Shaina Pellington had a decision to make going into her fifth year of college basketball. She could dedicate her summer to focusing on being the best point guard she could be for Arizona or she could pursue playing with her beloved Canadian national team in the FIBA Women’s World Cup in late September.
The Olympian chose her college team.
“If Shaina would have gone to the [World Cup] she would have been gone the whole month,” Arizona head coach Adia Barnes said. “She did not [go in order] to focus on school and basketball. It’s hard to leave for a month from school because international kids have to be in in-person classes. It’s this new law that passed, so it would have been really challenging. So she chose to focus on Arizona basketball her last year and she’s bought in.”
It was a sacrifice for Pellington even if she knew it was for the best.
“I’m rooting them on,” she said on Sept. 30. “I will message some of those guys and see how things are going and stuff like that. But right now, I’m really proud of them. They’re about to play for bronze in the World Cup. They’re taking really big strides. I’m just proud of them.”
Staying in Tucson with her college team has been good for Pellington, though. Her coach is certainly impressed with the things she’s done.
“She’s improved a lot,” Barnes said. “Shaina has worked on her mid-range game. She’s worked on her shot. She’s put the work in... She wants to play pro, so she’s putting in the work and you guys will see a much-improved shot. I mean, just the form, the technique, the arc on the shot, everything.”
It also gave Pellington the chance to get to know the large group of newcomers who joined Arizona in the offseason. Of the seven that came in either as freshmen or transfers, five will likely play in the backcourt at least part of the time.
Whether the newcomers play in the backcourt or not, Pellington knows she has a responsibility to them both on and off the court.
“With a senior role that I have, I have to be a leader,” Pellington said. “I feel like all of us who are upperclassmen, we have to be leaders by example for the freshmen. Everything we do, they’re looking up to. After we leave here, it’s going to be them taking on that role.”
With over half of the 12-player roster playing their first season in Tucson, there’s no doubt that it could take some time for everyone to get comfortable with each other. Barnes said that she didn’t really expect everything to be working until at least January. Once they jell, though, both Barnes and Pellington think this could be a special year.
“I expect great things,” Pellington said. “Honestly, my last year, we have a great team this year, the sky is really the limit. So I’m expecting greatness from my team, for myself.”
Exactly what would greatness look like?
“I want to get back to a Final Four,” Pellington said. “That’s what I want to see happen this year. But I would say the main thing for me, being a fifth-year and being wiser, it’s just everybody finished this year off content with how the year went. We’re content. We’re happy with how we did. We overachieved what we thought we could do. And at the end of this, I’ll have twelve more sisters.”
As a leader and someone who didn’t get to take the court immediately after she transferred to Arizona, Pellington has one lesson she wants to leave with those sisters.
“It’s just kind of embracing the journey,” Pellington said. “And just be patient. Adia expects greatness out of us. So, sometimes because we’re overachievers we want to attain that right now. We want to get that as fast as possible. You want to do everything right. I guess the biggest lesson I’ve learned is that it’s okay to make mistakes. When you embrace the journey, when you accept that, I think that’s when you really will develop as a player and a person.”