Last week, the Wildcats had a familiar face at practice.
Davellyn Whyte — the former UA star, WNBA draft pick and recent Ring of Honor inductee — was running with the team in drills.
A few weeks before that, E.C. Hill participated.
That’s Hill, the assistant coach and former WNBA player.
After Friday’s 12-point loss to Oregon, head coach Niya Butts closed her news conference that night talking about practice.
Yes, Allen Iverson, about practice. Not a game.
It was to the point that a student reporter asked Butts about her practice players — as in, the four or five male students that practice with the team a few days a week.
Butts used the moment to send a message to them.
“If the practice players are seeing this interview or read about it in the paper,” she said, “make sure you’re showing up. They are critical. Those are often our best practices because we get to simulate the game. We actually get to make sure we can put in the scheme, what we want to do offensively, defensively.
“And,” she added, “we can work against people.”
Soon, you might find postings around campus about an open tryout. If desperate times call for desperate measures, then count the Wildcats (4-17, 0-10 Pac-12) in.
Arizona has seven healthy players on game day, and eight in practice, counting SMU transfer Farrin Bell, who has to sit out the year.
“There’s nothing we can do,” Butts said. “Coach Hill doesn’t have any eligibility left, I don’t have any left. Coach Mac (Calamity McEntire ) doesn’t have any. Coach Sean (LeBeauf) can’t play.”
In Sunday’s loss to Oregon State, Butts played Carissa Crutchfield 39 minutes. Kama Griffitts, hurting from an ankle injury suffered against Oregon, played 34. And Candice Warthen, who missed all of last season with an ACL injury, leads the team at nearly 33 minutes per game.
Tonight, the Wildcats will face No. 11 ASU. That is, just 53 hours 30 minutes after a troublesome 14-point loss. They’ll play ASU again on Sunday, at McKale Center.
That’s not exactly ideal.
“It is different, but we can’t let that get to us,” Griffitts said.
Added Butts: “ASU has the same amount of days between their last game as we do. A few more bodies but nonetheless they still had a game (Sunday) too. We just have to focus and do what we need to do and make sure we utilize film.”
Last year, the UA lost one game to ASU by four points in double overtime, and another by one point.
ASU was 13-18 last year, Arizona was 12-18.
But now, the two teams have gone in wholly different directions — the Wildcats down, the Sun Devils up.
ASU is second in the Pac-12 behind Stanford with an 8-2 league record.
They’ve beaten North Carolina, Syracuse and Cal, which were ranked.
And they’ve done all of that with their leading scorer — Deja Mann — scoring just 11.5 points per game.
On the other hand, Warthen leads Arizona with 12.0 points per game, and the Wildcats have lost 17 of 21 games this season.
“This next game is going to be really physical. Everybody again is playing a lot of minutes and we have to be able to manage that,” Butts said. “We’re gonna keep grinding, and hopefully good things will happen.”