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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Practice facility opens

    Sophomore middle blocker Stephanie Snow hits the ball in practice on Wednesday in the new basketball and volleyball practice facility east of McKale Center. The court is named in honor of Shawntinice Polk, a UA womens basketball player who died of a blood clot in September 2005.
    Sophomore middle blocker Stephanie Snow hits the ball in practice on Wednesday in the new basketball and volleyball practice facility east of McKale Center. The court is named in honor of Shawntinice Polk, a UA women’s basketball player who died of a blood clot in September 2005.

    New.

    Any nostril would be able to recognize its scent. Putting it into words is a different story.

    If New was a line of perfume sold in Dillard’s, it would have many variations: New Car, New House or New Office.

    The Arizona volleyball team’s line of New fragrance was tested earlier in the week. It’s called New Gym.

    The squad felt very fortunate as it stepped into the $14 million basketball and volleyball practice facility just east of McKale Center for the first time on Tuesday.

    “”It was terrific,”” UA head coach Dave Rubio said of Tuesday’s practice. “”We had to get used to the surroundings, being that was our first time practicing in there. We didn’t know what to expect, but I really like it. It’s wonderful. I feel lucky and fortunate to have a facility like that.””

    Milwaukee Bucks forward Richard Jefferson – a former UA basketball player – donated a generous $3.5 million to the facility, which has yet to be named, though the court was named after Shawntinice Polk, a UA women’s basketball player who died in September 2005 from a blood clot.

    Before the new facility was built, the volleyball team would walk to the Bear Down Gymnasium located in the middle of the UA Mall to practice once basketball season kicked off.

    But the Wildcats won’t forget about the 82-year-old gym just because a new one is built. Sure, it’s swampy in Bear Down and it doesn’t have air conditioning, but it has been seen a lot for Arizonans.

    Bear Down has, and continues to, house countless sporting events: It was used as a dormitory for Navy Training School in the 1940s and even withstood a serious fire in 1982.

    The team can’t help but miss the gym’s good times, even if they were sweaty ones.

    “”(The new facility) is really nice,”” senior Brooke Buringrud said. “”But it doesn’t have the character that McKale and Bear Down have. I don’t feel at home in here yet. … It will take a few more practices.””

    For Bear Down days, all the players had to do was walk over from McKale. The managers and coaches, on the other hand, had to lug all the equipment every time the team practiced.

    But this has changed, too.

    The squad was fortunate enough to get new equipment to permanently stay in the new facility, which means no more lugging.

    “”The managers moved all the new equipment over (to the new gym) on Monday,”” volunteer assistant coach Brendan Kerr said. “”We’re lucky enough that the school got us new nets and poles and stuff so we didn’t have to bring that all over.””

    Though the outside of the building still appears to be a construction site, the gym looks exactly as it did sketched on a sheet of paper. Other than the bare walls, the only thing that needs to be dealt with is the sun’s glare from the facility’s large westward window.

    “”I love the facility – it’s beautiful and it really is a nice setup for us,”” Rubio said. “”The only issue we have is the glare coming in through the windows in the afternoon. It gets really bright in there and it’s hard to track balls. So I think we’ll have to find a solution for that later on.””

    The head coach said putting up a curtain to block the sun might be a long-term solution, but there are a lot of other things to focus on for the time being.

    The sun shines in the window for a short while around 4:30 or 5 p.m., Rubio said.

    Plus, the players find it easy to adjust to because they had to deal with the same problem where they used to practice.

    “”We had to deal with (the glare) in Bear Down, too, so it’s not really a big stretch for us,”” UA assistant coach Allison Napier said. “”It’s only a problem for about a half hour in the day, and I think we might make the adjustment of moving the main court down to (the north) end (of the gym). So who knows? We’ll see. We’ll make it work.””

    Napier, a former UA outside hitter, helped lead the Wildcats to their first Elite Eight finish in her senior season (2000) and was a First Team All-Pacific-10 honoree.

    Throughout the course of her college career, Napier didn’t get to experience anything like the brand new facility. Since she’s graduated, there have been a new workout facility, locker rooms and now a new practice gym added. But it doesn’t bother her in the least.

    “”I never really think of anything like that, actually,”” Napier said. “”I think of it as, you build a successful program to get things like that, and you can’t look back and say, ‘I wish I would have had that,’ because it’s kind of pointless – it’s not going to change anything.””

    The practice facility’s effects on the Wildcats are impossible to document, but like the new crowd-compacting curtain in McKale, it’s nice to have.

    “”I don’t know if it’s going to make a big difference as far as performance goes,”” Napier said. “”But it is nice and it’s a luxury that we didn’t have before.””

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