At the beginning of Joan Bonvicini’s run as Arizona coach in the early 1990’s, The Arizona Daily Star provided me the opportunity to be the beat reporter covering her program.
Back then, the newspaper had the budget to send me on road trips. I spent a lot of time covering the team and gained an understanding of what type of player thrived in Bonvicini’s program. Bonvicini recruited players who would battle and claw and not play timid. Describing them as tough is an understatement.
Some of her earliest recruits included Adia Barnes (now Arizona’s head coach), Brenda Pantoja (now a referee who has officiated the last two NCAA Women’s Final Fours) and Andrea Constand.
That’s Andrea Constand, the Bill Cosby accuser whose sexual assault complaint brought down this week the man who was once called “America’s Dad.” Cosby, 80, received a guilty verdict on three counts of aggravated indecent assault made by Constand. Sixty women reportedly have accused Cosby of misconduct.
These players stick out to me as three of the most tough-minded players Bonvicini signed. Constand, a 6-foot center, was in Bonvicini’s second recruiting class of 1992, attending Arizona all the way from Scarborough, Ontario, where she was a member of Canada’s junior national team.
“Coach Bonvicini is a very intense person,” Constand told me during Media Day on Nov. 9, 1992. “Her attitude and my attitude are very similar. I know what she expects.”
A very profound and heartfelt thank you to the Commonwealth of PA, Montgomery County, for their service and sacrifices.
Constand, now 45, initially struggled to play at Arizona, first because she failed to gain admission, but she was eventually cleared. Then, she had to wait to gain eligibility after Arizona requested documents from Canada Basketball that detailed the expense money she received from the team.
Constand’s first three seasons at Arizona were non-descript, playing as mostly a reserve. She emerged as one of Arizona’s best players for Bonvicini as a senior. She and Pantoja were the lone seniors of Bonvicini’s team in 1995-96 that reached the Women’s NIT.
Constand went from averaging 2.3 points per game in her freshman, sophomore and junior years to scoring 13.2 points per game as a senior.
Bonvicini described Constand to The Arizona Daily Star as a person “who needed to make a decision about her priorities and she also had to be surrounded by people who were focused. When she has made the commitment, and had her priorities in order, it’s been amazing.”
Constand mentioned about her career to the Star: “You’ll have your ups and downs. There are hills to climb and a lot of bridges to cross. … I’d love to have another year and be part of a great program that’s really a diamond in the rough.”