An exodus of graduating seniors and professional early entrants has removed many of the most talented athletes from the UA campus.
The Wildcats lost Finnish basketball star Lauri Markkanen and defensive stalwart Kadeem Allen, while LaBrittney Jones is moving on from the women’s team.
Sage Watson won an NCAA title in the 400-meter hurdles in her final college race. Arizona’s softball program loses its all-time home-run leader Katiyana Mauga and ace Danielle O’Toole. The baseball team lost at least J.J Matijevic, Jared Oliva and Cameron Ming to the draft.
The Wildcats have collectively lost a lot of talent, but it’s not as if the campus is barren. Arizona has All-Americans returning and a group of talented freshmen across all sports with the ability to contribute right away.
Over the next 50 days, we’ll be counting down the 50 best athletes on the UA campus. Coaches, players and people around the program have helped us identify the players ready to pounce in 2017-18. This list considered past accomplishments, importance to their respective program’s success and a projection of what they could accomplish this season.
No. 50: Kat Wright
Sport: Women’s basketball
The details: Wright is a 6-foot senior forward who came to Arizona as a graduate transfer from Florida Atlantic. She medically redshirted the 2016-17 season at FAU after suffering a season-ending injury. She is eligible to play at Arizona immediately.
The numbers: Wright averaged 7.4 points per game in 84 career games (17 starts) at Florida Atlantic. In her last action as a junior two years ago, Wright averaged 11.7 points and 4.6 rebounds per game.
Wright’s value: On a team without much shooting talent, the Wildcats will need to Wright to step in right away and become the team’s go-to shooter from deep. As a junior, Wright made, on average, three 3-pointers per game and shot at a 40.1-percent clip from downtown.
Why Wright? The Wildcats lost five seniors from last year’s 14-16 team and will only have two — with five new freshmen, none expected to redshirt — for the fall. On a roster without much experience, Wright’s veteran presence and shooting ability will be key to any sort of success Arizona might have in a rebuilding year.
Proof she’s good: Wright set an FAU record in a game against Charlotte when she made 11 three-pointers, helping her establish a career-high of 33 points. Arizona hasn’t had a player score at least 33 points in a game since Davellyn Whyte scored 34 in 2011. The UA’s single-game record for three-pointers made is just seven, accomplished six different times.
What Wright can accomplish: Arizona lost its three top scorers, and its leading returner (JaLea Bennett) attempted only 5.8 shots per game last year while the Wildcats’ top outside shooter, Lucia Alonso, only attempted 1.9 threes per game. As a junior at FAU, Wright attempted at least five threes in 23 of 30 games. So, basically, there’s room for Wright to break out this season as a deep threat and, potentially, even lead the Wildcats in scoring.
Coachspeak: “She’s going to have a clear advantage just because she’s an experienced vet. She’s a sharpshooter, so she’ll be our best 3-point shooter. We don’t have someone with her skill.” — UA coach Adia Barnes
She said it: “I’m so excited to spend my last year playing for the University of Arizona, competing in one of the top conferences and playing for a phenomenal coaching staff. I couldn’t be any more proud to call myself a Wildcat.” — Wright, in May