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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Butts ready for telling season

The third year of a coach’s regime is usually when things start coming together, and the Arizona women’s basketball team is no different.

“”I definitely feel good about where we’re heading as a program,”” said head coach Niya Butts. “”(Later in the season) I’ll be able to give you a better feeling. Our teams have been getting better every year, and the leadership has been getting better every year.””

Improvement has been a staple under Butts’ tenure. In her first year, Butts led Arizona to the Bank of Hawaii Classic Tournament championship. In her second year, she led the Wildcats to their highest win total in five seasons.

The leadership that Butts harps on might be the biggest difference between this year’s Arizona squad and teams from the past. Butts is now less like a babysitter, and is able to focus more on the smaller things plaguing her teams.

“”Coach isn’t going to see every single thing that we do wrong,”” said senior forward Soana Lucet. “”If we see one of our teammates not touching the line, we’re going to call them out. This is for us getting better.””

That attitude has already made this year stand out for Butts, who has been Arizona’s head coach since 2008 after serving as an assistant for one year at Michigan State University and five years at the University of Kentucky.

“”After practices the last couple years, the coaches have just been so drained that I swear I needed a massage after a week of practice,”” Butts said. “”Not having to put them through every single drill, it’s so refreshing. They’re really starting to police themselves where before we had to point out every single.””

That type of communication is something that comes with more experience in the program, and this team isn’t lacking that with four of five starters from last year’s team returning.

“”There’s no substitute for experience and time,”” Butts said. “”Having those years together and growing in this program, that’s certainly helped.””

Depth, experience and leadership aren’t the only things that are different about this year’s team. The Wildcats are also implementing a new up-tempo offense that places emphasis on turnovers and running the floor.

“”We’re getting more athletic at every position, especially the point guard position, which is a key,”” Butts said. “”We’re getting comfortable with each spot on the floor with our speed and quickness. We’re picking up things a lot faster, and I think that has a little bit to do with it.””

With Ify Ibekwe being named to the Naismith Trophy and Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award watch lists and Davellyn Whyte returning as Arizona’s leading scorer, Butts is in a position to turn Arizona into a contender, and to do it fast.

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