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News
Suspend Stoudamire for rest of this season


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Shane Dale
Assistant Sports Editor
By Shane Dale
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday, March 1, 2004
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We're not sure what Salim Stoudamire did to earn his one-game suspension. Rumors suggest there was a physical altercation with a teammate, but no one knows what happened except those who were there.

But it must have taken something serious for head coach Lute Olson to use the phrase "suspended indefinitely" a term you "never hear" from the coach, as UA play-by-play man Dave Sitton noted.

With everything surrounding the situation that we don't know, we know this: Stoudamire screwed up, and screwed up badly.

It makes one wonder why his indefinite suspension was so brief.

"The reason he will play (against Washington State) is I thought we got a very positive reaction out of him," Olson said Friday. "He was great on the bench. He was great in the locker room. He was totally supportive and also accepted, without question, what his penalty was."

Big deal. Olson knows Salim behaved during his suspension not because Salim was able to wave a magic wand and turn his attitude around overnight, but because he can't earn a multimillion dollar NBA contract in street clothes.

As the self-serving individual he appears to be, Stoudamire knows what is at stake: the difference between a lucrative NBA deal and playing for Ivan Radenovic's pro team in Serbia.

In lifting Salim's suspension after just one game, Olson comes off like a parent who, in his mind, would have to go through too much personal hardship to punish his child appropriately.

Olson did the right thing by suspending Salim there's been very little disagreement on that and he's been around long enough to know that a player's attitude doesn't flip-flop in a matter of days. Stoudamire may be immature, but he's not dumb, and he's making one of the most cerebral men in college basketball look gullible and desperate.

Would Olson have reinstated Stoudamire if the Wildcats routed Washington Thursday night? It's hard to say, but a lot of people must think Salim would still be suspended if they had.

Salim's absence didn't have much bearing on Thursday's loss. As usual, offensive production wasn't an issue. The Wildcats scored 84 points, just four shy of their nation-leading average. They shot 46 percent from the field 53 percent in the first half and made 16 of 19 free throws.

Stoudamire may be Arizona's best perimeter defender, but Washington was just 36 percent from 3-point range, matching both its season average and Arizona's average defensively. And half of the Huskies' 48 second-half points came in the paint.

It seems like Arizona missed Isaiah Fox more than Stoudamire on Thursday.

And the Wildcats' struggles definitely didn't begin with Salim on the bench. They had already lost six games in the Pacific 10 Conference, including a 13-point loss Jan. 29 at Washington, when Stoudamire played a game-high 38 minutes.

That's not to say Arizona is as talented a team without Salim, because it's not. But the Wildcats don't appear to be going anywhere this season, anyway.

If Olson suspended Stoudamire for the rest of 2003-04, and Stoudamire decided to go pro after the season, would anyone draft him? Another year of fine-tuning his skills at Arizona and proving he can behave himself off the court would mean a difference in millions of dollars. Salim knows that.

It was obvious whom senior guard Jason Ranne was talking about when he said the team's "internal turmoil" extends beyond basketball. Obviously, Stoudamire's attitude has been a problem for more than a few days, and it's affected Arizona's play for a good part of the season.

Maybe Olson really does think Salim learned his lesson. Or maybe he thinks the team can't succeed without him. Or maybe he's just becoming indifferent at his old age. But Arizona deserves better. The university, the team, the program they all deserve better.

Give Salim something to really think about. Let him sulk on the bench for the rest of the season and come back next year with a serious attitude adjustment. Let him lead the UA to the Final Four as a senior in 2005.

With an NBA contract at stake, it would be best for Salim. More importantly, it would be best for the program.

Shane Dale is a political science senior. He can be reached at sports@wildcat.arizona.edu.d



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