Why a number change could help Arizona women's basketball
Arizona Wildcat players Cate Reese (25) and Bryce Nixon (24) cheer their teammates on after a made basket on Thursday, March 28th at McKale Center in Tucson, Arizona.
Cate Reese is one of the best recruits Arizona has landed in a very long time. She was the first McDonald’s All-American since Adia Barnes to commit to Arizona. Reese has been a big reason why Arizona has reshaped their whole program. Reese has averaged 11.8 points per game and 6.8 rebounds per game since beginning her career at Arizona. The sophomore has a big opportunity to become one of Arizona’s most popular and well-known players in the women’s college basketball program. Her potential is very high and could eventually get her into the WNBA.
Arizona just faced Oregon at the McKale Center last weekend, and the overwhelming support for college basketball’s top player Sabrina Ionescu was incredible. She was signing autographs for fans wearing her jersey at the McKale Center. The “Fighting Ducks” jerseys worn by many fans have been making their way worldwide. For example, the Minnesota Timberwolves’ Jordan Bell rocked a No. 20 “Fighting Ducks” jersey. The thing about the No. 20 jersey is that it’s the same number as the year. So for the 2020-21 season, teams would sell basketball jerseys with No. 21 and no name on the back of the jersey.
So, for each men’s basketball school in the NCAA, that school can only sell the game jersey with the jersey number matching the year and no name on the back. For example, in the 2019-20 season, schools sell No. 20 jerseys. Coincidentally, Ionescu’s jersey number is 20 and Nike came out with a jersey collection that says “Fighting Ducks,” which are the exact jerseys that the women’s basketball team wears. Ionescu allowed the school to profit off her jersey number because she wants to spread her popularity and get more fans involved in watching women’s basketball. She is setting all sorts of records for the Oregon Ducks, including tying NBA Hall of Famer Gary Payton for the most career assists in PAC-12 men’s and women’s basketball history with 938.
I’m not saying Reese will do this, but she has the potential to break many records. If Cate Reese wore 21 next season, many Arizona alumni could wear the No. 21 jersey. This would give the women’s basketball program more exposure and this could help the team land recruits and create a basketball school for both men’s and women’s basketball.
The PAC-12 has been a powerhouse over the last few seasons, with Stanford always being a top-tier program, Oregon appearing in their first ever Final Four and more teams like Arizona, being thrust into the AP Top 25 Poll for the first time in over a decade. The Wildcats’ alumni have backed up Arizona, with Adia Barnes coming back to coach Arizona after her coaching tenure at Washington. If Cate Reese can reach the super stardom that Oregon’s Ionescu has reached nationally, this could give more viewership to women’s basketball and could create a brighter future for the women’s basketball program.
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