By Shane Bacon
Shane Bacon/staff writer
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday, January 25, 2005
It might be the swagger Tucson's new main event brings to the court during warm-ups, bobbing his head as he drains three after long three.
It could have been the dunk he so ferociously threw down against UCLA on his way to a season-high 32 points.
It might possibly have been the benching head coach Lute Olsen gave his star shooting guard after he was held to Krispy Kremes in the scoring column against Utah.
Whatever it was, something has sparked senior leader Salim Stoudamire to a level only matched by his 2002 breakout game against the Kansas Jayhawks when the Wildcats were the top team in the nation.
Salim has controlled the perimeter offensively in the last three games like nobody has yet to do in the nation, and critics can contribute that to the added package Stoudamire has this year in his ability to drive.
That is where our lefty from Oregon derives his much-needed nickname "Swoosh."
It's a pretty easy mark if you think about it, but it can be taken in so many ways.
The obvious reason is the way the ball seems to fall through the basket instead of going in it when he pulls up from five feet behind that amateur college 3-point line.
Another is his newly acquired slashing ability to swoosh to the basketball and make tough layups like the one against Oregon in a 27-point performance.
The last might be the endorsement he could get from once popular Jordanesque company if he keeps up the game he's shown since entering in Pacific 10 Conference play.
Salim averaged 28 points in his last three games, displaying at each tremendous range and ability to get to the hoop.
Swoosh isn't the same player as a year ago.
With the exception of the Utah debacle, Stoudamire has abandoned the pouting attitude he showed his first three years that had most Arizona fans wondering when football season was planning to begin.
The added depth in rotation has taken a lot of the pressure off of Stoudamire as an offensive tool, giving him free reign to do whatever he damn well pleases when the ball is in the Wildcats' hands.
With senior teammate Channing Frye's presence in the paint and Hassan Adams kangaroo-like vertical, teams are having more trouble this year keying on just one weapon.
If the team doubles down in the paint, Frye can kick it to Swoosh for a trey.
If the opponent is blanketing Stoudamire, he now can drive to the hoop to get an open look for himself or another teammate.
The biggest credit I can give to Salim Stoudamire this year came as finals week was winding down at the end of the fall semester.
I walked in the Student Recreation Center to play some pick-up basketball and saw Stoudamire on the third court working on his game.
He would start from one end of the court and imitate receiving the ball in an inbound play.
He would run the floor of the court, make a move at the 3-point line and then drive in for a floater or a layup.
While I was there, he worked on that for almost an hour.
Catch, dribble, head fake, drive.
Swoosh isn't the same player that Sports Illustrated questioned as the X-factor for the Wildcats now.
The composed senior has put his attitude on hold for now to better the team, and as of right now, is doing just that.
With a top-10 team on the horizon and one of only two starting fives in the country that could rival the Wildcats in athleticism, time will only tell if Salim can continue his impressive month of play.
My money's on Swoosh, because heat checks just don't seem to work on him.