Men's Hoops: Wildcats crack top 10 in polls

By Roman Veytsman
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday, February 22, 2005

With a number of significant losses in the top 10 last week, the Arizona men's basketball team moved up in the rankings to No. 8 in the ESPN/USA Today coaches poll after being No. 11 last week.

In The Associated Press poll, the Wildcats currently stand at No. 9, up one spot from last week.

Teams who are ahead of Arizona in the rankings, but lost last week include No. 5 Kentucky, No. 6 Wake Forest, No. 7 Duke and No. 8 Kansas, who lost twice.

"There's so many things that can happen during this year," said senior center Channing Frye. "Wake Forest was supposed to be No. 1, the best team in the country, and I don't think anybody had Illinois going undefeated. Weird things happened this year."

Stoudamire named Pac-10 Player of the Week

For the second time this season, senior guard Salim Stoudamire picked up some hardware from the Pacific 10 Conference, as he was named player of the week yesterday.

Stoudamire averaged 26.5 points per game in two wins over the Oregon schools, including his 31-point performance against Oregon State, in which he made a school- record nine 3-pointers. Stoudamire's record-setting night came in his last game in McKale Center, a significant contrast from his first ever game there when he went

2-for-19 from the field against Kansas on Dec. 1, 2001. In that same game, former Wildcat Jason Gardner set the previous record of eight 3-pointers made.

"In Salim's case, any shot that's open is a good shot. It doesn't seem to make any difference whether it's 25 feet or where it is," said Arizona head coach Lute Olson.

Stoudamire last won the weekly award Jan. 17 for his play against the Los Angeles schools and has won it a total of four times in his Arizona career.

Cousin Damon a positive influence on Salim

Coaching Stoudamire has been a "challenge" according to Olson, but Stoudamire has felt comfortable this year with his teammates and with his game.

Some of that has been due to the advice and the interaction he has had with cousin Damon, a former Arizona basketball star and current member of the Portland Trail Blazers. "Damon has been so supportive of him," Olson said. "I think Damon has been a very positive influence on him."

Damon, who was the Philanthropist of the Year in the NBA last season, was also one of the hardest workers Olson has ever had at Arizona, and some of that work ethic has been passed down to Salim, said Olson.

Rodgers to answer call for defense against WSU

The defense of junior guard Chris Rodgers was lacking last game against Washington State, but it wasn't because he didn't play hard.

It was because he didn't play at all.

Rodgers was suspended for the game because of failure to "think about the team," according to Olson.

This time around, it's "very important" to have him, said Olson.

Thomas Kelati of Washington State scored 27 points in the last meeting, and the Wildcats had no answer for his sharpshooting.

"There have been peaks and valleys," Olson said of Rodgers this year. "We need, at this point, for Chris to balance things out. Defensively he's always going to do a great job. The only way he gets limited time is if he uses very poor judgment on the offensive end."

Wooden to grace Tucson with presence

Legendary UCLA coach John Wooden will visit practice on Tuesday in McKale Center. Wooden asked Olson if he could come watch practice more than a year ago, but scheduling conflicts didn't permit the visit.

"It's been a very close relationship for a long time," Olson said.

The two met while Olson was coaching at Long Beach City College, and Wooden asked Olson to speak at one of his clinics at UCLA. Olson agreed and the two have been friends ever since.

Wooden's trip to Tucson coincides with Olson possibly tying Wooden's streak of 304 Pac-10 wins against Washington State Thursday.

A couple Arizona players said they see Wooden's arrival as an honor and a chance to gain some basketball knowledge.

"It's kind of crazy a man of his caliber is coming to watch our practice," Frye said. "It's going to be a great honor, and hopefully I will get a chance to pick his brain and get an autograph."

"That's going to be great, he's a legend," said junior forward Hassan Adams. "I read his book and he's a great guy. He opened up a lot for basketball."

McKale Center will be closed today while Wooden is attending practice to maintain his privacy, said Olson.