Freshman basketball star Aarion McDonald leaving Washington
Aarion McDonald loses the handle on the ball trying to run baseline in the 2nd half. The 14th-seeded Montana State Bobcats played the 3rd-seeded Washington Huskies in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at Alaska Airlines Arena Saturday, March 18, 2017
Freshman star Aarion McDonald is leaving the Washington women’s basketball team.
The 5-foot-7 point guard was third on the team last season while averaging 9.8 points last season and would have been the Huskies’ leading returning scorer.
She started 21 of 28 games after missing the first seven games of the season due to lower-back injury.
The Pac-12 All-Freshman team pick averaged 2.7 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 24.1 minutes. She shot 47.3 percent from the field and 33.0 on three-pointers.
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McDonald is the first UW player to transfer since new coach Jody Wynn was hired April 14 after eight seasons at Long Beach State.
Wynn takes over a UW team that’s made three straight trips to the NCAA tournaments under former coach Mike Neighbors who left for Arkansas.
In four years under Neighbors, the Huskies rose to Pac-12 prominence while compiling a 98-41 record and making the program’s first trip to the Final Four in 2016.
However, Washington enters the 2017-18 season without five of its top six leading scorers from last season, including Kelsey Plum and Chantel Osahor. The All-American stars combined to average 47.5 points. UW also lost seniors Katie Collier (6.4 scoring average) and Heather Corral (5.2) to graduation.
Sharp-shooter Natalie Romeo, who will be a senior next season, was fourth on the team while averaging 9.3 points. No other returning Husky averaged more than four points last season.
McDonald, a four-star prospect who ranked 55th on ESPN’s top 100 list, was the highest-ranked recruit among the Huskies’ four-player 2016 freshman class.
She scored in double figures in 12 contests, including a career-high 23 on 9-of-11 shooting and 3-of-4 from beyond the arc against Cal State Northridge.
The speedy guard was perfect fit for Neighbors’ high-octane offensive attack, which allowed Plum to break the NCAA all-time scoring record. The Huskies ranked sixth among NCAA Division I teams while averaging 85.0 last season.
Wynn’s defensive-oriented team at Long Beach State scored just 66.1 points per game and ranked 142nd.