Arizona Wildcats Notes: Aari McDonald “can’t wait to play” Diana Taurasi

Aari McDonald’s WNBA debut Friday night with the Atlanta Dream is a home game against the Connecticut Sun, and we all know what happened when she last played a team representing Connecticut.

The Wildcats eliminated UConn and coaching giant Geno Auriemma in the Final Four.

A UConn and WNBA great, Diana Taurasi of the Phoenix Mercury, has long been admired by McDonald. Taurasi embarked on her WNBA career early in the summer of 2004 when McDonald was 5 years old.

“Diana,” McDonald told the New York Times, “I can’t wait to play against her.”

That won’t happen until Aug. 15 when McDonald returns to the state to play the Mercury in Phoenix. Taurasi and the Mercury play at Atlanta on Aug. 21, a day after McDonald’s 23rd birthday. Phoenix again plays at Atlanta on Sept. 8.

Aari McDonald begins her WNBA career Friday (Atlanta Dream photo)

McDonald was one of the subjects of a Times article on Wednesday with the headline: “W.N.B.A. braces for ‘fierce competition’ in new season.”

WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert told The New York Times the “the future of the game is bright” when factoring the talented rookie class that includes McDonald, Kiana Williams and Charli Collier.

“Rosters are stacked with incredibly talented veterans, and the last few rookie classes are bringing a whole new element to the fierce competition within the league,” she said.

Dream rated 10th out of 12 teams in AP power poll

Believe it or not, the Associated Press also ranks WNBA teams, based on votes from 15 media members who cover the league.

The Dream are ranked No. 10 out of the 12 teams in the league.

McDonald’s former teammate at Washington — Kelsey Plum — is part of the top-ranked Las Vegas Aces. The Aces, coached by Bill Laimbeer, are loaded with Plum, WNBA MVP A’ja Wilson, Liz Cambage, Dearica Hamby and Chelsea Gray.

The ranking:

  1. Las Vegas Aces (11 first-place votes)
  2. Seattle Storm (4) … Breanna Stewart is the preseason AP player of the year
  3. Chicago Sky
  4. Washington Mystics
  5. Minnesota Lynx
  6. Phoenix Mercury
  7. Los Angeles Sparks
  8. Connecticut Sun
  9. Dallas Wings … Collier edged McDonald for the AP’s preseason rookie of the year
  10. Atlanta Dream
  11. New York Liberty
  12. Indiana Fever

USC’s Gottlieb enamored by Pac-12 while with Cavaliers

New USC coach Lindsay Gottlieb, who coached Cal to the Final Four and six NCAA tournament trips before embarking on a career coaching in the NBA with the Cleveland Cavaliers, was so impressed by a 37-point game by the Cavs’ Darius Garland that she asked him if he was “getting his Aari McDonald on.”

Gottlieb must now coach against Adia Barnes, the coached that helped McDonald get her game on.

The Pac-12 also features proven coaches such as Stanford’s Tara Vanderveer, Oregon’s Kelly Graves, Oregon State’s Scott Rueck, ASU’s Charli Turner-Thorne and UCLA’s Cori Close. Washington’s new coach Tina Langley coached Rice to the WNIT championship this season.

“When I was in Cleveland I would watch Pac-12 basketball stress-free,” Gottlieb told reporters. “Then I took this job and realized, hey, now I have to coach against these people again.”

Of the utmost importance for Gottlieb: Convincing All-Pac-12 guard Endyia Rogers to return off the transfer portal and not go to Arizona and strengthen the Wildcats’ bid for another run to an NCAA title.


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

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