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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


W-hoops back in action

Colin Darland
Colin Darland/Arizona Daily Wildcat

After the departure of seven players because of either graduation or transfer and the addition of six new players, Arizona women’s basketball is revamped and ready to go after nearly eight months of offseason.

The new-look Wildcats will take on the Ft. Lewis Skyhawks in their first exhibition game tonight at 7 in McKale Center.

“”I’m extremely excited about starting the season,”” said head coach Niya Butts. “”We’ve got basically a brand new core group of girls that are ready to take the floor.””

Four freshmen left the program after the conclusion of last season, but in her second year at the helm of Arizona women’s basketball, Butts was already hard at work filling the void. Her answer came in the form of a Division I transfer, three junior college transfers and Arizona native Davellyn Whyte, the Gatorade Arizona Player of the Year for 2009.

“”We have a great bunch of players. Especially with the new people — there’s new energy, there’s new passion, they’re winners. They like to win and they want to win,”” Butts said. “”Our newcomers are so vocal for new kids. They have the personality and drive that we’re looking for.””

The returning Wildcats aren’t expecting their new teammates to be behind the learning curve this season. Everyone who was recruited for the season will have an opportunity to play with the exception of Shanita Arnold, a transfer from the University of Arkansas, who will have to sit out this season due to NCAA transfer rules.

Learning how to play with new teammates and developing chemistry will also be key to how far Arizona will go this season. While over half the team is made up of new players, the returners say a common goal of winning has kept everyone focused.

“”It’s going to be different this year because even though we have new players, they’re not just new players,”” said junior forward Ify Ibekwe. “”They’re new players that can contribute, they’re new players that can set the tone, they’re new players that have that spark.””

The start of the 2009 season also means the return of red shirt sophomore guard Tasha Dickey, who was sidelined after undergoing a season-ending surgery in November 2008. “”I’m very excited to get back on the court. It’s been a while,”” Dickey said. “”A year off is kind of hard for the athlete. I’m really excited to get back and play with the team, get involved.””

Dickey’s return will round out a core group of guards this season for Arizona. The addition of junior college transfers Jennifer Kioa, Amanda Pierson and Soana Lucet will help out first-team All-Pac-10 Ibekwe in the post area. Meanwhile, Arizona’s guard situation looks to be deep both in starters and bench reserves, something the Wildcats seriously lacked last year.

The changes in personnel aren’t the only thing new to McKale this season. The change in the attitude of the program is also in stark contrast to last year’s team.

“”As far as a new team, it’s all a lot of good talent mixed together,”” Kioa said. “”Compared to last year, there’s just a lot more want to win and compete and get better as players and as a team.””

“”The one thing as a coach I ask them for every day is to give energy and 100 percent effort,”” Butts said. “”When I see that without us having to yell at them … that shows me that they’re hungry. That shows me that they have passion, that they have drive, that they’re committed.””


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