SAN FRANCISCO – The Arizona women’s basketball team may have put themselves on the national radar with their march to the NCAA Championship a year ago. But head coach Adia Barnes doesn’t feel any different than she was around this time last year.
“It doesn’t look any different and I’m not busier when it comes to the media,” Barnes said. “I really don’t think of it that way. I go out and do what I do. It’s always about how you end up in the end. I’m excited about what we have and can’t wait to see how we do it. let’s put together. “
Barnes spoke about the historic run and expectations for the upcoming season on Pac-12 Women’s Basketball Media Day, bringing with her Sam Thomas and Cate Reese, the main players in that run.
The team lost just two players, All-American Aari McDonald, who was drafted to the WNBA by the Atlanta Dream, and reserve forward Trinity Baptiste. Barnes says both from a team direction and performance perspective, more will be asked of every player. McDonald’s production cannot be absorbed by one athlete.
“I think it will be by committee,” Barnes said. “Sam (Thomas) is going to have more. Cate (Reese) is going to have more. We added a transfer from Vanderbilt (Koi Love). It’s going to be different but we have more depth, better shooters. It should be better. . “
Barnes said most aspects of her job haven’t changed, but the only thing she has is that she is more widely recognized. When she visits a rookie’s house, this player and her family already know her story and the advocate she has championed for working mothers. This was discussed in national media during the team’s historic race.
Opportunities presented themselves to her as well. She joined Dawn Staley’s team for US women’s basketball and was part of the FIBA AmeriCup team in Puerto Rico in June.
She has been invited to speak at various leadership conferences and admits she had a “fan girl” moment when asked to do a podcast with Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll .
All this for a very short off season.
“Everything was very important,” she said. “I had a chance and a platform to do something special. I would be crazy not to take advantage of it.”
ASU women ready for a new start
It’s been a tough year for the Arizona State women and veteran head coach Charli Turner Thorne this past year. The Sun Devils had a young team to start and injuries took their toll, with only returning starter Jayde Van Hyfte playing just one game before injuring his knee at the end of the season.
Turner Thorne was at Pac-12 Media Day, with his team’s top two scorers, Taya Hanson (12.6 points per game) and Jaddan Simmons (10.8 points per game).
Like many teams, they have been impacted by COVID-19. Turner Thorne is thrilled to be able to turn the page and the return of her team’s balance.
“New year, new team and now we have five returning starters,” she said. “Last year was like giving birth. Absolute pain, that’s what I felt. I just passed out. Now we’re just focusing on the future. I love this team. . It reminds me a lot of some of our top 10 teams, it really is. “
It was the second media day appearance for Hanson, which came in his last in-person outfit in 2019, and the first for Simmons.
“It was fun chatting with other athletes and coaches,” said Simmons. “We’re all very competitive and we go out there on the pitch, but it’s nice to get to know each other in a more relaxed atmosphere.”
Gottlieb back in Pac-12
Lindsay Gottlieb was named USC head coach five months ago. She has spent the last two years as an assistant with the Cleveland Cavaliers, but was in the Pac-12 from 2012 to 2019 as a head coach in California.
USC has struggled in recent years, but Gottlieb still viewed it as elite work, which is why she chose to return to college.
“I wouldn’t have come back if it wasn’t for the opportunity of a lifetime. You look at the players that have been here and it’s a Mount Rushmore of women’s basketball. It’s crazy.”
Smith fights in martial arts
Charmin Smith is entering his third year as head coach at Cal. But during the offseason, she trained and competed in her first match of Muay Thai, Thailand’s national kickboxing sport.
She studied the sport for five years before deciding to try it out as a competitor. The match took place at the Santa Cruz Arena, home of the Golden State Warriors G-League team. Smith lost but was happy with his competitiveness against an experienced foe.
“If I had won I thought it would be easy to sort of go towards sunset. Or if I had lost hard it would have been easy to say, ‘Enough of that,’” Smith said. . “But having done it, now I have a hard time getting away from it.”