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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Butts eager to start season

Tim Glass / Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tim Glass
Tim Glass / Arizona Daily Wildcat

As the start of her third year at the helm of the Arizona women’s basketball team nears, head coach Niya Butts has finally witnessed something in her team that had been lacking in years past at the beginning of the season. Drive.

This drive was instantly apparent at the Wildcats’ first practice of the season on Oct. 4, and left the Arizona coaches with an incredible amount of hope and determination for this season, but even more so for the future.

“”We’re still building a (team) culture but you can definitely see it,”” said Butts in a press conference on Thursday. “”From year one to this year there is an incredible difference, as a staff we walked out of practice and looked at each other kind of speechless.””

As one of the most celebrated players in Arizona women’s basketball history, Pacific 10 Conference Defensive Player of the Year Ify Ibekwe will make her final mark as she rounds out her Wildcat career in her senior season.

Being in a leadership role since her freshman season at Arizona has enabled her to usher in what Butts and company hope to be a bright future for the team.

“”There’s so much potential, (the coaches are) recruiting from everywhere and trying to bring in the best here,”” Ibekwe said. “”I think people are going to be surprised, this program is going to take off.””

Assuming her own part of the leadership role is Pac-10 Freshman of the Year Davellyn Whyte.

Coming into her sophomore season, Whyte knows that she can contribute even more.

“”Having a year under my belt, I knew what was expected of me and what I needed to do.”” Whyte said. “”Also, having Ify (Ibekwe) getting ready to leave, I know I need to step up this year so when she leaves it’s not a big transition for the team.””

Last season, the Wildcats’ biggest Achilles’ heel was their depth. The Wildcats would contend solidly for the first half, but then the exhaustion that ensued in the second half would hamper the abilities of the team.

Butts and her staff not only welcome more players on the bench this season, but also tout the abilities of their non-starters.

“”Our core group is going to be an exciting group,”” Butts said. “”It’s going to be a group that’s going to allow (Ibekwe and Whyte) to take a step back, not necessarily from being aggressive and leading our team, but maybe not having to play so many minutes.””

This determination and focus could propel the Wildcats to a successful start, but the real test will be whether they can keep it up all season.

Butts preaches the continuation of the drive everyday and practice, but it will ultimately have to come from the players, and Ibekwe and Whyte place the determination on their shoulders.

“”For Dav (Whyte) and I, coming to practice and having a positive attitude and constantly talking to our teammates,”” Ibekwe said. “”If we keep that up all the way through, then everyone will keep up, they will just follow us.””

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