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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Women’s hoops looks forward to future

    Despite a season filled with far more downs than ups, the Arizona women’s basketball team is upbeat about what lies ahead.

    Finishing with an 11-21 overall record (5-15 Pacific 10 Conference), the Wildcats will take a couple weeks off to focus on healing their wounds before they start offseason workouts.

    “”We’ve got to get some people healthy, but I think overall we’re going to be better,”” said UA head coach Joan Bonvicini.

    Surgery may be in the forecast for two Wildcats: center Suzy Bofia, who tore her anterior cruciate ligament during the summer, and guard Jessica Arnold, who re-aggravated her already surgically repaired shoulder during a practice in the team’s trip to Los Angeles.

    Suzy’s twin sister, Beatrice, already had surgery on a torn ACL and meniscus in November and has since taken off the knee brace and begun light rehabilitation exercises. She used a redshirt year and still has two years of eligibility left. Suzy has one.

    Next season, the team will rely more on this year’s freshman class – forwards Rheya and Rhaya Neabors and guard Marie McGee – as well as sophomore forward Amina Njonkou, who led the team in rebounds.

    “”We’re going to get back into rhythm and do a lot of conditioning,”” Bonvicini said. “”I want them in real good shape.””

    Departing the team are senior guards Joy Hollingsworth and Linda Pace. While Hollingsworth’s on-court energy will be missed, so will her sense of humor off the court.

    Leading the team in nearly every statistical category, Hollingsworth was also known to play pranks on her coach, who said her only disappointment about coaching Hollingsworth was that she didn’t coach her for four years.

    “”The fans love her, the media loves her and her teammates love her,”” Bonvicini said. “”She’s very popular because she’s fun to be around.””

    Bonvicini echoed similar praise for Pace, whom the coach said helped her team to heal mentally after the loss of Shawntinice Polk before the 2005-06 season.

    “”Linda has been a tremendous leader for the team,”” Bonvicini said. “”Anytime she does anything good, her teammates just surround her. They just love her.””

    Hollingsworth said she has been proud to be a part of a great tradition at Arizona and was privileged to be coached by Bonvicini.

    “”I’ve been a part of a great group of girls,”” she added.

    The only disappointment she stressed was that it was tough for the team not getting national attention during her two years of eligibility after her redshirt season.

    “”It’s hard, because I’ve never gone to the NCAA Tournament,”” Hollingsworth said. “”But you’ve got to move on, because there are different things in life. I’m definitely looking forward to the future.””

    That future may include going to graduate school in her home state of Washington and possibly coaching or commentating basketball.

    For she and Pace, it also may include playing basketball overseas.

    “”I might want to try that out,”” said Pace, who still has a year left before graduation. “”I’m an accounting major, so I’m also looking forward to getting involved in the workforce. I’ve never had a job before, because basketball has been my life for the last 21 years.

    “”It will be nice to get out in the real world and experience something new, other than basketball.””

    Now that Hollingsworth and Pace are gone, Bonvicini expects guards Malia O’Neal and Ashley Whisonant, who scored a career-high 23 points in the season finale against No. 7 Stanford, to step up as the new team leaders.

    “”Malia’s a great leader and will continue to develop,”” Bonvicini said. “”Ashley played at an unbelievable level. She definitely played her best basketball this weekend at the Pac-10 Tournament.

    “”I wouldn’t say she was one of the top 10 players. I’d say she was one of the five. She was very, very impressive this weekend.””

    On top of the returning players, next year’s recruiting class will feature 5-foot-10 guard Tasha Dickey, whose mother, Lisa Bradshaw, was a member of the women’s hoops team from 1983-85 and father, Charlie, was a football player from 1983-84 and coach from 1992-2003.

    “”She is someone who is very familiar with our program and the university,”” Bonvicini said in November. “”Tasha is an outstanding athlete and a versatile player who will fit our style of play. I am proud to have her as a member of our Wildcat family.””

    While she is unable to comment on particular recruits, Bonvicini said the team will sign two to three more recruits in the spring and expects to get another post player.

    In May, the team will travel to Italy to play against professional teams in Florence, Milan and Rome.

    Bonvicini, a first-generation Italian-American, will be taking her 11th trip to Italy and her third with Arizona.

    “”It’s a great trip for the players,”” said Bonvicini, whose last name means “”good neighbors”” in Italian. “”They get extra time to work together, and it is a great bonding experience. It is also an opportunity to see the country and have some of the best food in the world.””

    As the team rests and reflects on the past season, the graduating seniors think the program is headed in the right direction.

    “”In a few years I definitely see us getting back to being a tournament contender every year,”” Pace said.

    “”I think the future is definitely bright for the program,”” Hollingsworth said. “”They’re slowly moving on. Next year they’ll get back to an NCAA (Tournament).””

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