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Arizona head coach witness to signee's feat

WARRENTON, Ga. --- University of Arizona Women's basketball head coach Niya Butts thought she was merely attending another prep girls' basketball game to watch a recruit play hoops last Friday night.

But as the game progressed, one of those recruits, Candice Warthen, a senior 5-5 guard for the Warren County High Lady Screaming Devils, would make history.

Warthen eclipsed the 2,000-point career mark when she scored a basket midway of the fourth period against the visiting Thomson High Lady Bulldogs.

The 17-year-old recently signed a national letter of intent to play with the University of Arizona Lady Wildcats next season.

Because NCAA rules prohibit college coaches from talking individually about recruiting of prep players, coach Butts reserved comment. She did say, however, that she was pleased with how well recruiting has been going for the Lady Wildcats, as they look to build better teams for the future.

"We've started recruiting more in the South than we were doing and I'm glad, because I think there's so many talented high school basketball players in the South," coach Butts told The McDuffie Mirror . "Georgia is loaded with talent on the high school level."

As for the Lady Wildcats, who sported a record of 5-2 last Friday, the second-year head coach believes her team is off to a "decent" start.

"We're getting ready to travel to Atlanta for a game against Georgia Tech on Sunday, Dec. 20," coach Butts said. "That game should test us a lot. It's going to be a huge game."

Coach Butts, who grew up in the South Georgia town of Americus, is a 1996 graduate of Americus High School, where she excelled in basketball and girls' track. She went on to play basketball for legendary college coach Pat Summitt at the University of Tennessee.

"Niya Butts is one of the bright young coaches in the women's collegiate game," coach Summitt said when Butts was named head coach of the Arizona program last year. "I see this as a tremendous opportunity for her to take over the reins of her own program at Arizona and to compete in one of the nation's best conferences -- the Pac-10. I see her taking the same qualities I saw in her as a player en route to two NCAA championships -- doing all the little things right -- and applying them as a head coach at Arizona."

As head coach of a Division I school, coach Butts said she enjoys helping shape the lives of young ladies.

"I like seeing them become a total person," coach Butts said. "The Lord has really been good to me. I am so blessed to have come from a great family in a small Southern town and I'm so happy to be coaching at the University of Arizona. I'd like to be there for as long as they will have me."

Web posted on Thursday, December 17, 2009

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