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Aari McDonald's basketball legacy: How to make up for the loss?

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Ana Beltran | The Daily Wildcat Aari McDonald (2) signs to her teammates about the next play.

Aari McDonald was one of the best basketball players the University of Arizona had seen since Adia Barnes. She transferred to Arizona from the University of Washington after her freshman season and looked to make an early impact. In her first season in Tucson, she broke Barnes’s record for most points in a season and was named as an Honorable Mention All-American. She was also the third-leading scorer in the nation at 24.1 points per game. 

In her junior year, she won the Ann Meyers Drysdale Award for the nation's top shooting guard. She was a second-team All-American by the AP and won the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year. That season she became the first player in school history to score 40 points in a game. 

During her senior season, McDonald won the Pac-12 Player of the Year and Co-Defensive Player of the Year. She also was named to second-team All-American by the AP for the second year in a row. During the NCAA tournament, she had two 30-point games in the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight. She led the team to the National Championship but lost to Stanford. 

McDonald finished her career in Arizona as the career leader in points per game and third all-time on the Arizona scoring list. After she graduated, she was drafted third overall by the Atlanta Dream, which was the highest draft pick in school history.

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McDonald's departure is a big loss for the Wildcats, and they will have to pick up her production on offense and defense. 

On the offensive side of the ball, head coach Barnes will look to fill 24 points per game. They will need others to be aggressive, namely upperclassmen Cate Reese and Sam Thomas scoring inside the paint, as well as new transfer shooting guard Taylor Chavez to maximize the outside shot. The Wildcats will also look to underclassmen to step into bigger roles to help fill the void McDonald is leaving. 

This team is taller than last year's team, so there will need to be less iso-basketball and more set plays to get the post more looks. 

On the defensive side of the ball, McDonald was an aggressive on-ball defender at the guard position. With her gone, Arizona will look to Shaina Pellington to do the same, being a pest on the ball, making the opposing team speed up their offense and come up with quick on-ball turnovers. 

A Barnes led team is always a defensive minded team, so they will likely look to continue playing great team defense. 


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UA COVID-19 Test Tracker

Daily (12/4)
744 14 1.9%
Total (8/2)
64,794 1,040 1.6%
Includes tests since August 2, 2021
Data from https://covid19.arizona.edu/updates
Updated December 5, 2021