This piece does not reflect the views of the Minnesota Lynx front office.
Aari McDonald: 5’7, G, University of Arizona
College Stats in 2019-20:
25 games, 32 MPG, 20.5 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 3.6 APG, 2.64 SPG, 0.04 BPG, 46.4 FG%, 27.8 3P%, 79.1 FT%
Where she’ll go:
At the start of the season, it seemed as though McDonald would be a surefire first-round pick if she decided to declare for the draft. Now, after ending her junior redshirt season with a leg injury, McDonald would probably be selected No. 16 at best, which makes her decision much more difficult.
Right now, Arizona fans are crossing their fingers that McDonald’s college career isn’t over.
It’s easy to see where they’re coming from.
McDonald, an academic senior and a draft-eligible junior, is currently in contention for six national awards including those awarded to the best guard, best all-around player and best defensive player in the nation. She is the main reason the Wildcats were ranked for the first time in a decade this past season and has quickly left her mark on Arizona’s basketball program after transferring from the University of Washington in 2017.
There was little to no doubt that the 2019-20 season would be the last of McDonald’s college career at its start, but after she suffered a late-season leg injury and dropped a deflating loss to Cal in her team’s final regular season game, her declaration isn’t a certainty.
What is certain, however, is McDonald’s talent.
McDonald began her career at Washington serving as a role player behind WNBA star Kelsey Plum — which isn’t a bad way to get familiarized with college ball — but it soon became apparent that she had so much more to offer than being someone’s backup.
McDonald made an instant impact on Arizona’s team when she transferred after her freshman season. She led the Wildcats in scoring (24.1 points per game) and distributing (4.6 assists per game) and was averaging over 35 minutes per game. Her conditioning was impeccable and burned most opposing guards who tried and failed to stop her in transition.
She’s an average-sized guard but she rarely played like one. McDonald split defenders at will and finish with finesse under the rim. Though she’s listed as a shooting guard, McDonald often acted as her team’s de facto point guard and ran her team’s pick-and-roll actions just about as effectively as any other player in the nation.
Plus, she’s not the type of player who disregards the importance of playing defense. McDonald averaged 2.6 steals per game in both of her seasons with the Wildcats and was named the Pac-12’s 2019-20 Defensive Player of the Year.
Any team would be lucky to have a player of McDonald’s caliber on their roster, but would another year of growth make her an even more lauded draft pick in 2021? The Wildcats are shaking their heads “yes” and hoping that’s the conclusion their star guard comes to.