What can Arizona women’s basketball look for on the transfer portal?

As of the second week of April, Arizona women’s basketball has lost seven players from the 2021-22 list. Sam Thomas and Ariyah Copeland set off for the next adventures of their lives Koi love, Aaronette Vonleh, Anna Gret Asi, Gisela Sanchezand Derin Erdogan go to the transfer portal. There is also no guarantee that the transfer error has finished passing through the program.

Main advisor Adia Barnes will replace some of these players with inbound transfers, but to find out what she might be looking for, a premature depth chart is a good place to start. What does Arizona have and what does it need?

Some of the position categories overlap and some players fit into several categories, but the most obvious thing about the roster is that the front line has very little depth at this point. Barnes has so far been publicly linked to a guard in the transfer market, but she has picked up front-line help via the transfer portal in both of the past two seasons.

Point Guards

  • Recurring: Helena Pueyo (senior), Shaina Pellington (5th year)
  • Additions: Paris Clark (students)
  • Loss: Derin Erdogan (junior), Anna Gret Asi (2nd year)

Shaina Pellington and Helena Pueyo were the primary lead guards last season with Pellington attached as the starter. For Pueyo, that was not what she came to Arizona to do, but she was very effective as a distributor and defender in that role. What she was no longer so effective at was scoring.

Paris Clark is a McDonald’s All-American and New York Gatorade Player of the Year, set to sign the Wildcats this month. Arizona was lucky to catch her after UCLA chose to take another guard in their first-year class in No. 2 overall recruit Kiki Rice. Clark decided to free himself from the Bruins and the Wildcats were the recipients.

It’s hard to judge anyone from an all-star game, but in McDonald’s All-American game, Clark had the kind of aggression that Arizona could use on the backcourt. She also showed some defensive crunch by returning to block a fastbreak layup by the future teammate Maya Nnaji.

The losses at this position will not be felt much on GameDay in terms of game minutes. Derin Erdogan got playing time down the stretch, but even then, it almost seemed like an audition opportunity for the next step in her career.

Who knows how effective Anna Gret Asia could have been as point guard. She was listed as one on most of the recruiting sites before coming to Arizona, but both she and Barnes made it clear that she would not play the position for the Wildcats. Limiting her options from the start may not have been the best plan for either side, but the transition was not guaranteed no matter what position she played.

With the guards coming into the program – including the combo guards listed below as “shooting guards” – the need is not great on the backcourt, though Arizona still needs reliable shooting from the outside.


  • Recurring: Madi Conner (2nd year), Helena Pueyo (senior), Taylor Chavez (5th year), Bendu Yeaney (5th year)
  • Additions: Kailyn Gilbert (freshman), Lemyah Hylton (freshman)
  • Loss: Anna Gret Así (2nd grade)

The position with two guards is the one that least needs to be tackled in the low season. While Pueyo played primarily last season, she was originally brought to Arizona to play either the two or the three. Whether she is prepared to return to that position is unknown given how her scoring and shooting has fallen off over the past two years. At one point, however, her shooting touch was what Barnes praised most.

Bendu Yeaney has received the starting nod for most of the last two seasons, but the scoring often stalled as she and Pellington played together this season. Since neither of them was a skilled outside shooter, Arizona again faced zone and “ten feet in the paint” defenses. Tandem had a hard time beating those defenses.

Barnes brought in more shooters last season, but often fell back on the defensive-oriented unit. However, it was not just a coaching decision. Even with the designated shooters in the game, Arizona often struggled to get the ball through the hoop, especially at halftime.

This led to long periods of missing goals and an early exit from the tournament as Barnes could not find a combination that could put points on the board. At one point relatively late in the season, Yeaney said the players did not all know the plays. There were indications against North Carolina in the second round of the NCAA Tournament that this had happened again.

With two top 100 combo guards coming in from the high school ranks and Yeaney, Conner, Chavez and Pueyo still officially on the list, Arizona is in stock at this position. Even if the Wildcats were to lose yet another of these recurring, they would still be in pretty good shape in terms of numbers.

This does not mean that another shooting guard will not be added to the list, but it must be a specific type of player to make sense. An effective shooter with experience is the only kind of player that would be useful here. Another athletic defender with suspicious shooting skills or a passive offensive play will not give this team something it does not already have in (over) abundance.

This device does not need many additions, but it should be used with care next year. Arizona needs to find more consistent attacks, and firefighters who cannot or cannot shoot will be a problem for them. That worries a guard from the transfer portal that Barnes is known to have visited already.

According to photos posted online of the player’s father, Barnes went on a home visit to meet the former Oklahoma State guard Lauren Fields. Fields has great scoring numbers with an average of 15.4 points per game. match last year, but her other stats give pause when considering Arizona’s needs.

Fields is a volume shooter with low percentages (32.9 from the floor, 28.4 from 3 and 63 from the free throw line). Although they are not volume shooters, both Yeaney and Pellington have a similar profile when it comes to range shooting and free throws. Both shoot better than Fields from 2-point distance, but the difficulties from 3 and the line are consistent.

It does not matter if Fields would play on one or the two who are players with redundant skills in both positions. Will Arizona again be able to claim “we are not Maryland” when the offense stops if the Wildcats do not add higher percentage shooting?

Wings / Small Attackers

  • Recurring: Helena Pueyo (senior)
  • Additions: Lemyah Hylton (students)
  • Loss: Gisela Sanchez (2nd grade), Koi Love (senior), Sam Thomas (grad)

Sam Thomas was the starter of the three for the past five years. It’s a lot of experience to replace. Arizona has no one on the position on the list, though Pueyo has the size. The only newcomer who could potentially fill the position is 5-foot-11 Lemyah Hylton.

The question is what kind of defender Hylton is. It is unlikely that she is of Thomas’ caliber, but Thomas had to evolve before she also became the elite defender she became.

Given the questions surrounding this position and the number of backcourt players on the list, this may be the best place to play Pueyo instead of placing her on one or two. Thomas was known for bringing the ball up the field and initiating the offense at times, so it’s not like the ball handling skills that Pueyo possesses would be wasted.

No matter who starts here, this is one of the positions Barnes and her staff need to focus on now that they have at least four vacant scholarships.

Power Forwards

  • Recurring: Lauren Ware (junior), Cate Reese (5th year)
  • Additions: Maya Nnaji (students)
  • Loss: Gisela Sanchez (2nd), Aaronette Vonleh (2nd), Koi Love (senior)

Cate Reese is already in his rehabilitation period after a shoulder operation that should excite Arizona fans. Reese was the best player on last year’s team and her combination of talent and experience will make her the best on next year’s team as long as she is healthy. The Wildcats need her.

Combinations in the front lane will fluctuate. While Reese and Lauren Ware typically start the game together, they also played with other frontcourt teammates last season. Minnesota Gatorade Player of the Year and McDonald’s All-American Nnaji are the only ones on the list who can fill that spot next season. The Wildcats need to be aggressive in the portal for the simple reason that they currently have 15 errors to give before they have anyone to play inside.


  • Recurring: Lauren Ware (junior)
  • Additions: Maya Nnaji (students)
  • Loss: Aaronette Vonleh (2nd year), Semaj Smith (5th year), Ariyah Copeland (degree)

This position is related to the last one, as the players Arizona typically has at the position are interchangeable. For the past many years, the Wildcats have only had one or two players specifically designated as “centers,” and these players rarely played. The team usually plays with two players classified as power forwards.

When looking at the players available, it is important that the staff fit the style that Arizona plays. Bringing players in just to fill the position can cause as many problems as it solves. Last year was a good example.

Ariyah Copeland was an addition to last year’s list that did not seem to work for any of the pages. When the student was in the game, Arizona had to make changes in its defense. Barnes said they “just were different” with Copeland playing instead of Ware or Reese.

Eventually, Copeland’s minutes began to wane, and Barnes quoted “match-ups” when asked about her presence on the bench. Copeland only played double-digit minutes once after the game on Jan. 15 in Oregon when she made a 21-minute mistake. She had on average only 5.7 minutes per. match in nine appearances thereafter and did not score in six of the nine matches. She also missed several matches due to migraines.

If you do not train every day, it is difficult to know whether adding a player who does not fit the schedules or playing style and trying to get her to fit has an effect on the development and motivation of younger players at the same position. It’s not hard to see how it is could however, be a problem.

Whether it had an effect on other players last season, there are other implications for adding players who are not equipped to play Arizona’s defensive or offensive style. The biggest is that it can let the team go home early in the tournament again as Barnes struggles to find something that works at both ends of the floor.

How the staff fills the frontcourt positions and whether they bring in players who can spread the floor next year will be crucial to whether they can live up to the No. 12 ranking that ESPN gave them in the “too early” Top 25.

Leave a Comment