The University of Arizona Wildcat women's basketball team entered the 2011-12 season depending heavily on sophomore forward Erica Barnes to fill the void left by UA alumni Ify Ibekwe and Soana Lucet.
May 7, 2012
By Sean Collins
The University of Arizona Wildcat women's basketball team entered the 2011-12 season depending heavily on sophomore forward Erica Barnes to fill the void left by UA alumni Ify Ibekwe and Soana Lucet. Barnes was up to the challenge, responding with 10.8 points and a team-leading 7.4 rebounds per game.
Barnes started the season on a tear, averaging nearly a double-double in points and rebounds and establishing herself as the team's top inside threat. In December, she poured in a career-high 24 points against BYU-Hawai'i, shooting 8-of-13 from the field and a perfect 8-of-8 from the free-throw line. She also contributed 11 rebounds and a steal for the Wildcats. Her string of impressive performances continued through the first half of conference play. However, at Washington, Barnes suffered a concussion and went on to miss the next three games.
"Starting out the season, I think I did pretty well," Barnes said. "I was very consistent with rebounding and scoring but once I got my concussion, my performance went down. My confidence went down and the things I always did for the team, I wasn't doing anymore. My scoring wasn't as high and, of course, I wasn't playing that much. Overall, I think I did pretty well until my concussion."
Barnes missed the Washington State game and a home stand against Stanford and California when her size and presence in the post was desperately needed. In her first game back against Colorado, Barnes only spent two minutes of time on the court.
"It was hard to not get frustrated with my concussion," Barnes said. "I had one my freshman year, too, but I wasn't an `impact player' so it didn't affect me as much. But my sophomore year, it affected me because I knew that my team needed me. I knew that Davellyn (Whyte) couldn't do it by herself and neither could Candice (Warthen) or Shanita (Arnold). It was disappointing."
Barnes finished the season starting 24 of the 29 games she played in and averaged 30.9 minutes a game. She led the team in free-throw percentage at 81.1% and had the second-most free-throw attempts (111) on the team. Barnes also grabbed 214 rebounds, the second-highest total on the squad.
Heading into her junior season, Barnes will assume a leadership role on a very young and inexperienced squad. Barnes will once again be heavily relied on. She is the only returning post player and with extensive experience on the court. Barnes welcomes the daunting task with open arms and plans to help the newcomers as best she can.
"We have a lot of guards coming in, so I'm not going to give them advice on the court as to what they are supposed to be doing specifically, since we play different positions," Barnes said. "But, I still want to take them under my wing and lead by example. I'm going to do what I need to do on the court and off the court and show them what needs to be done. Hopefully, they will follow that example and they should be successful."
With the small contingent of the team currently on campus, Barnes and her teammates have been working hard in the weight room and on the court. Barnes has been particularly focused on getting work done in the weight room, citing increased strength as her top priority this offseason. "I'm focusing on getting stronger," Barnes said. "My main goal for next year is to dominate the paint."
"I think the fact that we have been working out over the summer will help us during the season," Barnes said. "I think what the coaches wanted from that was to bring us together and I think it did that. So hopefully going into next year that closeness and togetherness will help us do what we need to do on the court."
Arizona will have a strong backcourt with guard Davellyn Whyte entering her senior year as a three-time All-Pac-12 honoree and talented guard Candice Warthen running the show from the point guard spot. If Barnes can indeed "dominate the paint," they could have a high-powered offense. Barnes intends on having a big role on the team, realizing she has the experience and the tools to be an effective post player in the Pac-12.
"I want to have a lot more rebounds next year," Barnes said. "As far as points are concerned, I really don't care. I'm a junior now so I just need to step up and dominate. I eventually want to get drafted so I just need to get it done and start performing."
The Pac-12 is a perennial powerhouse in women's basketball, but Barnes and company still intend on and being contenders in the conference. She also has an eye on being one of 64 teams competing in the NCAA Tournament.
"As a team our goal is to try and make the NCAA Tournament," Barnes said. She will face stiff competition in the post all year long, but Barnes has the right mentality, work ethic, skillset and character to become a dominant player at the University of Arizona.