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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Women’s basketball opens with exhibition

    The Arizona women’s basketball team looks to tip-off in style as it plays its first exhibition game in McKale Center tonight at 7 against Oklahoma Panhandle State University.

    The Wildcats anticipate a promising season with the addition of new head coach Niya Butts. Her coaching style is already bringing a new vibe to the team.

    “”She’s a smart coach, attitude-wise,”” said sophomore guard Tasha Dickey. “”She brings energy and confidence to the team that’s different than last year.””

    Butts is the first new head coach at the UA in 16 years, taking over for the departed Joan Bonvicini. Butts has already brought an energy boost to the women’s basketball team in her first several months on the job.

    With her experience as an assistant coach at the University of Kentucky, and as a member of the NCAA Championship teams of the University of Tennessee in 1997 and 1998, Butts knows how to win.

    Her coaching style has had a marked impact on the way the team practices.

    “”The intensity level is higher. We are more aggressive,”” said freshman guard Reiko Thomas. “”It’s not an option to not work hard.””

    This year’s team has a combination of veteran players and new faces, grounded by senior leaders Beatrice Bofia and forwards Amina Njonkou and Sarah Hays.

    Leadership will be key this year, as the Wildcats have five freshmen on the team. Although the new faces give the team potential, they must prove their ability to Butts.

    “”We are working on rebuilding.”” Butts said. “”We’re a young team, and we’re trying to find out who’s going to be the leader.””

    As younger players look to fit in to Butts’ new system, Thomas said she is anxious to make her presence felt.

    “”I’m going to prove myself,”” Thomas said. “”Whatever I can do to help the team.””

    Thomas had a breakout game, scoring 14 points at the Red-Blue intrasquad scrimmage last Wednesday.

    The traditional preseason scrimmage gave Butts a lot to consider, and a lot to work on in practice.

    “”We played as well as can be expected. We have to learn how to play for 40 minutes.”” Butts said. “”We have to find the right players and the right combinations to make our offense work.””

    The Wildcats will look to make a statement in their opening exhibition game before heading off to Hilo, HI to play in the Hawaii Tournament against Toledo, Loyola Marymount and Hawaii.

    The Wildcats officially kick off the season on Nov. 23 against UC Santa Barbara in McKale Center.

    “”Each game will be a learning experience.”” Butts said. “”I feel excited for them to actually start the season.””

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