Since Joan Bonvicini arrived at Arizona in 1991, her Wildcat basketball program has run an impressive string of freshman stars onto the McKale Center floor. Of course, the great Adia Barnes was Pac-10 Freshman of the Year in 1994-95. Pac-10 All-Freshman Team honorees included Lisa Griffith, Reshea Bristol, Elizabeth Pickney, Krista Warren and Veranda James. Now, another freshman is continuing this long tradition of excellence. Her name is Dee-Dee Wheeler, and she has been spectacular in 2001-02. In fact, she should be the next Pac-10 Freshman of the Year!
Desire (Dee-Dee) Wheeler began this season as a raw recruit out of Chicago's Dunbar Vocational Academy. Early on, she was tentative and not quite sure how to use her God-given abilities. However, in the past two months, she has turned it on, and that is good news to a Wildcat team that desperately needed a lift.
Let's go to Pullman, Wash., where Arizona had its back against the wall last weekend. The Cats had lost a close game to Washington two nights before, and injuries were again a factor. The Wildcats were without post players Krista Warren and LaKeisha Taylor, and Washington State had upset the Cats in Pullman the year before.
Enter Dee-Dee Wheeler.
After a 17-point performance against the Huskies, Wheeler brought her game to another level in the second half at Washington State, scoring 14 of her 19 points to help her team post an impressive 106-60 road victory. Her speed and passing ability wowed everyone in the arena, including the Fox Sports broadcast team. In Pullman, Dee-Dee Wheeler established herself as the favorite to win Pac-10 Freshman of the Year award.
As the voting begins for this award, several names will come to the fore. T'Nae Thiel and Sebnem Kimyaciouglu, both at Stanford, will get serious consideration. Washington's Kristen O'Neill will be in the hunt too. However, no other player can make a case as strong as Arizona's Wheeler.
Coming into action this weekend, Wheeler is averaging more than 12 points per game, and she is getting better and better. She is clearly the best athlete of this freshman group and means more to her team than the others. Arizona's 8-7 conference record should not hurt her chances. Instead, it should bolster support for this player because, simply put, Arizona would be in "nowheresville" without her!
The Arizona Wildcats, and their star freshman Dee-Dee Wheeler, have three games left in this season. The team, and its point guard, has just three chances to prove itself. Wheeler has already done that, and if she keeps playing this way, she will help her team finish in the top half of the conference. All of this will happen because, like 1994-95, Arizona has given Pac-10 basketball another Freshman of the Year!
See you on the radio!
? Thursday, Feb. 14 vs. UCLA = 6:30 p.m. on KJLL 1330 AM
? Saturday, Feb. 16 vs. USC = 1:30 p.m. on KJLL 1330 AM
? Saturday, Feb. 23 vs. Arizona State = 1:30 p.m. on KJLL 1330 AM
? March 1-4, all Arizona Pac-10 Tournament games = TBA on KJLL 1330 AM
Arizona Athletics Women's Basketball
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