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Adia Barnes on Dee-Dee Wheeler’s Hire as TUSD AD: “She Can Help Change Youth Athletics in Tucson”


Adia Barnes preceded Dee-Dee Wheeler in the annals of the development of the Arizona women’s basketball program, and they reached great heights with the Wildcats with both in the Ring of Honor.

Barnes will be in her fifth season in 2020-21 — yes, she is confident a season will take place on time — continuing to establish Arizona as one of the top programs in the Pac-12.

Wheeler will now join Barnes in Tucson as a force that can enhance youth athletics, including girls basketball, to a higher level as the newly-hired TUSD Director of Interscholastics.

Dee-Dee Wheeler can be an important force for girls basketball development in Tucson, according to Adia Barnes (Andy Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

Wheeler, who starred at Arizona from 2002-05, will start her significant role with TUSD next month after moving from her native Chicago, where she was the District-Wide Director of Elementary Sports, serving 75,000 students. She will replace TUSD’s longstanding athletic director Herman House, who is retiring.

“I think that is incredible,” Barnes said today after she was asked in a ZOOM press conference about Wheel’er running athletics for TUSD. “I think it’s great for us, for women’s basketball. I think it’s a huge role.

“She can help change youth athletics a little here in Tucson because they really need a facelift. We need more stuff for little girls. We need to have a feeding system. We don’t have that here. Hopefully, she can help with that.”

Dee-Dee Wheeler during her Arizona days (Arizona Athletics photo)

What Barnes means by feeding system is developing talent at a young age with reinforcement of skill development. That could include camps, school leagues, various activities and seminars related to sports and coach training.

Barnes is right. Tucson has a major void of developing youths in basketball compared to soccer.

Wheeler’s presence and work ethic and communication with area youth and high school coaches, including Barnes and Pima Community College coach Todd Holthaus, should be a positive development for young athletes in basketball and all sports.

“I kind of knew that she was possibly planning on moving back here,” Barnes said. “I think it’s great. She’s someone who was a great player. She’s been around our program a couple of years. She travels from Chicago to see us in the Pac-12 tournament.

“She’s a huge advocate for us.”


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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.

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