Wildcats aim for Pac-10 and beyond
Wildcat File Photo
Arizona Daily Wildcat
UA forward Michael Wright (21) tries to pull down an offensive rebound during Arizona's 78-66 win over Stanford last season. Freshmen Wright and Richard Jefferson are the top returning scorers for the Wildcats' 1999-2000 season.
Despite losing All-American point guard Jason Terry and center A.J. Bramlett, the UA men's basketball team looks poised to reclaim the Pacific 10 Conference crown and advance deep into the NCAA Tournament in the 1999-2000 season.
While Terry's shoes will be difficult to fill, Loren Woods went head-to-head with Bramlett every day and will step into the starting role at center immediately. Having utilized his redshirt season after transferring from Wake Forest, the 7-foot-1 Woods will have two years of eligibility at the UA.
"The biggest thing of all will be the addition of Loren Woods," associate head coach Jim Rosborough said. "He's been here a year and knows the system."
Head coach Lute Olson agreed.
"The future is very bright for us," Olson said. "Sitting out the season was probably the best thing that could have ever happened to Loren. It allowed him to grow and mature, and he hit the weights well. Playing against A.J. this year, he has seen Bramlett's work ethic and what it takes to succeed."
Jason Gardner, Indiana's Mr. Basketball and the leader of that state's high school championship team, will be in contention for the starting point guard spot. Incoming freshman Gilbert Arenas and junior college transfer Lamont Frazier will fight for the shooting guard spot with sophomore Ruben Douglas.
"It's going to be truly difficult to keep Jason Gardner out of the starting lineup," Rosborough said. "He had a great McDonald's All-American game and then went back and led his team the state championship a couple days later."
Michael Wright and Richard Jefferson return for their sophomore seasons at the forward spots and will be joined by redshirt freshman Luke Walton, who sat out 1998-99 with a broken foot. Rick Anderson, who had a strong freshman year, will also be a valuable shooter coming off the bench.
"It's a whole different attitude this year compared to last," Rosborough said. "We have talked to the kids and upped the expectations. It's not something we should hide, and the kids want a challenge."
Eugene Edgerson will decide in the next few weeks whether or not he will redshirt next season and concentrate on graduating.
The team will be without guard Traves Wilson, who decided to transfer because he was not happy with his playing time. He has not decided where he will transfer to.
The season begins with a first-round Preseason NIT home game Nov. 18 or 19. Also in the field are Utah, Kentucky and Ohio State. Later on, Arizona will have home games against Final Four participant Michigan State and old rival New Mexico, plus a road game against Texas.
"People should really be excited for next year," Rosborough said.
Bryan Rosenbaum can be reached at Bryan.Rosenbaum@wildcat.arizona.edu