Arizona women’s basketball is losing Sam Thomas, Ariyah Copeland, and Semaj Smith. That is known. There are still many unknowns, though, and the Wildcats’ head coach created even more of them with some of her comments after the second-round loss to North Carolina in the NCAA Tournament.
“This program here now, we are nationally respected,” Barnes said. “We are getting high-level recruits and then we have two McDonald’s All-Americans coming in, two Gatorade Players of the Year. We’ll add some other players to the roster and make some changes to the roster. I’m excited about the future and I’m excited to start with a new young group and add some veterans here and there, and I want them to play in front of a packed house.”
Adding some players to the roster. Making some changes to the roster. Adding some veterans here and there. Those phrases can only mean that Barnes is headed to the transfer portal.
The issue for Arizona is that there simply are no available scholarships with the players currently on the roster and signed. In fact, Paris Clark—one of those McDonald’s All-Americans and Gatorade Players of the Year—is still unsigned and cannot sign next month unless a scholarship opens.
Before the season, Barnes and Cate Reese announced that Reese would return for her super senior season. Later in the season, Barnes said that they had two more who could potentially be back but it wasn’t a settled matter yet. Since that time, she and the players have made it public that those two are Shaina Pellington and Bendu Yeaney.
Neither Reese nor Pellington took part in Arizona’s senior day honors. Yeaney participated but announced after the game that she would be back.
That means that currently Arizona’s 2022-23 roster would consist of Reese, Pellington, Yeaney, Taylor Chavez, Helena Pueyo, Koi Love, Lauren Ware, Derin Erdogan, Madi Conner, Aaronette Vonleh, Gisela Sanchez, Anna Gret Asi, Maya Nnaji, Clark, Kailyn Gilbert, and Lemyah Hylton. That’s 16, one above the scholarship limit.
To have all of her signees on scholarship, Barnes needs one current member of the team to transfer out. If she is going to add transfers, she needs more than one to leave.
It’s clear that Barnes knew that at least one player was leaving or she would not have been able to convince Clark to commit in December. For her to publicly state that she will be bringing in more players than just her four commits, she has to know that more than one will go.
There are players who did not get much of an opportunity to play this season because of their youth and the players in front of them. One of those players is Erdogan, but she found more minutes later in the season, including during the NCAA Tournament.
Conner played more minutes than the other freshmen, but she joined the program early and had time to learn the system. Sanchez turned out to be the top true freshman on the team as far as minutes played this season. On the other end of the spectrum, Asi played a total of just 49 minutes in seven games and appeared in only two Pac-12 games.
Will the players who didn’t get their opportunities on the court be looking to move on? Someone certainly has to if Barnes is going to rebuild her roster.