W-Hoops guide: Wildcats ready to bounce back from last year
Arizona suffered through the second half of the season last year, finishing with a record of 15-17 after starting 11-1. Injuries were a concern as junior guard Candice Warthen and junior forward Erica Barnes both missed significant portions of the season with injuries.
The Wildcats aren’t making excuses, but they are ready to bounce back.
“We are hungry and we obviously want to redeem ourselves from the last season,” head coach Niya Butts said. “We are looking forward to keeping everyone healthy. Our kids worked very hard in the off-season and I would say this has been one of our better off-seasons since I’ve been here.”
Extensive roster changes, including three freshmen and four transfers, give the Wildcats the depth they lacked a year ago.
“We are going to have a solid rotation this season,” Butts said.
“In the years past, our bench has been real short, so our depth hasn’t been there. This year we have people coming off the bench that could potentially start. Pick a five and they could start. Having depth at every position is going to be huge for us.”
At guard, Arizona is tasked with replacing its best passer in Shanita Arnold, who graduated. Freshmen Nyre Harris and Keyahndra Cannon back up junior transfer point guard Carissa Crutchfield, who comes from Oklahoma State.
Crutchfield and senior guard Davellyn Whyte had a combined total of 18 assists in Arizona’s first two games.
“Carissa Crutchfield is going to help us a lot this year,” Butts said. “She is a mature kid, she has the experience and she knows what it takes to win. She will be one of the leaders on the team since we have her at the point guard position.”
In the paint, Barnes, senior forward Cheshi Poston and junior transfer Alli Gloyd will occupy the front court for Arizona.
“We have a great work ethic as a unit,” Gloyd said. “Everybody works hard and gives it their all, which is both motivating and exciting as a new player moving forward in my first season.”
Barnes, Poston and Gloyd have a combined total of 50 rebounds at this point in the season, making up 38 percent of the Wildcats’ rebounds.
Meanwhile, junior transfer guards and forwards Kama Griffitts and Lynette Holmes add versatility to Arizona this season.
Holmes is still waiting for the NCAA to clear her to play this season, which should happen sometime this week.
“Whether I get to play or not, this team is great to be part of,” Holmes said. “These girls work as hard as possible and if I’m able to play, it will just make us that much better from last year’s team.”
“You are going to see people playing different positions and doing some different things to try and turn it over a little bit,” Butts said. “We have to try and use our athleticism to our advantage.”
Griffitts had a break out performance against UNLV on Nov. 13, scoring a career-high 25 points and leading the Wildcats in a one point victory.
“We changed the culture and I think everyone bought into it earlier than in the past years,” Whyte said. “With that being said, this is the better team as far as mindset goes.“
Whyte credits the team’s success to being together since June, which gave her the opportunity to learn how to play with everyone.
“When the new kids came in they didn’t have a chance to slack off,” Whyte said. “They were thrown in and went with the flow.”