Arizona Wildcats talk superpowers, pizza toppings and expectations for 2019-20 season
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Arizona Wildcats talk superpowers, pizza toppings and expectations for 2019-20 season

Junior guard Aari McDonald, 2, poses for portraits during Arizona Women's Basketball media day at McKale Center 1721 E Enke Dr, Tucson, Ariz., on October 2nd, 2019. Arizona Women's Basketball's season begins October 27th with an exhibition game against Eastern New Mexico at 4pm.

Editor’s note: This story appeared in the Star’s 2019-20 college basketball preview section, which was included with the Sunday, Oct. 27 Arizona Daily Star.

0 Amari Carter

Senior guard Amari Carter, 0, poses for portraits during Arizona Women’s Basketball media day at McKale Center on October 2nd, 2019.

Class: Senior

Position: Guard

Height: 5-8

Hometown (High School): Washington D.C. (St. John’s College); Transfer from Penn State

What superpower would you like to have? “Teleportation so I can save a lot of time on travel. On the court, I will always be in the right spot if I could teleport.”

What is your favorite pizza topping? “Bacon, because bacon is delicious. People put bacon on everything.”

What’s on your bucket list? “Skydiving is on it. Learn to ride a motorcycle is on it.”

What is your personal walk-up music? “Something Beyonce, something Anita Baker or something Donny Hathaway.”

What you learned last year: “The season is long. A lot of things in the season do not go your way and you can’t force it. I hurt my ankle last year—that wasn’t in the plan. So, learning how to play through that and dealing with different situations…You have highs and lows in the season and there’s different adversities you’ll have to deal with.”


1 Shaina Pellington

Junior guard Shaina Pellington, 1, poses for portraits during Arizona Women’s Basketball media day at McKale Center on October 2nd, 2019.

Class: Junior

Position: Guard

Height: 5-8

Hometown (High school): Pickering, Ontario, Canada (Dunbarton); transfer from Oklahoma

What superpower would you like to have? “Read people’s minds.”

What is your favorite pizza topping? “Extra cheese and extra pepperoni.”

What is your favorite song? “I really like ‘No Guidance’ by Chris Brown. It’s between that and ‘Take it Easy’— I forgot who sings that song.”


2 Aari McDonald

Junior guard Aari McDonald, 2, poses for portraits during Arizona Women’s Basketball media day at McKale Center on October 2nd, 2019.

Class: Junior

Position: Guard

Height: 5-6

Hometown (High school): Fresno, California (Brookside Christian); transfer from Washington

What superpower would you like to have? “Teleport. I would go home every day.”

What is your favorite pizza topping? “Pepperoni and bacon.”

What are you currently listening to? “Nipsey Hussle’s ‘Don’t take Days Off.’”

What you learned last year: “To take care of your body. I know I played a lot of minutes and I played a lot of games so just need to care of your body. …cut down turnovers and ultimately just learn how to become a better leader, be more vocal, step out of my comfort zone. And as a team just know that the sky is the limit for us. You can’t be complacent. You know you have to push yourself and get better.”


3 Tara Manumaleuga

Freshman guard Tara Manumaleuga, 3, poses for portraits during Arizona Women’s Basketball media day at McKale Center on October 2nd, 2019.

Class: Freshman

Position: Guard

Height: 5 -10

Hometown (High School): Queensland, Australia (Hillcrest Christian College)

What superpower would you like to have? “Super intelligence, being the smartest person in the world. It’d help me make smarter plays.”

What is your favorite pizza topping? “Pepperoni and pineapple because pineapple goes on pizza.”

What is your favorite song? “Songs by Meek Mill, Lil Baby, Young Thug.”

What you learned last year: “I’ve learned how everyone on the team plays, so once I get in the game, I’m going to be able to understand what everyone’s strengths are.”


4 Lucia Alonso

Senior guard Lucia Alonso, 4, poses for portraits during Arizona Women’s Basketball media day at McKale Center on October 2nd, 2019.

Class: Senior

Position: Guard

Height: 5-7

Hometown (High school): Leon, Spain (Aron Leon Cuna Del Parlamentarismo)

What superpower would you like to have? “Travel in time. I would go to the past. I love history and I read a lot about it. So, I would go to the past.”

What is on your bucket list? “I have a lot of things, but I would say go to Thailand.”

What is your personal walk-up music? “‘Wherever You Will Go’ by The Calling.”

What you learned last year: “At the end of the year I struggled a little with my injury, I learned to stay engaged with the team even if you are inured or not getting as many minutes to play.”


10 Tee Tee Starks

Senior forward Tee Tee Starks, 10, poses for portraits during Arizona Women’s Basketball media day at McKale Center on October 2nd, 2019.

Class: Senior

Position: Forward

Height: 5-10

Hometown (High school): Brooklyn Park, Minnesota (Hopkins); transfer from Iowa State

What superpower would you like to have? “Coach asked this the other day. Invisible. Sometimes you are tired or don’t want to be somewhere ‘poof’ you are gone. No one knows you are there.”

What’s on your bucket list? “I’d like to go to Bali and Spain. So, travelling.”

What is your favorite pizza topping? “Anything chicken. I don’t eat pork. Buffalo Chicken pizza and I actually got a Pesto Chicken Pizza a few days ago and it was good.

What is your personal walk-up music? “Something by Gunna…’Woah Baby.’”

What you learned last year: “The season is not a race, it’s a marathon. If things don’t go well in the beginning they can turn around. It’s a game of runs. It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.”


11 Mara Mote

Freshman guard Mara Mote, 11, poses for portraits during Arizona Women’s Basketball media day at McKale Center on October 2nd, 2019.

Class: Freshman

Position: Guard

Height: 5-11

Hometown (High school/International team): Cesis, Latvia (TTT Riga)

What superpower would you like to have? “Ability to fly or be super, super fast. So I can get to places quicker.”

What is your favorite pizza topping? “Cheese and peperoni or ham. I just need those two things to be there.”

What is on your bucket list? “I want to go skydiving. I’m going to do it here, definitely.”

What is your personal walk-up music? “Anything by Beyonce or J. Cole or Drake. I don’t have a favorite one.”

What you learned last year: “Last year I learned, the whole team has to be as one. One team, one heartbeat is really, really important for a team. That matters. I’ve been on a team that doesn’t have that and I’ve seen the results and it’s a huge difference.”


12 Sevval Gul

Freshman forward Sevval Gul, 12, poses for portraits during Arizona Women’s Basketball media day at McKale Center on October 2nd, 2019.

Class: Freshman

Position: Forward

Height: 6-3

Hometown (High school/International team): Istanbul, Turkey (Ferenbace)

What is on your bucket list? “I would like to do bungee jumping and travel the world.”

What superpower would you like to have? “I would like to see the future.”

What is your favorite pizza topping? “My favorite one is pineapple pizza with barbecue sauce.”

What is your favorite music? “My favorite song is ‘Truth Hurts.’ I listen to pop usually, and Turkish songs.”

What you learned last year: “Besides the technical basketball things, I learned be a team and a good teammate and I think that will help me a lot.”


13 Helena Pueyo

Helena Pueyo

Class: Freshman

Position: Guard

Height: 6-0

Hometown (High school/International team): Palma de Mallorca, Spain (Segle XXI)

What superpower would you like to have? “To be invisible.”

What is your favorite pizza topping? “Cheese and ham.”

What is on your bucket list? “Travel a lot of places in America.”

What is your favorite music? “I like pop and rap.”


14 Sam Thomas

Junior forward Sam Thomas, 14, poses for portraits during Arizona Women’s Basketball media day at McKale Center on October 2nd, 2019.

Class: Junior

Position: Forward

Height: 6-0

Hometown (High School): Las Vegas, Nevada (Centennial)

What superpower would you like to have? “I’d like to fly. I think that would be cool. Or laser eyes. For flying, I could just take the ball, fly over to the other basket and drop it in. For laser eyes, maybe I could laser someone’s shoes untied.”

What is on your bucket list? “Go to Bora Bora. I see pictures where it’s the clear water. I am not a big swimmer, but if I can see what I am swimming in then I like that. And there are huts over it and they are so cute.”

What is your favorite pizza topping? “Pepperoni for sure. I’ve always been pepperoni person. I don’t like anything else.”

What is your personal walk-up music? “‘Burning Up’ by the Jonas Brothers. I am obsessed with them.”

What you learned last year: “How the community behind you can push you to do basically anything you want to do.”


25 Cate Reese

Sophomore forward Cate Reese, 25, poses for portraits during Arizona Women’s Basketball media day at McKale Center on October 2nd, 2019.

Class: Sophomore

Position: Forward

Height: 6 -2

Hometown (High School): Cypress, Texas (Cypress Woods)

What superpower would you like to have? “To be invisible. Because … if someone is guarding maybe I could go invisible for a second and then they couldn’t see where I am so I could go for a layup.”

What is your favorite pizza topping? “Sausage, because it can be plain, it can be spicy. It’s always good on pizza.”

What is your personal walk-up music? “Anything Drake.”

What you learned last year: “I learned a lot about positioning mysself properly to rebound better.”


20 Dominique McBryde

Senior forward Dominique McBryde, 20, poses for portraits during Arizona Women’s Basketball media day at McKale Center on October 2nd, 2019.

Class: Senior

Position: Forward

Height: 6-1

Hometown (High school): Bedford, Indiana (Bedford North Lawrence); transfer from Purdue

What superpower would you like to have? “Super strength. You can move anything, beat up on anybody if they are bothering you. Just impress a lot of people and people would be intimidated by me.”

What’s on your bucket list? “Make it to the Sweet 16 of the (NCAA) Tournament. I made my second round my sophomore year in college. Definitely, the Sweet 16, if not more this year. As a person, I want to travel the world.”

What is your favorite pizza topping? “I’m not really a go all-out on pizza toppings, but if anything …chicken or sausage.”

What is your personal walk-up music? “Definitely ‘Old Town Road’— I know, I know, I know, it keeps me young I am the oldest one on the team. It’s fun, it’s weird, just like I am. So it fits my personality pretty well.”

What you learned last year: “After sitting a year out, I think the biggest thing I learned last season was to go for it and go in as hard as I can 100%. I think that’s one thing I’d take a lot this year since it is my last year.”


24 Bryce Nixon

Sophomore guard Bryce Nixon, 24, poses for portraits during Arizona Women’s Basketball media day at McKale Center on October 2nd, 2019.

Class: Sophomore

Position: Guard

Height: 5-10

Hometown (High School): Phoenix (Arcadia)

What superpower would you like to have? “Flying or super speed. Being super-fast would help me get fast break layups but I don’t know if flying could help too much.”

What is your favorite pizza topping? “Pepperoni—which is a new thing for me, because I always used to just go for cheese. Now I do cheese, pepperoni and sausage. So, I’m really proud of myself for branching out.”

What is on your bucket list? “Traveling to different countries.”

What is your personal walk-up music? “Anything by Post Malone.”

What you learned last year: “I learned how my teammates play throughout the whole year; I was studying them. And the coaches, as well…how they coach and what they are looking for.”


33 Semaj Smith

Sophomore center Semaj Smith, 34, poses for portraits during Arizona Women’s Basketball media day at McKale Center on October 2nd, 2019.

Class: Sophomore

Position: Center

Height: 6-6

Hometown (High School): Long Beach, California (St. Anthony)

What superpower would you like to have? “Reading people’s minds. I can use it on the court to see what the opponent is going to do next.”

What is your favorite pizza topping? “I like spinach.”

What is your personal walk-up music? “‘Playing Games’ by Summer Walker.”

What you learned last year: “I should play more for my teammates and not just myself.”


15 Birna Benonysdottir

Freshman forward Birna Benonysdottir, 15, poses for portraits during Arizona Women’s Basketball media day at McKale Center on October 2nd, 2019.

Class: Freshman

Position: Forward

Height: 6-3

Hometown (High School/International team): Keflavik, Iceland (Keflavik)

What superpower would you like to have? “Be unstoppable. I could do anything on the court and nobody could stop me.”

What is your favorite pizza topping? “Pepperoni because it gives it extra flavor. In Tucson, I’ve had Papa John’s and Trident Grill’s pizza.”

What is your personal walk-up music? “Right now it’s the ‘Guilty Pleasures’ playlist on Spotify. Before games though, I like Drake’s Take Care album.”

— PJ Brown

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