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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    “Whisonant, Neabors walk out on season”

    Rheya Neabors
    Rheya Neabors

    Senior leader Ashley Whisonant and starting forward Rheya Neabors were suspended from the Arizona women’s basketball team’s final game for violating team rules earlier in the week.

    Whisonant and Neabors walked out of a team meeting last week after the two starters learned that already-indefinitely suspended teammate Rhaya Neabors wasn’t allowed to travel and join the team in San Jose, Calif., for the Pacific 10 Conference tournament, muliple sources told the Arizona Daily Wildcat yesterday.

    Rhaya – the twin sister of Rheya – has missed the last 17 games since UA head coach Joan Bonvicini suspended her after the Dec. 30 UCLA game for violating team rules.

    Bonvicini told the Wildcat that her decision was made Wednesday afternoon around noon, after using Monday night and Tuesday to contemplate handing down the two suspensions.

    Bonvicini declined to elaborate on the team violation, but said the decision will benefit the program’s future.

    “”For the long term, this decision will help Arizona basketball get back to greatness sooner,”” Bonvicini said. “”This was a very difficult decision to make. I made it for the best interest of the team and the program.””

    Teammates support Bonvicini’s decision, she said, so much that freshman Tasha Dickey told the coach the suspension was the best decision Bonvicini made all year, said Bonvicini.

    “”(The team was) 100 percent supportive of what I did,”” Bonvicini said.

    “”When you want to have a good team, you have to be a good teammate and that’s the key. The decision (to suspend the players) and what happened was difficult, but (the rest of the team) was absolutely wonderful,”” added Bonvicini after the 46-31 loss to Oregon State on Friday. “”I’m very proud of them.””

    Said Dickey on the suspension: “”I totally agreed with Coach B’s decision and we all backed her up, we respected it. It was something she had to do.””

    Bonvicini often called Whisonant the “”heart and soul”” of the team after starting every game throughout a season plagued of injuries and new faces. The decision to suspend such a prominent figure in program history gave Bonvicini a tough but necessary choice, she said.

    Whisonant led the team in games started (all 29), minutes (37.3 average), assists (4.9 per game), steals (1.8 per game) and points (15.4 per game).

    “”I really like both of them, that’s why it was difficult in particular for Ashley,”” Bonvicini said. “”This was her last go around, but the team is bigger than any individual.””

    “”That was the decision of (Bonvicini) and we all stayed behind her on it,”” said freshman Ify Ibekwe. “”But it was tough being in a position we weren’t used to. You could say it was a bad thing, but it really taught us how to play with each other in different situations.””

    – Lance Madden and Bobby Stover contributed to this report

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