, Chavez combines shooting with solid defense. Both players have served as the primary sixth woman for their teams in the past.
Yeaney has more experience as a starter, but she may not make the starting five because of her lack of shooting prowess. She is a lockdown defender but shot 31.1 percent from outside over two seasons at Indiana and 24.2 percent in her first year as a Wildcat. She shot 34.2 percent overall last season. That becomes a particular concern if Arizona’s starting point guard is Shaina Pellington, who also shot very little from outside last season.
Both the competition for the starting shooting guard position at Arizona and the Ann Meyers Drysdale Award will be tough. Chavez joins four other Pac-12 players to make up a quarter of the list, the most of any conference. They include Oregon’s Sydney Parrish, Stanford’s Lexie Hull, UCLA’s Charisma Osborne, and Washington State’s Charlisse Leger-Walker.
The Ann Meyers Drysdale Award was won by Arizona’s Aari McDonald in 2020. Last season, she was a finalist for the Nancy Lieberman Award for the nation’s best point guard.