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Checking in with former Arizona Wildcats in the WNBA and New Zealand

Former Wildcats Aari McDonald and Sam Thomas face off for the final time in the WNBA regular season

Washington Mystics v Atlanta Dream Photo by Adam Hagy/NBAE via Getty Images

In the 11th week of the season, the Atlanta Dream and Phoenix Mercury wrapped up their season series. The two Arizona Wildcats currently in the WNBA finished their first year as opponents with Aari McDonald’s Dream taking the season series over Sam Thomas’ Mercury 2-1. The teams went head-to-head on Sunday, July 17 in Phoenix with the Dream taking the road win by a score of 85-75.

Meanwhile, in New Zealand, former Arizona forwards Trinity Baptiste and Dominique McBryde started Round 4 of play in the GJ Gardner Homes Tauihi Basketball Aotearoa. They, too, played in a game that featured former Wildcats on opposing squads last week, but both players didn’t make it onto the floor in the contest.

Aari McDonald and the Atlanta Dream

McDonald’s week started out strong with 12 points, 3 assists, and 3 steals in 16 minutes of play on the road against defending champs Chicago Sky. Her other two games were not as strong, though.

McDonald went a combined 4-for-17 overall and 1-8 from 3 in two games against Connecticut and Phoenix. The one 3-pointer was big, though.

On Sunday, Phoenix tied the game up at 73-all with 5:11 to go. Atlanta was able to get their lead back up to 80-75, but the Mercury kept threatening. McDonald hit her only 3-point shot with 1:02 left, putting an end to the Phoenix hopes of coming back.

Sam Thomas and the Phoenix Mercury

One thing that can be said about Phoenix head coach is Vanessa Nygaard knows what the fans want. On Sunday, July 17, she knew that many of the fans in the Footprint Center wanted to see McDonald and Thomas on the floor at the same time. Nygaard obliged in the first quarter.

Thomas saw 1:18 of action, but she did not have any stats against the Dream. Prior to that, she had not seen the court since July 7. She has only had more than two minutes of play six times this season and has only played double-digit minutes twice. That last occurred on May 29 when she played 22 minutes.

Thomas is 2 for 11 from the field this season. She has four rebounds, four assists, and two blocks in a total of 73 minutes of play in 2022.

The Mercury are 0.5 games out of a playoff position. The team does not have a pick in the first or second round of the draft again in 2023. Even if it did, the WNBA lottery is based on the previous two years’ results, so the Mercury would likely not have a great draft position even if they finished last this season. The team made the finals last season.

In that regard, Thomas may well have an opportunity to come back to Phoenix next season and continue to develop. That will be aided by her experience in Italy after the 2022 WNBA season concludes.

Trinity Baptiste and Mainland Pouakai

Baptiste has established herself as an offensive star not only on the Pouakai roster but in the entire Tauihi Basketball Aotearoa. After the second round of play, she was second in the league with 20.3 points per game. As the fourth round begins, she sits at 21.3 PPG, still tops on her team.

The problem for Pouakai is that she and fellow American Erin Whalen are the only two players averaging double digits for their team. Baptiste alone accounts for just over 30 percent of her team’s scoring.

Baptiste and Whalen scored a total of 40 points in their matchup with McBryde’s Whai. Baptiste also grabbed 13 rebounds. Pouakai still lost on their home court by a score of 99-69 despite McBryde being out with an injury. Pouakai was unable to stop Tiarna Clarke, who went off for 11 made 3-pointers.

Pouakai is now 3-3

Dominique McBryde and Whai

McBryde started the week with six points, one rebound, one assist, one steal, and one block in Whai’s loss to Kahu on July 12. She has not appeared in a game since.