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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

“For Ify, there’s no time better than the present”

When Arizona women’s basketball prospect Ify Ibekwe came to Tucson on a recruiting trip with then-head coach Joan Bonvicini, she probably never realized the impact that she would make when she actually stepped onto the McKale Center floor in a Wildcat uniform.

Four years later, the Pacific 10 Conference Defensive Player of the Year and two-time All Pac-10 team selection tops all sorts of school record lists and ranks 19th in career rebounds for the conference.

However, for her to fulfill her career goal she will now need to lean on her fellow Wildcats to create the one thing that she’s wanted since starting at Arizona, an NCAA tournament bid.

In her four years with the program, this could be the best chance that the Wildcats have had since their last tournament bid in 2000, and it all started with the attitude that came to the table on day one.

When official preseason practices began in October, the Arizona coaching staff was floored by what they saw: determination.

This wasn’t the typical, grueling practice of the start of the season, where freshmen adjustments let the coaches know who they will have to baby-sit and hound for the rest of the year, this was a practice of an experienced squad.

Drills were running quickly, words of wisdom were being shouted from player to player.

Communication was happening. Even the new faces didn’t even seem to be fazed by the faster pace of NCAA Division-I basketball.

Ibekwe recalled her first practice, and words like “”fear”” and “”uncertainty”” were being thrown around, but the ability of the freshme,n to play the way they did is in part, thanks to the leadership that Ibekwe and her other seasoned teammates were able to impart on the younger players before the start of practice.

This determination is essential to the type of culture that head coach Niya Butts is finally instilling into the program in her third year, and her recruiting hasn’t been so bad either.

In just her second year, Butts was able to sign guard Davellyn Whyte from her home in Phoenix to become the first Arizona player to win the Pac-10 Freshman of the Year award since Dee-Dee Wheeler in 2002.

Continuing to this year, freshmen Candice Warthen and Erica Barnes have gotten a quick jump on the team bandwagon, switching off to garner a double-double in Arizona’s first two regular season games.

The focus will have to continue, and while a season-long focus is a lengthy task, the Wildcats are faster, stronger and more determined than they have been in years. They owe it to themselves and to Ibekwe. She wants success in her final curtain call, and success is only equivalent to an NCAA Tournament bid.  

 

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