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Daily Wildcat wednesday, november 16, 2011

THE DNA OF A BASKETBALL COACH

A LOOK AROUND THE NEW PAC-12

NIYA BUTTS’ ROAD TO ARIZONA

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THE 2011-12 ARIZONA BASKETBALL

PREVIEW GUIDE LOOKING FOR A

FACE

AFTER THE DEPARTURE OF KEY PLAYERS, BOTH THE MEN’S AND WOMEN’S BASKETBALL TEAMS ARE ADAPTING TO NEW LEADERSHIP

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2011-2012 Basketball Guide •

• Daily Wildcat

wednesday, november

16, 2011

2011-2012 MEN’S

BASKETBALL

SCHEDULE

KEVIN BROST / DAILY WILDCAT

Kyle Fogg will bolster the Wildcats’ defense as usual this season, but it’s the senior’s growth as a vocal leader that Arizona will ride as the season wears on.

FOGG EVOLVING

AS ON-COURT

LEADER

Senior guard has taken a more vocal role for Miller’s crew By Alex Williams DAILY WILDCAT

On the surface, Kyle Fogg is the same player this season as he’s been the last three. He’s still a lockdown defender, he’ll still hit an open 3-pointer more often than not, and he’ll get to the basket when the opportunity’s there. He’ll take care of the ball and, while he won’t make the spectacularly athletic play, Fogg will be one of the Wildcats’ more consistent players throughout the season. But look a little deeper and you’ll see a guy who’s just a little more assertive and a little more vocal. That’s because Fogg has added one thing to his list of responsibilities this year — team leader. “I’m not trying to keep my mouth shut at all during workouts,” Fogg said. “Constantly talking, clapping my

“He knows this is his last year ... he wants to be a leader.” ­— Jesse Perry Arizona forward

hands, stomping my feet. Anything I can do to get these guys a little more excited. I’m really ready to embrace this senior leadership role, not stop talking, trying to keep people involved.” The senior guard hoisted up 39,132 shots during the offseason. Fogg also added muscle to his thin frame. After ending last season at about 177 pounds, the native of Brea, Calif., said he wants to play this season at about 190 pounds. But Fogg hasn’t just changed physically. He’s never had a reputation from fans for being a fiery leader, rather someone who leads by example and always plays at maximum effort. But in practice, it’s a different story. “He’s definitely coming out of his shell,” said senior forward Jesse Perry. “A lot of guys might see him as quiet.

But inside of the gym, it’s just us. Don’t nobody know what goes on. He knows this is his last year, and he wants to be good, you know, he wants to be a leader. “He wants to win,” Perry added. “That’s the most important thing.” Coming off of Arizona’s deepest run into the NCAA Tournament since reaching the Elite Eight in 2005, head coach Sean Miller said it’s easy to see why Fogg is so hungry for more success. “Any time you have the success that we had last year, especially in March, it’s a feeling that you want to return to,” Miller said. Fogg, now in his third season playing under Miller, is also getting more and more comfortable with the coach’s system. He made a big jump from his sophomore to junior seasons, and Miller said he expects more of the same as Fogg enters his final season at Arizona. “It’s been well documented that Kyle’s been a great leader and has worked very hard,” Miller said. “To me, (Fogg) is as prepared as any senior I’ve seen.”

Nov. 17 St. John’s (N.Y.) Nov. 18 Miss. State/Texas A&M (N.Y.) Nov. 23 San Diego State Nov. 29 @ New Mexico State Dec. 3 Northern Arizona University Dec. 7 @ Florida Dec. 10 Clemson Dec. 17 @ Gonzaga Dec. 20 Oakland Dec. 22 Bryant University Dec. 31 ASU Jan. 5 @ UCLA Jan. 8 @ USC Jan. 12 Oregon State Jan. 14 Oregon Jan. 19 @ Utah Jan. 21 @ Colorado Jan. 26 Washington State Jan. 28 Washington Feb. 2 @ California Feb. 4 @ Stanford Feb. 9 Colorado Feb. 11 Utah Feb. 16 @ Washington State Feb. 18 @ Washington Feb. 23 USC Feb. 25 UCLA March 4 @ ASU March 7 Pac-12 Tournament (Calif.)

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2011-2012 Basketball Guide •

wednesday, november

16, 2011

Daily Wildcat •

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PHOTOS BY COLIN DARLAND / DAILY WILDCAT

Freshman guard Nick Johnson and forwards Kevin Parrom and Jesse Perry will all be expected to contribute to the Wildcats, but Arizona will be needing one of them to become the go-to player come crunch time.

SEARCHING FOR THE

GO-TO GUY Solomon Hill Forward

Nick Johnson Guard

Kevin Parrom Forward

Jesse Perry Forward

Height: 6-foot-6 Weight: 226 pounds Class: Junior Hometown: Los Angeles

Height: 6-foot-2 Weight: 198 pounds Class: Freshman Hometown: Gilbert, Ariz.

Height: 6-foot-6 Weight: 215 pounds Class: Junior Hometown: New York City

Height: 6-foot-7 Weight: 217 pounds Class: Senior Hometown: St. Louis

Hill’s versatility, size and ability to create his own shot could make him the top candidate to become Arizona’s go-to guy.

Johnson’s explosive athleticism with and without the ball and will only develop into a more dangerous weapon as the season progresses.

Parrom is one of Arizona’s best 3-point shooters, his ability to handle at 6-foot-6 and operate in transition gives him a decent shot at becoming the Wildcats’ No. 1 option.

Perry has made huge strides since last season and is Arizona’s lone interior threat as he boasts a solid face-up game and works his way to the charity stripe on a regular basis.

Several players could step into role By Alex Williams DAILY WILDCAT

He’s someone you’ll find on every great basketball team. In a clutch situation, every opposing player will expect this guy to get the ball, and they will do everything they can to stop him. But he’ll find a way to get the job done despite their defensive efforts. By hook or by crook, the ball is going in the basket. That’s who is missing from Arizona this season — at least for now. Derrick Williams filled that role for the Wildcats a year ago, but head coach Sean Miller and the rest of Tucson are still waiting for someone to take it over this season. “A lot of guys talk about having and wanting a bigger role,” Miller said. “There it is. It’s like, ‘Man, Derrick Williams is gone, now I have the opportunity.’ He is gone and here’s the opportunity.” But Miller said he’s not looking at any specific player to be the go-to guy. Instead, he’s waiting for a player to separate himself from the rest of the pack. At first it’ll be the more experienced

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players that get a crack at late-game heroics. Then, if they can’t come through, Arizona will turn to its freshmen. “The player becomes the go-to guy,” Miller said. “I never said to Derrick or the team, ‘Let’s make sure Derrick gets 20.’ He just got 20.” Until that player emerges, Arizona is going to have to play a balanced brand of basketball. In some situations, Miller said, it’s going to be Jesse Perry taking a big shot. In others, it’ll be Solomon Hill. Finding one go-to scorer isn’t something that’s going to happen overnight for Arizona. It’s going to take weeks, maybe even months, until someone takes the reins. “It’s like a jigsaw puzzle,” Miller said. “There isn’t really a timetable.” Hill said that even though he’s being looked to for more production this season, he’s trying not to put more pressure on himself. “It’ll come to me,” Hill said. “If I rush it, it’ll set me back more.” Miller named freshman guard Nick Johnson as an

option in crunch time. Josiah Turner, another freshman, could be an alternative with his ability to get to the basket almost at will. Sophomore guard Jordin Mayes, who is still working his way back from a foot injury suffered over the summer, could be another possibility with his lethal 3-point shot. Kevin Parrom will also be in the mix. He made his season debut on Sunday against Ball State a little over two months after being shot while visiting his mother in New York in September. “I look at Kevin as a big part of what we’re doing,” Miller said. “He’s a player who can score 20 points in a game, and he’s one of our more physical players. … It’s everything we need.” But until somebody — Hill, Parrom, Mayes, Johnson, Kyle Fogg or even Jesse Perry — steps up and becomes the man for Arizona at the end of games, it’s going to be clutch-player by committee for the Wildcats. “It’s not that we want balance,” Miller said, “but I think that’s the answer with the personnel we have.”

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• DAILY WILDCAT

COMMENTARY

Parrom’s return impacts team on the court Mike Schmitz DAILY WILDCAT

T

he story of Kevin Parrom is well documented. First he lost his grandmother over the summer. Then he was shot in the right leg on Sept. 24, stripping all of the feeling from his limb and undoing three months of hard work. Soon after, Parrom’s mother passed away from breast cancer in early October. The 20-year-old New York City native cemented himself in Arizona basketball history when he returned, weeks ahead of schedule, for the game against Ball State on Nov. 13, electrifying McKale Center and leaving Sean Miller at a loss for words in his postgame press conference. He fought through all of the emotional turmoil to return back to his haven — the basketball court. But that’s Kevin Parrom the person. That’s Kevin Parrom the strong human being. Forgotten in all of Parrom’s overcoming of hardships is the 6-foot-6, 215-pound basketball player. And he’s a pretty good one at that. During all of the talk about who Arizona’s go-to guy will be, Parrom never entered the conversation. Parrom talk was all about the tragic off-the-court events rather than his versatility, defensive capabilities, constant energy, shooting prowess and transition play. But Parrom needs to be in that conversation as Arizona’s best player. He needs to be talked about as a basketball player again, because he’s an integral part of this year’s team in so many areas — he’s as important as Kyle Fogg, Solomon Hill and Nick Johnson. Hill nailed it right on the head after the Ball State game. “We got another big piece of the puzzle,” Hill said. Parrom was the missing link. Without him, Arizona lacks a floor-spacer to give Wildcat guards room to penetrate. The Wildcats miss size on the perimeter, as Fogg and Johnson are pushing 6-foot-3, and Hill might end up playing power forward for stretches. Parrom gives them a secondary ball-handler to help Arizona’s young contingent of point guards. He makes them a more up-tempo team with his ability to facilitate the break and finish in transition. Lastly, he gives them toughness and experience. Save for his battles off the court, Parrom’s been through the trenches of late March basketball. He’s been pushed to the brink of exhaustion for two years and will serve as a mentor and inspiration to the Wildcats’ youngsters. Parrom also makes this team traditional. He allows Hill to operate more at the high post and in the paint, which is where he’ll do most of his damage. He keeps Fogg and Johnson from having to play the three. The battle-tested New Yorker makes Arizona a far better basketball team in every area of the game, which Miller has harped on all preseason. “Kevin’s versatility, his ability to rebound, shoot, his experience of playing in the Pac-10 for two years is something that’s invaluable to our team,” Miller said. And Parrom may be the Wildcats’ most valuable player when it’s all said and done. He’s starting the season at nowhere near 100 percent, but if he picks up where he left off last season, he may be able to hit that big shot or get that big steal in crunch time. Add in the chip on his shoulder that he’ll be playing with for the remainder of his basketball life, and Parrom is poised for a big season. So while he may mostly be remembered at Arizona for fighting the trials and tribulations of his horrific summer, he’ll soon re-enter the minds of Wildcats fans for what he can do on the court. He’ll remind the conference that he’s more than just a basketball player who overcame a lot. He’s a damn good basketball player, period.

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2011-2012 BASKETBALL GUIDE •

5

WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER

16, 2011

DAILY WILDCAT •

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QUESTIONS FOR

ARIZONA BASKETBALL

Head coach Sean Miller has said that his squad is a puzzle, and much of that has to do with the departure of Derrick Williams to the NBA and the transfer of starting point guard Momo Jones to Iona. Ranked No. 16 in the preseason, what will make or break Arizona’s season?

By Alex Williams

throw line for easy points. Who’s better for that job than Solomon Hill? That 6-foot-6 forward has the physical ability to take over when he wants to. The problem is that he hasn’t done it often during his two-plus years at Arizona. Hill made great progress in his sophomore season and was probably Arizona’s second-best player during its run to the Elite Eight. But through the beginning of the 201112 season, he’s struggled with turnovers and hasn’t been able to find a rhythm on offense. He had perhaps his best game of his career against Ball State, and if Arizona is going to contend for a conference championship and make a run in the NCAA tournament, Hill needs play like that consistently.

1.

DAILY WILDCAT

Can Angelo Chol or Kyryl Natyazhko give Arizona a post presence? The last two seasons Arizona had automatic points every time it threw the ball to Derrick Williams. This season, that’s not an option. Until either Chol or Natyazhko can become a threat down low offensively it’s going to be tough for the Wildcats to rely on their shooting and their guards getting to the basket. Aside from forward Jesse Perry’s hustle paints, the Wildcats don’t have much on the frontlines. Interior defense could also be a problem when going up against UCLA and Washington. While Chol was a prolific shot-blocker in high school, it’s going to take him time to get used to the college game. Natyazhko provides a big body, but he needs to develop enough to take on the Joshua Smiths and Aziz N’Diayes of the conference.

2.

Can Josiah Turner become the clearcut No. 1 point guard? Turner, a freshman from Sacramento, Calif., came into Arizona as Rivals.com’s No. 2 point guard and No. 11 player in the class of 2011, but he’s struggled at the start of his career as a Wildcat, even sitting out the entire third game of the season against Ball State.

GORDON BATES / DAILY WILDCAT

The development of Kyryl Natyazhko is one of the bigger questions that will dictate how successful the Wildcats are this season.

If Turner can be the kind of electric distributor of the ball that he was in high school, it’s going to make everyone on the floor with him more dangerous. It would also give head coach Sean Miller an opportunity to play Jordin Mayes along with Turner, which would get more good looks for the already-dangerous sophomore guard. If Turner can’t set himself apart, Mayes will likely see the majority of minutes because of his experience. Even though he’s not a true point guard, Mayes has a better feel for the offense and can hit shots from the outside. Although he’s a better scorer, Mayes isn’t the pure playmaker that made Turner one of the top recruits in the country. Will Turner figure it out?

C H A M P I O N S H I P

3.

Will Kyle Fogg be able to score consistently?

For two years, Fogg has been something of a ticking time bomb. He’s capable of scoring 25 points on any night, but also had his share of games when it’s hard to notice that he’s even on the floor. That needs to change for the 2011-12 season. Fogg showed the ability to be a complete scorer in the seasonopener against Valparaiso, scoring 16 points without connecting on a 3-pointer. He knocked down midrange jumpers, scored in the paint and showed the ability to create his own shot.

But against Duquesne, it was the exact opposite. Fogg shot 2-of-9 from the field and scored seven points. While he won’t leave the floor because of his defense, Fogg scoring for Arizona on a nightly basis will have huge implications for how good the Wildcats will be by season’s end.

4.

Can Solomon Hill take over games offensively?

Arizona is going to have games this year where the shots don’t fall. The Wildcats are going to need somebody that can get to the basket and finish, as well as get to the free

5.

Will Nick Johnson take Arizona from good to great? Johnson, a freshman guard, is a rare player. He can shoot, drive and finish at the rim. He can play lockdown defense and force turnovers. There isn’t much he can’t do with a basketball. If Johnson can figure things out relatively quickly, he has the ability to bring Arizona from being a good team to a great one. As important as Fogg has been to Arizona during his four years, Johnson might already be a better player. Johnson showed his ability to take games over for stretches of time in the exhibition loss to Seattle Pacific. For a team still looking for a go-to scorer, Johnson is as good of an option as anybody.

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2011-2012 BASKETBALL GUIDE •

• DAILY WILDCAT

WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER

16, 2011

2011-2012 BASKETBALL GUIDE •

WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER

16, 2011

DAILY WILDCAT •

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TALENT There’s more to Miller than knowing what buttons to push with his players. He understands talent, and how to maximize it. “He’s probably as good as there is anywhere, as a basketball coach period, but especially in that he develops players and puts them in positions to have success,” Everhart said. Miller would never take credit for Derrick Williams getting drafted second overall to the Minnesota Timberwolves. He’d credit Williams’ work ethic and willingness to get better. But in reality, Miller turned a non-ESPN Top 100 player into one of the best players in the country in a matter of two years. Williams came in as an under-the-radar recruit without a position. Now he’ll be a Rookie of the Year frontrunner when the NBA starts after the lockout. “A lot of people made a big deal about how good Williams got last year,” Everhart said. “Well, Sean put that kid in a position to do that. He worked hard and developed that young man and put him in a position offensively to do the things that he does well.”

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Miller’s passion for perfection is unquestioned. His measurements are precise and his scouting is superb. The 42-year-old head coach has dark circles under his eyes every day for a reason. The Ellwood City, Penn., native never stops preparing for his next move, something that’s earned the respect of his players over the course of his three years in Tucson. “I think he’s the hardest working coach in the country,” said senior guard Kyle Fogg. “He’s the only guy I know that will watch the same game seven times and pick up different things.” Miller knows more about his opponents than the opponents know about themselves. He’ll do as much work possible to gain a competitive edge, something that has been in his DNA since he was a youngster learning from his father, John Miller, who was a legendary Pennsylvania high school basketball coach. “Competitively, you could tell he had whatever that is … where you’re just never satisfied with anything but the best,” Duquesne head coach and longtime friend Ron Everhart said. “That’s something that I don’t think a lot of guys have. It’s very evident with him that he’s never going to stop until it’s his best effort, best showing, best job.”

Miller demands hard work from his players. If he doesn’t get it, the players won’t play, no matter their star ranking or high school stats. “He doesn’t take a day off. That became evident the first day,” said freshman guard Nick Johnson. “He wants you to go full speed every single day. That’s a good thing. But also you have to get used to it.” While Miller is an intense disciplinarian, he knows how to relate to his players, which goes a long way. Highly touted freshman Josiah Turner said he came to Arizona because he “had faith in Coach Miller, just the fact that he had my back.” He may chew them out for making a mistake, but players trust in Miller. “When you have a whole team, you know, when a kid is in, treating him like family and telling him how much we want him here, that makes a big difference,” Fogg said. Miller does exactly that. When Kevin Parrom, who followed Miller from Xavier to Arizona, was shot in the Bronx in late September, Miller filled the role of a father figure. When Parrom’s mother died of breast cancer, Miller was there. “He’s so much more than just a coach to me,” Parrom said of Miller. Miller echoed the sentiment. “He trusted me when we left Xavier. We’ve been through a lot together and we all care about each other,” Miller said. “Nobody has any idea how much time we spent together, talking, meeting. Me trying to be hard on him knowing that it’s almost unfair for me to be hard on him but that’s what’s required for him to continue to forge ahead.” Telep called Miller a chameleon. With his players, he’s their leader who knows what’s best for them. With the media, he’s professional, straight-forward and savvy. He wears different hats when he needs to, but ultimately it’s his tireless work ethic that’s transformed him into one of the top coaches in the country. “He wants to bring a national championship to Tucson,” Fogg said. “He’s just always focused. I think that’s what makes him such a great coach.”

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GENES

ENDURANCE

time guy but he doesn’t come at you like a big-time guy,” Cooper Sr. said. “If you didn’t read about him, you would never know he was a multi-millionaire. You would just think he’s a good coach because he talks to you at the level you’re at and he doesn’t bring the aura with him that usually comes with big-time guys. “He does bring ‘Hey man, this is what it is. This is what it is that we’re trying to do,’” Cooper Sr. added. “You understand that whatever he says he’s trying to do. He usually does it. That automatically makes you want to be a part of his team.” A few years ago, Miller was a top coach in the Atlantic 10, leading Xavier to the NCAA tournament in four of his five years as head coach. He was well respected, but not recognized on a national level. But three years after leaving Xavier, Miller is on the verge of being named with the college basketball greats. If he can continue to thrive in every area that comes with being a top-notch college basketball coach, Arizona may soon add more national championship hardware to the trophy case. “He’s a tremendous guy and a tremendous coach,” Everhart said. “By the looks of this last recruiting class, it’s only a matter of time before there’s another national championship here.”

1st

He lures in top recruits. He develops unheralded players. He demands respect, but still relates to his young team. Sean Miller is the complete college basketball coach, and as he enters his third season as the face of Arizona basketball, the country is finally starting to take notice. “He’s just good at his job,” said ESPN analyst Dave Telep. “When you take a look around college basketball, he’s a guy who combines excellence as a coach, developer of players and a recruiter.” In 2009, Miller arrived in Tucson to a program in dissaray as the Wildcats’ fourth coach in four years. Could he return Arizona to where the team was during the Lute Olson era? Could the East Coast product recruit on the West Coast? With Arizona fresh off an Elite Eight run and boasting the No. 1 recruiting class in the nation, Miller has more than answered those questions. “I’ve really tried to deal with the pressure at Arizona the same way and that is if you fear it, you probably shouldn’t be here,” Miller said.

While Miller has proven to be stellar as a coach and at maximizing talent, he also may be the best recruiter in the country. One year after turning in the No. 7 recruiting class in the nation, Miller developed the top 2012 class in the country by nabbing three ESPN Top 10 recruits and the No. 36 overall recruit. Miller has been stealing recruits from coaches like Kansas’ Bill Self, UCLA’s Ben Howland and Kentucky’s John Calipari. Sure, there’s a lot for recruits to like about Arizona, between the history and the facilities. But Miller is the difference-maker. “When I first came here I got a lot of questions about recruiting,” Miller said. “Can a guy who’s never lived in the West recruit in the West? Now that coach Olson’s not here and we’ve had four coaches in four years, how are we being received out there?” Miller’s answered all of those questions. Freshmen Nick Johnson, Turner, Angelo Chol and Sidiki Johnson all said Miller was the reason they came to Tucson. Miller most recently landed Brandon Ashley, Grant Jerrett, Kaleb Tarczewski and Gabe York, a feat that led Telep to call the Wildcats a national recruiting power. And it’s mostly because of Miller, who went through the life of the NCAA athlete as a starting point guard for Pittsburgh. “It’s just the fact that he’s one of the younger coaches around and he’s easy to relate to,” Ashley said. According to former UA great Miles Simon, Miller simply lays down the law and tells kids what they’re getting in Arizona. If they want a chance to compete, get to the next level and play in a former college basketball mecca, Arizona’s the choice, and Miller portrays that. “He’s personable, and he’s a straight shooter and he tells it like it is,” Simon said. Former Arizona point guard and Jerrett’s high school coach, Eric Cooper Sr., said it’s Miller’s personality that allows him to outrecruit basketball powerhouses. “He’s down to earth. He’s a big-

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2011-2012 Basketball Guide •

• Daily Wildcat

wednesday, november

16, 2011

THE

COMPETITION By Nicole Dimtsios DAILY WILDCAT

ASU Coach: Herb Sendek, sixth year Location: Tempe Home court: Wells Fargo Arena (capacity: 10,734) 2010-2011 record: 12-19, 4-14 Last postseason appearance: 2010 National Invitational Tournament, First Round Meeting with Wildcats: Dec. 31, time TBA; March 4, 1:30 p.m. After a 12-19 record last season, it would be an understatement to say that head coach Herb Sendek is on the hot seat. After the graduation of Ty Abbott, Jamelle McMillan and forward Rihards Kuksiks, the Sun Devils return two starters in junior Trent Lockett and sophomore Kyle Cain. But the spotlight could be on freshman point guard Jahii Carson. The Mesa native should be an impact on the court and help ASU score in transition, but he is yet to be cleared to play by the NCAA. MIKE CHRISTY / DAILY WILDCAT

California Coach: Mike Montgomery, fourth year

Cal’s Allen Crabbe, the reigning Pacific 10 Conference Freshman of the Year, is one of the key players who makes the Golden Bears one of the front-runners in the new Pac-12 Conference.

Colorado

Oregon

Home court: Haas Pavilion (capacity: 11,877)

Coach: Tad Boyle, second year

Coach: Dana Altman, second year

2010-2011 record: 18-15, 10-8

Location: Boulder, Colo.

Location: Eugene, Ore.

Last postseason appearance: 2011 NIT, Second Round

Home court: Coors Events Center (capacity 11,043)

Meeting with Wildcats: Feb. 2, 8 p.m.

2010-2011 record: 24-14, 8-8 Big 12 Conference

Home court: Matthew Knight Arena (capacity: 12,369) 2010-2011 record: 21-18, 7-11

Location: Berkeley, Calif.

The Golden Bears return their top three scorers from last year’s team, who finished fourth in the Pac-10 Conference in scoring. With multiple threats from the floor, Cal’s veteran team should make a run at the conference title. Pac-10 Freshman of the Year Allen Crabbe (13.4 points per game, 5.3 rebounds per game), first team All-Pac-10 selection Jorge Gutierrez (14.6 ppg,, 4.5 assists per game), second team All-Pac-10 selection Harper Kamp (14.2 ppg, 5.6 rpg) and junior Brandon Smith round out Cal’s returners.

open daily at 8:00 pm

Last postseason appearance: 2011 NIT, Semifinals Meeting with Wildcats: Jan. 21, 4 p.m.; Feb. 9, 6:30 p.m.

Last postseason appearance: 2011 College Basketball Invitational Champions Meeting with Wildcats: Jan. 14, 11 a.m. or 1:30 p.m.

Colorado joins the Pac-12 Conference coming off a onepoint loss to Alabama that would have put the Buffaloes in the NIT Championship Game. Forward Alec Burks averaged more than 20 points per game before being selected in the 2011 NBA Draft by the Utah Jazz. The Buffaloes return two starters Austin Dufault and Nate Tomlinson, both seniors who averaged more than 20 minutes per game last season.

The Ducks return six players, including three starters from last year’s team. Like Colorado, Oregon will rebuild this season with five transfers and four freshmen. Head coach Dana Altman’s recruiting class was ranked in the top 25 by ESPN, Rivals and Scout.


2011-2012 BASKETBALL GUIDE •

WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER

16, 2011

DAILY WILDCAT •

B9

A LOOK AROUND THE PAC-12 Oregon State

Stanford

UCLA

Coach: Craig Robinson, fourth year

Coach: Johnny Dawkins, fourth year

Coach: Ben Howland, ninth year

Location: Corvallis, Ore.

Location: Palo Alto, Calif.

Location: Westwood, Calif.

Home court: Gill Coliseum (capacity: 10,400)

Home court: Maples Pavilion (capacity: 7,329)

2010-2011 record: 23-11, 13-5

2010-2011 record: 11-20, 5-13

2010-2011 record: 15-16, 7-11

Last postseason appearance: 2009 CBI Champions

Last postseason appearance: 2009 CBI, Semifinals

Home court: LA Memorial Sports Arena (capacity: 16,161) Pauley Pavilion is under renovation (capacity: 12,819)

Meeting with Wildcats: Jan. 12, 6:30 p.m.

Meeting with Wildcats: Feb. 4, noon

Last postseason appearance: 2011 NCAA Tournament, Third Round

Oregon State returns four starters to a team with a schedule that dodges second games against UCLA and Arizona. Although head coach Craig Robinson only has two new players on his roster, OSU will need others to step up on offense to help second-team All-Pac-10 selection Jared Cunningham.

Stanford lost Jeremy Green, who elected to enter the NBA Draft in June 2011, but returns 12 total players. Forward Josh Owens averaged 11.6 points and 6.5 rebounds for the Cardinal last season and will be the one of the team’s leaders along with senior Jarrett Mann. The Cardinal will only play at the Washington schools and will host the Arizona schools this season.

Meeting with Wildcats: Jan. 5, 9 p.m.; Feb. 25, noon The Bruins won’t be hard pressed to find offense this season. If Reeves Nelson, the Bruins leading scorer and rebounder from last season, returns from suspension, he’ll get help from Lazeric Jones (9.1 points per game) and Joshua Smith (10.9 ppg, 6.3 rebounds per game) to give head coach Ben Howland a steady and productive core group of starters.

USC

Utah

Coach: Kevin O’Neill, third year

Coach: Larry Krystkowiak, first year

Location: Los Angeles

Location: Salt Lake City

Home court: Galen Center (capacity: 10,258)

Home court: Jon M. Huntsman Center (capacity: 15,000)

2010-2011 record: 19-15, 10-8

2010-2011 record: 13-18, 6-10 Mountain West Conference

Last postseason appearance: 2011 NCAA Tournament, First Round

Last postseason appearance: 2009 NCAA Tournament, First Round

Meeting with Wildcats: Jan. 8, 3:30 p.m.; Feb. 23, TBA

Meeting with Wildcats: Jan. 19, 7 p.m.; Feb. 11, noon

USC will have to look for help from new names this season as it returns just one starter in Maurice Jones. The sophomore guard averaged 9.9 points in 34.5 minutes per game last season. Jio Fontan, who led the Trojans in assists and was second in scoring, had a season-ending knee surgery on Aug. 16. Freshman guard Alexis Moore is one option to replace Fontan.

Utah joins the Pac-12 with a lot of rebuilding to do. After former coach Jim Boylen left the Utes, 11 players graduated or decided to transfer. Two senior returners, center David Foster and point guard Josh Watkins, will have to provide stability for first-year head coach Larry Krystkowiak.

Washington

Washington State

Coach: Lorenzo Romar, 10th year

Coach: Ken Bone, third year

Location: Seattle

Location: Pullman, Wash.

Home court: Alaska Airlines Arena (capacity: 10,000)

Home court: Friel Court (capacity: 11,671)

2010-2011 record: 24-11, 11-7

2010-2011 record: 22-12, 9-9

Last postseason appearance: 2011 NCAA Tournament, Third Round

Last postseason appearance: 2011 NIT, Semifinals

Meeting with Wildcats: Jan. 28, 5 p.m.; Feb. 18, 1 p.m.

Meeting with Wildcats: Jan. 26, 8:30 p.m.; Feb. 16, 6 p.m.

After the departure of Isaiah Thomas and forwards Matthew Bryan-Amaning and Justin Holiday, Washington returns only two starters, including point guard Abdul Gaddy who tore his ACL in January. Sophomore Terrence Ross and the Huskies have won back-to-back conference tournament championships but will be tested early with Duke and Marquette in non-conference play.

The Cougars lost Klay Thompson, who entered the NBA Draft in June and DeAngelo Casto who is playing professionally in Turkey, who made 45 percent of WSU’s scoring. Three other starters return, but they only averaged about 20 points per game. Guard Reggie Moore averaged 9.1 points per game last season. WSU only plays at the northern California schools and the Utah and Colorado duo once.

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B10

2011-2012 Basketball Guide •

• Daily Wildcat

wednesday, november

16, 2011

FROM NEIGHBORHOOD PARK TO MCKALE CENTER Head coach Niya Butts used hoops to leave Americus, Ga.

The G.O.A.T and detective Butts

By Kelly Hultgren

N

DAILY WILDCAT

iya Butts rolled into basketball. “My first love in terms of anything athletic was skating,” said the Arizona’s women’s basketball coach. “I use to roller skate all the time and I had these big, iron skates. I didn’t have the ones with the rubber wheels — too expensive — and they were a size too big.” Butts grew up in Americus, Ga. One day, at 8 years old, she strapped on her skates and proceeded on her usual route. For the hundredth time, she passed a group of guys playing ball at the neighborhood park, on a blacktop court enclosed by a chain-link fence. This time, instead of rolling by, Butts decided to take off her skates. “I would see them playing over there, mostly guys, and I just went over there one day, picked up a basketball and I liked it,” Butts said. “It came naturally to me, it was never one of those things that was awkward. I picked up a basketball and naturally started to dribble.” Butts grew up surrounded by brothers, so she had no problem playing pickup ball with the guys. Her career started in that park, moved to recreational ball and progressed into middle school and high school. College basketball was her ticket out of Americus. “I played with a lot of talented people who didn’t finish school, because of different circumstances or got pulled in the wrong direction,” Butts said. “For me, I was always trying to not get caught up in those kind of things and I think it was a part of the reason why I am so driven and was so driven. It’s because I didn’t want to become the person on the porch saying what they should have done or could have done.” Butts accepted an offer to attend the University of Tennessee from Pat Summitt, who became a mentor and friend. Butts was a four-year letter winner, two-time NCAA Champion in 1997 and 1998, and helped the Lady Vols win three Southeastern Conference

COLIN DARLAND / DAILY WILDCAT

Arizona women’s basketball head coach Niya Butts had a long trek from growing up in Americus, Ga., to playing at Tennessee, to becoming the Wildcats’ head coach. Now, she hopes to lead the UA to the NCAA tournament.

associate head coaching position. A year later, Butts accepted an “I didn’t want to become offer from Arizona. She is the UA’s first black, female head coach. the person on the porch “It feels pretty good to be a coach saying what they should at the University of Arizona period,” have done or could have Butts said. “But certainly any time done.” you can be the first at anything it’s always an honor and you certainly ­— Niya Butts want to make sure you represent Arizona head coach yourself well, in a positive manner.” Butts’ staff praised her leadership. and away from the team, I started “Sometimes you forget you’re to realize how much I really did actually at work, because she enjoy it,” Butts said. “In so many makes it a lot of fun,” said assistant A change in plans words, how much I really didn’t coach E.C. Hill. “We work hard need it, because I was under this and play hard as well. She gives impression that I was going to Butts resisted coaching despite me a lot of liberty to make input coaches and teammates pushing her go on and do XYZ, and I’m only with the guards. She lets me do using this coaching thing right to consider it. my thing, she gives me a lot of leenow as my vessel to accomplish “I would always say I didn’t want way in preparing me to be a head to coach,” Butts said. “When I gradu- other things. So, that was a point coach one day.” ated, I went to grad school, and I was in my first year of grad school that For many of the players, Butts I realized that hey, this is what I also coaching when I was in grad was a primary reason for choosing school, but it was more of a means so want to do.” Arizona. Following an assistant position at I could go to grad school.” “I would say she (Butts) has helped Tennessee Tech, Butts became an But the more time she spent away me a lot, not only with basketball, but from the team, the more she missed it. assistant coach at Michigan State in other things like going through life as “During that time when I would 2002 and then Kentucky. In 2007, a college student,” said junior guard Butts was promoted to Kentucky’s be in class, away from practice Davellyn Whyte. titles in 1998, 1999 and 2000. In addition to her athletic awards, she was a three-time Academic All-SEC recipient and received Tennessee’s Academic Achiever of the Week four times. She graduated from Tennessee in 2000 with a bachelor’s degree in social work and a minor in psychology. In 2002 she earned a master’s degree in education from Tennessee Tech. She planned to open a private practice as a clinical social worker. But she couldn’t leave basketball.

Ask Butts who her basketball idol is and she’ll say Michael Jordan before you finish the question. “He’s the greatest, the G.O.A.T. — the greatest of all time,” Butts said. “He’s an ultimate competitor. He’s like watching magic. Not Magic Johnson, literally magic.” She laughed at a photo taken with Jordan while they met in college. “As a team, we were standing in his office and he’s sitting at his desk,” she said. “Everybody surrounded him and when you look at the picture, the first thing everybody says is, ‘Now why is it that you’re the only one touching him?’ And I got my hands on him.” As a self-proclaimed people person, Butts said she initially wanted to be a clinical social worker. But she also wouldn’t mind having the detective title in front of her name. “I just like working with people, but I really love law enforcement,” Butts said. “I can honestly see myself being a police officer, an FBI agent or an ICE agent — any type of an investigative type of deal.” She’ll be the first to admit her psychology minor won’t get her very far in the detective world, but she satisfies her craving by watching crime shows. “I love detective stuff. I like to watch things that talk about and investigate how the mind works. I have a minor in psychology, which is not nearly enough knowledge for me. I like when they do shows about serial killers.” — Kelly Hultgren


2011-2012 BASKETBALL GUIDE •

WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER

16, 2011

DAILY WILDCAT •

B11

WHYTE EMERGES WHOOPS B-BALL AS PACK LEADER SCHEDULE By Zack Rosenblatt DAILY WILDCAT

Davellyn Whyte wakes up early every Saturday morning to watch cartoons, and her most prized possession is a teddy bear named Cheeks, which has remained by her side for most of her life. “People make fun of me, but I really don’t care,” Whyte said, laughing. She lets her play do all the talking. The junior’s resume is already impressive. Whyte was named to this year’s preseason All-Pac-12 first team, and she is a two-time All-Pac-10 first team member. She joined Arizona’s 1,000-career point club as a sophomore last season. But Whyte still wants to accomplish one more thing. “I want to get my team to the NCAA tourney this year,” Whyte said. “I just want to have a really successful, productive year.” Before that can happen, Whyte needs to inherit the leadership role left vacant by Ify Ibekwe, the WNBA draft pick who led the team in scoring, rebounds, steals and blocks last year. Whyte knows that her team expects her to take on that role, and she knows what needs to be done to make that happen. “That’s where I’m trying to put myself. I know it’s really hard to be a leader and it comes with a lot,” Whyte said. “For the most part, I have some of the qualities a leader needs to have. I just don’t have all of them, so that’s what I’m working on.” Taking on a leadership role for the Wildcats is not a foreign concept for Whyte, as she has been asked to take on big responsibilities for this team since she came to Tucson her freshman year. On the court that hasn’t been a problem, but now that Ibekwe has graduated the Wildcats will be leaning on Whyte more than ever. “Coach (Niya Butts) warned me before I signed and said, ‘Well you know you’re gonna have to come in and play like you know how because that’s why we recruited you,’” Whyte said. And that’s exactly what she did. In her first year, she led the team in scoring with 15.7 points per game and also led all Pac-10 freshmen in scoring. Her total points scored (487) and scoring average were both the

GORDON BATES / DAILY WILDCAT

Junior guard Davellyn Whyte has produced on the court, but she’s expected to increase her role in the locker room following the graduation of Ify Ibekwe.

second highest totals for a freshman in Arizona history. With 67 3-pointers, she tied for the fourth most in program history. To top it all off, Whyte was named Pac-10 Freshman of the Year, becoming the fourth player in team history to receive that honor. Her personal favorite moment from her freshman year was when she dropped 39 points on Oregon, the second highest single-game point total in the Pac-10 that year. “When I got here, it just felt natural. I didn’t feel overwhelmed or anything,” Whyte said. But despite her personal success in her first year, Whyte was still unsatisifed by her performance last year, when the Wildcats missed the NCAA tournament by a few games. “I came out hard my freshman year,” Whyte said. “Last year I kind of, I would say, relaxed but was at a standstill. I’m

looking to pick it up from last year.” Whyte said she needs to work on improving her mid-range game. “Davellyn Whyte is coming off a great year last year and the year before; she’s great,” said assistant coach E.C. Hill. “There’s things that I want to work on her game. There are things she can get better, but she’s already a good player. I’m just trying to tweak and polish what she’s already done.” When all is said and done, Whyte will go down as one of the best players in the history of Arizona women’s basketball. When she graduates, she plans on pursuing a career either in the WNBA or overseas. Until then, however, the “Phineas and Ferb” and “Tom and Jerry” aficionado will do all she can to takes the team somewhere it hasn’t been during the Niya Butts era — the NCAA tournament.

Nov. 17 Nov. 21 Nov. 28 Dec. 1 Dec. 2 Dec. 3 Dec. 11 Dec. 18 Dec. 21 Dec. 28 Dec. 31 Jan. 5 Jan. 7 Jan. 12 Jan. 14 Jan. 19 Jan. 22 Jan. 26 Jan. 28 Feb. 2 Feb. 4 Feb. 9 Feb. 11 Feb. 16 Feb. 19 Feb. 23 Feb. 25 March 3 March 7

Wichita State @ New Mexico State North Texas BYU Syracruse BYU Hawaii Long Beach State @ Arkansas-Pine Bluff New Mexico UNLV @ ASU UCLA USC @ Oregon @ Oregon State Utah Colorado @ Washington @ Washington State California Stanford @ Colorado @ Utah Washington State Washington @USC @ UCLA ASU Pac-12 Tournament (Calif.)

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2011-2012 BASKETBALL GUIDE •

• DAILY WILDCAT

3

WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER

16, 2011

QUESTIONS FOR

WOMEN’S BASKETBALL

Head coach Niya Butts has the pieces in place for an NCAA tournament-worthy team. Now it’s a matter of how the Wildcats gel as the season progresses. Here are three questions that will dictate how Arizona fares this season: By Zack Rosenblatt DAILY WILDCAT

1.

With Ify Ibekwe gone, who will replace her production?

Ify Ibekwe led the Wildcats in scoring two of the past three years, including 16.1 points per game last year, but it is not even her scoring that the team will have the toughest time replacing. She also led the team in rebounding and blocks three years in a row. Head coach Niya Butts will call on freshman center Aley Rohde and sophomore forward Erica Barnes to fill that void in the post. In terms of scoring production, sophomore guard Candice Warthen has demonstrated with her outside shooting abilities in exhibition games that she might just be capable of acting as Davellyn Whyte’s sidekick. It will take a team effort to replace the former star, but it can be done.

2.

Can Davellyn Whyte make the leap from good to great?

Easily Arizona’s best and most important player, the biggest question for Whyte in her junior year is if she can make a jump in her already-stout production now that Ibekwe has left. She led the team in scoring her freshman year and averaged close to 16 points per game last year. But if Arizona is going to overcome the loss of Ibekwe and the youth of the team’s six newcomers, it will need Whyte to perform beyond her spectacular play from the last two years. She will probably draw frequent double teams, but if the Wildcats want to make the NCAA tournament, Whyte might need to bump that scoring average up closer to 20.

3.

Does this team have what it takes to make the NCAA tournament?

Arizona is certainly talented. Shanita Arnold is one of the better point guards in the Pac-12, Candice Warthen is a top-notch 3-point shooter and Whyte has the potential to lead the Pac-12 in scoring. In the post, 6-foot-5 center Aley Rohde and forward Erica Barnes have the ability to make an impact down low. But, overall this team has too many question marks, and the loss of Ibekwe, along with the six new players — three freshmen, three transfers — does not help the cause. If everything comes together in time and Arizona develops some chemistry, it has the potential to compete for a NCAA tournament bid. Even with Ibekwe, however, the Wildcats fell short of the tournament last season, and the Pac-12 won’t be much easier this time around.

COMMENTARY

Coaches, media not giving UA enough credit Zack Rosenblatt DAILY WILDCAT

The team has a chip on its shoulder, which can be a dangerous thing for its opponent, but that’s not the only reason this team will exceed the low expectations placed on it. Internally, the Wildcats have the personnel to make a run. Davellyn Whyte is one of the best offensive threats in the nation, and she has a been among the leading scorers in the Pac-12 since her freshman year. Shanita Arnold was second in the Pac-10 in assists last year, with 4.88 per game, and she has the passing ability and court vision to maybe even lead the Pac-12 this time. Rohde stands at an imposing 6-foot-5, and if her performance in high school is any indication, she will make an immediate impact. Candice Warthen exploded for 36 points in Arizona’s second regular season game, and Erica Barnes has proven that she can be a definite rebounding threat.

Externally, the mass coaching exodus going around the Pac-12 leaves a level of uncertainty with a few teams competing with Arizona. Cal, UCLA, ASU and Washington all have new coaches, and a sudden change in coaching philosophy is often too much for a student-athlete to handle, at least initially. Arizona has no chance against Stanford, a perennial national championship contender, and probably won’t put up much of a fight against USC or California. But this team has the players in place to give the other eight teams in the Pac-12 a run for their money. Pac-12 coaches might not believe it, the media might not believe it, but come March, don’t be shocked if the Arizona Wildcats appear on your bracket for the NCAA tournament. — Zack Rosenblatt is a junior studying journalism and Italian. He can be reached at sports@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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ast year, the Wildcats narrowly missed out on an NCAA tournament berth with 21 wins. It would have been Arizona’s first postseason experience since 2005 when it lost to LSU in the second round. The Wildcats might have the talent to get over that hump this year, but you wouldn’t know it looking at any of the Pac-12 preseason polls. In the Pac-12 coaches poll, Arizona was picked to finish ninth in the conference, and this comes after a season in which it finished in fifth in the Pac-12 with a 10-8 conference

record. The Pac-12 media poll was a little more generous, predicting an eighth place finish. I get it; Ify Ibekwe and Soana Lucet’s combined 29 points and 15 rebounds per game are gone. The team has six new players on this year’s roster, and it is relying on an untested freshman Aley Rohde to man the low post. Even with the talent this team has in place, along with the amiable coaching presence of Niya Butts, the Wildcats are not getting the credit they deserve. Will they make the NCAA tournament? Maybe they will but probably not. But Arizona will also not finish eighth or ninth in the conference — they will finish fifth or sixth. Count sophomore Candice Warthen among those who weren’t very happy about the team’s ranking. “I didn’t really take it too well, personally, because we had a really good season last year and for us to do so good and them place us ninth is just motivation to the team,” Warthen said.


2011-2012 BASKETBALL GUIDE •

WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER

16, 2011

DAILY WILDCAT •

B13

MEET THE STARTING FIVE By Kelly Hultgren DAILY WILDCAT

Shanita Arnold senior point guard

Candice Warthen sophomore guard

Height: 5-foot-5

Height: 5-foot-5

Hometown: Fort Smith, Ark.

Hometown: Warrenton, Ga. 2010-11 stats: 4.4 points, 2.3 rebounds per game

2010-11 stats: 7 points, 2 rebounds, 4.88 assists per game

Fun fact: Dream job is to be a counselor She said it: “We are really athletic, we still have to put it all together, but overall we have a very athletic team.” — Candice Warthen

Fun fact: Childhood idol was Allen Iverson Favorite food: Top Ramen with hot sauce She said it: “Our goal is for her to bring some leadership, some consistency to that position. Someone who is going to be able to direct our team, calm us down when we get a little scattered, and understand the game a little bit better. I think she will provide that for us.” — head coach Niya Butts

Davellyn Whyte junior guard

Erica Barnes sophomore forward

Height: 5-foot-11

Height: 6-foot-2

Hometown: Phoenix

Hometown: Sacramento, Calif.

2010-11 stats: 15.8 points, 4.6 rebounds, 2.9 assists per game

2010-11 stats: 5.9 points, 4.1 rebounds per game

Fun fact: Goal is to play in the WNBA Accolades: Two-time All Pac-10 Conference first team member; Pac-10 Freshman of the year She said it: “I think our defense is going to make our offense run a little better. If we do have a lot of pressure and are all over their guards, it’s going to lead to a lot of fast break points, and fast breaks are kind of the easy way to win games.” — Davellyn Whyte

Fun fact: Sports idol is Lisa Leslie She said it: “This season I’m looking forward to the tournament in Hawaii and playing Syracuse and BYU. That trip will tell us where we are as a team before we start conference play.” — Erica Barnes

Aley Rohde, freshman center Height: 6-foot-5 Hometown: Cave Creek, Ariz. 2010-11 Stats (High School): 14.4 points, 8.3 rebounds, 2.3 blocks per game Fun fact:: Plans to major in anthropology Accolades: 2009 Scottsdale High School Player of the Year for the Arizona Republic; Holds her high school’s records for points (37), rebounds (23) and blocks (12) in a game. She said it: “I grew up playing against Aley, so I kind of knew what she had, and when she signed here I was really excited because we have a big girl that you know is going to work hard and she really does work hard.” — Davellyn Whyte

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B14

2011-2012 Basketball Guide •

• Daily Wildcat

wednesday, november

16, 2011

STAFFPICKS MEN’S HOOPS

WOMEN’S HOOPS

Alex Williams

Mike Schmitz

Zack Rosenblatt

Kelly Hultgren

Daily Wildcat

Daily Wildcat

Daily Wildcat

Daily Wildcat

MVP

MVP

MVP

MVP

While everyone is waiting around for Arizona’s next superstar to emerge, Perry is doing his job day in and day out. Miller calls the 6-foot-7, 217-pound senior the team’s most consistent player, and he’s the type of hustle player that every team needs. He’ll likely finish the season as Arizona’s leading rebounder, and there is a variety of ways he can score. Perry’s work will go largely unappreciated because he doesn’t do anything flashy, but Arizona would be a middle-of-the-pack team without the junior college transfer.

Jesse Perry isn’t a superstar with huge upside. He’s not going to go for 20 and 10, or win games in dramatic fashion like Derrick Williams did. But Perry is the unquestioned MVP of the 2011-12 Wildcats. He’s the model of consistency, and will churn out double-doubles on a nightly basis this season. On a young and inexperienced team, the 22-year-old senior is the Wildcats’ backbone, giving them toughness, experience and leadership. He’ll finish at the rim and get to the line more than any other UA player, all while showing range out to the three-point line.

Davellyn Whyte has accomplished in two years what most don’t accomplish in four, at least in terms of accolades and statistics. She has more than 1,000 points and, with Ify Ibekwe gone, expect Whyte to score in excess of 20 points more often this season. Even when she is not scoring, her presence on offense alone creates opportunities for her teammates. The scariest part? After this season she has another year of eligibility left. The Wildcats will go as far as their junior leader takes them.

Last year it was Ify Ibekwe, and this year it will be 5-foot-11 guard, junior Davellyn Whyte. Whyte has been influential in the program since her Wildcat debut, being selected to the Pac-10 Conference team two years in a row and also being named Pac-10 Freshman of the Year. Plus the Pac-12 media poll recently named her as one of the five, preseason All-Pac-12 selections. She’s two years smarter and stronger and will offensively carry the team. Last year she averaged 15.8 points, 4.6 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game.

Jesse Perry

Jesse Perry

Davellyn Whyte

Davellyn Whyte

X-factor

X-factor

X-factor

X-factor

Freshman guard Nick Johnson has the ability to take this team from being solid to great. He’s the only player that can consistently create his own shot and he showed during the Wildcats’ exhibition slate that he can take a game over for periods of time. The 198-pound guard can score from outside or get to the basket, and he has the freakish athletic ability to play above the rim even though he’s listed at just 6-foot-2.

Arizona needs Solomon Hill to become a consistent contributor, or it could be a long season. Sure, the Wildcats have other weapons. Yes, with Kevin Parrom back, Hill’s minutes should take a hit. But his versatility and ability to create is exactly what this team is lacking. Hill is one of the few Wildcats who can create shots for himself and his teammates. If the Wildcats were to have a go-to guy, Hill has the right skillset to be that guy. At 6-foot-6 and 226 pounds, he can take it off the dribble and bang inside.

Aley Rohde is the most highly-touted addition to the Wildcats’ roster, ranked as a four-star prospect and the No. 11 center in the nation by ESPN. Arizona was one of the worst rebounding teams in the Pacific 10 Conference last season, and adding the 6-foot-5 big down low should help change that. Her contributions are especially important with the departure of Ibekwe, who averaged 9.8 rebounds per game last year. If Rohde can live up to her potential this season, The team can be a real contender for the NCAA tournament.

Sophomore Candice Warthen handles the ball with maturity and poise and could be a starting point guard this season. The 5-foot5 guard was the lead scorer in exhibition play, scoring 18 points in the first game and 15 in the second. Last season she averaged 4.4 points and 2.3 rebounds per game. She’s quick, sees the court and can open up shots for her teammates.

Nick Johnson

Solomon Hill

Candice Warthen

Aley Rohde

Finish

Finish

Finish

Finish

Arizona drops only one game at home — against UCLA on Feb. 25 — and finishes third in the Pac-12 Conference behind the Bruins and California. The conference doesn’t have one dominant team, but UCLA’s inside game kills Arizona in both meetings. The Wildcats lose two of their first three Pac-12 games with both losses coming on the Los Angeles trip, but progress throughout the season, entering the final weekend of the year still having a shot at a conference championship.

Head men’s basketball coach Sean Miller said at Pac-12 media day in Los Angeles that there’s no way that Arizona is the third-best team in the conference, as the media voted it to finish. While Miller is right that Arizona’s starting point this season was extremely low, the Wildcats’ talent will come full circle in a conference without much competition outside of UCLA, Cal and Washington. As the season moves along, the youngsters will develop, the veterans will become accustomed to their roles and Arizona will be the second-best team in the Pac-12.

The Pac-12 is always among the top conferences in the nation, so competition will be stiff as usual. While Arizona isn’t quite getting the respect it deserves, the Wildcats haven’t proved they have what it takes to make the NCAA tournament. They weren’t able to qualify last season when they had had Ibekwe, who was an honorable mention AP All-American. With all the turnover on the roster this year — the Wildcats have­three freshmen and three transfers — the Wildcats could be ready to take off next season, but maybe not this year.

With the team’s determination and natural maturity, Arizona will make the NCAA tournament this year. The Wildcats were sold short in the preseason coaches poll, expected to finish ninth in the conference. Stanford was an obvious first choice. The reigning Pac-10 champions have made it to the Final Four for the last four years. California and ASU are going through coaching transitions, and considering Arizona’s program is stable with fourth-year coach Niya Butts at the reins, the Wildcats should finish above Cal and the Sun Devils.

Third in Pac-12, Sweet 16

Second in the Pac-12, Sweet 16

Fifth in the Pac-12, missing out on the NCAA tournament

First Round in tournament, top half of the conference

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2011-12 Hoops Guide  

The 2011-12 Daily Wildcat Arizona Basketball season preview guide

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