It looked, from the outside, like two more losses for a bad team in the Pac-10. After a sweep at home to the L.A. schools, the Arizona women’s basketball team now posts a record of 3-10 in the conference and 7-16 overall. Yes, this has been a terrible season, but there is a real story underneath that story that should be explored.
Firstly, the Cats have never fully recovered, and no human being really could recover this soon, from the sudden death of superstar Shawntinice Polk. Polkey’s death came roughly a month before the season started and tossed the entire program into disarray. Suddenly, roles had changed and the team had lost its leader. You don’t recover from this kind of tragedy without going through some terrible growing pains.
Secondly, Arizona has suffered numerous other injuries at the “post” position. Shannon Hobson had already agreed to redshirt because of a troublesome back. The team’s low post hopes then rested on freshmen Amina Njonkou and Whitney Fields, sophomore Ch?© Oh, and little-used senior Anna Chappell. The Wildcats were already thin at this position, but things would get worse. Joan Bonvicini had no player over 6-1 and then these players started dropping like flies. Amina has played in only two games because of a foot fracture, and Ch?© Oh has been pining with concussions.
Thirdly, the guards have been thinned out as well. Malia O’Neil, the Washington State Player of the Year, sat out the entire preseason because of a home-school credit that was under consideration by the NCAA. She will not be herself until next season. Meanwhile, Ashley Whisonant has been playing hard every night with a heavy shoulder brace. She will be healthier next year. Jessica Arnold has also gone down with a concussion as the parade of injuries continues.
Fourthly, there is only a certain amount of fuel that can fit into a human gas tank. For example, Arizona played its heart out and nearly upset USC on Thursday night, but had nothing left in a routing loss to UCLA. How can you blame them? They had six regulars left.
But here is the real story. The Cats have never given up. They play hard every night, they don’t point fingers, and they are laughing and enjoying each other off the court. The real story is that these young women have displayed character, poise and guts.
Wins and losses have been a disappointment. But don’t forget the story underneath the story. Even amidst this terrible adversity, the Cats have shown themselves a special group of players. Let’s not forget the difficulties that have led us to this point. Underneath the obvious lies the real story.
See you on the radio!
* Every Arizona women’s basketball game can be heard live on 1330 AM KJLL Radio!
* Remember to join us for the Joan Bonvicini Coaches Show, heard each Monday evening from 6-7 p.m. on KJLL 1330 AM.