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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

W-Hoops eager for 2010

Alan Walsh / Arizona Daily Wildcat
Alan Walsh
Alan Walsh / Arizona Daily Wildcat

With a month and a half until Arizona women’s basketball season, head coach Niya Butts and company begin preparations for the 2010-11 campaign and another quest for the immaculate NCAA tournament bid that has been missing since 2005.

After finishing with a 14-17 record last season — their best since Butts joined the program in 2008 — the Wildcats will be able to enter the upcoming season with more confidence and focus than they have had in years.

“”We want to continue to build on our success,”” Butts said. “”We’re making progress and we want to keep going with that. We’ll look at last year and we’ll implement some things that will help us out and make us better and have even more success.””

With that in mind, Butts and the training staff have been focusing training to carry a consistent up-tempo style of basketball for all 40 minutes.

Along with training, the Wildcats will strongly benefit from more depth, a factor that plagued them all last season.

A changing of the guard

Since her time at Arizona began, senior forward Ify Ibekwe has been the face of Arizona women’s basketball and her accomplishments have ascended her toward the tops of both Arizona and Pacific 10 Conference lists.

But now in her final season, the time has come for Ibekwe to usher in her successor.

After a stellar freshman year, guard Davellyn Whyte looks poised to take Ibekwe’s role as the figurehead of the team.

In her first season at Arizona, Whyte garnered Pac-10 Freshmen of the Year honors as well as toppling the school single-game scoring record, racking up 39 points in a contest against Oregon.

The dynamic that Whyte brought completely shifted the offensive attack, one that was formerly conservative and attempted to get the ball toward the low post could now be opened up to the perimeter with Whyte’s precision outside shooting.

Ibekwe’s ability to mentor her teammates has always been lauded by the coaching staff and her leadership is evident both on and off the court.

“”There’s no secret that great players make great coaches,”” Butts said. “”We are certainly trying to surround Ify with better players, and I think we’ve done that.””

New faces bring new threats

Arizona women’s basketball welcomes two talented recruits; freshmen guard Candice Warthen from Warren County High School in Warrenton, Ga. and forward Erica Barnes, from Sacramento High School in Sacramento, Calif.

Warthen, who was the leading scorer in the state of Georgia her senior year after averaging 28.5 points per game, also managed to lead her team to a state playoff appearance.

With the depth that these players will bring, Butts and her staff are looking forward to how the offense will play out this year.

“”When you have other options to go to, that certainly balances your offense and it helps you defensively,”” Butts said. “”The more weapons that we have, the better team we’ll become.””

Coach Butts honored by her high school

Butts’ No. 23 jersey now graces the rafters of “”The Panther Den,”” the home basketball arena at Americus High School in Georgia, after the Arizona coach was honored by her alma mater for her successes in life and basketball.

In high school, Butts lettered in both basketball and track, before finally committing to the University of Tennessee where she won two national championships and was a part of what is considered to be one of the greatest teams in the history of women’s college basketball under legendary college basketball coach Pat Summitt.

“”It was something that I was honored to be a part of and experience,”” Butts said after the ceremony. “”It was nice to go back home and thank the people that played such a huge part in my life.””

 

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