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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Freshmen have chance to lead women’s basketball

While Sean Miller has received lots of praise for bringing in another highly touted group of freshmen, he was not the only coach in McKale Center making waves on the recruiting trail last fall.

Arizona women’s basketball head coach Niya Butts put together a four-member, nationally ranked recruiting class, and now she is seeing her work come to fruition in the opening weeks of practice.

Even as Taryn Griffey, the gem of the class, recovers from an ACL injury, the other three freshmen are becoming oriented with the program and Butts’ style of play.

“I think they’re doing pretty well chemistry-wise,” Butts said of the freshmen. “It’s just getting the speed of the game, the pace that we want to play at. We have our good days and we have our days with a couple setbacks, but that’s to be expected with a young group. Overall, I feel pretty good.”

In order for the Wildcats to break through in the Pac-12 Conference this year, they will need to quickly catch onto Butts’ up-tempo style.

“Transition defense is a little lacking right now,” Butts said. “I feel pretty good about our half-court defense. We’re going to have be able to get more comfortable with getting up and down the floor. We’ve got to get in playing shape. It’s still early, but we’re getting there.”

Butts is asking a lot out of her freshmen, who may not be used to running up and down the court each possession. However, point guard Cherice Harris knew going in what to expect.

“I came to U of A because it’s a fast-paced team,” Harris said. “Conditioning is definitely way harder than high school, but we’re getting better from the summer.”

With Griffey out for the foreseeable future, Harris will likely see considerable minutes at point guard. Teammate chemistry is crucial at point guard more than any other position.

“We’re jelling pretty well,” Harris said. “We do a lot of team building and hanging out. We go to games, we go to movies, go out to eat.”

The hope is that the off-the-court bonding provides on-the-court success.

The freshmen aren’t expected to carry the team or even necessarily put up big numbers. Just their presence gives Arizona depth that hasn’t been around in years past.

Just last season due to injuries and transfers, then-freshmen Breanna Workman and LaBrittney Jones were thrown into the gauntlet from the beginning of their careers and didn’t have the same time to mature.

Butts often had to work with six or seven active players down the stretch of last season. There was no time to linger on losses or wonder what the team would be like if everyone was healthy.

Presuming there isn’t a plague of injuries this season, the freshmen will get to grow as players without any extensive pressure. When mistakes do happen, there’s a group of teammates waiting to offer assurance. 

“Whenever one of us struggles, the seniors pull us together,” UA freshman shooting guard Charise Holloway said. “We’re not leaving anyone behind.”

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Follow Ezra Amacher on Twitter.

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