More than 400 players are already in the women’s basketball transfer portal with the season recently coming to an end. Arizona coach Adia Barnes said today she may actively pursue two of them.
The bottom line is those players will have to fit Arizona’s new culture of winning with a team-first mentality, she said. Barnes insisted during today’s press conference at McKale Center that she is not about to sacrifice the sense of togetherness her team displayed in the WNIT six-game title run — one that could catapult the Wildcats into NCAA tournament success next season — for a talented player who does not fit the mold.
“There are a ton of transfers,” Barnes said of the portal, which includes many standouts who were leading scorers or top players of their former teams. “Players are popping up every day. There’s a lot of movement around the country.
“We’re diving into that and finding ways to get better.”
Diving with the intent to only test the waters with all five starters returning — including honorable mention All-American guard Aari McDonald — and top reserves coming back such as junior guard Lucia Alonso and freshmen Samaj Smith (a 6-foot-5 post player) and Bryce Nixon (a 5-10 guard).
Live look into the Women's College Basketball Transfer Portal…. pic.twitter.com/o0WcgghhZv
That brings the total to eight players with a four-player international recruiting class signed that includes Australian freshman guard Tara Manumaleuga, who redshirted after joining the team at the semester break in January.
Women’s teams in Division I are allotted 15 scholarships, so Barnes has three scholarships to fill for the 2019-20 season. That does not mean she will fill them. Arizona had 11 scholarship players on its roster this season.
“There’s two ways to think about it,” Barnes said. “A transfer can help you right away and can bring you a championship, a winning attitude and help you in different ways. Or you look long-term for transfers.
“I’m not huge on transfers, but if they can help us and I know people who know them or have coached them, and it’s a good situation, I’ll take them.”
Adia Barnes holding court one last time this season. pic.twitter.com/rtcWTbkIO9
Barnes she would not mind attracting a “really athletic guard” who can shoot and help “right away” in 2019-20.
“It would have to be the right person, the right fit,” she added. “One person can really damage a program, so for me, it has to be a fit, it has to be a great person … it’s more about that than the player. And then it has to be a player who fits something that we don’t have.”
Barnes counted on two transfers — Dominique McBryde (Purdue) and Tee Tee Starks (Iowa State) — who contributed to Arizona winning 24 games this season, including a school-record 11 straight toward the end of the non-conference portion of the season and the start of the conference schedule.
Barnes mentioned that she is intrigued by transfers who want to go from mid-major programs to Power 5 schools and players who come from winning cultures.
Some of the bigger names in the transfer portal:
- South Carolina graduate transfer Te’a Cooper, a 5-8 guard who was the team’s leading scorer (11.9 points per game).
- San Diego State 5-6 sophomore guard Najé Murray (from Stockton, Calif.) who averaged 13.7 points per game this season and set a school record for three-pointers made (81).
- Southern Cal 5-8 guard Minyon Moore (from Hercules, Calif.) who will be a grad transfer. Her 2018-19 stats: 14.8 points per game, 5.9 assists per game and 5.5 rebounds per game.
- Tennessee 6-foot sophomore guard Evina Westbrook (from Salem, Ore.) who was tied for the team lead in points (14.9 points per game) and led the Volunteers in assists (5.3 a game).
- Cal 6-foot sophomore guard Kianna Smith (from Moreno Valley, Calif.) who started all 33 games this season, averaging 9.8 points per game. Smith was ranked No 17 in the 2017 class by espnW.
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.