Dickerson tutored by NBA hoopsters

You might say that Michael

Dickerson took his game to a

higher level last summer.

The Arizona freshman forward spent the time in Seattle working out with members of the NBA's Seattle Supersonics before he left for Tucson.

Dickerson picked the brains and examined the play of Shawn Kemp, Ricky Pierce, Gary Payton and others at a Seattle spot called the Pro Club.

"Most of the team showed up at one time or another," the 6-foot-6, 191-pounder from Kent, Wash., said. "I picked up a couple of moves from Gary Payton, I tried to pick up his spin move. Just being around those guys you pick up stuff."

Since coming down to the desert, Dickerson has picked up some of the slack as well, providing the Wildcats with quality time coming off the bench.

Dickerson has started to receive

consistent playing time. In last

Saturday's 89-83 overtime win

against Stanford, he played a career-high 29 minutes with seven points and seven rebounds.

In the previous three games, Dickerson logged 15 minutes and a career-high 12 points against Texas Tech and a career-high 22 minutes and 10 points against Rhode Island.

That stretch was in stark contrast to the four-game span over the break that saw Dickerson play a combined 15 minutes.

"I started off a little slow moving into Coach (Lute) Olson's system, but I feel like I'm getting better and better everyday in practice," Dickerson said.

For Olson, Dickerson's improvements have not been a surprise, but the result of practice and playing time.

"I've said all along that Michael Dickerson's going to be an excellent player by the time he gets out of here," Olson said. "He's getting closer and closer and his mistakes are getting fewer. He just needs to get more aggressive and get after people. A reason we got him more minutes against Rhode Island was to give him a chance to be aggressive."

Despite his recent success, Dickerson still has reservations about his decision to attend Arizona and leave his family behind, especially his grandmother, Ora Dickerson.

"I can't believe I'm making it," Dicker-son said. "I'm not good with being away from home. My grandmother is not in good health and sometimes I feel like I made a bad decision to come here because it takes me away from her.

"In high school (Federal Way High School), after games and practice I'd go home to be with my grandma. If my friends wanted to hang out with me, they'd come over, too."

The built-in security blanket of the team has made the transition easier for Dickerson, and his teammates have high praise for the newcomer's abilities.

"He's a scorer," guard Reggie Geary said. "He's got some ups and can put the ball in the bucket. The next three years, he's going to be real exciting to watch."

"He's been doing what he needs to do as a freshman, and that's really helped us," said Damon Stoudamire. "He's only going to get better."

But Olson is quick to point out that his freshman forward has much to learn before he gets a crack at the starting lineup, although Olson did allude that Dickerson certainly has a shot at that before the year is out.

"We've seen strides, but there's no question he's still behind some of the veterans who've been in the program awhile," Olson said. "I think Michael needs to be patient and recognize, sort of look back at where he was a week ago, where he was two weeks ago, where he was three weeks ago compared to where he is now. Progress is being made, but I'm sure it's much too slow in his thinking."

Dickerson knows that he is on

the right track and that im-

provement, especially on de-

fense, is needed. But he senses what kind of player he can become someday, that he will cease being just another freshman on the Arizona basketball team.

"I don't know if my opponents know who I am," Dickerson said, "but they should."

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