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Turning up the jets: Wildcats hope to push tempo to max

Chris Coduto/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Head coach Lute Olson gestures to officials about a call during the first half of Arizona's first exhibition game of the year against Sonoma State on Nov. 9 in McKale Center. Olson has installed a new wing-heavy offense this season to take advantage of the team's athleticism on the fast break.
By Roman Veytsman
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, November 17, 2005
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No more Salim Stoudamire and no more Channing Frye for the Arizona men's basketball team, after last season's two senior leaders became two NBA draft picks in April.

But despite their absences, Arizona head coach Lute Olson believes this year's squad will be just fine.

The Wildcats return 10 lettermen from last year, including senior forward Hassan Adams, senior guard Chris Rodgers and redshirt senior forward Isaiah Fox.

After losing almost 35 points per game from Frye and Stoudamire, scoring will have to come from a variety of places.

"We're not going to have two guys dominate the scoring for us like the other two guys did that we lost," Olson said. "We're going to have score-by-committee and rebound-by-committee. We're not going to have anyone that's going to put up the numbers that Channing Frye did."

To offset the loss of Frye, Olson installed a new four-out, one-in offense, which involves four perimeter players and only one post player.

"We've spent a lot of time in the offense," Olson said. "The intent of that is to spread the court a little bit more, open some driving lanes and utilize our quickness."

The Wildcats' point-guard duties will once again be handed to junior Mustafa Shakur, who starts for his third straight season.

Arizona is 28-5 when Shakur has five or more assists in a game.

"Mustafa is a lot more aggressive right now with the ball than he has been," Olson said. "Just by nature, he's more talkative because he's been in that situation for three years. I think he feels comfortable with that."

Joining Shakur as repeat starters will be Adams and junior forward Ivan Radenovic. The remaining two starting positions will be up for grabs, with Rodgers leading the pack at shooting guard and junior center Kirk Walters, who averaged 2.4 points per game last season, as a likely candidate down low.

Walters said he and the big men are feeling more and more comfortable playing in their new roles.

"After the first week of practice, it really started to come along," Walters said.

Adams, who averaged 12.7 points per game and 6.0 rebounds in 37 games last season, will be the go-to guy on the team this season.

Season Overview

2005 Record: 30-7 (15-3 Pac-10)
Pac-10 Finish: First

Key Games – 2005-06 Season

vs. Kansas (EA Sports Maui Invitational – Lahaina, Hawaii): Nov. 21
@ Washington: Dec. 31
@ North Carolina: Jan. 28
@ No. 18 UCLA: Feb. 4
@ No. 13 Stanford: Feb. 19

After playing down low in his first two seasons, Adams is still adjusting to playing on the perimeter.

In preseason practices, he showed accuracy as a 3-point shooter, something that he began to show in his sophomore season when he shot 38.4 percent from beyond the arc, before barely clearing 30 percent last season.

"Last year was the first year that he had played exclusively on the perimeter," Olson said. "There are still a lot of things he needs to work on. You don't go from inside to outside in a year and feel like you have everything under control."

Adams took his game to another level in the NCAA Tournament, averaging 16.5 points and 8.3 rebounds.

Sophomore guard Jawann McClellan (5.8 points, 3 rebounds) will sit out the team's first seven games after being ruled academically ineligible and losing two appeals.

McClellan will still be an integral part of the team once he comes back, however.

"Everything happens for a reason," McClellan said. "I have had great support here from the coaches and my teammates."

Radenovic, who hails from Serbia and Montenegro, will be relied on for scoring and rebounding more than ever. He will be playing on the perimeter this season because of the new offense.

"He's worked on pick situations, where he'd set an off-ball screen and then we popped him out because he was such a good perimeter shooter," Olson said. "Now, he'll be in the motion offense just like the point guard and the wings."

Defensively, Arizona will use the full-court press to pressure the opposition even more than they have done in the past.

"Once we put it on someone else, it's going to be tough to break," Adams said.

The pressure defense will speed the game up even more for a team that has the led the NCAA in scoring over the span of the last four seasons.

"We've always played up-tempo," Olson said. "We've gotten a lot of our points off turnovers and fast-break opportunities. I think we have the depth and quickness to put a lot of pressure on opposing teams."

Olson said he thinks the Wildcats will be able to press the entire game this season to create the up-tempo style.

"I think we're in excellent shape, and I think we can maintain that kind of pressure for 40 minutes," Olson said.

The Wildcats added even more depth with their recruiting class, grabbing freshmen Marcus Williams, J.P. Prince, Fendi Onobun and walk-on David Bagga.

The forward Williams has impressed early, scoring 17 points in an exhibition game against Sonoma State, while Prince has looked solid as the team's backup point guard.

"He's a pass-first guy. ... He's 6-foot-7 and long. He can find guys no matter where they are on the court," Olson said of Prince.

Onobun, a 6-foot-6 forward from Houston, will be a physical presence in the post, but might redshirt his freshman season.

Rounding out the bench for Arizona is Fox, sophomore forward Bret Brielmaier, sophomore guard Daniel Dillon, and redshirt freshman center Mohamed Tangara. Sophomore guard Jesus Verdejo will redshirt this season after suffering an injury in practice.

The key word this year for the Wildcats will be balance. If Arizona can share the load on the run, the road to Indianapolis will have fewer speed bumps and potholes.

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