Junior women’s basketball player Candice Warthen hails from Warrenton, Ga., a small town in the heart of the state that boasts a population of about 2,000 people.
In 2009, Warthen wanted an opportunity to play basketball at the University of Arizona, meaning a move across the country, but also a complete change altogether.
With the move, Warthen has had to not only adjust to Tucson’s environment, but also to a culture and lifestyle she was not accustomed to.
“It’s a completely different culture in Tucson,” Warthen said. “Where I’m from, there’s only one stop light and no traffic. In Tucson, there’s a lot of traffic and people. Of course I’ve been around it many times, but I’m not really used to it since there aren’t that many people in Warrenton.”
In choosing a college to attend, Warthen’s thought was never about how big or small the school was, because she knew she would be playing no matter where she landed.
“I never thought about it when I was in high school,” Warthen said. “I always knew I wanted to play basketball. I didn’t really think about how big or small the school would be, I just knew I would be playing somewhere.”
Self-determination among countless hours of practice got Warthen from Georgia to Arizona.
“I would have to say that my skills are God-given,” Warthen said. “My entire life I have played basketball and I knew that I was always pretty good. I grew up playing with boys, so I think they toughened me up. I first realized I was a really good player when I got to high school and I continued to work hard to become better. I gained confidence by spending more time in the gym and developed into the player I am today.”
To move across the country and follow a dream means leaving behind something that means so much--family.
“It was very difficult to move away from my family,” Warthen said. “I was always used to being around them and I didn’t really travel that much. It was always family, family, family and I hated not being around them when I would travel with my club basketball team. I had to keep reminding myself that in order to get to a university, I had to be away from them and develop my skills. As time went on, I started to see the bigger picture and knew that I was there for a reason and it all paid off when I got to Arizona.”
Most players look to their coach for direction but for Warthen, Arizona head coach Niya Butts provides much more than advice on becoming a better player. Warthen is more than grateful for not only the life lessons learned from Butts, but also her guidance off the court.
“Coach Butts is amazing,” Warthen said. “She provides life lessons and skills outside of basketball that we will need after leaving college. She can be hard sometimes, but we all understand that it’s what we need to be successful. She’s a wonderful person; she’s very caring and helps us far more than we will ever know.”
One of the many battles an athlete faces is the risk of injuries. For Warthen, two separate injuries caused her to sit out two years in a row. For her redshirt junior year, Warthen is most eager to be back with her team and help in any way she can.
“I’m so excited for the upcoming season,” Warthen said. “I have been fighting injuries for the past two years and I’m ready to be back with my team. I’m ready to help my team win and that’s the main focus for me this year. I would like to find myself and be more confident in what I’m doing. It’s been so long since I’ve played and I’ve never sat out this long; I’m very anxious.”