Arizona women’s basketball has been playing with seven players available for two straight games and it looks like that’s what to expect going forward.
Before the season, Wildcat head coach Adia Barnes wanted to keep her roster shorter in order to ensure playing time for her younger players. She hoped that would keep them from transferring.
“The good thing is you probably won’t see a lot of transfers because everybody’s gonna play,” Barnes said at Arizona Women’s Basketball Media Day. “So, there’s a lot of good things. We probably won’t lose five people...[I]f I’m Skylar [Jones], if I’m Courtney, Isis, Sali, it’s great opportunities for them because we need every single player right now. So, in that sense, it’ll be a good thing for them.”
The problem UA has run into has been injuries and an unforeseen situation.
Montaya Dew underwent ACL surgery before the season. Salimatou Kourouma underwent surgery to repair a dislocation on her left shoulder. Erin Tack also underwent surgery to repair her torn ACL, and Maya Nnaji left the team for academic and other reasons that have not been publicly defined.
Also recently Kailyn Gilbert has been out for the last two games. Gilbert warmed up before Friday’s game against Cal but did not play and at Sunday’s game against Stanford she was in sweats for all of the warmups and the game. Barnes didn’t give much information about why Gilbert has been out.
“We’re probably gonna have seven players for a while and possibly the rest of the season,” Barnes said.
“She’s not available right now,” Barnes added.
With only seven players available, UA has had the mentality of next woman up.
Junior guard Courtney Blakely has embraced that motto. With the increased minutes, Blakely has played with more confidence and is letting the game come to her.
Against Stanford, Blakely had a career scoring night with 24 points and added four steals on the afternoon.
Barnes has been happy with the heart and will her team has been playing with despite her players playing big minutes.
“I thought they all played so hard,” Barnes said. “They’re trying. They’re trying their best. So, like what do you do?”
Barnes also feels the team is more cohesive with the smaller group of seven.
“Now our team is united,” Barnes said. “I know our team has each others’ backs. I know they’re cohesive, that group of seven, and I’m going to build off that and we’re gonna be better.”
UA’s next test for its small rotation will be at home against in-state rivals ASU on Feb. 4 at noon. Whether Gilbert plays is to be determined according to the head coach.