The Confidence, Speed and Shooting of Aari McDonald

Her mother remembers things differently. Aari’s older teammates were reluctant on the court, she said, requiring coaxing to move around a...


Her mother remembers things differently. Aari’s older teammates were reluctant on the court, she said, requiring coaxing to move around and shoot, while Aari was already making improbable shots. “She kept us in those games,” Andrea said. “I had to take a double look, like, ‘Is she really making these baskets?’”

“She was like a little gnat,” her father recalled of those early games. “You just couldn’t get her off of you.”

By sixth grade, McDonald was playing on a boys’ A.A.U. team. She also played volleyball and ran track, but basketball quickly became her top priority. She started getting attention in the local news media when she became her high school’s leading scorer by a large margin as a freshman, and garnered even more when she started getting triple-doubles and even, once, a quadruple-double.

As her abilities grew, she didn’t. McDonald insists that her height never threatened her basketball ambitions and credits her mother for her confidence in spite of being perpetually underestimated.

“Every game, throughout my whole career, my mom has always told me to be a feisty competitor and leave everything out on the floor,” McDonald said. “Me being small, I had to do things that other players didn’t want to do, whether that was diving on the floor for loose balls or taking charges.”

Plus, she believes she has other gifts that have fueled her career. “You can’t teach speed,” McDonald said. “You can’t teach heart.”

Because she wanted to stay on the West Coast, McDonald began her college career at the University of Washington, where Adia Barnes, who is now Arizona’s coach, was an assistant. But McDonald wasn’t content, far from her family and her ailing grandfather — and playing behind the N.C.A.A.’s career leading scorer, Kelsey Plum. When Barnes, who had recruited McDonald, took the Arizona job, the decision to follow her was a fairly easy one.

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Newsrust - US Top News: The Confidence, Speed and Shooting of Aari McDonald
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