By Kyle Kensing
KEVIN B. KLAUS/Arizona Daily Wildcat
UA freshman guard Ché Oh fights for a loose ball during the Wildcats' Women's National Invitational Tournament victory over Rice last week in McKale Center. The Wildcats extended their school-record home winning streak to 29 games with the victory.
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Friday, November 19, 2004
Last year's tie for the Pac-10 title just won't cut it for UA ...
A season removed from a program-best campaign, the No. 24 UA women's basketball team looks to build upon its previous success while blazing new trails.
UA returns four starters from last year's 24-9 squad, led by senior point guard Dee-Dee Wheeler and junior center Shawntinice Polk.
Polk averaged 16.6 points and 10.3 rebounds a night last year, while Chicago native Wheeler posted 16.9 points, 4.7 assists and 4.2 rebounds per game.
Both earned first team All-Pac-10 honors in 2003-2004 and are preseason candidates for the Naismith Award, an honor given to the nation's top collegiate player.
Joining Polk and Wheeler in the starting line are sophomore forward Shannon Hobson and junior guard Natalie Jones.
The road to Indianapolis
Women's National Championship:
April 3-5, 2005
Returning off the bench is senior center Danielle Adefeso, winner of the team's Most Improved Player award last season. She averaged 4.5 points and four rebounds last year.
Joining her are fellow returnees, sophomore guard Linda Pace, junior forward Anna Chappell and senior guard Katrina Lindner.
Filling the void left by departed starter Amy Grzyb is freshman guard Jessica Arnold.
Arnold, a native of Tucson and graduate of Palo Verde High School, has turned heads early in the season.
"She's solid, she has a good feel for the game," head coach Joan Bonvicini said.
Wheeler said the combination of she and Arnold in the backcourt will cause opposing teams headaches.
"We can cause trouble with our speed," she said. "I can lean back on the wing against a zone - teams can't scout me as the lone ballhandler."
In the team's first two regular season outings, Arnold has scored 25 points, good for third on the team.
Also new to the team are freshmen forwards Che Oh and Chari Smith and guard Ashley Whisonant. All three have seen significant minutes in UA's exhibition games and two early wins.
"Our freshmen give us a lot of depth," Bonvicini said. "We have a much deeper bench than we did a year ago."
Bonvicini said she is impressed with Whisonant's passing and floor presence, and Oh has provided an invaluable spark in the post off the bench.
"The freshmen are great," Polk said. "They'll work hard."
Arizona will need all the hard work it can muster to reclaim the Pac-10 title.
Stanford, last season's co-champion and ranked seventh in the preseason polls, returns four starters. Candace Wiggins, the top-ranked freshman in the nation, takes over for departed Pac-10 Player of the Year Nicole Powell.
The Wildcats will also look to advance past the first round of the NCAA Tournament for the first time in five years.
Last season, Arizona was bounced early by Michigan State, and in 2003, bowed out to Notre Dame.
The last time UA won a postseason game was 2000, when it advanced to the Sweet Sixteen and fell to perennial powerhouse Tennessee.
The performances of the past are however out of the Wildcats' minds as they look to make this another landmark season.
"This season's going to be awesome for us," Polk said. "I can't wait."