The revolving door associated with the Arizona women’s basketball program the last two years continues to spin.
Adia Barnes, who recently completed her seventh season as coach, lost seven players to the transfer portal last season and four more reportedly have chosen that route this year so far.
Madison Conner, Paris Clark and Lemyah Hylton — who were mostly reserves this season — and two-year center Lauren Ware (out this season following knee surgery) have reportedly entered the transfer portal, according to a Twitter post by Chantel Jennings of The Athletic.
Quite a few Arizona women’s basketball players ending up in the transfer portal tonight: Lauren Ware, Madison Conner, Paris Clark and Lemyah Hylton.
— Chantel Jennings (@ChantelJennings) March 23, 2023
After Arizona’s loss at Maryland on Sunday in the second round of the NCAA tournament, Barnes foreshadowed potential movement.
“I’m the right coach for some people; I’m not the right coach for everybody,” Barnes said. “I think that now you’re going to see more movement — and every player is not the right player for me, trust me; I’m realizing that now with the portal.”
Ware, a high-profile basketball and volleyball recruit out of Bismarck, N.D., experienced knee injuries in the last two years after playing in all 27 games as a freshman when the Wildcats reached the national championship game in 2020-21. She missed six games with a knee injury last season and was out all this season with another such injury. The string of knee injuries followed her torn ACL that kept her out of her senior season of high school.
Conner, from Gilbert Perry and AZ Compass Prep in Phoenix, completed her third season with the Wildcats starting only one of the 66 games she played. She averaged a career-high 5.8 points in 14.3 minutes a game this season.
She is the only player who has made her transfer public with an Instagram story post that reads: “Thank you Tucson!!! Here’s to new beginnings.”
Clark, a McDonald’s All-American from the Bronx, N.Y., never started this season. She averaged 13.2 minutes a game. He scoring average was 3.8 a game. As the season went on, Clark became more of a dependable player for Barnes, playing more than 20 minutes in four of her last six games after not reaching that mark since logging 27 against NAU in a season-opening rout. Her season-high 11 points in the NCAA tournament second-round loss to Maryland occurred from 5 of 12 attempts from the field — the most shots she tried all season.
Hylton, a four-star recruit out of Ontario, Canada, played in only 15 games. She saw the court in only five Pac-12 games with seven minutes the most against ASU on Dec. 29.
Fifth-year seniors Shaina Pellington, Cate Reese and Jade Loville have exhausted their eligibility.
Here is Arizona’s 2023-24 roster at this point factoring seniors Esmery Martinez, Helena Pueyo and Lauren Fields returning for a fifth season of eligibility due to COVID-19 restrictions earlier in their careers.
F/C Breya Cunningham, Fr.
F Montaya Dew, Fr.
G Lauren Fields, Sr.
PG Kailyn Gilbert, Soph.
F Esmery Martinez, Sr.
C Maya Nnaji, Soph.
G/F Helena Pueyo, Sr.
PG Jada Williams, Fr.
That’s eight players. The scholarship allotment is 15.
That means expect a good number of transfers to fill spots. One of Barnes’ strengths is attracting impact transfers — see Dominique McBryde (Purdue), Tee Tee Starks (Iowa State), Amari Carter (Penn State), Aari McDonald (Washington), Shaina Pellington (Oklahoma), Bendu Yeaney (transferred in from Indiana but then transferred out to Oregon State for personal reasons), Trinity Baptiste (Virginia Tech), Ariyah Copeland (Alabama) and Esmery Martinez (West Virginia).
Arizona’s biggest needs are inside depth, perimeter shooting and proven defenders.
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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. He became an educator five years ago and is presently a special education teacher at Gallego Fine Arts Intermediate in the Sunnyside Unified School District.