The bandwagon seems nearly empty. Crowds at University of Arizona women’s basketball games are shrinking and interest is plummeting. Fans have a good reason to be disappointed. The Wildcats are normally chasing first place in the conference standings rather than trying to stay out of last place. But before you give up hope, let me reassure you that things aren’t quite as bad as they seem.
First, don’t forget about what Joan Bonvicini has accomplished at Arizona. It’s easy to be absorbed into the “what have you done for me lately” scenario. But Joan’s record is solid and steady. In the 10 seasons before the death of Shawntinice Polk, Joan won 20 games eight times. Until last season, her teams hadn’t posted a losing record since 1995. The Cats also won the Pac-10 just three years ago.
Secondly, there is help on the way. Arizona has a solid group of freshmen that are hard-working and care about winning. Marie McGee and the Neabors twins are every coach’s dream. They come to play and they don’t make excuses. They come from winning programs and desperately want to win here. Meanwhile, the Cats have gotten a commitment from Tasha Dickey out of Brighton High School in Salt Lake City. The 5-foot-10 guard averages 15 points and 12 rebounds per game. The staff isn’t finished recruiting yet.
Next season, the Wildcats will receive the full benefit of a healthy Beatrice Bofia (6-7) and Rheya Neabors, both whom have been sidelined for most of this season. Arizona will graduate Joy Hollingsworth, but juniors Ashley Whisonant and Jessica Arnold will have to fill that void.
Third, coach Bonvicini has been willing to change with the times. For example, in a crucial game with Stanford last Thursday, she sat starting point guard Ashley Whisonant for the entire second half. Ashley wasn’t hurt, she just wasn’t playing the way Coach B. thought necessary. So, Joan is adjusting and adding more discipline into her suffering program.
Fourth, the “Polkey” factor will have been diminished. It’s taken two seasons for Arizona to adjust to losing their friend and teammate. Staff members, vital to the program, have moved on and now the players are beginning to understand their new roles.
Certain challenges do remain if the Wildcats are to climb back into the top heap of the conference standings. An attitude of “expecting to lose” must be erased. Joan needs to continue to pursue “tough love” and injuries must disappear. But all is not lost. So if your about to jump, find a railing to hang on to. The bandwagon may be full again next year.
See you on the radio!
*Each Wildcat Women’s Basketball Game is broadcast life on AM 1400 KTUC. To find out more about Paul visit: http://www.pauldanieljohnson.net.