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Trinity Baptiste finally gets to experience the true McKale Center atmosphere, but she does it from the stands

Stanford v Arizona Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

It’s been quite a year for Trinity Baptiste. She helped the Arizona Wildcats to their first national championship game last season, then went to Russia to start her professional career. Things went a little sideways.

“When Russia invaded Ukraine, I spoke to my agent and he told me the season might get canceled,” Baptiste said. “Then after that, he told me the season wasn’t gonna get canceled, but it was my decision to leave. The next day, I had a game and the embassy said that all Americans should leave...The next day, I was home.”

Now, she’s back in Tucson to watch her former team try to repeat their magical run. It’s something she never got to experience as a Wildcat. The thousands of fans in the arena weren’t here. There was no hosting even though Arizona was a three seed. Now, she gets to enjoy it vicariously.

“I think when the girls come out and they start playing, and I see the fans’ reaction, I think I will really feel it then,” Baptiste said.

It was part of what Adia Barnes used to lure Baptiste across the country when she originally intended to transfer from Virginia Tech to a school nearer home in Tampa, Fla.

“Trinity Baptiste, she came back and she said, ‘Coach, I never got to see what an Arizona crowd was like,’” Barnes said. “And that didn’t dawn on me until she said it...That was one of the things, I recruited her, and I said you’re going to play in front of 10,000, 15,000 people. I didn’t think COVID would last that long, so she didn’t get to experience that until today as a fan.”

Despite the time difference, she tried to keep up with her former team from afar.

“I watched the Louisville game and I kept up with the scores throughout the season and talked to the coaches,” Baptiste said.

Now, she wants to see them get to experience what she did.

“Honestly, I’m here to support the team,” Baptiste said. “I want to see them go as far as possible.”

Baptiste is still chasing her professional dreams. While she won’t go back to Russia next year, she said that she still might return to Europe.

She’s changed her diet, primarily because the food was so different in Russia. And, of course, the woman who uses strength_0 as her handle on Instagram is still working hard in the gym and adapting her game so she can fill a role more suited to her 6-foot stature.

On Saturday night, though, Baptiste was just one of the over 9,500 fans cheering on the Wildcats to an opening-round win.