Depth gives Arizona real advantage

By Monty Phan

Arizona Daily Wildcat

The Arizona men's basketball team gives new meaning to the term "depth chart," as they've had eight different players start for them this season.

Because who starts varies game to game, nothing is set in stone, and who starts depends on who plays well in practice. Order is based on who has started the most games.

Point Guard:

Damon Stoudamire (5-foot-10 1/2, 170 pounds, senior)

If there's a point guard in the country playing better than Stoudamire, you'd be hard pressed to find one. In his latest heroics, he scored a combined 71 points in Arizona's road sweep of California (26 points) and Stanford (45 points), making him easily the Wildcats' most valuable player so far this season.

He is currently first in the Pacific 10 Conference in scoring (21.7 points per game) and assists (7.2 per game), second in free-throw percentage (.848) and fourth in three-point field goal percentage (.486).

Shooting Guard:

Reggie Geary (6-2, 187, junior)

One of three players to start every game this season (Stoudamire, Ray Owes), Geary has been slowed recently by a sprained ankle suffered in the win over Rhode Island Jan. 7. Nonetheless, a slightly injured Geary is still better defensively than most players in the country.

Through 15 games this season, he has 17 steals, seven less than at this point last season. But unlike last year, Geary has had to fight through two, sometimes three, screens at a time, as opposing coaches now recognize the defensive player he is. As it is, it's hard enough for him to keep track of his man, much less rack up steals.

Miles Simon (6-5, 186, freshman)

Since the beginning of the season, Simon has played like one of the veterans, starting in three games overall, the first coming in only his eighth game in college against Texas-El Paso. In that game, he scored 16 points on 4 of 5 shooting and a perfect 6 of 6 from the line in a career-high 36 minutes of play. And according to Coach Lute Olson, he was only getting better.

Then he dislocated his right index finger. It happened against Cal last Thursday, on a play in which he came down awkwardly, using his right hand to brace his fall. He will be out approximately four to six weeks.

Swing Man/Small Forward:

This is perhaps the most heavily contested spot in the lineup because of the multitude of players Arizona has that could occupy it successfully. Olson has used shooting guards as well as forwards at the three-spot, and who he uses depends on who does well in practice. The versatility at that spot provides the Wildcats with many different looks.

Corey Williams (6-7, 210, junior)

After starting the first seven games of the season, Williams came off the bench in the next seven, then started the most recent game in Palo Alto, Calif. An established three-point threat, the forward is shooting almost 47 percent from behind the arc (14 of 30).

Joe McLean (6-6 1/2, 217, junior)

While his numbers might not jump out at first glance, McLean does many things not reflected in the stats: diving to save balls, wrestling for loose balls, playing solid defense. While maybe not noticed by statisticians, he's certainly not unnoticed by Olson, who has started the guard in seven games this season. His biggest knock is that he's a streaky shooter, but he has sunk 25 of 32 free throws this

season (.781), third best on the team.

Michael Dickerson (6-6, 191, freshman)

Dickerson has come on strong of late, and with Simon now out, it has come none too soon. Although he hasn't started, Olson has indicated his time may come at any time. In the meantime, he has provided solid play off the bench, and his quickness makes him one of the best defenders. His defense was on display last week against Stanford, in which he held Cardinal guard Dion Cross to seven points on 2 of 10 shooting in the second half, after a first half which saw Cross score 18 points.

Power forward:

Ray Owes (6-9, 224, senior)

One of two seniors on the team, Owes is enjoying his finest season so far, leading the team in rebounds with 8.8 per game (third in the Pac-10), and second on the team in points (14.6), while shooting 52.5 percent from the floor. He pulled down a career-high 18 rebounds against Houston Dec. 8, and is the best free-throw shooting big man on the team at 72.7 percent (48 of 66).

Jarvis Kelley (6-9, 216, sophomore)

Kelley saw the most playing time of his career the first half of the season, but that was before Ben Davis came into the picture. Nonetheless, he is ready to come in at any time if one of the other guys go down, and Simon's injury certainly proves that it could be at any time.

Center:

One of the more nebulous positions, there are a multitude of players that can play the spot. Olson often swaps players at this spot and the four-spot, depending on who's in for both the Wildcats and for the opposition. The depth at this spot is even, so the order is no indication of the depth.

Ben Davis (6-8 1/2, 254, junior)

After being ineligible for the first eight games because of a problem in transfer credits, Davis has come on strong, and is everything the Wildcats hoped he would be. He is characterized as a tenacious rebounder, and his 6.6 rebounds per game complements his 12.7 points per game average.

Joseph Blair (6-10, 265, junior)

The incumbent starter, he is Arizona's closest thing to a true center. He leads Arizona in offensive rebounds with 32, and is shooting 53.6 percent while scoring 11.2 points per game. In an indication of the Wildcats' flexibility, Olson has used Blair and Davis at the same time, moving the latter to the four position.

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