UA women's basketball

UA coach Adia Barnes on what she learned during her team’s weekend retreat at White Stallion Ranch: “We are all aligned and have similar expectations.”

Coach Adia Barnes and the Arizona Wildcats’ women’s basketball team spent last weekend at White Stallion Ranch. It was time for team bonding, away from all the distractions.

Well, there were a few distractions.

Players were greeted with a bunch of Wildcats gear, from shoes and sandals to T-shirts and shorts. They also received customized bandannas, cowboy hats, and a keychain with cowboys on one side and a team photo on the other.

The Wildcats will need to work as a team if they’re going to make a big leap this season. The UA has added the highest-rated recruiting class in program history to a team that struggled to a 6-24 record last season. Arizona will hold its first practice of the new season Friday afternoon on campus.

Players spent the weekend retreat bonding. They rode horses and corralled three cows into a pen. Each player had a defined role, and all had to communicate.

The retreat wasn’t all work. The Wildcats did have a lot of fun. Friday night they had a bonfire, told stories and danced. Senior Destiny Graham and Barnes won an air hockey tournament. And, they found their new game for road trips — Mafia, where players try to discover who the murderer is.

At one point, the Wildcats were split into different groups to help build connections. Each group wrote stories imagining it was the end of the season.

“It was incredible,” Barnes said. “We all had similar stories — 90 percent of them were the same. It’s good that we all said the same things. It means we are all aligned and have similar expectations.”

Cats land commitment

Last week, the Wildcats picked up their third commitment for the 2019 class — Tara Manumaleuga, an 5-foot-9 inch guard from Australia.

Manumaleuga played for the U17 New Zealand national team in this summer’s World Cup in Minsk. While she lives in Australia, her father is from New Zealand and the national team is allowed to take a few out-of-country players.

Her team beat host Belarus 73-59, marking the country’s first winin Womens FIBA Age-Group World Cup play. Manumaleuga led all scorers with 19 points. In the last two games of the World Cup, she went 9-of-19 from the 3-point line. rates Manumaleuga as a four-star recruit. She joins two other commitments, both of whom live overseas. Forward Birna Benonysdottir is Iceland and guard Mara Mote is from Latvia. Both are also four-star recruits.

If this sounds like a pattern or a strategy, it is.

“Everyone is going overseas these days for top-level talent,” Barnes said. “We are going after some of the same girls as Oregon. I have a lot of connections from when I played overseas and I am using my friendships and relationships. We could potentially have four foreign players in this class. I look at who is going to make us better. I don’t care where they are from.”

Rim shots

  • The Wildcats are being drilled on rules that govern the locker room, traveling and academics.

“They had the basics and then what they are compelled to do. We always want to be compelled,” Barnes said. “For academics, it was showing up early for class, sitting in the first few rows, and introducing yourself to the professor. And, they will hold themselves accountable for these rules.”

  • The UA opens its season Oct. 29 with an exhibition against Eastern New Mexico.