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Don't leave Loren

By Bryan Rosenbaum
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
March 22, 2000
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Maybe it is for the best that the UA men's basketball season is over. After all the transfers, injuries, trials and tribulations, the team finally gets a well-deserved break.

The chaotic season began last April, when Traves Wilson announced he was transferring to Illinois State and Eugene Edgerson said he would redshirt the 1999-2000 season to concentrate on graduating on time.

Luke Recker said he was coming to Arizona but, after a tragic car accident last summer, felt he was too far away from his girlfriend, Kelly, who was left partially paralyzed.

Ruben Douglas also had enough after he realized just how good freshman guard Gilbert Arenas was, and jumped ship to New Mexico in search of playing time. If he, or anybody, could have forecasted what was to come, Ruben could have been All-Pacific 10 Conference this season.

Long-term injuries to Loren Woods and Richard Jefferson made the Arizona bench even shorter, but players like Justin Wessel and Luke Walton improved leaps and bounds as their replacements.

Now, after losing Wisconsin in the second round, the Wildcats have plenty of time to heal and regroup. This is good news to Jason Gardner, the country's top freshman. Gardner averaged 36.6 minutes per game this season, by far the most on the team, and played through a sore calf and severe asthma in Salt Lake City.

Arenas, Gardner's roommate, doesn't plan on taking too much time off. Arizona's most pleasant surprise in 1999-2000 began hitting the weights and working on his jump shot Monday. He'll be a marked man next year, and it will be interesting to see how he handles it.

The futures of Woods and Jefferson are up in the air, and their decisions will make or break next year's Wildcats. Woods was a terror in the paint before going down with a back injury that kept him out since mid-February, and his draft stock went down.

If he couldn't play in the tournament, there's no way Loren will be able to handle the rigors and punishment NBA teams will be willing to give him during draft camps beginning next month.

Plus, Loren's mom wants him to come back for his senior season.

As for Jefferson, he should let Vince Carter steal the headlines some more next year. By the 2001-02 NBA season, the critics will get bored of Vinsanity, and RJ will steal the show as the best dunker in the league. By then, Jefferson will have developed the consistency in his jumper to go along with his leaping ability.

This upcoming offseason couldn't be as tumultuous as this season, but at this point, what else can happen to this team? Maybe they'll be rewarded next April with a trip to Minneapolis, with "Mean Gene" and everybody else leading the way.

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