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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Women’s basketball looks to new players for athleticism, stability

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Gordon Bates
Gordon Bates / Arizona Daily Wildcat

The Arizona women’s basketball team finished in last place in the Pac-12 last season, and as a result will enter this season with a major overhaul in its roster and playing style.

This year, the UA women will be one of the smaller teams in the Pac-12 conference and without five players from last season who combined to average 29.8 points and 14.5 rebounds a game. These players include last season’s assist leader, Shanita Arnold, who graduated, along with fellow senior guard Reiko Thomas.

Junior guard Lindsey Fearing transferred to Black Hills State University and freshman guard Erin Butler transferred to University of the Pacific — but the most notable transfer might be that of 6-foot-5 former freshman center Aley Rohde, who left Arizona for UNLV.

After losing five key players, head coach Niya Butts had to scramble to fill her roster with freshmen recruits and transfers.

Regardless, Butts said she feels the team can still compete.

“This team is a lot more athletic,” Butts said. “We’re going to get up and down the floor a lot faster and turn things up a lot on defense with a good amount of full court pressure.”

Butts was unable to recruit another 6-foot-5 center to crash the boards but was able to obtain a few athletes to help on both sides of the ball.

Junior guard/forward Lynette Holmes and Alli Gloyd are two of the four new players Butts recruited. Both stand at 6-foot-1 and can bring depth to the Arizona bench. Holmes most recently played at Xavier, where she averaged 12 points and 5.2 rebounds a game.

Last year, Gloyd was named Arizona’s Junior College Player of the Year at Mesa Community College, where she averaged 15 points to go along with eight rebounds and one block per game.

“I expect all the freshmen and transfers to contribute. We have that kind of team,” Butts said. “We’re a lot deeper this year and I feel good about it.”

Even though the Wildcats lost some talent, Butts’ and the Wildcats’ cupboard is not bare. Senior guard Davellyn Whyte, a 2012 Associated Press All-America honorable mention and All-Pac-12 selection, led the Wildcats last season in points and steals and is expected to be the team leader as captain.

“I think this will be the best season we’ll have since I’ve been here,” Whyte said. “I think as a whole we’ll do pretty good.”

Along with Whyte, junior forward Erica Barnes will also be a key factor in the Wildcats’ rotation. Barnes dealt with an injury last season but was still able to average 10.8 points and 7.4 rebounds per game, which led the team.

“The freshmen and transfers will be important this year,” Barnes said. “They have a lot of skills that we need and they make us a more deep team.”

The Wildcats open the season at home on Nov. 5 in an exhibition game against Grand Canyon University in McKale Center.

“The Pac-12 is one of the toughest conferences in the country,” Butts said. “I feel pretty good where we are right now as a unit though. But our x-factor is, I think, going to be our bench and how they fit into the rotation.”

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