Niya Butts sat on a folding chair outside of McKale Center last week when she had a jug of icy water dumped on her. She jumped up and screamed a little bit.
Butts was wide awake before and, certainly, after.
But, what if, when that ice-cold water hit the top of her head, and covered the rest of her in a shiver, she was asleep?
In reality, she wasn’t — it was for “Chillin’ for Charity” a charitable, viral movement the Wildcats started for the Kay Yow Fund — but let’s look at the hypothetical anyway.
What if, that ice-cold water woke her up from a really, really bad dream. Let’s call it a nightmare.
A nightmare where the Wildcats tie a 23-year-old UA record for losses, going 5-25; where their leading scorer averages 11.1 points per game; where Butts loses two players for the season with ACL injuries, two more transfer and she has only seven healthy players at her disposal for the last 13 games, 12 of which the Wildcats lose.
One might call that a season from hell, or, at least a nightmare.
Now, Butts just wants to wake up.
This was Arizona’s 2013-14 season, and it was a demonstration in Murphy’s Law — everything that can go wrong, will go wrong. And everything did go wrong.
“You always need to reflect a little bit on what happened,” Butts said. “But certainly we don’t need to live there. We’re living right now and we gotta move forward, and that’s over.”
As of last week, Butts hadn’t discovered the secret to time travel.
“That’s the one thing that you can say is good about last season: It’s over, and can never be revisited, there’s nothing you can do about that,” she said. “But what we can do is ensure we do things that are necessary to put us in a much better position this year.”
Arizona’s offseason workouts are well underway, so here’s a look at some questions hanging over the team as it prepares for the 2014-15 season.
1. Who steps in at point guard?
The Wildcats lost two starters and a key bench player to graduation in guard Carissa Crutchfield and forwards Kama Griffitts and Erica Barnes.
The loss of Crutchfield is perhaps the most concerning — she was the Wildcats starting point guard the last two years after transferring from Oklahoma State.
Taryn Griffey, a four-star recruit, was on tap to be her replacement as a freshman, but is still recovering from knee injuries that forced her to miss both her junior and senior seasons of high school. Butts said that Griffey is out indefinitely.
Don’t be surprised if senior guard Candice Warthen, who led the team in scoring last season, takes on the role, at least in the early going.
2. Who steps up into a leadership role next year?
In losing the three aforementioned seniors, at the very least Butts loses three leaders. As it seems, forward Alli Gloyd is stepping up to the plate so far in the leadership department.
Which is especially important, considering all the new blood on this year’s roster. There are six newcomers, seven if you count Farrin Bell, who sat out last year after transferring from SMU.
Gloyd missed all of last year with an ACL injury, but the redshirt senior averaged 9.4 points and 6.0 rebounds two years ago after coming to the UA from Mesa Community College.
“Alli is doing great,” Butts said. “She obviously takes on that leadership role, she’s moving well. Obviously we don’t want to try and rush that but she looks really good. We’re still taking it day by day but all in all we’re really happy with her practice.”
3. Outside of Gloyd and Warthen, the Wildcats’ leading scorer, who else is ready to step up?
For much of last season, Butts preached that forward LaBrittney Jones, then a freshman, was far from 100 percent after suffering an ACL injury in high school.
Still, Jones played — and started — every game for the Wildcats, leading the team in rebounding (5.8 per game), field goal percentage (.462) and free-throw percentage (.733).
To put that in perspective, the last two freshmen to lead the Wildcats in rebounding were Ify Ibekwe (2008) and Shawntinice Polk (2003), two of the better players in UA history.
“Oh, my goodness, she looks amazing,” Butts said. “She’s gotten a lot stronger since the season was over and she’s putting the time in. I’ve always loved her competitive nature. I’ve always loved her willingness to get in the gym, get in the weight room and work.
“She has improved drastically in the weight room and she knows what she has to do.”