1996-1997 Arizona Basketball On the Rise

By Arlie Rahn
Arizona Daily Wildcat
December 6, 1996

Arizona Daily Wildcat


Youth plays key role for the men ...

Not many teams would consider themselves a threat after losing five seniors that accounted for 60 percent of the scoring. Then again, not many teams have the top recruiting class in the nation.

This year's Arizona men's basketball team will count on some inexperienced, but talented, players to help build off last season's NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 finish. Going along with this youth movement will be a UA team determined to run-and-gun.

"We will have to push up the tempo and run a successful transition game if we hope to win," UA junior forward Michael Dickerson said. "We are going to play a lot like Kentucky in recent years and will be substituting a lot to keep up the pressure."

However, with junior guard Miles Simon's academic suspension lasting until at least the end of the semester and freshman guard Ortege Jenkins sidelined for the year, the team might be a little low on bodies.

Another obstacle for Arizona is its lack of bulk. The Wildcats do not have a player over 220 pounds and will look to a quick, trapping style to slow down bigger opponents.

"I think we will have a lot more flexibility on defense than we've had in years," UA coach Lute Olson said. "This is a team that will be extending out and harassing people."

With Simon's 13.2 points per game out of the lineup, Arizona will look to Dickerson to pick up the slack. Thus far he has responded, averaging 27.3 points a game.

"I think that I will be able to contribute more this season because I will get more consistent minutes," Dickerson said. "Last year it was tough for me because I didn't know if I would play a lot, so I didn't always prepare as well as I could have."

Dickerson's supporting cast consists of six players, three of which have no prior Division I experience.

The headliner in the group is 6-foot-1 freshman phenom Mike Bibby, from Shadow Mountain High School in Phoenix Bibby has reinforced his reputation as a scorer with a 21-point effort against then-No. 7 North Carolina in Arizona's season opener.

"Mike is going to have a lot of outstanding games in his career at Arizona," Olson said. "He has shown the ability to score if we need him, but that's not what his job is. As a point guard, Mike has to make sure the team is playing well. If that means that he has to score, he'll do it. But I think he'd much rather have the entire team doing things."

Bibby will be supported in the backcourt by defensive catalyst Jason Terry, a 6-2 sophomore. Terry has aveaged three steals per game this season while shutting down some of the top guards in the nation. Like Reggie Geary before him, Terry's value will come in his ability to disrupt an offense.

The frontcourt duties will be split between four players with little or no experience. Sophomore Donnell Harris, a 6-11 forward, appears to be the leader of this group, scoring 10.3 points and recording eight rebounds per game so far this season. Junior Bennett Davison, a 6-8 forward from West Valley Junior College in California, 6-11 sophomore A.J. Bramlett and 6-6 freshman Eugene Edgerson finish out Arizona's line up front.

With Arizona's grueling nonconference schedule, this team's ability will not be kept secret for too long.

"This team will be tested early and often with our tough schedule," Olson said. "But we feel the more top teams we play, the sooner we will know what we need to improve on. And by the Pac-10 season, we should be playing to our best ability."