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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Freshmen starting to make an impact for women’s basketball

Colin Prenger
Colin Prenger / Arizona Daily Wildcat Aley Rohde shoots during a UA Women’s basketball team practice Monday, Sept. 3, in Richard Jefferson Gym.

Freshmen Aley Rohde, Erin Butler and Layana White represent the future of the Arizona women’s basketball program.

The trio, along with three transfers, is taking longer than expected to get acclimated to its new environment. But head coach Niya Butts is excited about the potential the three recruits have.
“I expect them all to contribute. I think they all will play a role with the team moving forward,” Butts said.

With six new players, a learning curve was to be expected for the Wildcats. So far, it is taking a bit longer for the team to adjust than Butts would like, but, luckily for the Wildcats, the season does not start for about another month.

“Obviously, with six new players we’re putting a lot of things together and (there is) a lot of learning and a lot of teaching going on,” Butts said. “It’s not going as fast as I want it to be right now, but we certainly are making strides in the right direction.”

Butts is unsure of who will be the starting lineup will be on Nov. 11, when the Wildcats face Georgia Southern. Senior point guard Shanita Arnold and junior guard Davellyn Whyte are pretty safe bets, and based off her performance in practice thus far, it wouldn’t be surprising if Rohde joined them.

Layana White, who hails from Lancaster, Calif., has been one of the bright spots in practice thus far, and Butts expects her to play an important role on the team this season.

“She goes extremely hard,” Butts said. “One thing she really does probably more than anyone on our team is that she never takes any possessions off. Whether she understands or gets what we’re trying to tell her, she’s going hard so a lot of times, even when she’s out of position, she’s able to make some plays.”

The third freshman, guard Erin Butler, has done a good job with her decision-making in practice thus far, Butts said, but her athleticism isn’t really on the same level as that of many of her peers.

“She’s a really good basketball player, she can really shoot the ball. She’s not as athletic as some of the other ones, but (in terms of) trying to make sure she’s in the right places at the right time, she’s done a really good job,” said Butts, adding that the transition from high school to college basketball can be tough and that she believes Butler will still contribute.

“She’s making good basketball decisions, so we really look for her to be solid and steady throughout the year.”

Pat Summitt’s return to coaching not a surprise to Butts

In August, longtime Tennessee women’s basketball coach Pat Summitt announced that she had been diagnosed with dementia. That, however, would not prevent her from continuing to coach the Lady Volunteers, a fact that did not surprise Arizona head coach and former Summitt player Niya Butts at all.

“She is a fighter, she doesn’t let anyone tell her what she can and can’t do, certainly not something like that,” said Butts, who played for Summitt at Tennessee from 1997 until 2000. “She’s going to continue to move forward with passion and commitment and tenacity. That’s just who she is as a person. It didn’t surprise me at all.”

As would be expected for the all-time winningest coach in the history of college basketball among men and women, Summitt only wants to focus on basketball and not her medical problems. Summitt told USA Today last week, “That’s what I want to talk about, basketball, not dementia.”

Butts said the media blitz and publicity regarding the diagnosis have prevented her from coming into direct contact with Summitt, but she has spoken with several members on Tennessee’s coaching staff.

“I stay in contact with those guys because we have a professional and a personal relationship,” Butts said. “Things have been moving along with her and she’s continuing to work and continuing to be there with the team, and I look for those guys to do good things this year.”

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