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Arizona women’s basketball notebook: Helena Pueyo selected to Spain U20 team, Aari McDonald learning in WNBA

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Most of the news coming out of Arizona women’s basketball right now concerns recruiting. Who is being offered? Who is visiting? There’s still some on-court news. It just isn’t occurring in Tucson.

Helena Pueyo selected for Spain’s U20 team

Arizona guard Helena Pueyo has been a mainstay on Spain’s youth teams for years. This year will be no different, as the rising junior was selected to take part in the FIBA U20 Women’s European Challengers next month.

The five small tournaments were created by FIBA in May to allow for youth competition to begin again. Due to ongoing pandemic concerns, they will be played at several European locations with each tournament including six teams. Those teams will play a round-robin format.

Spain will be in Group B, held in Sopron, Hungary from July 12-17. It will face off against Hungary, Czech Republic, Israel, Serbia and Ireland.

Spain will be the favorite in the group. After the last youth tournaments were held in 2019, they were ranked second in the world behind the U.S. However, the host team of Hungary is only six spots behind at No. 8 in the world and Czech Republic is just one spot behind that at No. 9.

In her two years at Arizona, Pueyo has been one of the top reserves for the Wildcats. She has averaged 5.3 points, 1.6 assists, and 3.1 rebounds in 21.5 minutes per game.

Aari McDonald’s rookie year continues to be a learning experience

The Atlanta Dream are on a skid. After a four-game winning streak at the end of May, the team has gone 1-7 in the month of June. Injuries to starting guards Chennedy Carter and Tiffany Hayes haven’t helped, as Carter was out for most of June and Hayes tore her MCL just over a week ago.

Those injuries would appear to be opportunities for former Arizona guard Aari McDonald to get more consistent time on the floor, but that hasn’t been the case.

Immediately after the Carter injury, McDonald had two straight games of 15 points with at least 23 minutes on the floor. Both her minutes and her production have wildly fluctuated since.

McDonald has had double-digit minutes in four of the six contests since those back-to-back 15-point games, but has only reached double digits in points once. That 10-point outing came on June 23, when she played just seven minutes in the first half and didn’t appear at all in the second half.

She is making her living at the free-throw line of late, going 19 of 19 from the stripe in the month of June. She was able to improve her 3-point percentage to 30.6 percent this week after dropping into the mid-20s, but her field goal percentages are lagging behind what she will need them to be. She is shooting just 37.5 percent from inside the arc and 33.8 percent overall.

She’s not the first to acknowledge she has a lot to learn in the WNBA, especially in the early going. That was made clear this week when the Indiana Fever waived Lauren Cox, who was taken No. 3 in last year’s draft.

None of this is especially shocking to McDonald.

“I am just playing the best of the best,” she said before the Dream’s game on Saturday. “I love that because that makes me better. Nothing surprises me at all. Just trying to be a sponge and soak everything up my first year.”