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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Bonvicini’s team continued futility in ’07-’08

    Arizona forward Ify Ibekwe drives toward the basket in a 67-54 loss to Washington State on Feb. 23 in McKale Center. The Wildcats were bounced out of the Pacific 10 Conference Tournament over the weekend, ending their season in ninth place in the league.
    Arizona forward Ify Ibekwe drives toward the basket in a 67-54 loss to Washington State on Feb. 23 in McKale Center. The Wildcats were bounced out of the Pacific 10 Conference Tournament over the weekend, ending their season in ninth place in the league.

    With newfound talent and depth added to its initial roster, the Arizona women’s basketball team began the 2007-2008 season with a final destination in clear sight: the NCAA Tournament.

    After all, coaches’ and players’ expectations poured with optimism, with two senior guards pioneering the squad, an incoming prosperous future of freshman and the addition of assistant coach Bernard Scott, de facto post specialist.

    Slated to overcome a dismal past two years of a 19-43 record, this season sparked new hope in anticipation to return UA head coach Joan Bonvicini back to the glory days, when successful seasons accumulated her win total to eventually become the program’s most winningest coach.

    But when the injury bug struck again and suspensions dogged down team intensity and losses piled up, the Wildcats took another series of wrong turns, returning a once-optimistic final destination back to Tucson.

    “”I personally wouldn’t wish what we went through on anyone,”” said freshman guard Tasha Dickey. “”People are probably wondering, ‘What the heck is going on with this Arizona team?’ I think we all were.

    “”I think with all the problems, it probably made us closer as a team,”” Dickey said.

    Initially beginning with depth on the bench, Arizona’s roster shrinkage began in an exhibition game on Nov. 5, when senior guard Jessica Arnold suffered a season-ending concussion – joining center Suzy Bofia (birth of first child) and forward Shannon Hobson (back injury) on the permeate year-long injury list.

    After senior Erin O’Bryan withdrew from UA and Bonvicini indefinitely suspended forward Rhaya Neabors for a team violation, the Wildcats had nine players in uniform throughout much of the non-conference schedule. And that’s not including Ify Ibekwe’s eye injury, Marie McGee’s concussion and Dickey’s ankle that forced the three to miss a combined 17 games by
    seasons end.

    Although the injuries caused the majority of Bonvicini’s headaches throughout the season, last week’s incident regarding the suspension of senior “”heart and soul”” leader Ashley Whisonant and starting forward Rheya Neabors took the biggest toll on a struggling Wildcats squad.

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

    When asked

    I personally wouldn’t wish what we went through on anyone. People are probably wondering, ‘What the heck is going on with this Arizona team?’

    – Tasha Dickey,
    guard

    to recall a defining moment on the season, good or bad, Dickey described the scene after Bonvicini told the team about such suspensions.

    “”Usually a team after that is going to be like ‘Oh my God, we’re screwed,'”” Dickey said. “”I think the key moment was when I looked around the room, nobody had any fear in their eyes.

    “”We left with the most confidence and the most togetherness I’ve ever seen. I’ve never seen our team be so proud of the name on (the front of) our jerseys, just to be on the team.””

    Although both Ibekwe and Dickey grew into leadership roles as freshman, both hope future freshmen won’t have to step up and take such roles.

    Ibekwe finished the regular season leading the team in average rebound (7.9) and blocked shots (28) while averaging 10 points per game. More importantly, the Carson, Calif., native started in 12 games and finished the season scoring double digits in seven of her last nine games.

    Taking a likewise leadership role, Dickey started in 20 games and averaged 7 points per game in the regular season.

    “”As freshmen, we had to step out of our boundaries, be leaders, be vocal on and off the court,”” Ibekwe said. “”The thing that I don’t want the freshman next year or any freshman have grown up fast like me and Tasha. It’s good now because we’re (stronger) as people, better, focused, but I don’t feel that should happen again. Ever.

    “”I thought of it as an opportunity (to be considered a leader),””
    Ibekwe added. “”We never thought we’d have this opportunity to start and play as a freshman. For us to do that, I feel like that we showed anybody can do it … freshman or no freshman.””

    Said Dickey on evolving into a leadership role as only a freshman: “”It’s been a roller coaster. It’s made us grow up as people and as athletes. We’ve been able to voice our opinions.””

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