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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Newfound depth shores up concerns in backcourt

    If the Arizona women’s basketball team learned anything from its injury-riddled season last year, it was this: Make sure you have depth.

    Head coach Joan Bonvicini applied this lesson well at guard this season after her seven backcourt players dwindled to only three over the offseason. Two seniors left, and two other players tranferred.

    The biggest loss came in graduated senior Joy Hollingsworth, who led the team in eight statistical categories, including scoring (16.2 points per game) and minutes played.

    The woman expected to fill her shoes this year in the backcourt? Senior Ashley Whisonant.

    “”Ashley is a better player than she was a year ago. I think she’s poised to have her best year yet,”” Bonvicini said. “”As a leader in the backcourt, we’re expecting her to play a bigger role with bigger minutes this year.””

    While perhaps being overshadowed by Hollingsworth, Whisonant managed to put up some fairly significant figures last season. While averaging 11.9 points per game, as well as a team-high 3.6 assists, Whisonant became the 15th player in program history to score 1,000 points in her career. She will have a chance to crack the top five on the all-time list this season.

    “”The No. 1 thing I want to do this season is have fun and have a good year,”” Whisonant said. “”No. 2, I want to win, and I think we’re more than capable of winning the (Pacific 10 Conference) Tournament and getting back to the NCAA Tournament.””

    Another senior guard who will be sharing leadership duties with Whisonant in the backcourt this season is Jessica Arnold. Last season, Arnold averaged 7.5 points while playing in 31 of 32 games.

    Arnold underwent shoulder surgery shortly after last season but has returned healthy and ready to combine with Whisonant.

    With the only other remaining guard from last year’s roster, Marie McGee, still not 100 percent after suffering a foot injury early last season, a significant responsibility will be placed on three newcomers.

    The oldest and most experienced of the trio is Erin O’Bryan, a senior transfer from UC-Santa Barbara who will be pursuing a graduate degree after finishing her undergraduate studies last year. O’Bryan scored in double digits seven times and averaged 6.9 points per game for the Gauchos last season.

    Talented freshman Tasha Dickey and Faihza Hill join O’Bryan at guard.

    Hill brings a strong all-around attack. In her senior season at Sacred Heart Cathedral Prep, she averaged 15.0 points, 6.0 rebounds and 6.0 steals.

    Dickey also brings a scoring threat. She also averaged 15.0 points per game during her senior year, but Bonvicini said she’s most impressed by her athleticism.

    “”With her, along with the other girls, we have added great athleticism and depth to the guard position,”” she said.

    “”We’re now able to put in some schemes offensively we haven’t been able to do since we haven’t been healthy.””

    To add to the guard depth, Bonvicini will use forward Rhaya Neabors as a backup for Arnold and Whisonant should the need arise.

    The depth “”is going to be amazing,”” Arnold said. “”It’s going to be nice having a different style of rotation and have different people coming in.

    “”Plus, it helps having healthy people so we can have an inside-out game, which we haven’t really had these last couple of years.””

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