By Roman Veytsman
FILE PHOTO/Arizona Daily Wildcat
UA senior shooting guard Salim Stoudamire drives to the bucket during the Wildcats' home matchup with Washington State last season in McKale Center. Stoudamire leads the Wildcats into action Sunday in the annual Red-Blue scrimmage at 2 p.m. in McKale.
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Friday, October 29, 2004
After Midnight Madness' mini-scrimmage, the Arizona basketball team is ready to go all out for the Pepsi Red-Blue game Sunday at 2 p.m at McKale Center.
"The most important thing we're looking for is to see carry over from the drill work and different practice situations," said assistant men's basketball coach Josh Pastner.
The practices thus far have been the more competitive than Pastner has seen in his three seasons as an assistant coach. Senior center Channing Frye and sophomore point guard Mustafa Shakur have been the two standouts, but everyone has stepped up their work ethic.
"They've been superb," said Pastner. "They've had great practices every day."
With the added depth the Wildcats have received, practice has become a place to earn minutes in the upcoming season.
"These are by far the most intense practices I have been involved in," said Pastner. Along with Frye and Shakur, junior wing Hassan Adams and senior guard Salim Stoudamire have played well, according to Pastner.
The focus of the early practices has been defense, one of the weaknesses of last year's team. Arizona gave up a whopping 78.5 points per game last season and often couldn't make key stops down the stretch.
"We're as good defensively this year as we were all of last year," said Pastner.
Last year was an off-year, and practices have been intended to make sure that the defense is much improved this year.
"We made a pact to make sure that won't happen again here and to make sure we become a great defensive team, because that's what we're usually known for here at Arizona," said Pastner.
Coach Lute Olson was concerned about the perimeter defense of the team, but freshmen Jawann McClellan and Jesus Verdejo, both very athletic wings should help Adams and Stoudamire force more than the 15.5 turnovers Arizona forced last year.
The new concepts that the freshmen have had to face daily at practice haven't been intimidating to them.
"The freshmen are always going to be a little behind the veterans, but it should be like that," Pastner said.
One of the reasons the defense has been better at practice is because of these freshmen and the fact that practices are more competitive.
"We don't have a drop off in level of talent," Pastner said. "It makes our practices more competitive, and it makes guys defend in practice. If guys don't defend in practice, they're going to get their butt beat. Competition in practice is what makes you better. You don't get better in game time, you get better in practice time."
On Sunday, practice will turn into a game, and people at the Red-Blue game will get to see whether the Wildcats have indeed turned it around.