It was a day for looking toward what comes next for Arizona women’s basketball and for looking back at last season. The big news was that McDonald’s All-American Paris Clark finally inked her letter of intent to join the Wildcats next season. Clark committed after the November early signing period, so getting her name on the dotted line took time.
“We’ve been counting down the days,” head coach Adia Barnes said. “She brings us athleticism, defense. Someone who can get to the rim, a great offensive rebounder, and just...a player that really fits us and is aligned with us culturally and in every way off the court which was one of the biggest things with her.”
Clark was this year’s New York Gatorade Player of the Year. She averaged 25.2 points, 8.3 rebounds, 6.1 assists, and 4.0 steals per game at Long Island Lutheran High School.
She joins three other ESPN top 100 players in the incoming class. Arizona has already signed McDonald’s All-American forward Maya Nnaji, top 35 guard Kailyn Gilbert, and top 100 wing Lemyah Hylton.
The four freshmen will join returners Shaina Pellington, Cate Reese, Lauren Ware, Helena Pueyo, and Madi Conner. That leaves Barnes with six scholarships to use in the portal, but she’s not looking to fill all of them.
“The last year we had 15 and we’ve lost a lot of people or made a lot of changes,” Barnes said. “So, five players returning, four (freshmen), so nine, and we’re going to add probably three from the portal. So I think just add some different areas. I think that they can make us a little better, give us a little bit more depth. So I’m excited. I think that you are always looking to evaluate your roster, evaluate year to year in some areas to get better, and plus some areas that we weren’t really good in last year, and I didn’t think defensively, offensively we were where we should have been. So adding the pieces that can add to that.”
Barnes said it was likely the last time she had a roster of 15 players. While she didn’t know if the scholarship limit for NCAA women’s basketball should be reduced, she did think that for Arizona it was better not to have that many because of the frustration it causes the players and the stress it put on her to try to find minutes for everyone. With the five returners, four freshmen, and a few transfers, she believe she can limit that next year.
“That’s a good core of good kids and good players,” Barnes said. “So I’m excited.”
Barnes also made it clear that most of the attrition from last year was her choice, and it had to do with things both on and off the court. She wants to make sure she’s not in that position again.
“Before, I did some research, of course—I’m not going to take anybody into the program and not do research—but now I am extensively researching,” Barnes said. “I’m talking to instead of three people, talking to like eight different people. People say different things and you just want to get the honest truth, and I think that’s hard. That’s what’s hard about our businesses. There’s a lot of things you can’t say in transferring and a lot of things you can’t share. So, like the problem is no one really tells anybody anything so everybody’s kind of caught off guard with everything.”
She said that she already had a lot of options for players who want to transfer to Arizona, but she’s being more selective this time around.
Now it’s just time to wait and see who joins the group of nine.