Tucson is about 5,700 miles from where Anna Gret Asi lives in Tartu, Estonia, and she has never visited these parts, but the city and namely Arizona’s program with coach Adia Barnes are near and dear to her as she thinks of her college experience.
“I am mostly looking forward to seeing the campus and meeting the teammates and coaches,” Asi told AllSportsTucson.com.
Asi, a 5-foot-10 point guard who has significant range from the perimeter, committed to Barnes yesterday and made her announcement this morning. Tartu is 10 hours ahead of Tucson, so when she made her announcement at about 10:40 a.m. here, it was 8:40 p.m. in Tartu. Prime time there was the best time to make this type of an announcement.
Arizona’s international scope of recruiting is well-known. Barnes’ husband Salvo Coppa, an assistant, is a former pro coach in Italy who has also coached in Asia and Europe. Barnes, who played professionally overseas and has recruited there since her time at Washington, have connections throughout Europe, including Estonia, which was formerly part of the Soviet Union and is now in Northern Europe.
Arizona’s roster has included players from Spain, Australia, Latvia, Turkey and Iceland in recent years. The Wildcats’ presence overseas was one reason that made Asi to commit to Arizona.
“Two key factors on deciding on Arizona were the connection with the coaching staff and team’s play style on both ends of the floor,” Asi mentioned. “Arizona has winning mentality which gave me confidence to choose them.”
The Wildcats, who finished 24-7 overall and 12-6 in the Pac-12 last season, were a potential host of the first and second round of the NCAA tournament in March before the COVID-19 pandemic canceled the event. It would have been their first NCAA tournament appearance since 2005.
With All-Pac-12 players Aari McDonald (also an All-American) and Cate Reese returning along with Pac-12 All-Defensive Team member Sam Thomas, the Wildcats are hoping for a deep NCAA tournament run in 2020-21.
Asi’s impressive background in international competition will help alleviate the loss of McDonald, a senior, after next season.
She competed for Estonia in the 2019 FIBA U18 Women’s European Championships and averaged 14.3 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game. She was also the MVP of the Baskeball Without Borders (BWB) Europe Camp last year.
Two years ago, she led the FIBA U16 Division B Women’s European Championship in scoring as she averaged 19.3 points with 4.9 rebounds, 3.6 steals and 2.4 assists a game.
Asi has visited the United States before, including in February when she took part in the Basketball Without Borders (BWB) Camp as part of 2020 NBA All Star Weekend on Feb. 17 at Quest Multisport in Chicago. She earned the 3-Point Champion Award for that event.
At the end of the camp, which included nearly 25 international players, Asi was selected as one of the stars by camp administrators. The players underwent athletic testing, practice, scrimmage and drills under the watchful eyes of representatives NBA and WNBA teams. Participants also attended daily seminars for life skills and attended the dunk contest, 3-point shootout and the All-Star Game. Lauri Markkanen took part in the event out of Finland before attending Arizona.
Asi came away from that experience confident of her chances of landing a scholarship from a major college program in the United States, especially with how she held her own against Canadian phenom Merissah Russell.
“I think the most I can offer for the team is to use my all-around skillset to score the ball and create situations for others,” she stated when asked about her potential impact on Arizona’s program.
Other programs who recruited her extensively included Arizona State, Kansas, Miami and Washington.
Asi’s commitment is the third in the Class of 2021 for Barnes and Arizona, and it comes one day after 5-star 6-foot-3 frontcourt player Aaronette Vonleh of West Linn (Ore.) High School near Portland pledged to the Wildcats.
Former Gilbert Perry shooting guard Madison Conner, who will play her senior season with AZ Compass Prep in Chandler, was the first to commit in April.
With those three commitments, that would fill 14 scholarship spots for Arizona’s 2021-22 roster if the existing players with eligibility return. Here’s a look at that roster:
- Shaina Pellington, G, Sr.
- Tara Manumaleuga, G, Jr.
- Mara Mote, G, Jr.
- Sevval Gul, F, Jr.
- Helena Pueyo, G/F, Jr.
- Cate Reese, F, Sr.
- Semaj Smith, C, Sr.
- Marta Garcia, C, Soph.
- Derin Erdogan, G, Soph.
- Lauren Ware, C, Soph.
- Bendu Yeaney, G, Sr.
- Madison Conner, G, Fr.
- Aaronette Vonleh, F/C, Fr.
- Anna Gret Asi, G, Fr.
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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.