Arizona Women's Basketball

Rivera Notes: On McDonald, Stoudamire, Jedd Fisch and Football

For a few weeks – and more recently as the Arizona women’s basketball team stormed through the NCAA Tournament – UA’s Aari McDonald has been compared to former UA All-American Damon Stoudamire, a standout in the early to mid-1990s.

She hadn’t seen him play when I brought it up to her a few weeks ago on Foxsports 1450’s Eye on the Ball. But she’s seen his tape since (see her tweet on the subject).

So, I asked Damon of his impressions of her, also a short-in-height lefty guard who has a no-fear attitude on the court.

“She’s a great player,” Stoudamire texted me today as UA prepares for Stanford for the NCAA title on Sunday. “Fast, but shifty to keep you off balance.”

“She’s a great player. Fast, but shifty to keep you off balance. Thing is, you can’t give her space, or she’ll knock down the 3! That’s hard to stop!”

Sound familiar? That’s Damon, who was a get-to-the-basket type who could stop and pop from anywhere on the court.

“Thing is,” he said, “you can’t give her space, or she’ll knock down the 3! That’s hard to stop!”

Exclamation point, indeed.

“It’s surreal when you just see Arizona legends comment on your stuff,” McDonald said Saturday in a Zoom press conference. “I’m like, ‘Wow, this man, I see him every day on the wall at practice. I’m like, ‘Man, this is crazy.’

“It’s a blessing. That comparison has been going on since I’ve been here. Now for me to finally see the (highlight) reels, I’m like, ‘Okay, I see.’ This is definitely a compliment.”

And Stoudamire’s impression of coach Adia Barnes, who is considered one of the best – if not the best player – in the program’s history? Save for McDonald, of course.

“What jumps out at me is the pride and passion Adia shows (while) coaching,” he said. “You can feel it through the TV! She’s well-organized and you can tell her team loves playing for her! Year 1 to Year 5 there hasn’t been a better coaching job men or women than what she’s done at Arizona.”

Fisch’s Evaluation

Arizona football coach Jedd Fisch said he’s headed to San Antonio to help cheer on the Cats in the NCAA Final.

“Let’s go win a Championship,” he said.

Heck, anywhere else but the practice field given what he saw on Saturday during the scrimmage. It wasn’t pretty, saying “we’ve got our work cut out for us.”

There will be three more scrimmages before the Spring season wraps up. To this point, it’s been, well, what has been expected with new coaches and players from a team that didn’t win a game last season.

So far, defense is ahead of the offense “and there’s no question about it,” he said.

But that’s normal, he added.

One problem is the turnovers. On Saturday, UA had about five or six at his count.

“Way too many turnovers, I can’t even watch,” he said. “We have no chance to win games if we turn the ball over.”

Fisch admitted his frustrated with his offense because “it doesn’t matter what we do on defense if we keep turning the ball over.”

“We have to be better, and they understand that,” Fisch said.

Through a couple of practices – and a few months with his team – does he know what he has, and well, what he doesn’t have?

“We have a good football team, but we just have to play better every play,” he said. “What we have right here is good enough to win as many games as these guys want to win. Now they have to go out and win.”

A special Visitor at Practice

Denver Broncos coach Vic Fangio was at Arizona’s practice on Saturday. He was there for a reason. Fisch invited him. They go back a bit, given Fangio was his first boss back in the day with the Houston Texans in the early 2000s.

Fangio spoke to the team at the end of practice, speaking about “assignments, alignment and execution.”

And, well, running fast to the ball (a UA motto).

“We have to do those things before anything happens,” he said.

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