Defense, getting over nerves and becoming the best versions of themselves they can be. Those are the goals for Arizona women’s basketball as the Wildcats head into their final exhibition against Arizona Christian on Friday evening. The last two are especially important for starting point guard Shaina Pellington, who is stepping into the spot vacated by Aari McDonald.
“We don’t talk about (trying to replace Aari),” head coach Adia Barnes said. “I don’t want that for anybody in the program. Aari’s Aari. Aari’s amazing. I hope to recruit some more Aaris. But right now I recruited Shaina and I love Shaina. I want Shaina to be the best version of Shaina. I never will compare because they’re two totally different players with two totally different games.”
Both Barnes and Pellington felt that Pellington put some pressure on herself during the first exhibition game against Eastern New Mexico. The nerves kept her from showing her improved shot, but Pellington was very effective in other parts of the game.
She tied with Anna Gret Asi and Helena Pueyo for the game lead with four assists. Pellington did the same on defense, where her four steals were tied with fellow backcourt starter Bendu Yeaney. She also had four rebounds which were tied for third on the team with Aaronette Vonleh and Asi.
The defense was especially impressive to Barnes. The head coach has always believed it’s an aspect of the game that Pellington can excel at.
“I’ll never compare Aari to Shaina, but I think defensively (Pellington) can do a lot of the same things,” Barnes said.
Pellington wasn’t ‘as effective shooting. She hit just two of her nine shots from the floor and two of four from the free-throw line. It wasn’t a concern for Barnes.
“The shots she’s worked on all summer, they didn’t fall last game,” Barnes said. “But I’ve been watching her. They’ve been falling all summer at the World Championships and the Olympics. So that’s not something I worry about. I don’t care that she missed those shots because she has worked to take those...and I’m telling you she’ll make them this year. So for me the fact she took them and missed them, I don’t care because when you work at something and you do it every day, you earn the right to take those shots.”
Pellington was nervous, but she took comfort in the other parts of her game that stood out last Thursday. She knows that she has improved after spending all summer training with and playing for the Canadian national team.
“Off the floor, I think I’m a way better leader,” the senior guard said. “Now I think just I’m able to lead my team better as a point guard. And on the floor, I think I’m more composed, I think I’m more composed and more confident with the ball. Getting the ball in the hands of the right people at the right time in the right positions. And then although I struggle a little bit, kind of because of nerves in the first game, with shooting. I know it’s something that I have gotten a lot better with and I know that it’ll show eventually.”
Arizona Christian at Arizona (exhibition)
Date and time: Friday, Nov. 5 at 6:30 p.m MST
Location: McKale Center in Tucson, Ariz.
Radio and stats information: The game will not be televised or streamed, but Brody Dryden will have the radio call on 1400 AM (KTUC). In-game stats will be available at Arizona Live Stats.
How to follow along: Follow our official accounts on Twitter at @AZDesertSwarm or on Facebook for regular coverage all year. You can also follow our deputy editor @KimDoss71 for live tweets during games and other coverage throughout the year.