As the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament continues in San Antonio, Texas this week with the Final Four teams, many of the WNBA’s biggest and brightest stars are there too for USA Basketball’s second women’s national team minicamp.
While Sue Bird is in the Lone Star State training for her fifth Olympics, the Seattle Storm guard spoke about the matchup she is looking forward to most in March Madness: No. 1 UConn vs. No. 3 Arizona.
The two-time NCAA champion at Connecticut will be rooting on her Huskies that is certain. But Bird said Tuesday that she will also be cheering on Arizona, who is led by head coach Adia Barnes, Bird’s former teammate from 2002-04 on the Seattle Storm.
“I couldn’t be more happy for Adia,” the WNBA legend and four-time champion said. “The minute she got that job, you just knew she was going to have success because that’s her personality. If you’re around Adia for five seconds, she makes you feel like you’ve known her forever. As a recruiter, when you’re trying to build a program and get the community involved, those are things you can’t teach. You either have them or you don’t. To see it turn the corner so fast, I think she’s even surprised...
Arizona women’s basketball defeated Indiana 66-53 on Monday to reach the first Final Four in program history. U of A also became the fourth Pac-12 school in the last five years to reach the Final Four for the first time, joining Oregon (2019), Oregon State (2016), Washington (2016) and Cal (2013).
Barnes admits she couldn’t have done it without the support of many of her former Storm teammates, including Bird. The 44-year-old also expressed the importance of having more former WNBA players coaching at the college level.
“It means a lot,” Barnes said in her post-game interview. “It means the world to me because I’ve created so many lifelong friendships through my years being a pro. Lauren Jackson, Sue Bird, Sheri Sam, Tully Bevilaqua, they all—we had a championship team. I have lifelong friends that I loved dearly.
“It feels good when they’re all reaching out, texting me. Swin [Cash] texted me. Everybody texted me. I think there needs to be more players, WNBA players, former players coaching women’s basketball. I don’t think there are a lot of us because I don’t think a lot of us have had a tremendous amount of success.”
The Wildcats are led by Pac-12 Player of the Year Aari McDonald who is coming off a 33-point, 11-rebound performance over the Hoosiers in the Elite Eight. The senior guard could once again prove to be a difference-maker on Friday as Arizona sets its sights on making more program history.
Bird knows McDonald, who has 111 points and 27 rebounds in the NCAA Tournament thus far, will be a problem for UConn.
“She has done everything for them,” Bird said. “Obviously her quickness is her biggest asset, her ability to go anywhere at any time. Her kind of game translates to the WNBA well, so it will be fun to watch her go against Connecticut.”
No. 3 seeded Arizona will take on the No. 1 Huskies on Friday, April 2 at 6:30 p.m. PDT in the Final Four.