By Patrick Klein
Arizona Daily Wildcat
After the first week of practice, Arizona head basketball coach Lute Olson was finally able to get an extended look at his newcomers and look deep down to see how the frontcourt, which will be crucial to this team's success, was developing.
And what he's seen so far, he's liked.
In a full-court scrimmage Saturday, big men Joseph Blair and Ben Davis guarded each other, but Blair's 24 points and 17 rebounds got the better of Davis' 20 and 15.
"Joseph's really been playing well and he's an excellent leader. Next to Reggie (Geary), he's the guy who communicates the most," Olson said. "Davis has been after everything all week. He's been our leading rebounder after this first week."
Olson added that what he said about Blair after his freshman year as a Wildcat Ÿ that he could be one of the best big men to play at Arizona Ÿ still holds true going into this season.
"If he can stay healthy and keep playing hard, I don't see why he can't be the best big guy in the conference. It's up to him," he said.
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Olson raved about the progress of the two true freshmen, forward A.J. Bramlett and guard Jason Terry. He cited both players for not backing down from the upperclassmen.
"After watching these guys, I can see why the upperclassmen were so excited about these guys," Olson said.
He said the 6-foot-2-inch Terry, from Seattle's Franklin High School, had shown excellent quickness and ball-handling skills while not wilting in the presence of Geary.
"He didn't back off Reggie, he took some and he gave some back," Olson said.
Bramlett's job may be a little more demanding. At 213 pounds, the 6-foot-11 Bramlett, from La Cueva High School in Albuquerque, N.M., gives up 52 pounds to the 6-foot-10 Blair and about 30 pounds to the 6-foot-9 Davis Ÿ both of whom Bramlett guards in practice.
Olson said he was pleased with Bramlett's tenacity, despite the weight difference, and was hopeful the freshman would continue to bulk up to what Olson said he thinks is his optimal weight, around 240 pounds.
"He's getting bounced around by Davis and Blair, but he's learning also," Olson said.
Olson said he was encouraged by the five pounds Bramlett has gained already, despite the intense training. He likened Bramlett's situation to that of last year's second-leading scorer, forward Ray Owes, who gained 50 pounds in his four years at Arizona.
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Forward Corey Williams is also being groomed to log some substantial minutes as a post player in the four position. Offensively, the move would create mismatches by forcing to the outside a slower post player to guard Williams, who could then take advantage of his quickness and outside shooting.
Defensively, bringing Williams in and taking either Davis or Blair out would allow the team to try more full-court traps and presses. With both Davis and Blair in the game, Olson said the Wildcats would stick to half-court defenses.
"We've been getting (Williams) ready to play the four," Olson said. "He's been really effective there because he can step out and make people guard him outside. He's so quick to the ball and he has such good hands he looks more comfortable inside than outside right now."
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The point guard situation is an area of concern for Olson. Geary, the understood starting point guard after the graduation of All-American and NBA first-round draft pick Damon Stoudamire, has been making what Olson referred to as "great passes."
In the Olson dictionary, "great passes" have a negative denotation.
"Geary needs to take better care of the ball, but that's true of all the guards now," Olson said. "We tell our guys not to make great passes, because if you make one, it probably wasn't a high percentage pass. Reggie likes to make great passes."
The position is further complicated by the improvement of sophomore guard Miles Simon. Besides putting on about 20 pounds from last year, the 6-foot-5, 199-pound Simon has been driving to the basket with more authority than last season, Olson said.
"Whereas last year he maybe would have layed it up and maybe had it blocked, this year he is powering it to the basket and dunking it," he said. "He is more of a physical specimen."
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