Arizona vs. Fort Lewis College
Saturday, Nov. 2
Live Stream: http://pac-12.com/videos/university-arizona
Radio: KTUC AM 1400 (Derrick Palmer and Lisa Salgado)
As Arizona senior forward Erica Barnes heads into her final season on the women’s basketball team, she reflects back on how she arrived in the first place.
The 6-2 senior has played in 86 games, started 38 of them and was named to the 2011 All-Pac-10 Freshman Team.
She credits a pair of positive influences in her life for her successes and eagerness to lead her team to a winning record in her final season.
Through the words of her father and head coach Niya Butts, Barnes has found the advice and motivation to push her every day and become a leader for the 2013-14 squad.
Eric Barnes, Erica’s father, who lives in Sacramento, Calif., is no stranger to the demands of playing a Division I sport in the Pac-12. A former lineman for the Oregon Ducks, no matter how far away, he always finds a way to encourage his daughter.
“Even through the phone, if he is watching me, he is always giving me positive tips to make me a better person,” Barnes said.
With the distance, Barnes looks to someone much closer for a reminder of where to keep her focus—Coach Butts.
“She really reminds me of my dad,” Barnes said. “It’s good, because even though my dad isn’t here, I see him in her. I can take on what she is saying, because she is actually seeing it. I think that makes our relationship better.”
Butts has seen her tutelage and mentoring take root and has witnessed her transition first-hand. Barnes came to U of A in the summer of 2010 and Butts has been there every step of the way.
“She has gotten better as a player, no doubt about it,” Butts said. “She has started to handle herself a lot differently than she did from freshman year to now, in terms of attitude on and off the court.”
This year, Barnes’ growth and maturity will be on display and play an essential role to the Wildcats’ success this season.
“We believe we can be successful this year,” Barnes said. “And if the leader believes it, the rest of the team will follow.”
Between Barnes and Butts, the message for the season is clear.
“We talked about all the little things adding up,” Butts said. “We are either building credibility, or we’re weakening it in everything we do, what we say, how we act and how we perform on the court. Our goal as a team is to make sure we build that credibility.”
With the season’s commencement this weekend, Butts is expecting big things from Barnes.
“She is a big piece of building our credibility,” Butts said. “She is a starting big for us and we are going to need her on and off the court and to be that example.”
Barnes will embark on her final season, starting Saturday, Nov. 2, when Arizona welcomes Fort Lewis College to McKale Center at 3 p.m.