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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Replacing Ibekwe

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Gordon Bates
Gordon Bates / Arizona Daily Wildcat

Former Arizona star forward Ify Ibekwe was drafted in the second round by the Seattle Storm during the 2011 WNBA Draft, and now Arizona is faced with the tough task of replacing her production.

Last year, Ibekwe was the catalyst behind a 21-12 season for the women’s basketball team. She led Arizona with 16.1 points per game, 9.8 rebounds per game and 2.3 steals per game.

Head coach Niya Butts said she believes that replacing that productivity won’t be on the shoulders of one player.

“You do it by committee,” Butts said. “We think we have a number of people. You just have to pick it up at each spot.

“You don’t ask a single person to give the production she had,” Butts added. “You ask the team to replace that production, and, if everyone can just pick it up a notch, we’re going to be OK.”

The scoring aspect of Ibekwe’s game is what made her so dangerous, and it is that scoring production that needs to be divvied up among the 2011-12 team. Butts expects junior guard Davellyn Whyte to not only score some points for the team, but to inherit that leadership role Ibekwe carried the last few seasons.

“(Davellyn has) been pretty special the past two years so we don’t expect anything different this year,” Butts said. “We expect more leadership from her, especially vocally.

“In terms of being on the floor, what she does with a basketball-wise … she’s proven that,” Butts added. “What we need her to do is step up as that vocal leader; take the next kid on and move on.”

Last year, Whyte was fourth in the Pacific 10 Conference in scoring, averaging 15.8 points per game. She was also eighth with 1.94 steals per outing. Whyte, who considered her relationship with Ibekwe strong, feels like she is ready to follow in Ibekwe’s footsteps and be the leader for the Wildcats.

“Just seeing to where she is now, I just know what I need to do to get where she is,” said Whyte, who believes the team is ready to move on without their former leader.

“I wouldn’t necessarily say we’re replacing her because she was a really good player, but as for filling in spots and doing what we need to do, I think we can do it as a team.”

Filling in the paint

A big reason why the team is not panicking at the loss of Ibekwe is because of the vast potential they see in freshman center Aley Rohde.

“Aley Rohde, as a freshman, I don’t want to get to far ahead of myself, but she is shaping up pretty nicely,” Butts said. “Right now it’s going to be hard not to have her on the floor.”

Rohde, who hails from Cave Creek, Ariz., and is sister to former ASU commit and current Alaska Anchorage center Taylor Rohde, was a highly touted, four-star recruit coming out of high school.

In addition to being ranked the 11th best center recruit in the nation by ESPN, she was a two-time regional player of the year, four-time All-State member and holds her high school’s single-game records for points (37), rebounds (23) and blocks (12).

Rohde, who is 6-foot-5, is far and away the tallest player on the team, but realizes that won’t make her a lock for playing time.

“I know I have to work hard for it, and that’s my aim, to work hard to get my spot,” Rohde said. “I need the month before the first game to be there and ready.”

While the rest of the team has high expectations for the freshman, Rohde has also set her goals high in her first year.

“I would definitely like to get Pac-12 freshman of the year, but I know that is a lot of work,” Rohde said. “I definitely am willing to work hard for that though.”

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