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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Women’s basketball looks forward at annual media day

Despite being tabbed to finish last in the Pac-12 Conference, women’s basketball head coach Niya Butts expressed optimism heading into the new season at the team’s media day on Monday.

Butts’ encouragement stems from the addition of depth to a program that has succumbed to injuries and a small roster the past few years. In the 2013-14 season, the shortage of healthy players caught up to the Wildcats, leading to a dismal 5-25 record.

“We battled out there, but oftentimes, we ran out of gas,” Butts said. “Even with the kids that we had play, we still had some injury issues, so we feel pretty good about having people who are able to play.”

The Wildcats welcomed in seven newcomers this fall, including a star-studded, nationally-ranked freshman class. Perhaps just as importantly, senior Alli Gloyd is back from an ACL injury.

“You have new faces, new talent and it makes it exciting to work with,” Butts said. “It’s frustrating but exciting nonetheless. There’s always another level, as far as I’m concerned. I think we have good days, and we have the days where we’re not as consistent as I would like.”

Fortunately for Butts and the coaching staff, they can rely on the senior leadership of Gloyd and Candice Warthen, both of whom have been through the gauntlet.

“We’re relying on them for everything,” Butts said. “Whether that’s defensively, offensive production or leadership on and off the court, they’re going to have to set good examples.”For Warthen, the expectations are nothing new — only now, they come with a little more urgency.

“Since day one, [coach Butts] always came at me about leadership,” Warthen said. “Now I have to step up and open my mouth, because that will help me in the long run. I really accept that challenge. I’m a fifth-year senior, so I can’t back down from anything.”

As Arizona’s leading returning scorer, Warthen is going to be relied on for her shooting but not in such a desperate manner as last season. Gloyd, a 6-foot-1 forward, will also carry much of the weight, and sophomores LaBrittney Jones and Breanna Workman are fully integrated into the Wildcats offense.

However, if Arizona is to break its nine-year NCAA Tournament drought, it will need the freshmen to jump in right away and provide not just depth, but consistent, productive play.With half the team still adjusting to Arizona’s up-tempo style, that’s not an easy thing to ask for.

“The more bodies you have on the floor, the more of an opportunity there is to get a little bit of a breather,” Butts said, “and I think sometimes, we take advantage of that more than we should.”

Taking into consideration that the team is still in its first few weeks of practice, the sometimes rough transitions have to be put aside in place of the big picture.

“In order for us to be as successful as we’re capable of being, we all have to be patient,” Butts said. “We have to patient with ourselves, we have to be patient with our team and the coaches have to be patient with the players. We feel good about it. We’re excited about this season and we feel that we have the pieces there, and having a full roster there for us is going to be great.”

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Follow Ezra Amacher on Twitter.

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