Among all the smart public-relations moves Adia Barnes has made is trying to include alumni from different eras to be around the program as much as possible.
Players from almost 40 years ago feel a part of the success now after putting in the work to try to get the program to this level when they played.
“My goal at Arizona is to make it a player’s program, just like on the men’s side,” Barnes said. “I am creating a bond that I didn’t have when I first graduated. I wasn’t in touch with Arizona. It’s my goal to bring these former players back, to touch our team.
“If they’re playing pro or overseas, I want them to work out in our facilities. That’s what I’m creating. That’s important to me. I want them to want to come back. I want them to meet us on the road, talk to our kids. If there’s an alumni that’s a doctor, former player, I want her to inspire the next doctors on my team, all those things. I think that’s what it’s all about.”
In a notes column earlier Saturday, AllSportsTucson.com published comments from former head coach Judy LeWinter and Greta Naranjo, who continued to impact the Tucson community in the education field and coaching after their time at the university.
Here are comments by former players gathered by my brother Andy Morales and myself:
Kim Conway-Greene (1990-94)
“I am beyond excited to see Arizona make it to the final game! My excitement goes beyond winning or losing. This team is fun to watch and their pure joy of the game is infectious and reminds me of why I loved to play this game. I love to watch Adia’s interactions with her players. She knows how to get the best out of each individual player and the team as a whole. You can see how much they all love and trust each other which, I believe, is a huge part of their success. So happy for Adia, the team and the entire program!”
Reshea Bristol (1998-2001)
“All I can say is that it was A-MAZING being at the UofA/UConn game! The feelings of being an elite athlete overcame me with deep-rooted emotions! The countless sacrifices, the purpose to begin the athletic journey, the maximum level of dedication, the passion of becoming successful throughout hardships! The entire 12-hour drive with my Wildcat sisters from Tucson to San Antonio, I was overwhelmed with excitement! Considering we lost to UConn in the ’98 Sweet 16, which was Adia’s senior year, knowing most people doubted UofA advancing out the first round and also the NCAA leaving us out of the Final 4 highlight video, this game had numerous reasons to get that ‘W’!! I was blessed to be able to sit near Coach (Joan) Bonvicini and other Wildcat alums, which brought an extra level of excitement because we all have experienced the peaks/valleys of being a University of Arizona student-athlete! Now I have to drink hot tea and relax my voice box to cheer on Sunday, still mind blown that Arizona Women’s Basketball team is playing for a National Championship! I feel truly blessed to be able to witness this in my lifetime.”
Julie Meyer-Mendivil (1987-90)
“Extremely proud as an alum and for what this means for young girls in Tucson. Tucson has always been more of a soccer/softball town for young girls so this means so much. Proud to see one of our own alum come in and show what could be done. And to have a coach who wants us old players involved in what she is building and bringing to Tucson. To be in a local restaurant last night watching all the U of A shirts and people cheering loud was one of the best feelings for me and to be a part of that is unexplainable.”
Kirsten Smith-Cambron (1982-86)
“We are all super excited for the team. We take great pride in now being considered the pioneers of the women’s basketball program at the University of Arizona. (I was the first woman to score 1,000 points at the U of A.) The women who played in the 1980’s still keep in touch and get together for reunions when we can. We are all cheering the team on and are grateful to be a part of the program. Thanks for reaching out! Bear Down Arizona!”
Greta Naranjo (1987-89)
“I am so excited for Adia, the players and the program. Since Adia got the job, she has worked so hard to put together an amazing staff, players, embraced the alumni and the city of Tucson. Adia is a players coach, you can see this just by the team’s performances. Adia has been so positive and committed to the program. As an alumni, I am so proud of their accomplishments over the years. It was just a matter of time. This team has been preparing for this for a few years. I believe that their belief really came together after winning the WNIT (in 2019). They have great leadership in the senior class. The players trust in Adia has been evident in the tournament. They have executed their game plan to the tee. In every game they gave themselves every opportunity to win and they have done that. I believe that they will be able to beat Stanford in the championship game. This team has great chemistry with each other and that is what it takes to be successful. I can’t tell you how proud and excited we all are especially those of us that have been a part of the U of A women’s basketball program.”
Mary Klemm-Plousha (1989-92)
“I’m excited for Adia, the staff, team and program for such a great milestone for the program! It was a surreal feeling and a lot of pride knowing Arizona had a decent lead and they were actually going to defeat UConn. Especially since the odds were against them and they were overlooked.”
Lisa Griffith (1997-2000)
“Goosebumps. Every time I think of what this team has accomplished I just get the chills. It’s a dream come true for every girl who has ever picked up a ball to get to this stage and they are living it out front of millions of people. Little girls who have been watching will remember this team and these players for the rest of their lives. Adia talks about leaving a legacy, I think it’s safe to say that this team is one for the ages.”
Apryl Garnett (1989-91)
“These women have worked hard ALL season to get to this point. They’ve persevered through everything that has been thrown at them to get to the biggest game of their careers. It’s been fun to watch all of the alum embrace what it means to be a Wildcat. There’s a HUGE shift in Wildcat country. The men’s team is NO longer the hottest ticket in town & I’m loving EVERY minute of it. In close, the administration needs to open up their wallets & pay Adia as she’s done a heck of a job. She’s accomplished something that Sean Miller has been struggling to do in a much shorter amount of time. This team has that IT factor & praying they come out with the same tenacity that they showed against UConn. If they do that we win “
Bob Craig (assistant coach 1987-91)
“It’s been a long time since I was involved but I still have strong feelings not only for the Arizona women’s basketball program but for women’s basketball in general. I am so proud of Coach Barnes and the Wildcats she and the U of A have built a strong base on which to build what could be a strong contender each and every year. The improvements are a testament to the conviction of Coach Barnes on how to build a strong program. I’m so proud of Coach Barnes and the Wildcats and can’t wait to see what the future holds. Go CATS.”
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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.