By Shane Bacon
Jacob Konst/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Sophomore guard Jesus Verdejo dunks during last month’s McKale Madness exhibition. Verdejo is the only underclassman on this year’s Red team roster in tonight’s Red-Blue Game.
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, November 3, 2005
The Red-Blue Game begins an Arizona men’s basketball season that will showcase three well-known seniors with a supporting cast that altogether experts have ranked in the preseason national top 10.
What follows are five potential matchups to watch for in tonight’s intrasquad scrimmage.
Kirk Walters vs. Mohamed Tangara
The junior center Walters enters the season with a considerably tougher task than anyone else on the team, filling the shoes of present New York Knick Channing Frye.
Walters has seen moderate playing time over his first two seasons, adding 21 pounds since arriving in Tucson and becoming better adapted to head coach Lute Olson’s offensive system.
The redshirt freshman forward Tangara, meanwhile, saw limited time on the court last year (26 total minutes), with his last appearance coming Nov. 30 against Wyoming.
Players and coaches have called the Bamako, Mali, native one of the toughest guys to defend in practice and someone who can bang inside despite being only 6-foot-9.
“He is a really physical guy,” Walters said. “I see him all the time, so I’ll just try to make the same moves and not try to switch up too much.”
Tangara said that if he was scouting himself for this game, he’d advise Walters to constantly run the floor.
“I have to stop (Kirk) from scoring and get my rebounds,” he said. “If he runs the floor, it is the easiest way to stop me.”
Isaiah Fox vs. Ivan Radenovic
This could be the most interesting matchup of the night between teammates.
The redshirt senior forward Fox is big inside (6-foot-9, 255 pounds), physical and will use his body to bump Radenovic (6-foot-10, 244 pounds) out of the way.
“The first thing I’m going to do is play strong against him defensively, try to bump him every now and again and try to get him a little tired,” Fox said. “I will try to get some offensive rebounds, get him in the post and play a physical game with him.”
The approach might seem solid, but Radenovic has been known as a tough matchup for many opposing forwards. He’s shown to be equally adept pounding the ball inside as popping shots from the perimeter.
“I think I’m quicker than Isaiah, so I will use my quickness outside and shoot the ball,” he said.
Defensively, Radenovic said he will have to keep himself between Fox and the basket if he hopes to control Fox’s physical post ability.
“I definitely have to front him on the low post,” Radenovic said.
Fox said the same thing, noting that Radenovic’s quickness means that the junior will try to get to the basket from the perimeter.
“Ivan will face me up a lot, try to drive on me,” Fox said. “He will probably try to use a bunch of pump-fakes. He will do his whole European weird stuff that he always does, but like I said, he is a tough matchup.”
Youth vs. experience:
Marcus Williams vs. Hassan Adams
It doesn’t take a sports guru to know that senior forward Adams is the face of the Wildcats.
This marks Adams’ fourth year at Arizona, and during that time he has demonstrated great versatility, with the ability to pass, shoot and rebound, along with impressive dunking skills.
At McKale Madness three weeks ago, Adams and Williams battled fiercely, and the freshman forward Williams seemed to hold his own against the veteran sparkplug.
In tonight’s matchup, however, Williams said he is just trying not to get embarrassed.
“All through practice, I focus on playing defense all the time, but obviously with Hassan you go in the game and hope for the best,” he said. “You can’t take plays off, or you’re going to be on a poster.”
Williams has a 3-inch height advantage on Adams, but the senior’s trademark aggressive play and immense vertical leap should level the playing field.
“My focus is to keep him off the glass,” Williams said. “When the ball goes up, he is right to the offensive glass, so that is where he gets a lot of his easy points, being a hustler and an energy guy.”
Jesus Verdejo vs. Daniel Dillon
There has been talk about the sophomore guard Dillon possibly being in the starting rotation by Arizona’s season-opening tournament, the Maui Invitational Nov. 21-23, but the dreadlocked Australian guard still has to prove his ability to knock down the open jump shot.
That’s been less of a problem for fellow sophomore guard Verdejo, who has shown he can create his own shot even with defenders in his face.
“You have to keep your hand up and keep him out of the middle because he likes to drive a lot,” Dillon said.
In limited court time, Dillon has demonstrated the ability to lead the team offensively and is a hustler who can be matched up against point guards or power forwards.
Dillon may have a tough time stopping Verdejo from getting his shots, as the Puerto Rico native dropped 15 points at McKale Madness.
Point Guard Who?:
Mustafa Shakur vs. J.P. Prince
For a basketball team infamous for its propensity to pump out star point guards, watching a junior floor leader take on a promising freshman should be exciting for the Wildcats.
Shakur has revamped his shooting touch and knocked down some open 3-pointers during McKale Madness.
Prince, cousin of NBA star Tayshaun Prince, is a freshman with many of the same skills as Shakur, and has three inches on the Philadelphia native.
Shakur said that with Prince being a freshman, he’ll be sure to make him earn his points.
“I know he likes to drive a lot, so I’ll try to make him be a jump shooter,” he said.
Prince agreed with the strategy.
“I’d probably say not to let me get to the basket and make me shoot,” he said.
Shakur, perhaps showing some veteran competitiveness, refused to divulge any of his own weaknesses to Prince.
“I wouldn’t tell him,” he said.