Bonvicini excited about season outlook

By Th‚oden K. Janes

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Coach Joan Bonvicini wants to see what her team has learned. Keisha Johnson sees it as a chance to get rid of some butterflies. And for JiJi Sweet, it's just another practice.

It means different things to different members of the Arizona women's basketball team, but what it all boils down to is that it really doesn't mean a thing.

The Wildcats, coming off their best season since Bonvicini took over before the 1991-92 season (they were 15-12 last year), play in the annual Red-Blue Scrimmage this afternoon at 5 at McKale Center.

The key word is scrimmage. The other key word is intra-squad. Now put them together: intra-squad scrimmage. And the Wildcats are no strangers to these things. Typically, Arizona holds them for the last half hour or so of every practice.

"It's just a tune-up preparing for our game on Saturday," Sweet said, referring to the UA's exhibition game against the Portland Saints. "I'm not looking past it, but it doesn't really mean all that much. I see it as another practice day Ä except we'll have on uniforms and there will be a bit of a crowd there."

Sweet, a senior co-captain and off guard who Bonvicini is counting on to be one of her best players, will team up with Brenda Pantoja and freshmen Adia Barnes, Michelle Giordano and Fatima Imara. Those five will play a squad made up of junior Andrea Constand, junior college transfer Atina Harris, and freshmen DeAngela Minter, Keisha Johnson and Marte Alexander. Sophomore Sarah Northway will alternate between the two teams.

Bonvicini said the Sweet-led team represents the five players who could potentially be the starting five when the season opens. But nothing is set, and the big thing for Bonvicini is to evaluate the team's progress up to this point.

"The biggest thing is you want to see the players perform," said Bonvicini, who has indicated she is more excited about this team than any she has coached at the UA. "What we want to do tomorrow night is play good defense, rebound and execute on offense. And I just want to see how much they've put to work in practice and see if they can execute that on the court."

For the freshmen, it will be the first time they will have played on McKale's floor with more than 20 people watching them. In fact, because of the way the game has been scheduled and based on history, there could be a crowd on hand 60 times that size.

For the past couple years, the UA men's team has held its Red-Blue Scrimmage on the same night as the women, and last year, about 1,200 fans turned out for the women's Red-Blue.

Twelve hundred fans. It's not the same as the 13,000 the men draw, but it still could turn some stomachs.

"Going into the game, everyone is probably going to be a little nervous, but we'll be OK," Johnson said. As far as having to play a full 40 minutes (because there will be only one sub ÄNorthway Ä and she will be roving) Johnson said: "I think I'm ready right now. The few scrimmages we've had, we have had no subs. So I don't think it will be all that much different."

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