Then and Now: Aari McDonald

Sports

Aari McDonald is a second-team all-American, as announced on Thursday by the Associated Press.

McDonald, a junior at Arizona, was the Pac-12’s Defensive Player of the Year. She led the conference in steals per game this season (2.3). She also led the conference in scoring (20.6 ppg), and has scored in double figures in 66 straight games, the longest active streak in the nation.

Long before Aari McDonald was a standout at Arizona, she was a standout at Fresno’s Bullard High School. On January 26th, 2013, Sports Central’s Andrew Marden profiled McDonald:

14-year-old Aarion McDonald isn’t old enough to drive to her own basketball games, but she can certainly drive to the basket.

“I have a scrappy style of play,” she smiled. “It’s aggressive, I just like to win and have fun.”

Aarion goes by the nickname, ‘Aari.’ And she is the only freshman in Bullard’s starting lineup that includes one senior and three sophomores.

“They accept me a lot,” she said. “We work together, we talk about my mistakes in the games or practices. We just pick it up the next play.”

Except Aari McDonald does not make many mistakes.

McDonald is the team’s point guard as well as its leading scorer, averaging just under 24 points per game. She scored in double figures in all of Bullard’s 19 games this season. The Knights are 16-3, with four of those wins coming in league.

“They’ve never won an outright league title,” said head coach Bill Engel. “So we’re trying to win a league title. They’ve had one co-championship.”

Bill Engel is in his third season as the Knights’ head coach. He actually coached Aari McDonald years before, at one of Bruce Bowen’s basketball camps.

“She was maybe 7 or 8, and I had her group,” he said. “And I was telling her, I said, ‘wow, whatever coach gets you in high school is gonna be one lucky coach.’ And I had no idea I would come back to coach her. No idea whatsoever.

“I’ve had Bruce Bowen that went to the pros, I’ve had Andre Sims. She’s as good a player, male or female, as I’ve had.”

Added McDonald, “I love the game. I just love to smile and have fun out here. I have a lot to smile about, so I just show it.”

Aari McDonald can also smile knowing that basketball is in her genes. She has five siblings who all play the game.

She is the youngest.

The oldest?

Tre’Von Willis, the Central Section’s all-time leading scorer.

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