Arizona Hoops Preview

Over the next few weeks will endeavor to bring you a comprehensive breakdown of the upcoming 2003-2004 basketball season in the Pacific-10 conference. The ninth part of this multi-part series looks at the Arizona Wildcats.

Arizona Wildcats (Tucson, Arizona)
2002-03 Record: 28-4 (17-1)
Postseason: NCAA
Returning Starters: 2
Head Coach: Lute Olson (21st season)

Projected Starting Lineup: (Returning Starter(s) in BOLD)

PG: Mustafa Shakur, 6-3, 178, So. (McDonald's All-American; PA HS player of the Year)
SG: Salim Stoudamire, 6-1, 177 Jr. (13.0 ppg, .473 FG% .444 3 PT% .864 FT%)
SF: Hassan Adams, 6-4, 201 So. (9.1 ppg, 3.4 rpg, .490 FG% .206 3 PT% .787 FT%)
PF: Andre Iguodala, 6-6, 207 So. (6.4 ppg, 4.9 rpg, .381 PF% .205 3PT% .670 FT%)
C : Channing Frye, 6-11, 248 Jr. (12.6 ppg, 8.0 rpg, .569 FG% .644 FT)

Key Returning Reserves:

Isaiah Fox, 6-9, 269 Jr. (3.6 ppg, 3.0 ppg in 12.0 minutes per game in 2002-03)
Chris Dunn, 6-7, 215 Fr. (redshirted in 2002-03)
Chris Rodgers, 6-4, 200 So. (8.3 minutes per game in 2002-03)

Key Loses:

Luke Walton (10.8 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 5.0 apg)
Jason Gardner (14.8 ppg, 5.0 apg)
Rick Anderson (10.7 ppg, 6.7 rpg)

Recruiting Class:

Mustafa Shakur, 6-3, 178 Fr. (Friends Central HS, Philadelphia, PA)
Kirk Walters, 6-10, 212 Fr. (South Christian HS, Grand Rapids, MI)

Recruiting Class Grade: B

One of the best point guards in the nation coming out of the 2003 recruiting class, Mustafa Shakur, should step in and take charge of the Arizona offense with zero drop-off. In fact, with Shakur's height and athleticism it is possible he could be a step up from the outgoing Jason Gardner. Walters is a lanky post player with surprising athleticism and tremendous upside. Ordinarily at Arizona a player such as Walters would be a strong candidate to redshirt, but with a thin frontline, that option isn't available to Lute Olson this season.

Team Overview:

Most schools would be simply unable to replace three outgoing seniors as compellingly successful over their careers as Jason Gardner, Luke Walton, and Rick Anderson have been. Then again, most schools are not the Arizona Wildcats, home to a men's basketball program, which seemingly always has players coming off its bench that would start most everywhere else.

Lute Olson's 2003-04 Arizona squad won't be particularly deep or big, but that might not matter in an era of college basketball where most elite teams are not much better off in these areas than the Wildcats.

Sophomore forwards Hassan Adams and Andre Iguodala are the players tabbed by Olson to replace Walton and Anderson. The stark contrast between these quick, athletic, world-class athletes and the methodical, plodding, savvy players they replace is an interesting dynamic to say the least.

Iguodala is the more skilled, more versatile of the two players. He sees the floor very well, as did Walton, and can pass, score, rebound and handle the basketball. While Iguodala is a prototypical small forward, he'll likely play a great many of his minutes at the four-position due to the team's lack of depth in the frontcourt.

Adams is a freakish high-riser who succeeds mostly on his raw natural abilities, but has shown signs of an improved skill level of late. Neither shot the ball well from long range as freshmen and that is one key area to watch as this season gets underway.

Both players are fantastic on the break, with Adams likely to lead the league in converted alley-hoop dunks, most of which will come via passes from new starting point guard Mustafa Shakur, one of the most highly-acclaimed freshmen at the position nationally.

Shakur is extremely quick and effective with the basketball in his hands and he is always pushing, looking for the easy scoring opportunity for him and his teammates. He's also a taller point guard with the ability to disrupt defensively better than Gardner ever could. A complete player, Shakur has a nice stroke from long-range and that should make for one of the better shooting backcourts in the conference when paired with southpaw shooting guard Salim Stoudamire, a true assassin if there ever was one.

Stoudamire, once thought of as a shooting specialist whose game wasn't particularly diverse, has worked on broadening his skill level over the off-season knowing that he'll eventually need to be able to play point guard at the next level. He'll be better at handling the basketball, creating for himself off the dribble and passing the basketball, but spot-up shooting is still his forte.

It's possible that Stoudamire will see some limited minutes backing up Shakur at the point guard spot, but more likely, Chris Rodgers, a sophomore, will fill this role. A big lead guard like Shakur, Rodgers is a solid, if unspectacular player, particularly when compared to his extraordinary teammates.

Holding down the middle for Arizona will be junior Channing Frye, the league's most well rounded true center. Frye is the total package, with an ability to score in the post in a variety of ways: face up and shoot the mid-range jumper, rebound at both ends, block shots and defend. He has continued to add strength and refine his body and is poised for a big year.

First off the bench for Arizona at either the four or five positions will be junior Isaiah Fox, a big, thick post player who has nice footwork and relatively soft hands. Fox has battled with weight issues throughout his career, but has recently appeared to be better conditioned than in the past.

Arizona may get athletic forward Chris Dunn back a month or so into the season if he can become academically eligible. Until then, freshmen Kirk Walters, a raw, thin, athletic post player will likely see some consistent time in the rotation, and as this area of the team is the least solidified, and potentially most troublesome.

Defensively, expect Lute Olson, at times, to protect his starting frontcourt's lack of depth with a rangy zone featuring the team's athleticism, either in the form of a straight 1-3-1 half-court or more of a match-up zone.

Interesting Factoids:

-Lute Olson has the most tenure among his Pac-10 peers, with 20 years of experience…Arizona is the media pick to repeat as conference champions…Arizona is ranked fourth nationally by both the Associated Press and ESPN/Coaches Pre-Season poll…Channing Frye and Salim Stoudamire are both Naismith Player of the Year nominees…The Wildcats must replace 45.5% of its scoring and 42.6% of its rebounding from a season ago…Frye and Stoudamire were honorable mention All-Conference last year…Andre Iguodala and Hassan Adams were All-Freshmen selections last season

Best Case Scenario:

Arizona gets Chris Dunn and the depth/versatility he provides in the frontcourt back by the New Year and there is a seamless transition at the point with Mustafa Shakur. The Cats become a better long-range shooting team, in particular Hassan Adams and Andre Iguodala improve in this regard, and the team's athleticism overpowers opponents, pushing the Wildcats to a Pac-10 Championship and deep NCAA Tournament run, perhaps even a Final Four appearance.

Worst Case Scenario:

Depth issues cause problems in the frontcourt, particularly at the power forward position if Dunn is unable to return to the program this season. Team has a tough time matching up with opponents that are quick and athletic on the perimeter as well as big along the frontline. Adams and Iguodala are unable to stretch defenses with consistent three-point shooting and defenses collapse around Channing Frye in the interior and simultaneously cut down on dribble penetration in the half-court. Arizona still finishes in the top two in the conference race, but gets bounced earlier in the NCAA's by a team with size and quickness.


Arizona coach Lute Olson often does his best work with a short roster and fewer rotation options. All of the scholarship players on this squad know they will be called upon to contribute heavily and than lessens off-court flare-ups and makes for a more consistent effort. There will be few teams as quick and athletic as the Wildcats nationally and as long as they can create turnovers defensively, get easy baskets in transition, keep teams honest on the perimeter, and stay out of foul trouble, this team could go all the way.

Pac-10 Prediction: 14-4
Postseason Play: NCAA

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