Q&A;: Niya Butts
With about one month until the start of the season for Arizona women's basketball, The Arizona Daily Wildcat caught up with head coach Niya Butts to talk about off-season workouts, new additions to the team and her hopes for the season.
Daily Wildcat: What has the team been doing in the off-season to prepare for the season?
Niya Butts: Practices have been going good. Individual workouts have begun and the players are getting better fundamentally. They have been working hard and looking forward to starting the season.
DW: You've added a number of transfers and junior college transfers in the off-season to bolster your lineup. How are you expecting them to contribute this season?
NB: We only have one true transfer, Shanita Arnold, from Arkansas. Because of NCAA regulations, she won't be able to play this year. Our junior college transfers are coming in and working extremely hard as well. Soana Lucet from the College of Southern Idaho is going to be a good player. We're looking for her to help us early on the offensive end. Brooke Jackson will deliver shooting which we desperately need. Our two big players inside, Amanda Pierson and Jennifer Kioa, are going to add a lot of bang and physicalness to the game, and allow us to get inside scoring. The pieces are going to be put together differently this year.
DW: Davellyn Whyte was the 2008-2009 Gatorade Player of the Year. What are you and the team looking for from the true freshman?
NB: The honors and accolades Davellyn has earned in her high school years are important. However, this is a new era. If she can continue to bring energy, intensity and passion that she had in high school, we're going to have very special players here at the University of Arizona. She can add some firepower here.
DW: Last season, guard Tasha Dickey went out early in the season with a knee injury. How will her return impact the team?
NB: We're excited about everyone that is coming back. Even though she is a returner, Tasha will be a newcomer (to Butts' system). Her athleticism and ability to rebound the ball is something we will look for her to do.
DW: Ify Ibekwe put up career highs in many statistical categories in her sophomore campaign. How much is she the centerpiece of this team?
NB: I certainly hate to say that she is the centerpiece, but we expect her to continue what she did last season. She is going to be a big part of what we do. This season, we're going to have a lot more pieces around her to contribute both on offensively and defensively.
DW: What does this year's team have that sets them apart from other teams in the conference?
NB: It's still early. It's real early to determine what the ""it"" factor is going to be. I certainly like the chemistry of this team. They've been working well together. The personality is starting to take over — a ""never lose, I want to win"" attitude. Ashley Frazier is going to be a huge piece. She just brings it, 110 percent. She's stepped into a leadership role — talking a lot more, engaging her teammates a lot more. The team will follow her lead.