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Arizona women’s basketball active on international stage this summer

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Future, current and former Wildcats have spent the summer representing seven different countries in international competition

Helena Pueyo
FIBA

Most of the current members of the Arizona women’s basketball team have been in Tucson taking part in summer workouts, but an international recruiting strategy means that the Wildcats are putting their imprint on international competition, too.

This summer, seven different future, current, and former Wildcats are representing seven different countries in international competitions, ranging from 3x3 qualifying tournaments to the Olympics.

Here’s a roundup.

Helena Pueyo represents Spain in FIBA U20 European Challengers

The lack of youth basketball during the pandemic has caused some disruption in national programs. To try to get things back on track, FIBA held several small tournaments in mid-July throughout Europe. Arizona’s junior guard accompanied her team to Sopron, Hungary where the Spanish team ran into some trouble right out of the gate.

The Spanish women’s youth program is ranked second in the world behind only the U.S. In the senior women’s game, they are ranked third behind the U.S. and Australia. They weren’t able to live up to that in Sopron, but Helena Pueyo gave Arizona reasons to be optimistic about what lies ahead.

The team opened with close losses to the Czech Republic and Serbia before wiping the floor with Ireland. They closed things out with two straight wins against Israel and the host Hungary, which won the group with a 4-1 record.

Pueyo showed a willingness to shoot the ball that was often absent last year in Tucson. She led Spain with an efficiency rating of 13.5 and was second on the team with 11.5 points per game.

Pueyo was also effective in getting her teammates involved, finishing second on the team with 2.5 assists per game. Both the scoring and assist numbers were just 0.1 behind the team leader. She led the team with 2.5 steals per game and was effective on the boards with 4.0 rebounds per contest.

Her effort wasn’t enough to get Spain above fourth place in the six-team tournament, but it should be enough to make Adia Barnes excited about what Pueyo can bring in the fall.

Derin Erdogan represents Turkey in FIBA U20 European Challengers

Point guard is a position that the Wildcats need to shore up this year. They don’t have a proven dominant leader there like they had for the last three seasons. Depth will be important. It would be a huge plus for Arizona if Derin Erdogan could help in that area.

The sophomore point guard joined her team in Konya, Turkey to host Group C. Like Pueyo’s team, Erdogan and her teammates finished fourth in their group. More concerning for Arizona is that Erdogan did not have as much of an impact on her team as Pueyo had on Spain. Instead, it was former Wildcat and current Saint Louis Billiken Sevval Gül who led the Turkish side in almost every category.

Erdogan was second on the team with 2.4 assists per game, but she struggled with her shot. She shot just 26.7 percent from the field, including 16.7 percent from 3-point distance. Her 7.4 points per game were fourth on the team.

Erdogan was effective on the boards, especially for a 5-foot-6 guard. She finished with 5.2 rebounds per game. The biggest concern was that she had just a 6.2 PER. Overall, the performance was not one that suggests she will find a lot of time on the floor for the Wildcats this season.

Shaina Pellington and Ify Ibekwe competing in Tokyo Olympics

With the Olympics now officially underway, Arizona has the distinction of being one of three Pac-12 schools with at least two women’s basketball players representing their countries. For the Wildcats, it’s current point guard Shaina Pellington (Canada) and former forward Ify Ibekwe (Nigeria).

The Nigerian roster was thrown into doubt less than a month before the games when three Americans who hold dual citizenship petitioned to be added to the team. Former Stanford standouts Nneka Ogwumike and Chiney Ogwumike received most of the media buzz as both tried to join the Nigerian team after Nneka was left off the U.S. squad for a third straight time. The problem was that Nneka had been playing at the senior level for the U.S. for over a decade.

Both FIBA and the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) turned Nneka and fellow petitioner Elizabeth Wiliams down, although Chiney could have played for Nigeria as a naturalized citizen. After the CAS ruling on July 19, the Nigerian federation finally released the roster, giving Arizona two Olympians.

As a member of the No. 4 women’s team in the world, Pellington has a better chance of returning home with a medal, but the experience itself is a big deal for both first-time Olympians.

It’s already been an eventful summer for Pellington, who played in the bronze medal game with Team Canada at the FIBA AmeriCup in June. Barnes was an assistant for Team USA, which won gold.

Soana Lucet helped France qualify for Olympic 3x3s

For the first time, there will be two different forms of basketball in the Olympics. Arizona has players in both styles, although only the 5x5 players will be at the 2020 Olympics.

While neither made their way to Tokyo, freshman Anna Gret Así played for her native Estonia as they tried to qualify and Arizona alum Soana Lucet helped France qualify for their berth in the introductory Olympic 3x3 tournament.

Así played well for Estonia in the qualifying tournaments, but the team was not able to grab one of the berths.

It was an even bigger heartbreak for Lucet, who played for the Wildcats from 2009-2011 after transferring in from Southern Idaho. Lucet was part of the French team, which is ranked No. 2 in the world, during qualifying. When the Olympic roster was announced, she wasn’t on it as other players returned from injury to take those spots.

Lauren Ware heads to D.C. to prepare for the FIBA U19 Women’s World Cup

Sophomore forward Lauren Ware will be the only Wildcat representing the U.S. As a member of the top-ranked women’s youth program in the world, she’s the Wildcat who is most likely to return home with a gold medal.

Ware and her teammates were off to Washington, D.C. to begin training camp on July 21. They will then head to Hungary to begin pool play in the U19 Women’s World Cup on Aug. 7.