Fox's injury affects entire team

The worst thing that could happen to Arizona basketball has happened. The already thin Wildcat front line took another hit, as Isaiah Fox has been lost to a knee injury. Fox, one of three scholarship big men, will be out 3-4 months, and could miss the entire season, with a torn meniscus. His impact will send shock waves through the program.

"From the start, I said that one of the things we needed was to avoid injuries and illnesses," Lute Olson said. "That becomes a problem in terms of our lack of depth inside."

Arizona has already shuffled players around and that could be the norm for the rest of the season.

The Cats were already forced to play 6-4 Hassan Adams at power forward, and now he'll have to step it up even more. Adams, who's naturally position is at the wing, has been a pleasant surprise as a shot blocker. He's used his 39-inch vertical jump to amass a team high eight blocked shots in the first two games. He is also averaging a respectable 7.0 rebounds a game, which would have been more than any post player last year other than Channing Frye.

"He plays a lot bigger than he is," freshman center Kirk Walters said of Adams.

Walters will also have to step it up. The true freshman has already been forced into more action than maybe the team was prepared for. Now he will be the lone true big man off the bench. Walters is still working on his strength and conditioning, but Olson claims he "gets better everyday."

"It will allow more playing time for Kirk Walters inside," Olson said. "We will have him more experienced as we start league play in January. We just have to hope that we don't have any other things come up." Walters was once thought to be a top redshirt candidate, but now it looks like he will play a lot of key minutes.

"I knew redshirting was a possibility, but then it was down to me, Isaiah and Channing," Walters said. "It will be tough, I have a long way to go."

The repercussions of the injury will spread to more than just Adams and Walters. Almost every player on the team will now see more time at a variety of positions because of Fox's loss.

Chris Rodgers could benefit the most. Because of Adams' move to the four, Rodgers will see considerable time at the small forward spot. Rodgers has been stellar in the Cats' first two games, so extra playing time could be a benefit. He's feeling confident and that has paid off with hot shooting and good decision making.

"I've been getting the opportunity to show what I can do," Rodgers said. "I didn't get an opportunity last season to really show what I could do." Rodgers is a tenacious defender, in the mold of a Reggie Geary. Like Geary, he can guard players who are bigger than he is. Unlike Geary, Rodgers is a more polished offensive player and he's had a hot hand in the early stages. Rodgers is averaging 15.5 ppg on 43% shooting. The Cats don't lose much with Rodgers sliding over to the three.

Rodgers may need to see extra time at the three because Andre Iguodala will be asked to spend time at the four. The original plan was for Iguodala to see time at power forward, but the coaches soon concluded that Adams was better suited for the job. Now, with Fox out, Iguodala will see more time down low. He'll play a role not unlike that of Luke Walton last season. The Cats will play him on the perimeter on offense to take advantage of his passing skills, but drop him down low to let him rebound.

Fox's loss is actually the basketball equivalent of the trickle-down theory. Jason Ranne saw quality minutes against Florida and don't be surprised if Matt Brase sees a few spot minutes to spell people. Brase is solid and the team may need him to put a body on guys like Texas' bulky front line.

The Cats added 6-6 football player Ryan O'Hara and could add Chris Dunn later this month if he takes care of his academics at Pima Community College. Sources indicate that Dunn appears to be on the right track and he will provide instant depth down low.

The Fox injury could have repercussions down the line. If Fox redshirts, which is a distinct possibility, he would have two years of eligibility remaining. This could affect recruiting where the Wildcats are still awaiting word on big men, Davis Nwankwo and Robert Rothbart. Knowing that Fox will be there for two more years, not just one, could cause some second thoughts.

It also leads to some big decisions by Fox. If Fox can come back in March, would he return just to play in the Tournament? Is giving up almost a full year of eligibility worth a run to the title?

The Cats had a similar dilemma in 2000. That year Loren Woods was lost for the year and Justin Wessel was gimpy with a severe ankle injury. Gene Edgerson was redshirting that year but was never asked to pull the redshirt to lead the No. 1 seeded Wildcats into the tournament.

Another aspect that will be missing is Fox's leadership. Fox can still be a leader, but it is tough to provide guidance when you are on the bench.

"Isaiah is great and enthusiastic," Frye said. "Other guys have to step up and do the things that Isaiah used to do."

In the end the Wildcats will go as far as the running game can take them. The Cats need to run teams off the floor and will almost exclusively play their four out, one in line-up.

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