By Seth Doria
Arizona Daily Wildcat
September 10, 1997

Wildcats 'intense' for upcoming season

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Arizona Daily Wildcat

Women's basketball reserve forward Fatima Imara (35) gets defensive in a game last season. Imara may miss the entire season if it is determined that she needs surgery to repair her injured knee.

When the Arizona women's basketball team starts practice on Oct. 19, they look to expand upon last year's first-ever NCAA Tournament victory.

Players already spend two hours a day, three days a week, working on conditioning, foot work and weightlifting.

Each player also meets with an assistant coach for one hour, twice a week, to discuss specific techniques that player could use to play her position better.

"I'm really impressed with how intense this team works," head coach Joan Bonvicini said.

In addition to returning seven seniors and every starter from last season's team that finished 22-7, Arizona has added two recruits who are expected to make immediate contributions.

Bonvicini said LaKeisha Taylor, who is 6-foot-4 and Monique Paige, 6-2, should help the Wildcats improve in rebounding and shot blocking, an area considered to be a weak point for last year's squad.

"Taylor is very skilled," she said. "She's quick and a good shot blocker."

Along with Paige and Taylor, Arizona will have the play of 5-10 point guard Reshea Bristol, who was able to practice with the team last season during her redshirt year.

Bristol is known as a versatile player who has good ball handling skills and great athleticism - she is often found playing with men's teams in pick-up games.

In contrast to the good news, the team recently received some bad news when senior reserve forward/center Fatima Imara went down with a knee injury.

Imara was examined last week in San Fransico by one of the doctors for the San Fransico 49ers football team and is expected to return on Monday.

If it is determined that Imara needs surgery to repair the knee, she will likely miss the entire season.

Bonvicini said Imara, who averaged 4.6 minutes a game last season, was a big part of the team's chemistry and leadership.

"She's a great kid," she said. "She's an important part of this team."

Bonvicini said she will use Taylor, Paige and Cha-Ron Walker to fill the gap left by Imara's absence.

The Wildcats should open this season ranked in the top 25 in the AP poll, considering last season's success plus the fact all major contributors return. The women's team has never been recognized in the Associated Press Top 25 in the six years Bonvicini has coached the team.

"I'm excited about it," Bonvicini said. "That is how you get recognition. It puts you in a different class of teams. It also helps recruiting.That says a lot about our team and where we're going."

Bonvicini said it would also make the Wildcats a marked team for opponents wishing to make a name for themselves.

"But I like that kind of pressure," Bonvicini said.

The Wildcats play a tough nonconference schedule, including a matchup on Jan. 31 against Big 12 Conference power Kansas.

Bonvicini said she is confident the team can make the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament if UA can be successful against the nonconference teams and performs well in the Pacific 10 Conference.

The team will hold it's annual Red/Blue exhibition game on Nov. 4, and will start the season at home against U.C. Santa Barbara on Nov. 23 at McKale Center.

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