Courtney Blakely, the persistent defender from Arizona, has had basketball as an integral part of her life since childhood.

Jermal Blakely, Courtney Blakely’s father, put her up to the hospital room TV shortly after she was born on April 6, 2003. With his new daughter, Jermal desired to watch a women’s NCAA Final Four game that day.

Naturally, Courtney, who transferred to the UA before the current season and is currently a reserve guard for the Arizona women’s basketball team, can’t recall the specific game she was in—it was either Tennessee-Duke or UConn-Texas. However, the fact that she grew up as a UConn supporter may provide some insight.

She was practically born to be a basketball fan, and her affinity for the game only deepened from there.

She would hold a basketball in her hands consistently since she was two or three years old. Her mother, former WNBA player Angela (Hamblin), was a coach, so she was in the gym all the time.

Blakely recalled, “I used to be the little kid on the side, dribbling a ball around the gym.” But when I was six or seven years old, we started taking it seriously. At that point, we started holding twice or three daily training sessions where we worked out and practiced form shooting, ball handling drills, and other difficult skills.

The worst part is that her father, not her mother, served as her first coach.

Rather of concentrating on basketball, Angela made sure her daughter was a well-rounded individual. She also emphasized the importance of Courtney’s mental health. Jermal, her father, who attended Kirkwood Community College in Iowa to play basketball, was the one who insisted on teaching her the basics of the game.

They all taught her the value of education, and now she’s pursuing an accounting degree.

They also gave her advice on how to play the game as a team member. She played one of the hardest schedules in the country last season at Middle Tennessee State, where she split starting duties in her second season in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. This season, she has been a spark off the bench for the Wildcats, who are still hoping for an at-large berth in the NCAA Tournament.

Blakely stated, “Knowing your role and knowing when to say something, when to not say something—this stuff is important—was something that was instilled in me as a young child by my parents.” Additionally, I simply feel that I can say or do certain things with my teammates because I feel comfortable doing so. That was something my folks gave me.

They would begin at seven a.m. and go at it nonstop during those early sessions with her dad. Her area of interest is offensive basics.

She scored 2,324 points at Bishop Noll High School, which is close to her hometown of Gary, Indiana, more than any other player, male or female. As a junior, she averaged 23 points, and as a senior, 20.

In her brief time as a Wildcat, she has also made some amazing shots, such as a nearly half-court buzzer-beater against Washington at the end of the first quarter in the team’s 90-82 triple-OT victory at home on February 18 and a side-stepping 3-pointer against the same team last week as Arizona was pulling away in the Pac-12 Tournament’s opening round.

“I would definitely go attack the basket or do whatever is required to score if I was feeling well, felt like I could make the shot, and knew that my teammates trusted me to make the basket. Blakely stated, “So that’s setting someone else up or as me taking the shot, I will do it.”

Regarding the side-step three-pointer, I’m confident in my ability to make it on that side of the court. I work on that, so it was a logical progression.

P12 Basketball, USC Arizona (copy)
Guard Courtney Blakely of Arizona defends USC’s JuJu Watkins as she attempts a jumper in the second half of the teams’ Pac-12 Women’s Basketball Tournament game in Las Vegas on March 7.

The Associated Press’s Ian Maule
Although the Wildcats have benefited greatly from her timely buckets, it’s a curious turn of events that she’s now more well-known for her defense.

She is perfectly okay with that.

“I knew I would be happy if I could stop someone on the other end of the floor,” Blakely remarked.

Adia Barnes, the coach at Arizona, has commented, “We always talk about the dog mentality — just being tough and gritty, just relentless.” She is also abrasive. Courtney is that, too. Courtney is similar to that itch you can’t seem to get rid of in the middle of your back. Someone has to be found in order to scratch it. She acts in that manner. I want her to take that action. She is capable of doing that.

Whether she’s protecting someone who is much taller or someone who is her size (5-8), she will exert pressure and obstruct their efforts.

Blakely hovers, ready to pounce at any time and get into her opponent’s grill.

Blakely’s presence was sufficient to affect Hannah Stines’ shot, who is three inches taller than Blakely, as the Wildcats were beginning to pull away in the second quarter of their Pac-12 Tournament game against Washington last week.


Finding out what her opponent “moves down to see what they’re comfortable doing and making them uncomfortable and forcing them to do other things that take their percentage down, like their precision, I guess you could say,” is what Blakely says is essential.

And it ends when her speed takes control. She is completing at the other end of the court moments after grabbing the ball.

Blakely’s timely shoots, defense, speed, and team spirit will be crucial to the Wildcats as they prepare for postseason competition, whether it’s in the NCAA or the new WBIT bracket.

UA teammate Skylar Jones stated, “She’s just going to come in the game and bring that spark off the bench no matter if she plays 30 minutes or 20 minutes.” “It makes no difference that she will become a dog. She also provides the defensive intensity off the ball. She exerts pressure on the ball, makes numerous steals, and deflects it. She has an impact on the court.

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Arizona, at 17–15, will find out its postseason destiny on Sunday at 5 p.m. on ESPN during the NCAA Selection Show. Bracketologists Mark Schindler of The Athletic and Charlie Creme of ESPN presently have the Wildcats as the 11th seed. Arizona is the opponent for both Creme and Schindler in their “First Four” matchups; should the Wildcats prevail, they would meet again in the round of 64 two days later.

In the event that the Wildcats are not selected for the NCAA Tournament, they will likely serve as hosts and compete in the new WBIT secondary tournament, which is sponsored by the NCAA this season. On Thursday, the first game would take place.

Following Arizona’s season-ending defeat to then-No. 8 UCLA, newly-hired UA Desireé Reed-Francois was spotted embracing forward Isis Beh. It turns out that when Beh was a freshman and Reed-Francois the Rebels’ athletic director, they were both attending UNLV at the same time.

“We instantly gave each other hugs after that game,” remarked Reed-Francois. “I told her it was kind of a full circle moment—I saw your first game as a freshman and now I see your last game as a senior.” After that, it was rather amazing when I ran into her parents at the Pac-12 tournament.

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