A new version of the Arizona women’s basketball roster appeared on the Arizona Athletics website on Wednesday. It suggests that the Wildcats will have more continuity than expected after several players entered the transfer portal and the program parted ways with two assistant coaches following last season.
The updated roster includes guard Kailyn Gilbert, whose entry into the portal was verified by head coach Adia Barnes on social media last week. It also features a title change for Bett Shelby, who was hired as the special assistant to the head coach last season. Shelby is now listed as an assistant coach.
Arizona’s player roster now includes five players returning from last year’s team: fifth-year forward Esmery Martinez, fifth-year guard Helena Pueyo, sophomore guard Gilbert, sophomore forward Maya Nnaji, and freshman forward Montaya Dew. Dew is part of the incoming freshman class but enrolled a semester early at Arizona.
Barnes had indicated that Gilbert was looking to move closer to her home in Tampa, Fla. In mid-January, the young guard indicated that it took a while to make friends and that she missed both her parents and things she couldn’t do in Arizona. Her inclusion on the roster suggests she’s willing to forego at least one more year of jet skiing on the ocean in order to return to Tucson.
Arizona certainly has plenty of playing time to offer. The return of Gilbert would give the program two returning guards to go with incoming freshman Jada Williams and Middle Tennessee State transfer Courtney Blakely. Blakely and fellow transfers Isis Beh and Sali Kourouma were officially announced by the program on Thursday morning. Barnes would also still have five scholarships to add transfers to the roster, although it’s unlikely that she will use all five based on her comments about the difficulties of pleasing 15 players.
Gilbert was praised by Barnes for her work ethic last season with the head coach saying that she was one of the hardest workers on the roster along with fifth-year player Jade Loville. As a freshman, Gilbert earned playing time early on and stepped into an important role when Arizona dealt with foul trouble in the first round of the NCAA tournament against West Virginia.
Gilbert was the only one of the four freshmen to appear in all 32 games last season. She averaged 4.9 points, 1.4 rebounds, and 1.1 assists in 10.6 minutes per game last season. She had 35 assists to 33 turnovers.
As for who will be coaching the team, Arizona parted ways with Ashley Davis and Erin Grant after the season. Davis has since returned to Oklahoma State, where she coached before joining the Wildcats two years ago.
It seemed likely that Shelby would replace one of them. When she was hired, Barnes said that Shelby was not meant to have an administrative role permanently. The head coach hired Shelby because she was available at the time, but there was not a place on the bench for her.
At the time, Barnes hoped the new rule about the number of coaches would be adopted by the NCAA. That rule was not adopted last season, but Barnes found another way to move Shelby to an on-court coaching position.
The program still hasn’t officially announced Shelby’s change in position, but the title change on the coaching roster indicates the deal is done. Assistant coaching hires are often announced together, so the program may be waiting until the second position is filled.