What you might have missed this summer
Arizona infielder Jessie Harper makes a catch as a Baylor runner crosses first base during a game on May 27 at Hillenbrand Stadium. Arizona was eliminated by Baylor, preventing them from making the Women's College World Series for the seventh consecutive season.
While many students were on vacation for the last three months, Arizona sports were anything but. Here are seven things you might have missed during summer break.
Postseason Exits for Baseball and Softball
After advancing to the College World Series in his first year, Arizona baseball head coach Jay Johnson was unable to replicate the magical run in the 2017 NCAA Tournament. Arizona, the No. 2 seed in the Lubbock Regional, was eliminated by the No. 3 seed Sam Houston State who would end up winning the regional.
On the other side of things was Arizona softball, which suffered a stunning defeat at the hands of the Baylor Bears in the Tucson Super Regional. The Wildcats, who won Game 1 on a walk-off single from Jessie Harper, lost games two and three of the series in heartbreaking fashion and were kept from reaching the Women’s College World Series.
Men’s Basketball Players Head to the NBA
Two former UA basketball players were selected in the 2017 NBA Draft. Lauri Markkanen was drafted 7th overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves who then traded him to the Chicago Bulls. The selection marked the fourth time under head coach Sean Miller that an Arizona player was a lottery pick.
The pleasant surprise of the draft turned out to be Kadeem Allen who was drafted by the Boston Celtics with the 53rd overall pick of the draft. Markkanen signed his rookie deal with Chicago, while Kadeem Allen signed a two-way contract with the Celtics.
Meanwhile, Kobi Simmons and Chance Comanche went undrafted.
However, Simmons signed a two-way contract with the Memphis Grizzlies after a solid summer league campaign. Comanche has the tallest ladder to climb if he hopes to reach the NBA as the center is currently playing in the Drew League.
Head Coaching Extensions
In a Wildcat Wednesday newsletter at the beginning of August, Arizona athletic director Dave Heeke wrote that he has been,“hard at work on efforts to retain some of our highly-sought-after coaches”. Heeke was likely referencing Mike Candrea and Jay Johnson.
Candrea, the head coach of the softball team, signed a five-year extension on Aug. 14 through the 2022 season and will earn a base salary of $345,000 annually that puts him among the highest paid college softball coaches.
A day later, the Wildcats baseball skipper also signed a five-year contract extension, which will pay Johnson a base salary of $500,000 annually.
Basketball Recruiting Paradise
It should come as a surprise to no one these days that Sean Miller is bringing in top recruits to his basketball program.
Miller picked up a commitment from 2018 five-star point-guard Brandon Williams in early June, and another from five-star point-guard Jahvon Quinerly in mid-August.
But what might be more impressive is a commitment that Arizona women’s head coach Adia Barnes landed on June 4 from five-star forward Catherine Reese. Reese, the nation’s No. 12 recruit and No. 3 in her position for the 2018 class, became the highest-ranked player ever to commit to the women’s program. The women currently have the nations number two ranked recruiting class.
Sage Watson Dominates the U.S and London
On June 10, Sage Watson captured her first NCAA Championship in the 400m hurdles with a blistering time of 54.52, a personal best for Watson. The Canadian runner then took home a 6th place finish in 400m hurdles at the 2017 IAAF Championships in London on Aug. 10 with a time of 54.92.
Women’s Golf in U.S Women’s Am
UA women’s golf had a strong showing at the U.S Women’s Amatuer in early August. Senior Krystal Quihuis finished in the final 32, while juniors Haley Moore and Gigi Stoll advanced to the final 16.
The Wildcats also recently added a top amatuer golfer to their 2017-18 roster. Bianca Pagdanganan, the 136th ranked golfer on the World Amateur list and 81st in GolfWeek’s collegiate ranking, is transferring from Gonzaga to Arizona and will have two years of eligibility remaining.
Football Looks to Bounce Back
Even though the team went 3-9 in the previous season and lost a lot of its incoming recruits, there is a quiet sense of optimism surrounding the Arizona football during the team’s fall practices.
According to the coaching staff, the quarterbacks have shown an improvement at throwing the football and head coach Rich Rodriguez has been impressed with the program’s newcomers.
However, Arizona has been picked to finish last in the Pac-12 South in the Preseason Media Poll, and Rich Rod starts the season at 15/1 odds - third highest among all DI NCAA coaches - of being fired, according to SportsBettingDime.
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